Unexpected ripple effect of Boy Scout policy change
Change is inevitable. Nature shows us that. Caterpillars become butterflies. Streams carve new paths through the landscape. Trees fall, animals die and new life cycles are constantly rebudding into the ecosystem.So it is no surprise that the decades-old policies of Scouting will see some change over time. The most recent — and perhaps biggest — alteration in the organization’s tried-and-true approach to shaping the young leaders of tomorrow was Friday’s announcement that gay Scouts would be allowed to become members of the Boy Scouts of America. Openly gay adult leaders, though, would still be banned.
Moral implications of such a change have been debated via mainstream media for quite some time. BSA is proud of its ties to biblical thinking. One of the 12 points of the Scout Law is that a Scout is reverent. How that ties into the current debate of gays in the organization is a discussion for another day.
I just want to rehash that this decision has other immediate implications that many people on the outside looking in may never even consider.
For one, many Scout troops that represent small communities around the country are typically sponsored by a group in that community. In many cases, that sponsor is a church, and usually that is where the Scout troop holds meets, stores equipment, holds important ceremonies, etc.
The relationship between a Scout troop and its sponsor can be a big benefit for both parties. The Scouts get a home base — a place within the community to consistently converge and from which to help that community through service projects and other activities. The church gets a new influx of people which expands the ministry and may even lead to new additions to the church family. The positive press of an Eagle Scout holding his ceremony in the hometown church is powerful for both sides.
But many of the small hometown churches that are sponsors of Scouting may have drastically different views on gays than what the new Scouting policy suggests. How many troops will lose their sponsors because of this policy change? For those that don’t lose that connection, will it cause extra friction in a relationship that is usually pretty positive for both sides?
Another point to ponder … will this change in policy be enough for larger funding groups, such as the United Way, to continue donating large amounts of money into the Scouting movement? Before Scouting made the decision to allow openly gay Scouts, the United Way branches and other similar community groups were threatening to pull all financial support of Scouting.
Why did these organizations, many of which who sponsored Scouting for decades under the old policy, suddenly change their tunes? How much of it was political, or fears of being “politically correct” to a general public that seems to favor the 50 shades of gray between what was once black and white? It seemed similar to a young family moving to a house in the country and then down the road complaining about the odors coming from the nearby long-standing family farm.
Of course, the proposed funding cuts would do much more than make a political statement to the general public — it would also directly impact the millions of young men who already are in Scouting or soon will be. It will force small troops operated solely by volunteers to scramble for extra funds to make up the difference. Scout trips would be cut, opportunities to try new things, create new friendships and explore the world would suddenly come in jeopardy.
Finally, how does this change affect the social dynamics of young men sitting around the campfire or tenting in the backwoods far away from civilization? What would be the protocol for deciding the sleeping arrangements for an openly gay young man with a group of those who aren’t? is it fair to ask adult leaders, who already sacrifice large chunks of their own vacation schedules, finances and family time, to suddenly address the touchy subject and properly chaperone these young men on top of all the other expectations of successfully running a weekend campout, week-long excursion or other event?
Ultimately, the Scouts themselves will be hit the hardest in numerous ways. While policy makers may be looking at the bigger picture, those on the front lines will be the ones directly affected.
Time will tell how that change will affect an organization that has a longstanding positive reputation for helping young men find their place in the community around them.