The Flexible Nature of the Boy Scouts

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

A Century of Inclusion and Openness to Change

I’d like to show you a picture I took recently at the new permanent home of the Boy Scout Jamboree, in southern West Virginia. It’s a photograph of an inflatable image of a mosque, sponsored by the National Islamic Committee on Scouting, Boy Scouts of America. It sat in the middle of the Jamboree area, near a special tent that had a sign that said “water here is not for drinking; it’s for religious purposes only.” WOW! It made me think about all of the changes that the Boy Scouts of America has seen in its 100-year history. I imagine there was a time when African Americans may not have been welcome in some scouting groups. The same may have once been the case for Jewish or other non-Christian groups. And here is an example of how scouting has been flexible and accepting enough to permit other religions, even Islam, to be included. Which brings me to the current controversy about gays in scouting. There have always been gays in scouting, whether they were young boys, young men, or scout leaders. Just as there have always been gays in the military since the Romans were fighting the Carthaginians. There have been times when scout leaders have probably had inappropriate sexual contact with a scout…and the adult was a female, not a male. Having a “straight” scout leader who is a sexual predator is a threat to a scout. So what are we to do: stop having scout leaders at all…since one of them could turn out to be a sexual predator? Does having a gay scout leader make it more likely that young scouts will become gay who might not otherwise have done so? I don’t think there’s any scientific evidence that proves that. I think this all grows out of a concern by many people that the gay lifestyle is being forced on people from all sides. Gays are certainly more open in this society than they were just a few years ago. A friend of mine says he dis-agrees with the gay lifestyle and feels that gays will be judged by God. But he also feels that that judgment should be left to God and should not be the basis on which laws are written or enforced in this country. I don’t know how gays will be judged by God. But my friend has an interesting viewpoint. “Judge not lest ye be judged.” I think I read that somewhere…. That’s this week’s editorial.

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