"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law -- to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."
That's the Scout Oath. I have repeated it hundreds of times, my right elbow bent at a 90-degree angle, my thumb holding my pinky and my other three fingers pointed skyward, reminders of the three points of the Scout Law -- physical, mental and moral accountability.
Now we are engaged in a great debate over whether the Boy Scouts of America should or will change its longstanding position against allowing homosexuality to creep into the Scouting movement. The national organization is expected to make an announcement this week as to whether or not they will lift its ban against gay members and gay leaders.
To be honest, I had no idea that a ban was or had ever been in place against homosexual Scouts. I can tell you this. It hasn't worked, any more than the ban against gays in the military kept gays out of the military.
This appears to be a very divisive issue and, judging from all the angry Facebook posts I've seen, one that is driven by passion and religious zeal -- and hate and ignorance.
Go ahead. Stone me. Just remember who among you should cast the first one, however.
The Boy Scouts of America, and the World Scout Movement, has been one of the most effective and positive organizations for more than 100 years. I was a Scout and few institutions, if any, had more effect on me than Scouting. It opened up so many doors to me and allowed me to expand my horizons far beyond the little mill village in which I was raised.
I don't remember anyone asking me, when I was 8 years old and joined Pack 60 -- or when I was 11 years old and joined Troop 226 -- whether I thought I would prefer having sex with girls or boys and, quite frankly, I don't think that should be a factor today either. There were kids in my troop who turned out to be gay. When I worked at Scout camp for seven years after college there were staff members who turned out to be gay. In neither case was I ever aware of one of those Scouts or staffers utilizing the activities of the Boy Scouts to lure sexual partners. The kids I knew were looking to camp and hike and swim and have a good time and learn a few things, just like I was.
I know. Doesn't sound like the usual conservative views, but I think there is a big difference between getting married and joining Scouts.
I've had this conversation with friends and they have pointed to the three points of the Scout Law that I mentioned earlier. "What about being morally straight?" they ask. "If you are doing your duty to God you can't be gay because the Bible says it is a sin."
Understood. But how many 8-year-olds or 11-year-olds know what they are? And I have seen a lot of fat little Scouts come through the ranks who aren't exactly following their pledge to keep physically strong. Are we going to kick them out, too?
Now as to allowing gay Scoutmasters, I have a different opinion -- and I know that having contradictory opinions on the matter is not rational. I know that homosexual Scoutmasters aren't theoretically any more likely to be trolling for sexual partners than a heterosexual youth minister or teacher is. But I am still against changing the ban. I don't have to make sense all the time. I'm no different than anyone else. I think all boys should have the opportunity to experience Scouting, if they adhere to the oath and promise. I don't believe all adults do.
The thing that really gets me angry about the whole thing is the fact that the National Council didn't sit down and look at its policy and decide that it needed to be changed to be fair to all boys. It allowed itself to be bullied into it by the liberal media. Now it doesn't seem to have the courage to make a definitive stand one way or another. The national leadership is trying to keep itself off the hot seat by stating that enforcement of the new policy will be left up to individual units.
It should be all one way or all the other. A Scout is brave. Not the National Council. Not this time.
I'm pretty sure we haven't heard the last of the issue, and I am positive we need to be prepared for what comes next.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.