To many, the Boy Scouts is quaint organization that puts a premium of values like personal responsibility, citizenship, integrity, leadership, cooperation, and teamwork. What you may not know is that I am an Eagle Scout, something less than 5 percent of all Boy Scouts since 1912 have earned. Added to that, I have one bronze, one gold, and one silver Eagle Palm for having earned merit badges beyond what was required for Eagle.
Over the last several years, the Boy Scouts have had some fairly negative reactions due to their exclusion of gay and atheist Scouts and Scoutmasters, which has been changed for gay Scouts and adult Scouters since 2015. There have been several challenges to the Boy Scouts of America’s membership rules, but what it boils down to is this: the BSA is a private institution and can define membership requirements as it sees fit. The most recent policy change was on Jan. 31, 2017, the BSA lifted the ban on transgendered boys becoming members of the organization.
Let us define a few terms here. Sex is the reproductive organ one has. Gender is made up of the actions, preferences, values, hobbies, and expressions that we, as a society, have decided belong with male or female sexes. While the majority of people have sex and gender that match up, many don’t. Transgender is where a member of one sex has the actions, preferences, values, hobbies, and expressions of the other sex. This isn’t simply the idea of “girls pretending to be boys for a few months.” This is much more than that.
So, when the BSA let in transgender boys, that is, kids that dress, act, make bonfires, play Little League, tackle the ball-carrier at recess, “in charge,” aggressive, but don’t have a penis.
They increased the pool for recruits and made Boy Scouts a stronger organization. As an Eagle Scout, I agree with this. I want each and every boy to have the opportunity to get involved with the Boy Scouts, if they so choose, and learn the same skills and values that I learned going through and earning my Eagle.
Some critics have thought that this changes the nature of the Boy Scouts; I couldn’t disagree more. The three Aims of Scouting are character development, citizenship training, and physical fitness. Permitting transgendered boys does absolutely nothing to change those aims. By creating an organization that is centered on those aims believes that building boys is better than mending men, and I fully agree.
Some have thought that since the BSA is becoming more open, the religious requirement should be removed. I’m not entirely sold on that argument. The BSA is incredibly flexible on what constitutes religion and religious practice. Most of our Founding Fathers weren’t Christian, but rather Deist, and Deism absolutely counts under the BSA’s guide to religion.
I do not believe that faith in a God makes one a better citizen than non-religious individuals. Atheists are no less brave in defense of country than those religious, nor are their votes no less valued at election time. However, the BSA does have the right to have this religious requirement for its membership, so ruled the Supreme Court, because it is a private institution.
Would atheists benefit from scouting any less than religious youth? I don’t believe that, either. I think that there is some common ground somewhere. I don’t believe that there has to be an all-or-nothing response, but the influence of religion in scouting is undeniable.
Others have thought that since transgendered boys are entering the BSA, girls might be allowed in. I don’t have an opinion. This is not because I am opposed to women’s rights and women’s equality. I am very much in favor of them, but rather because there is already Girl Scouts and Venture Scouts, with Venture Scouts being the co-ed version of the BSA. While I think that female Venture Scouts should be permitted to earn Eagle the same way that male Venture Scouts can, if they meet certain criteria, the values Venture Scouts and Boy Scouts are the same.
I think if anyone wants to learn how to be a good citizen, develop character, and value physical fitness, it’s really hard to beat the Boy Scouts of America and the fantastic program that they have. If anyone is concerned about potential widespread “extracurricular activities” between young boys and girls, I think that one severely underestimates the integrity of the adult Scouters and the Scouts, as well as the fear of God that Scoutmasters can instill within the Scouts.