Category Archives: Boy Scouts

Scout’s Honor

The Boy Scouts of America are today (23 May 2013) in the process of deciding whether to make a fundamental shift in who is allowed to be a member.


The Scout Oath is as follows:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

And therein lies my three objections about the Boy Scouts.

For one, gays need not apply. The phrase, morally straight, doesn’t have to mean that gay scouts are out (so to speak), but that’s how it’s often interpreted. Today’s vote is on whether to change that particular prohibition. Of course, I do have to wonder why the sexual orientation of a scout is ever in question. These are minors. I would expect the organization to teach abstinence until adulthood, anyway. I would also expect that the adults in the program would work under a strict hands-off policy, but as we learned recently, the Catholic Church has nothing on the Boy Scouts of America when it comes to sexual abuse. A sensible policy would be that people involved in scouting should save sex for committed relationships, but perhaps that’s too open-minded for them.

The Scout Oath also declares a duty to God. Which God isn’t specified, but when that word is capitalized, the implication is the monotheistic deity of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, it seems that polytheists can find a place in the organization. Atheists are free to form their own group, though.

Of bigger concern, one not often raised, is this notion of “duty to my country….” Scouting does have close ties to the military. The Boy Scout Law gives some idea of the level of conformity involved here:

A Scout is:

and Reverent.

My preference is for grumpy and messy, but clean children are certainly less offensive. But that bit about obedient is what worries me. According to the U.S. Scouting Service Project, “A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them.” A good many Syrians today would have trouble following that law, and the same can be said for our revolutionary ancestors in this country. The same also could be said for the civil rights protestors of the 60s or for anyone who employs any method of resistance against unjust laws.

But it is fair to ask why this is any of my concern, since I am not and never was involved in said organization. What makes it my business is the amount of public assistance that goes into supporting scouting. If the Boy Scouts of America are willing to be entirely independent from all public aid, whether that means money or just special treatment that another similar organization doesn’t get, then they should be free to make their own decisions about all of the above subjects (and more, since I didn’t mention women and girls). In the same line of thinking, though, I must be free to decide how much, if any, I wish to support them.