Three months have passed since the first attempt to affect a change in the BSA policy. A new one, promoted as a sort of compromise, will be put to a vote soon.
Is it a good sign when both sides of an issue agree on something? In this case, maybe not.
The policy change now being proffered is one that would allow teens with same-sex orientation to become Scouts, but continue disallowing openly gay Scouters (adult leaders of troops). But as far as compromises go, it changes little.
For one thing, those advocating the policy change say that it’s a good start, but it’s only a start. This is understandable since they see it as a good place to begin–and their core objections to the policy are still in place.
Those who oppose the change agree with their opponents in that it’s total nonsense to say that an action is morally permissible until a certain age (eighteen in this case). Either it’s morally acceptable, or it’s not, regardless of someone’s age.
But this time there’s an interesting twist to the mix: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has put out a statement about the possible new policy. So is this a huge, momentous, watershed moment for the Scouts (and the LDS Church) suddenly becoming enlightened? Not really. Certainly not as it’s being portrayed.
First, the statement states that the LDS church is satisfied with the procedures thus far in taking pains to get as much feedback as possible from troops about the issue. The statement says that the new resolution adequately addresses some of their concerns and that they are not currently working to endorse or oppose the change, choosing to wait until a vote is taken to respond further.
Second, the LDS statement makes mention of a consistent/single moral standard for Scouts–which echoes my previous objection to the policy change. It’s not tough to tell from the resolution what this standard is: the Duty to God in the Scout Oath and Law. The resolution is saturated with references to the relationship of morality to God; I find it very interesting that few sources talking about the proposed resolution (I’m looking at you, Huffington Post) have not mentioned the thoroughly religious language of the resolution.
Which I personally find very interesting, since the nature of my own objection to the policy change is based on the fact that even if this new policy is adopted, the moral conflict will still be in place and there is no such thing as moral neutrality.
Even though the resolution that goes along with the policy change is thoroughly religious, and explains in a fair amount of detail that a Scout is obligated by the ‘Declaration of Religious Priniciple’ that comprises the highest obligation of the Scout: to God first, then country, then others, then self. There are still other groups exerting pressure on the Scouts to use this new policy as a stepping stone to further inclusiveness; but immediately a serious conflict arises–that the proponents of the new policy and further policy changes have yet to address.
Picture, if you will, Scouts A and B on a trip or campout or meeting. Scout A tells Scout B that he is gay. Scout B says that the Bible says that homosexual activity is forbidden by God as being immoral and sinful. Scout A complains to Scouter C, or Organization D, which then pressures that Scout’s troop or someone higher up the food chain to discipline Scout B for telling Scout A his religious tradition’s teachings on sexuality, or simply telling him that he thinks acting on those specific desires is wrong, on the basis of religious teachings (that Scout A might otherwise assent to in principle).
Will such a conviction be punished? Even though the Scouts’ resolution makes ample appeals to the religious nature of morality, it will still be challenged, if for no other reason than professional courtesy on the part of those who advocate openly gay Scouts and Scout leaders. The single standard of morality that the LDS Church statement alluded to will still be the target; it still stands in the way of the goal.
And until the Scouts say that both heterosexual and homosexual acts are equal, the Scouts will be pressured. But this can only come at the cost of those who believe and teach that the Bible says that homosexual acts are wrong and that it is wrong to say that they are morally equivalent with God’s design for human sexuality. And telling a teen struggling with same-sex attraction that he should practice self-control and try to live up to the religious standards he assents to, and believes to be true, is quite possibly the last thing that the ‘progressive’ side of the controversy would like for the Scouts to advocate.
So why are the Scouts even caught up in the greater controversy over redefining marriage? Equality may be the stated goal, but it is by no means the stopping point: because as long as someone says “X is moral” and someone else says “X is immoral,” the Scouts will never be considered to be advocating ‘equality;’ and what is being called ‘equality’ is more the fashionable silencing of anyone who dissents from ‘progress.’
Which reminds me. I’m told that “A Scout is Equal.” Equal to what? In order for the equals sign to mean anything, I have to know what’s on both sides of the equation. So appealing to equality of persons isn’t what’s being debated, it’s the moral equality of actions; and that is very much hotly contested by everybody who is doing the debating.