A Letter to the National Board of Boy Scouts of America

February 1, 2013 | 8 comments | Posted in Sexuality | Tags: ,

Never in my life have I felt as vulnerable or bewildered as I have following the recent statement by the Boy Scouts of America regarding its possible shift in national membership policies.

My name is Kenneth J. Hager, and Scouting has always been my life.  I am an Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor member, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, and former national youth officer.

In the first publication of the Boy Scout Handbook, a Scout is instructed on the “Scout Virtues.”  The passage reads,

There are other things which a scout ought to know and which should be characteristic of him, if he is going to be the kind of scout for which the Boy Scouts of America stand.  …  He should so learn to discipline and control himself[.]  He should keep such a strong grip on his own life that he will not allow himself to do anything which is ignoble, or which will harm his life or weaken his powers of endurance.

There are things a Scout and the world ought to know for which the Boy Scouts of America stand.  I am not willing to rewrite the union of virtuousness, morality, and sanctity for the appeasement of a few to alter this stance.  I am a leader, as trained by the Boy Scouts of America, to endure – even if alone – at the precipice of utter darkness, and look into the very face of lustfulness, self-pleasure, and fallacy to stand my ground as a representative of what is good, and right, and true.

In 1986, I was born into a Scouting family in Uniontown, Pennsylvania as the only son of Carla and J. Richard Hager.  My father lovingly instilled in me the virtues of Scouting and the principles of courage and boldness.  Rather than a vast narrative about my upbringing, suffice it to say this of my father’s teachings: being a man requires sacrifice, integrity, discipline, and a sense of right and wrong.  It also requires respect of others without forfeiting your inherent values.

Serving as a national youth officer offered me the view of a broad cross-section of Scouting and its geographically different attitudes and ideals.  It would be a delusion and a lie for me to say I have not built friendships with homosexuals through Scouting or in my community.  A call to love one another, however, is different from the heresy of relativism.  Truths are undeniable, and to hold any other posture is to divide man from nature and from God.

To inquire why Scouting possesses membership restrictions of any kind is to inquire of truth.  Regarding homosexuality, I recognize the virtues and characteristics of sacrifice as taught by my father, of the reservation against ignobility as taught by Scouting, and of discipline as taught by God Almighty.

First and foremost, there is a clear difference between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts.  Whether by choice or by design, homosexual orientation does exist.  Homosexual acts, however, are always volitional.  The human body, as a creation of God and attached to the bounds of reality, may not be treated as a mere instrument of self-pleasure.  To do so voluntarily is to damage the integrity of a person as a dynamic and sanctified unity of body, mind, and spirit.  Intercourse takes place for a reason: biological and spiritual unity, procreation, and the gift of self to another.

Homosexuality does not require a sacrifice of partners.  With human unions, the woman offers her body with the possibility of bearing a child, and the vow of nurturing that child.  The man offers care, support, and defense of both his wife and child.  This self-sacrifice does not and cannot exist in homosexual unions.  Marital acts are defined by human genital intercourse.  Homosexual acts, even if marital, are an act of self-pleasure exclusively and not of self-sacrifice.  Scouting cannot mold boys into men without placing upon its membership some guidance of what being a man is about.

This embodiment of man and of sexual interaction is at the heart of the current proposal.  Opponents of Scouting and its policies oppose Scouting because of its core purpose to empower boys to become strong-willed, sacrificial, and disciplined men.  Nothing is more appalling to the opponents of Scouting than an inspired male leader who understands virtue, sacrifice, and why manhood should be preserved.  Perhaps others who are sympathetic or apathetic towards the current proposal have not considered what is in the mind of the opponents of Scouting.

Scouting would surely never divest itself of its values nor would it ever alienate the very people who hold it deepest in their hearts.  Those who oppose Scouting do so not because they wish to be members, but because they stand against the very purpose of Scouting.  Those who are opposing Scouting today for its membership qualifications regarding homosexuals today will be the very same dissenters next week opposing Scouting because of religious purposes.

A proposal for charter organizations to set their own guidelines is a “no win” situation.  A house divided against itself cannot stand.  To allow chartered organizations to set their own membership guidelines – if that is to be the case – is to create a division in the national body.  Scouting will lie, as a shell of its former wonder, as two broken halves without unity.

I pose several scenarios in response to the proposal whereby the charter organizations are empowered to decide membership guidelines pertaining to homosexuals.

1. Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses to admit homosexuals.  Scoutmaster of Troop 1, who does not support the change, quits.  Troop 1 is left without leadership and folds.

