Boy Scout Oath (or Promise)*
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.
Morally straight. Wow. In other words, queers need not apply. You’ve got to be kidding me. What century are we living in?
On July 18, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America announced the results of a confidential, two-year review of its policy that explicitly excludes gays. The Boy Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, stated that a special eleven-member committee came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy ‘‘is absolutely the best policy’’ for the 102-year-old organization.
Since when is unvarnished prejudice against a historically-maligned minority a good thing? Isn’t it somewhat hypocritical for an organization that requires its members “to help other people at all times” to gleefully endorse discrimination against gays? In what sense is perpetuating age-old, irrational prejudices “helpful” to gays?
In case this might be news to the Boy Scouts, on September 20, 2011, the United States military officially terminated its Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. In doing so, the US military officially accorded non-heterosexuals the same civil rights as heterosexuals, while also affirming the enlightened notion that it was no longer “morally straight” to discriminate on the basis of sexuality. That historic policy shift by the US military represents a resounding endorsement of fundamental democratic freedoms.
America’s democratic principles assert that, all people being created equal, everyone should enjoy the same unalienable rights: freedom, fairness, justice and equality. In practice, however, US democracy has all-too-often rolled out the red carpet to some (i.e., European, male, property-owning, heterosexual, Christians) while dehumanizing, subjugating and abusing “Others.” Though it took more than a century of aggressive social activism on the part of marginalized minorities, Americans gradually came to realize that there was a vast and inappropriate gulf between the USA’s democratic principles and its practices. Thus, slowly and grudgingly, American morality has transitioned from celebrating the abuse of marginalized minorities to castigating such malignant indiscretions. In other words–although more than a few Americans lament the passage of “the good old days”–it is no longer considered “morally acceptable” to treat Africans like slaves, women like property, indigenous people like vermin, and members of the GLBT community as deranged criminals.
Three cheers for the (long, slow, reluctant) march of democratic progress! Wahoo.
The Boy Scouts have decided that, in spite of the march of progress, they are going to dig in their heels in a futile effort to preserve their anachronistic, undemocratic version of morality. For the Boy Scouts, gays may not necessarily be deranged criminals, but gays still fall into the category of undesirable “others.”
As a private club, the US courts have ruled that the Boy Scouts are welcome to take this lonely, last, loathing stand against civil rights. For an organization that has existed for 102 years and that congratulates itself for upholding the highest moral principles, it is sad that the Boy Scouts would flaunt such an appalling ignorance of history, morality, common decency and democracy.
*From the Boy Scouts page at http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts.aspx