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NJCubScouter

The issue is religion

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I have raised a particular issue in a couple different threads and I haven't really gotten a response, so I'll start a new thread.

 

Premise # 1 -- The BSA policy regarding exclusion of gay leaders is motivated by religious doctrines. (I have seen some people try to deny this, but it is pointless, the BSA web site itself says that the alleged immorality of homosexuality is a "faith-based value," and it is the BSA's policy so they should know.)

 

Premise # 2 -- BSA policy is that it does not give preference to one religious belief over another, or as stated in the Declaration of Religious Principle, that it is "absolutely nonsectarian." It does not say that it is nonsectarian as long as your beliefs coincide with that of the majority of religions, or the majority of Western religions, or religions that are CO's for the majority of units in the United States. It says "absolutely nonsectarian."

 

Premise # 3 -- Several religious groups (including some that have been CO's of numbers of units for years, and that have religious awards approved for uniform wear by the BSA) have stated that the BSA's exclusion of gay leaders violates their own religious principles. (Some individuals outside these groups say the same thing, but that's not necessary to the premise, it just gives it extra weight as we approach the conclusion.)

 

Premise # 4 -- Most if not all of the groups and individuals in Premise # 3 have said that the violation of their religious beliefs would be remedied if their units (and other units whose CO's felt the same way, whether for religious reasons or policy reasons), could be excused from the ban on gay leaders.

 

Conclusion: By denying local option, the BSA is violating its own policies regarding religion, including the Declaration of Religious Principles.

 

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Put another way, NJ, you and I view Scouting as being politicized by one church (I say only one, because only one has threatened to abandon Scouting if the policy is changed). Opponents of our view believe it's just the opposite, that it is those churches and others that want to eliminate the ban that are "politicizing" the BSA.

 

I've been debating this issue on this board for nearly three months now, and I dont think I have influenced a single person who supports Scouting's policy with the logic that I've presented, which really reinforces in my mind how fundamental of a religious issue this is... it seems that those relating to the "majority" don't want to be confused with the facts, and can not accept that the BSA is violating its own Declaration of Religious Principles. It is a blind approach that tolerates other religious views only until they deviate from their own, but few will honestly admit that. It is also a view that says it's OK to violate the rights of other religions, just so long as my own religious rights are protected.

 

I do also agree (and think anyone who does not is simply being disingenuous) that this issue is ALL ABOUT religion, despite a few peoples attempted claim otherwise.

 

You have to recognize that Scouting has always been politicized by Churches. In the early days, the Catholic Church strongly opposed Scouting and its use, because it viewed the movement as largely a Protestant outreach (a YMCA program). It was years before the Catholic Church recognized that the aims of Scouting were not necessarily synonymous with Protestants, and began to welcome it into their religion.

 

The BSA, from its very earliest days, used Churches to grow its program, and the Churches used Scouting in a symbiotic way to reach out to young people. It was a decidedly different approach than B-P and the British Scouting Association.

 

The BSA, not B-P, added "reverent" to it's Scout Law, and modeled the Scout Oath ("physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight") almost exclusively on YMCA/Protestant mantra ("body, mind and spirit"). This was a calculated move by Boyce and the early founders of BSA in order to create a program that would grow through COs, the primary path of which to would be Churches. And while even in those early days BSA was claiming to be completely non-sectarian, it was in fact pandering to different religions in order to get what it wanted (faster growth over competing programs like Wood Craft, etc). And because of this, throughout the history of Scouting we've had to allow the organization to be a pawn played by religions against each other.

 

I've said it before, but it's just so unfortunate that B-P's glorious game of Scouting has to be caught up in the politics and preferences of religious institutions who's own bedrock values are prone to change (the one church that's threatening to abandon Scouting and has such an ardent opposition to gays is the same church that didn't accept black members until the late 70s). Scouting really should rise above all of that, and leave the religious teachings to the parents and Churches. It couldn't do that in 1910, and judging by how resistent to hearing any other view our opposition has been, I worry that it won't be able to do it today.

(This message has been edited by tjhammer)(This message has been edited by tjhammer)

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Clearly religious belief systems and the strength with which those views are held influence how people approach the gay issue with regards to scouting. However, give some more credit to those of us who are not as strong in our religious views.