2.  Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses to admit homosexuals.  Scoutmaster of Troop 1, who is indifferent, remains.  Charter Organization, in an effort to “diversify,” demands Scoutmaster take on homosexual Assistant Scoutmasters.  Scoutmaster quits, Troop 1 is left without leadership, and folds.

3. Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses not to admit homosexuals.  Charter Organization of Troop 2 chooses to admit homosexuals.  Troop 2 is sponsoring the Spring Camporee at the public park.  Troop 1 chooses not to attend the Camporee, or alternatively, Charter Organization of Troop 1 does not permit Troop 1 to attend the Camporee.

4. Charter Organizations of Troops 1, 2, and 3 choose not to admit homosexuals.  Council Camp employs homosexual Camp Director.  Troops 1, 2, and 3 choose not to attend Council Camp or alternatively, Charter Organizations of Troops 1, 2, and 3 do not permit Troops to attend Council Camp.

5. Charter Organization, a non-religious organization, of Troop 1 chooses not to admit homosexuals.  Homosexual Applicant applies to Troop 1, the only Scout Troop in Applicant’s town.  Applicant is refused membership.  Applicant sues charter Organization, as a non-religious organization and without the protections of “expressive association” afforded to the BSA at large.

6.  Council, preparing for the National Jamboree, is confronted with choosing Scoutmasters for Council’s two Jamboree troops and must choose between: a) Homosexual Scoutmasters are rejected generally; b) Homosexual Scoutmasters are Scoutmasters of Jamboree Troop 1 only; c) Homosexual Scoutmasters are excepted exclusively; d) Homosexual Scoutmasters are mixed between Troops 1 and 2.  Options (a-d) each result in Scouts not attending the Jamboree because of homosexual Scoutmasters.

7. Council, selecting advisers for the Order of the Arrow lodge, is confronted with choosing homosexual adults.  Scouts choose not to participate in Order of the Arrow activities when Council chooses homosexual Lodge Adviser.

Further scenarios could be listed ad nauseam of how the bulk of the Scouting program centered beyond the micro level will be confounded by contentious choices that would otherwise be avoidable under the absence of a unifying national guideline.

I trust the members of our national board – many of whom I met during my tenure as a national youth officer – do not give in to vanity or emotion.  There is a reality anchored in truths where Scouting is to remain, not to be set adrift in the futile search for a non-existent utopia bounded in relativism.

With absolute sincerity, I pray for the guidance of our national board in this trying time.  Let Scouting’s legacy be that we stood for virtuousness, truth, and God’s eternal will.

In Scouting,

 

Kenneth J. Hager, J.D.

8 Comments

Robert W Berstecher,D.D.S.

Extremely well written letter to the BSA! I also concur and will probably end my membership if they change to accept homosexuals into leadership.

Eagle 1969 Father of three Eagles 1997,2007,2010

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misty tipton

This is a very well written letter. I am glad to see those who have a long term involvement in Scouting speaking out on this matter. My son is a Tiger this year. Hubby and myself are set to be den leaders in our Cub Scout Pack next year. However, this decision could cut our Scouting career very short. It will be an extremely hard thing for my 6 year old if that happens. ;( Thank you for sharing!

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Ryan McFarland

I’d like to respond to the seven scenarios that you list as reasons that allowing Chartered Organizations to opt into allowing homosexual members would be detrimental to the organization.

1 & 2. Scoutmasters quit all the time. For all sorts of reasons. When I became a scoutmaster the troop had not scoutmaster for over a year. When I graduated from college and left the town there was a void in leadership. Just because a troop does not have a scoutmaster does not make the troop fold. Most parents are willing to help out, and many seem to just need the excuse of a leadership void to get involved.

3. I’ve never experienced troops sponsoring camporees. They were conducted by the district and volunteers. Regardless, if a chartered organization does not want the unit to participate then that’s a choice.

4. I dare say that there are a number of homosexual camp staff right now. There have been for years. Wouldn’t the homophobic troops prefer to know if a staffer is openly homosexual? Seems like this is information that those units would like to have instead of have hidden.

5. The BSA could have a policy covering this situation. It is called Lone Scouts. Similar situations are imaginable right now. I’m not Mormon. I lived in rural Utah. The Mormon troops would not let me be involved. I didn’t sue. Can you list any non-religious Chartered Organizations that have indicated that they would not allow homosexual members? Looking at the list (http://www.scouting.org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs.aspx) I can only foresee private schools as the most significant group of organizations that might have such a restriction.

6 & 7. I can see this being somewhat tricky. Just as tricky as it was when black scouters and female leaders were allowed to be involved in scouting. Some people will certainly choose to not allow their child to participate. Just as some probably chose to not allow their sons participate in troops with female or black leaders.

I am also an Eagle Scout, Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor member, recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, and former national youth officer.

