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(Photo Credit: Flags Bay)

(Photo Credit: Flags Bay)

by Barton Gingerich (@bjgingerich)

A kick in the teeth.

That’s what last week’s vote felt like to many Americans. I refer to the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) decision to allow for openly gay youth membership, with 61% of the National Council in favor. The policy change will become effective January 1, 2014. I was away from the internet when the decision came down. Once I reached my email and social networks, I found myself in a large company of dismayed Scouters and supporters. Fellow Eagles wondered if they could lead troops or enroll their sons in good conscience. Pastors informed me that several parents have looked for counsel on whether to pull out their boys from the program.

It is important to distinguish two prongs of concern: present and future. At present, Scouts under the age of 18 can be open and avowed homosexuals. As far as I am aware, the BSA still forbids premarital sex (though it has never been a common topic around the campfire or merit badge class, as is the case for any matter of sexuality). Thus, sexual activity (whatever that means or constitutes) among boys would be forbidden. Some Christians are comfortable with this stance and see no problem with their congregations retaining BSA charters for packs, troops, and crews.

After all, while homosexual attraction is naturally disordered, homosexual acts are what actually count as sin. The language of the press statement and policy is that of “sexual orientation,” which—though it carries some serious philosophical baggage—would seem to mean attraction. Thus, many Scouters and alumni of the program should remain unperturbed about present conditions. Several of my friends agree with the assessment that it is fine to have any sexual  “orientation” and not act on it (at least within a troop or crew setting).

Perhaps. Even on face value, practical implications may yet disturb parents, leaders, and youth. Boy Scouts can still date when they are in the program—what will that mean for self-described gay boys? What behaviors, awkwardness, and scandals will result? When sexual identity is one’s identity, everything becomes sexualized. In addition, what if committed activists try recruit a transgender girl to sign up for BSA programs? Will the Boy Scouts have to draw another controversial line of sexual distinction?

It is ironic that all this is invading what is perceived (and remembered) as an organization free from the usual sexual tensions that adolescents face at school and other camping programs. The freedom, focus, and fraternity that BSA once offered to boys are at least threatened (pending local conditions). The Scouts are no longer a moral oasis in a pornographic desert.

The universal concern, however, with this decision is not the present policy but future changes and controversies that will erupt in the wake of the National Council vote. The famous Dale decision and its protections are thrown into legal jeopardy. The Supreme Court decided that the BSA could forbid openly gay leaders on the basis that its (former) sexual principles were a core tenet of organization’s identity. The California Senate has already voted to revoke the BSA’s tax-exempt status. No doubt other lawsuits and political attacks will come in the coming days.

Those culture warriors responsible for the recent membership change clamor for openly homosexual leaders. Carson Holloway sagely warns,

Whatever else one thinks about the new policy, this much is certain: It can’t last. No doubt many of the delegates thought they would be buying peace and quiet by enacting this compromise, but they are bound to be disappointed. The compromise policy’s short life is predictable, in the first place, in light of the kind of people it is meant to placate, people that the Scout delegates have seriously misjudged. Socially liberal political activists don’t believe in compromise. They believe in winning.

Every Eagle Scout and current Scouter I’ve talked to foresee the same.

In my next post, I’ll discuss what I think concerned parents, religious spokesmen, and leaders will do in light of the National Council’s decision as well as how the Scouts got into this pickle in the first place.