 

Homosexuality is among other things, a behavior issue. Homosexuality can be viewed as a pattern of behavior and one can view that behavior as either good or bad, or merely self destructive. One does not have to base one's views of homosexuality in any level of understanding of anybody's scripture.

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At the risk of allowing this thread to go off topic ("The issue is religion"), I think that this particular offshoot is also at the fundamental aspect of this issue and most relisgious people would abandon the religious principle if they were to conclude homosexuality is innate...

 

eisley, do you consider heterosexuality a "behavior"? Or are you specifically just referring to some of the behavior traits commonly perceived with homosexuality (promiscuous, etc) and not homosexuality itself? I don't believe homosexuality is a lifestyle, I believe it is a life. Not one single gay that I have met indicated ever remembering a choice they made to "become gay", so conflicting science aside, I think I'll side with the folks who have said "it's just who I am from the earliest days of my recollection"... that seems awfully innate.(This message has been edited by tjhammer)

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NJ and tj, you know that I agree with you on the issue of gays in scouting. BSA has taken the position that homosexuality is immoral, and I disagree, as do you. However, I do not believe that this policy is in conflict with BSAs principles on religion. I will give several examples. Although many religions do not label homosexuality as immoral, neither do they label females as second class individuals. Yet we do not allow girls in Cub and Boy Scouting. Is this a violation of religious principals? In some Moslem countries, men can have multiple wives. If a scout leader was a bigamist, would we have to allow him to remain if he was Moslem? And if his marriages took place in a country where it was legal?

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Tj, the only issue I would take with your comments is that I do not particularize the issue to any one church. I have studiously avoided the issue of who controls what at the national level. I have read several articles and they seem to bear out the fact that religious organizations effectively control decision-making at the national level, though they differ regarding the relative strength of one church versus others. I also cannot disagree with BobWhite's point that whoever controls BSA National does so in accordance with the by-laws. I don't want to get into it, and I don't need to, because in my view it is all irrelevant. All talk of conspiracies, secret conclaves, I basically ignore it.

 

What is important, and undeniable, is that the BSA policy excluding gay leaders is motivated by religious doctrine. The BSA itself says so -- it's a "faith-based value." The mechanics of how this religious doctrine became a BSA policy, and whether one, two or twenty organizations are involved, and who they are, and how the votes get counted, may all be interesting as matters of political science and organizational dynamics. They are not, as far as I am concerned, relevant to my conclusion that the BSA is violating its own religious principles. That conclusion is explained in my previous post.

 

I do, however, appreciate your extensive knowledge regarding Scouting history and the mechanics behind these issues. Until about 2 years ago I was really unaware of the role that religious politics played in the early history of Scouting, and how religious organizations function in Scouting today. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, of the four units I have been involved with in my life, none have been affiliated with a religious organization. As a boy, my pack and my first troop were chartered to the public school I attended, my second troop was chartered to a property-owner's association, and my son's pack is chartered to his school's PTA. These units were of very mixed religious membership, though I guess when I was a boy, all 3 units probably had 30 to 40 percent Jewish membership due to the areas we were living in. Religion was and is never really discussed in these units, in fact I have been part of introducing some mention of religion in our pack. We never had an invocation at our blue and gold dinners before this year, though it was my suggestion that we use that term rather than "grace" and that the message be very ecumenical in nature. (Our invocation was written and delivered, and very well, by a second-year Webelos Scout.)

 

But back to me: All these units I have been involved with have existed because parents in a neighborhood or community wanted there to be a Scout unit for their sons, and otherwise there wasn't one. It was never a matter of an organization wanting to charter a unit for its own purposes, or the benefit of its members, or as outreach. I guess that is a matter for another thread or a different main topic. But I don't doubt that this history has kept me somewhat insulated from a more religious emphasis in Scouting.

 

But back to the actual point: The policy conflicts with the BSA's Declaration of Religious Principles because it elevates a doctrine of some religions, which violates the doctrine of other religions, to a national policy. If it were a choice between every unit having to allow gay leaders or every unit having to exclude them, this would create a real mess because no matter what the BSA did, someone's religious principles would be violated. Fortunately, the "local option" would allow everyone to follow their own religious principles, like the BSA says it does. Now all the BSA has to do is to do what it says it does. You know, be trustworthy.

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