Years of maturing into an adult can be a
tumultuous time in any person’s life. Even more difficult can be doing so in a
climate of religious upheaval and sexual discrimination. In one national
organization, children and their parents face both of these controversial
issues.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have been
mentoring boys and providing them with lifelong learning experiences since
1910. The organization helps mold future leaders by providing educational
activities and lifelong values, all in an enjoyable atmosphere. Notable Scouts
include astronaut Neil Armstrong, former President Gerald Ford, Gov. Rick Perry
and movie director Steven Spielberg.

With over a century of experience, the
organization believes that helping youth by teaching them life values creates a
more responsible, productive and conscious society. According to the BSA
website, the mission of the organization is to “prepare young people to make
ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values
of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”

However, since the organization’s creation,
BSA has implemented policies that prohibit atheists, agnostics and homosexuals
from becoming members. Organization leadership believes that by allowing these
groups into BSA, the fundamental principles and tenets would be broken. BSA has
denied membership to or has revoked existing membership of boys who display
these traits.

The organization strongly believes that these
traditional policies are essential in its mission to teach young boys about the
values of the Scout Oath and Law. Both state and federal courts have supported
these policies.

In the 2000 Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of
America v. Dale, the Supreme Court found that, through freedom of association,
the BSA is constitutionally allowed to reject any individuals it chooses. For
the last decade, the BSA has banned the membership and leadership roles of gay
individuals, but the organization has chosen to deny affiliation with
homosexuals as early as 1980.

In the California Supreme Court case Curran
v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Timothy Curran, a former
Eagle Scout, was disqualified from the assistant scoutmaster position after he
publicly stated that he was a homosexual and “publicly expressed his commitment
to communicating to others his view as to the acceptability and morality of
homosexuality.” The BSA stated that this ideology conflicted with its official
position that homosexuality is immoral.

Recently, however, the organization has been
forced to rethink their policy towards gay scouts.

In January 2013, Scout officials announced
that the ban on gays in the group was being debated. Herndon Graddick,
president of Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) an advocacy
group for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, told the New York Times that
“scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its
core principles of fairness and respect.”

“I do not agree that the BSA should have a
ban in place for gay members and leaders,” said Stephen L. Schmidt, a senior
prebusiness major and member of the GLBTQ community at UTSA. “The main reason,
as I understand, for the ban is the scouting code of honor that includes the
line “keep myself… morally straight.”

Schmidt is referring to the last line in the
Boy Scout Oath. The BSA outlines being morally straight as: “Maintaining honest
and open relationships with others. Holding oneself to a high moral standard
and being clean in speech and actions while being faithful to religious
beliefs.”

“In my opinion, a gay person can be perfectly
morally straight and still be openly and actively gay,” said Schmidt.  He was a Boy Scout when he was younger.  Schmidt started out as a Cub Scout and
continued to move up through the Boy Scouts until he quit when he started high
school. “I am proud of what I did as a Scout and of the lessons I learned
during my time.”

The age at which individuals address
sexuality varies; most studies suggest children begin to address their
sexuality as early as 10 years old. Schmidt says that he never had issues being
a Scout as a boy because he had not discovered his sexuality until after
leaving the Scouts. “At the time I was in Scouting, I didn’t know what gay was.
I didn’t feel different from the other scouts..”

Many BSA leaders remain adamantly against gay
scouts and believe that the values and policies 
of the organization should remain the same.

“If the board capitulates to the bullying of
homosexual activists, the Boy Scouts’ legacy of producing great leaders will
become yet another casualty of moral compromise,” said Tony Perkins, president
of the Family Research Council, to the New York Times, “The Boy Scouts should
stand firm.”

While UTSA does not have an active Boy Scout
organization on campus, one local fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, was founded on
the basic principles common in the Boy Scouts. After returning from World War
I, Alpha Phi Omega founder Frank Reed Horton, in an interview for the Alpha Phi
Omega website, tells of his time in the Scouts.

“I found that the Scout Oath and Scout Law
were what I had been seeking– a standard of manhood that would withstand the
test of time…” Horton subsequently went on to establish the Scout-based
fraternity in 1925 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa.

However, one does not need to be a member of
the Boy Scouts to join Alpha Phi Omega.

“We were all founded on the Scout principles,
and we follow the Scout Oath and Law,” said Victor Castano, sophomore
management major and president of the UTSA chapter of Alpha Phi Omega.

“It used to be required to be a Scout to be a
member, but not anymore. We still adhere to all the values and guidelines, but
we aren’t officially members of the Boy Scouts.”

In an attempt to gain insight, BSA nationally
surveyed members about the gay ban; only volunteers and parents were able to
answer.

The opening statement of the survey claims
that the organization does not allow members “who engage in behavior that would
become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”

One survey question was hypothetical, asking,
“Is it acceptable or unacceptable for a gay adult leader to take adolescent
boys on an overnight camping trip?”

Another survey question created a scenario of
a religious Boy Scout whose troop, chartered by a church, believes that
homosexuality is wrong. It then asked, “Steve, an openly gay youth, applies to
be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or
unacceptable for this troop to deny Steve membership?”

Parents filling out the survey could choose
one of the following as a response: totally acceptable, somewhat acceptable,
neither acceptable or unacceptable, somewhat acceptable or totally
unacceptable.

Reactions have varied according to the
region. Some liberal-minded families believe that times are different now and
that the world is more socially progressive. They mention how even the military
has already lifted the ban on gay service members.

Others strongly support the ban. In his blog
on World Net Daily, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum claimed that
allowing gay boys in the Boy Scouts would, “leave the Scouts hollowed out at
its core.”

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