The Boy Scouts Are Misinterpreting the Meaning of Moral

Last year, a fourth grade teacher at my daughter’s intermediate school was arrested for soliciting a 13 year-old girl (or so he thought) online.

Also last year, a teacher at my son’s middle school was arrested for child abuse and identity theft. Two weeks ago, she pleaded guilty to the identify theft, but she is still awaiting trial on 11 counts of child abuse.

Other than the fact that both were teachers in Berkeley County Schools and neither is gay, I don’t think the two have much in common. Yet, they were both engaged in immoral activity because their behavior was harmful. They used their power to hurt, control or take advantage of others, which I think most people would agree is anything but moral. The definition isn’t that fuzzy, at least I’ve never thought it was.

Unfortunately, some people are trying to redefine the meaning in order to fit their own narrow and bigoted views.

This week, the Boy Scouts postponed a decision to “sort of” lift its ban on anyone who is openly gay. I say “sort of” because the potential policy change would simply allow local organizations make their own decisions.

Photo/Richard Rodriguez)            NYTCREDIT: Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

Photo/Richard Rodriguez) NYTCREDIT: Richard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

I was reading about the situation in the New York Times. While the content of the article bothered me, I was even more disturbed by the accompanying photo, which showed scouts and their parents holding signs that proclaimed “Keep Scouts Moral and Straight.”There was so much wrong with that photo, and I felt sorry for the young boys who are obviously being taught that discrimination is appropriate.

My kids are taught that discrimination is immoral:

Moral people don’t exclude but instead include.

Moral people don’t make broad judgments but instead ensure that every individual is given respect.

And moral people don’t define others by who they choose to love but rather by how they treat others.

Rex C. Curry for The New York Times

Rex C. Curry for The New York Times

Just as important, national organizations that demonstrate moral leadership don’t waffle on potentially controversial issues and, instead of taking a stand, cower by relinquishing their decision-making authority to locals.

Even more importantly, they don’t bow to bigots who make unsubstantiated and untrue generalizations about any group of people. Yet, the decision to delay a decision on the ban on gays came after rallies like the one at the Boy Scout headquarters in Irvine, Texas where protesters claimed that prohibiting gay membership equates to protecting their children.

After the incidents last year at my children’s schools, no one rallied with signs asking the school system to protect my children.

But maybe that’s because there’s no organized effort to rally against straight people who commit immoral acts. But maybe there should be.  After all,  I’m pretty sure statistics would show that’s where the real “danger’ lies.

About Trina Bartlett

I live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, with one dog, two cats, a theater kid in high school, a band kid at West Virginia University and a husband who works strange hours. When I'm not working as a director at a nonprofit social service organization or being a mom, I can generally be found riding my bike, walking my dog and stirring things up.

Posted on February 9, 2013, in current affairs, News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. So well said, Trina! Thank you, once again, for your clarity.

    • The decision made by the Boy Scouts of America to delay a very important decision has been on my mind also. Thanks for expressing my thoughts so nicely!!!! To be honest, if my boys were still young and wanted to be in the Boy Scouts I would not allow them until the “right” decision is made – all boys should be allowed!!!

    • To be honest, I don’t know why, in this day and age, this is still an issue…

  2. We still have so far to go, don’t we? I used to think it was only two steps forward and one back. Now, sometimes I wonder if we are moving forward at all. Closed minds are so loud they drown out the quiet voices of reason. Used to be there were more reasonable ones so they were heard; now I’m not so sure.

    • Love that thought… “closed minds are so loud they drown out the quiet voice of reason.” This week, I was talking to a friend about a completely different matter, and she said, “my dad always said good rises to the top. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get there.”

  3. Awesome post. Thank you for clarifying to those who use the word “moral” in such immoral tones.

  4. GREAT POST, TRINA –

    As an Eagle Scout and former adult leader, I’d like to offer a few nuggets –

    1. The original Boy Scouts (founded in the UK by Baden Powell) had a definite military orientation. INCIDENTALLY, it is widely speculated that Baden Powell was homosexual.

    2. The BSA was loosely modeled from the British version, but deliberately de-emphasized it’s military aspects. BSA emphasized programs geared to individual and group/community accomplishment – with a consistent respect for nature. Native American images and lore have always been integral to BSA- and Cub Scouts.

    3. Today, as always, the scouting experience varies widely according to the adult leaders, parents and scouts that are connected to each troop. Thanks largely to parental awareness and involvement, most troops do an excellent job of making scouting a highly rewarding experience for all.

    4. Occasionally (not usually) scouting attracts leaders who want to want to inject their own political or social views into scouting. Occasionally (not usually) scouting attracts power trippers and wannabe soldiers who undermine the overall purpose of scouting. The national organization could be more vigilant on this. In the final analysis, parents make the difference in guiding the troop and in guiding their boy to a really good troop.

    5. Many troops are sponsored by religious denominations – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian (ranging from very fundamental to very liberal congregations). If the sponsor supplies a lot of leaders and scouts to the troop, understandably the troop may reflect the sponsor’s views on homosexuality and other social issues.

    CONCLUSION: Part of the scout oath (do my best, to do my duty to God and my country) has provided occasional controversy along religious lines over the years – much as the homosexual controversy is today. Respect, tolerance and reverence are deeply rooted in the BSA – and some troops understand this better than others. In my years as a scout and a scout leader, we experienced religious diversity (including atheism) and homosexuality without conflict, difficulty or compromise to the overall mission of scouting.

    VOLUNTARY respect and tolerance is not sufficient in scouting – especially today. I think it is clearly time that the national scouting organization demands that all troops and sponsors completely desist from imposing religious or sexual orientation requirements. Banning gays is clearly the agenda of some – which is impossible without having some sort of litmus test for heterosexuality. Pause to consider the consequences of scouts and scout troops exploring ways demonstrate or prove their heterosexuality! The idea of sanctioning some troops as gay and others as straight is even worse. Can you imagine the continued conflict, emotional damage, even gang fights between the ‘machos’ and ‘non-machos’ that will inevitably occur? How irresponsible or cowardly can we get? Let’s make sexual orientation a non-issue. Let’s drop the ban!!

  5. Nobody can argue the importance of protecting our children from harm. It’s just a shame that some people consider sexual orientation to be a matter of morality. The harm done is more far reaching than just to the boys who may not be permitted to be a Boy Scout.

  6. My Dad was in the boy scouts and spent a good part of his life in scout leadership, I was in the boy scouts and I know I speak for both of us when I say the scouts need to face reality. The world is evolving, thank GOD for that. One day we will look back and say “I can’t believe they didn’t allow homosexuals to be leaders in the scouts”. I hope that days is soon! Character is what counts….IMO 🙂

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