I hope the national organization realizes the best course of action. When they do, I look forward to finally enrolling my 13 year old son in scouts. I want him to see the same wonderful organization that you and I grew up loving.

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Dan

It’s interesting that you note a distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual acts. Current BSA policy does not recognize this distinction.

Let me give you another scenario. A boy is entering his teenage years where many of his peers are expressing attraction to girls. He expected to feel that attraction at some point, but he doesn’t. He is attracted to other boys. Due to this, he becomes a bit socially awkward and is bullied. One respite is his scouting peers where the adults and boys have known him for years and bullying is not accepted. He is a valued member of his troop and the scouting adults are his closest non-family mentors.

At some point, he realizes he is probably gay, but isn’t sure what that means or how it will affect his life. For the sake of his mental health, he needs to speak to his adult mentors. According to current scouting policy, if he comes to you and says, “I am probably gay. Help me with this,” you will be required to kick him out of the troop and essentially cut him off from the most stable and healthy social circle in his life. Alternatively, he can internalize this aspect of himself, keep it secret, and lie to his adult mentors in order to remain in scouting. That is extremely unhealthy for the scout and creates a scouting experience based on dishonesty.

So, what would you do if a scout who has a homosexual orientation but had not participated in acts came to you for help? Would you kick him out of your troop on the spot? Would you violate the official scouting policy and keep his secret for him as long he made some sort of chastity promise to you? Would you fight on his behalf to make sure that scouts can openly talk about themselves to their adult mentors without fear of expulsion?

Even if you think homosexual acts are inappropriate, why do you support a policy that bans homosexual orientation?

For what it’s worth, I am an Eagle Scout, OA Brotherhood, have a wife & kids, and I no longer donate my time or money to the BSA because I’ve seen how these policies hurt children and adults.

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PeaceCorpsVolunteerSA

In your section on homosexual acts you state, “Homosexuality does not require a sacrifice of partners.  With human unions, the woman offers her body with the possibility of bearing a child, and the vow of nurturing that child.  The man offers care, support, and defense of both his wife and child.  This self-sacrifice does not and cannot exist in homosexual unions.” Following that logic you would also have to condemn every heterosexual couple who uses birth control. These couples obviously have no intention to procreate. You would also have to condemn every elderly couple who has sex. Since the woman will have gone through menopause they will not have any more children and are just having sex for pleasure. Plenty of heterosexual people have sex for pleasure, don’t be so naïve. Are you also going to kick out every person, even leaders, who do this? Of course not. This argument is ridiculous. You cannot pick and choose like that. How is it fair to homosexuals if you use this argument against them but not against the other people it applies to. Of course I am not hoping that you now want to get rid of people who are using birth control or who are elderly, I am simply pointing out why your argument is invalid. Please try to be a little more open minded and think over your arguments more carefully in the future.

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Jonathan Chancey

I feel like your argument has two flaws from the beginning. The first is very simple, many people are not able to procreate regardless of orientation. So it seems you are calling for Scouting to not allow people who are sterile or who have any number physical limitations that prevent them from having children.

The second is that while the Boy Scouts of America is an organization with strong religious ties, it is not a Christian organization. There are many religions recognized by the BSA that do not share the same narrow view as you have expressed in your letter and to say that one is more important or correct than any other goes against what the BSA stands for.

I am an Eagle Scout and Vigil honor member. The Boy Scouts made me what I am today and I am thankful for that but to think that any organization is without need of reassessment is very short sighted.

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Herb

Speaking as a fellow Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor Member, former Lodge Chief & Former Section Chief, I must say that as well intentioned your thoughts are to defend and protect straight scouts from gay scouts being officially recognized, your arguments have been disproven often and sound just like someone acting as though they follow all commandments in the bible as written (not just Leviticus 18:22).

Of the many biblical laws which are not based in modern times, do you really stand for stoning to death all scout leaders who commit adultery? Should stoning other boys be taught since boys like to skip stones across a river and this is one of the many ways scouting prepare’s boys for manhood?

Let’s just put the “shoe on the other foot” for some of your arguments:

“First and foremost, there is a clear difference between heterosexual orientation and heterosexual acts. Whether by choice or by design, heterosexual orientation does exist. Heterosexual acts, however, are always volitional. The human body, as a creation of God and attached to the bounds of reality, may not be treated as a mere instrument of self-pleasure. To do so voluntarily is to damage the integrity of a person as a dynamic and sanctified unity of body, mind, and spirit. Intercourse takes place for a reason: biological and spiritual unity, procreation, and the gift of self to another.

