release of the Boy Scouts of America, announcing that they will admit boys who
declare themselves to be homosexual:
"For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a
part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver
the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based
"Based on growing input from within the Scouting
family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the
organization's long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting's
mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family
and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and
those who support a change.
"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive
listening exercise in Scouting's history, the approximately 1,400 voting
members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution
to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual
orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth
program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth
of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting (emphasis mine). A change to the current
membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the
policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting
members who participated in this process and vote.
"This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing
the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and
implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
"The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its
mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to
be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the
National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are
no plans for further review on this matter.
"While people have different opinions about this
policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.
Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and
serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America's
youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can
continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities
What underlies all this puffery? Everything is vague,
like the speech of a foolish politician who struts and frets his season before
the teleprompter, and then, alas, is elected, so that we must hear him for
years to come. What are the “goals that unite us”? What are “the
virtues of Scouting”? What is “values-based leadership training”?
Who is to be leading whom? What is to be valued, and why? What
“incredible things” are to be accomplished? Building a fire?
Pitching a tent? Learning to write a single rational sentence to be
understood by rational people?
The Boy Scouts of America have long ceased to speak the
language of Christian or Jewish or solid old Roman virtue. They, like the
schools, have veered away from any of the specifics of expertise, like teaching boys how to shoot a rifle
or how to find edible plants in the woods, or, from my March 1, 1911 issue of Boys’
Life, the first issue ever printed, how to
drive cattle across the outback of Australia. There was only one reality
that kept them reasonably sane when all the world around them had gone quite
mad, and that was the boy. And
now that one reality has been forgotten.
There’s one word in that official statement that is
conspicuous by its absence. It’s boy. The word appears in the name of the organization,
just as young, men, and Christian
appear in the name of the YMCA, even though
that organization is now largely a consortium of secular day-care centers and
health spas for middle class families and the elderly. The Boy Scouts of
America are apparently no longer about boys.
I am aware that girls are admitted to some of the Scouting
programs for adolescents. That doesn’t change the nature of this
abandonment. For if the Boy Scouts of America had remembered that they
were, first of all, the Boy Scouts and
not the Youth Scouts, they might
just have remembered also the realities of sex that is, of being a boy, and
not a girl, or a neuter.
Perhaps then they would not have put forth a sentence as
absurd and incoherent as the one I have italicized above: The resolution
also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct,
whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the
virtues of Scouting. What can this
We can guess, and say that the Boy Scouts of America affirms
that teenagers should not be engaging in “sexual conduct,” that is, sexual
intercourse or the mockery thereof that is sodomy. Really? And what
if the eighteen year old boy marries his high school sweetheart? I am
quite aware that that is not common nowadays, but it does still happen.
Does the BSA mean to imply that age is
decisive here, and not whether one is married? At what age, then, does
the Eagle Scout earn his sexual furlough? Twenty one? Twenty
five? When he is old enough to pay child support to the unwed
What virtues of Scouting do those activities violate? Purity, self-control, chastity,
obedience to the laws of God, chivalry to women, manliness? One could
find all of those virtues promoted in the literature of the Scouts, a hundred
years ago, but I daresay if anybody tried to press a single one of them now
purity, for example he’d be branded as antisocial and not in keeping with the virtues of
But it is not true that even boys who are not married must
abstain from any sexual conduct, that
is, any conduct that is proper to a boy as a sexual being. No one who
actually has a real boy in mind could write something so perfectly stupid as
I’m looking at a picture from a time when people cherished
the sweetness and goodness of what was simply normal. It’s a Rockwell
illustration called First Love. The
boy and girl can’t be more than ten years old. They are sitting on an old
bench, their backs to us. He’s got his arm around her, and she’s leaning
his way. She’s got daisies in her free hand. His fishing tackle
lies on the ground behind the bench, where his beagle is sitting, looking sad,
because it doesn’t look as if there’s going to be an adventure at the pond
after all. What about that, Boy Scouts of America? Does being
a normal boy violate the virtues
When I was eight years old I had a crush on a girl my age
who had just moved to the neighborhood. She was the first cousin of my
first cousin, and the family spoke German, as her father had met her mother
while he was in the service in Germany. She was perky and bright, with
long brown hair. She could play a little baseball, so that was good, but
she also liked to do girlish things, like setting up a big concession table
across from our playground her “store,” where she sold lemonade and candy.
I was a shy kid, but not so shy that I didn’t go to her
birthday party that year, dressed in a coat and tie probably the last year
any child in America would go to a party dressed so formally. Her
mother’s parents were visiting, speaking only German, but even I could tell
that they were delighted I had come. So they played some music, and
there’s a photograph somewhere of this girl and me, dancing in the living room,
arm to waist and hand in hand. What about that, Boy Scouts of America?
Does dancing with a girl violate the virtues of Scouting?
What can the answer be? Of course not? But why
not? I daresay there is not a single male scoutmaster from coast to coast
who would put on his wall a picture of his eight year old boy dancing with another
boy, like that. We would view with deep suspicion any mother who
encouraged it. That’s simply because we understand what a boy is. A
boy is that being who is to become a man; and to dance with a girl, to have a
crush on the pretty girl down the street, and to act on that crush, with
flowers, or with tokens of affection, is a normal and decent thing. It is
a kind of play that prepares the boy for the future, when he will be a man,
marrying a woman and having children of his own.
“Well, we aren’t talking about that!” I hear them say. But what, pray tell, are you
talking about? Only things in bed? Not marriage, then, and all the
preliminaries to marriage?
Does it violate the virtues of Scouting if a teenage boy has a steady girlfriend, as I
did? If they walk hand in hand? If they sometimes sit by the lake,
and spend an hour talking, and kissing when they run out of things to
say? If he gives her presents on her birthday? If he writes poems
about her grace and beauty? If he declares his love? Do these
things not constitute sexual conduct?
Of course they do. And if kept within the bounds of
purity and self-control, they are more than pardonable; they are right and
good. They are the kinds of things that the Boy Scouts of America should
be encouraging the boy scouts of America to do, when they are older, by
sponsoring ice cream socials and concerts and other events that bring boys and
girls together. But we must now pretend that all of this is wicked, or we
must ignore it altogether.
Meanwhile, what of the sexual conduct of the boy who is
attracted to another boy? Is that the same kind of thing, you confused scoutmasters? You are happy to see
young love, are you? The older boy with a crush on another boy, holding
his hand, giving him presents, writing poems about his grace and beauty, and
declaring his love? You’re the father of the boy winning all that
attention, and you say, proudly, “My son, already he’s turning heads!” Is
that what you do?
Of course you don’t. You put a stop to it. You understand,
though these days you hardly have the words for expressing it, that the whole
thing is sick. You also understand how vulnerable boys are, how easily
they can be enticed or induced into doing things they shouldn’t, regardless of
whether those things are sexual.
But we must live in a Never-land, in which boys who declare
that they like boys will be as pure as the snow, will never flirt, will never
try to draw other boys into their ambit, will never show off a bad habit, will
never seek for company in the unnatural desire, or in those vices to which they
have already submitted (for otherwise they would never make that public
declaration of homosexuality) and which hold them in the grips of a nervous
And we must pretend that boys are not boys, just some
neutered youth, who will grow up to be
this or that; nobody knows, and nobody cares.