Homosexuality does require a sacrifice of partners. With human unions, the woman offers her body with the possibility of bearing a child, and the vow of nurturing that child. Her wife, offers care, support, and defense of both her wife and child. This self-sacrifice does not and cannot exist in heterosexual unions. Marital acts are defined by human genital intercourse. Heterosexual acts, even if marital, are an act of self-pleasure exclusively and not of self-sacrifice, especially for couples that choose not to have children, are infertile or just stop after having 8 or 9 children. Scouting can mold boys into men with placing upon its membership some guidance of what being a man is about. Teaching a boy scout that being a man is solely about about procreation is narrow-minded and highly inappropriate. Scout Adult leaders should be modeling safe and stable families and should be actively removed if they violate such incidents as becoming separated from their spouse, whether voluntary or involuntary, since a single parent in a troop would be poor role model for youth.”

Now for a more reality based look at some of your scenarios where everyone leaves scouting out of lack of self confidence and fear that speaking or interacting with a gay man will make every straight scout gay:

1. Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses to admit gay scouts. Scoutmaster of Troop 1, who does not support the change, quits. Troop 1 is temporarily left without a scoutmaster and the assistant scoutmaster declares she is willing to take over and keep the troop going, since hardly any troop has folded because one leader has left. If a troop folds, it is due to an inappropriately supported and balanced organization.

2. Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses to admit gay scouts. Scoutmaster of Troop 1, who is indifferent, remains. Charter Organization, in an effort to “diversify,” demands Scoutmaster have a heart to heart conversation with his adult leaders and tells ASM Gary it is okay to come out. I might quit because I have been uncomfortable with my manhood and have always feared if I confront that Gary really is gay, I might have to look deeper at myself and realize I do have gay family members and friends. I decide I need some guidance from my ex-military commander, who I always trusted in the trenches to learn what it is to be a man. Oh crap… he is gay too… how is it possible I didn’t know this? Was he always a leader and trusted friend anyway and my judgement has gotten in the way?

3. Charter Organization of Troop 1 chooses not to admit homosexuals. Charter Organization of Troop 2 chooses to admit homosexuals. Troop 2 is sponsoring the Spring Camporee at the public park. Troop 1 still attends the camporee because teaching about hetero and homosexulaity is yet to be on any youth serving program and shockingly, the gay scouts don’t have sex while in the field or in tents, since there are local laws prohibiting such actions, including the heterosexual sex.

4. Charter Organizations of Troops 1, 2, and 3 choose not to admit homosexuals. Council Camp employs qualified Camp Director, who happens to be gay. This is never announced but some troops have suspected Director John to be gay because he always wears red neckerchiefs and always wears a pressed uniform. Troops 1, 2, and 3 choose not to attend Council Camp or alternatively, Charter Organizations of Troops 1, 2, and 3 do not permit Troops to attend Council Camp, until Council verifies that Director John is in fact gay. Council respectfully declines request and ask Troop leadership and charter organizations to spend their week not attending summer camp on teaching youth about feeding the homeless or working to end hunger as their time would be better used on productive purposes. They also take 3 troops off the waiting list for camp.

6. Council, preparing for the National Jamboree, is confronted with choosing Qualified Scoutmasters and realize they have to take off the space on the application where applicant must declare their sexual orientation. They realize this has actually never been on the application and continue the process of selecting the right people. This results in Scouts attending the Jamboree as usual because of qualified volunteer leadership was determined and the same engaging program is created.

7. Council, selecting advisers for the Order of the Arrow lodge, is confronted with choosing between hetero and homosexual adults. Council, again realizes sexual orientation has never been a legal interview question, nor mattered to youth of this generation. Ability to focus youth on the task of serving their fellow youth and community in service is still the determining factor. Scouts realize that LA Brian’s “roommate” Mike, is probably more than his roommate and quite frankly don’t care, since they know this is largely a generational issue with older American’s. They continue working with LA Brian and vow to be more inclusive and thoughtful when inviting spouses to Lodge Dinner.

Further scenarios could be listed ad nauseam of how the bulk of the Scouting program centered beyond the micro level will be confounded by contentious choices that would otherwise be avoidable under the absence of a unifying national guideline.

I trust the members of our national board do not give in to vanity or emotion, yet lead forward and stand for equality of all scouts. There is a reality anchored in truths where if Scouting is to remain, it should be grounded in teaching solid morals, which are not fear-based.

Scouting, like religion, should not pick and choose which biblical commandments are worthy of following. Should the BSA be an organization for only 100% biblical followers or should the spirit of biblical values be present, and leave the biblical judging to God?

With absolute sincerity, I pray for the guidance of our national board in this exciting time. Let Scouting’s legacy be that we stood for virtuousness, truth, and that a Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent.

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