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To the Editor of the Starkville Daily News:
I have been affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America since joining as a cub in 1976. I am an Eagle Scout, the father of an Eagle Scout, and the current Scoutmaster of Troop 14 in Starkville. Though the scouting program has had a profound influence on my life, and its positive aspects are numerous, I will be resigning my position and ending my association with the BSA. Though the recent revision of the BSAâ€™s membership standards policy is the immediate precipitant of my decision, it would be a gross over-simplification to merely argue that I am leaving the organization because I happen to disagree with that policy. Rather, I argue that the entire policy revision process and subsequent justification campaign engaged in by the national office are symptomatic of a profound moral shift, a shift that has nothing to do with sexual orientation.
Scoutingâ€™s stated mission is â€śto prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.â€ť As a condition of membership scouts must subscribe to and abide by this Oath and Law, which are bookended with duty to God and reverence for God respectively. Further, scouts affirm weekly their promise to live lives that are â€śmorally straight.â€ť This begs an important question. How is â€śmoral straightnessâ€ť defined? As an organization that says it exists to teach morality, how does the BSA justify that its moral positions and ethical advice are correct? Where does it get the moral authority for asserting that its beliefs are true? Pared down to the most basic inquiry, how does anyone know the difference between right and wrong?
For the last 102 years, the BSA had answers that reflected the foundational bookends of duty and reverence to God. While not officially affiliated with any particular religious denomination, the scouts consistently affirmed belief in God and accepted a major philosophical implication of that belief: If there is an eternal omnipotent God who created and reigns over the universe, He makes the rules. Scouting recognized the existence of moral absolutes, universally true for all people for all time.
In 2013, these same Boy Scouts have suddenly embraced secular humanism. They have amended their moral code based upon a national â€ślistening processâ€ť and subsequent election. This action by the BSAâ€™s national leadership has serious implications: there is no accountability to a Creator and no absolute standard of right and wrong; society or the individual can decide what is moral, and morality is subject to change.
Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brockâ€™s recent letter to BSA chartering organizations is replete with examples of the new BSA, where the opinions of man trump the authority of God in the determination of morality. He states, â€śScoutingâ€™s chartered organizations have the right to uphold their own moral standards within the units they sponsor.â€ť Implied in this assertion: moral standards may vary among BSA units.
Having just asserted the rights of chartering organizations to uphold moral standards, just a few paragraphs later Brock contradicts himself: â€śThat [endorsing a particular moral viewpoint] is not the role of the organizations [chartering organizations, including churches], and Scouting is not the place to resolve divergent viewpoints in society.â€ť Translation: Morality is relative. No person or institution can claim to know moral truth. Our youth organization, whose mission is to teach morality and ethics, wonâ€™t take sides on this issue, and our chartering organizations may not either.
Brock again: â€śThe review confirmed that this [acceptance of homosexuality] remains among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today. Even with the wide range of input, it was extremely difficult to accurately quantify the potential impact of maintaining or changing the current policy.â€ť Again, BSA is clearly not framing their discussion in terms of right and wrong, but in measuring the potential financial or membership consequences of one choice over another.
The first point of the Scout Law is â€śA Scout is Trustworthy.â€ť I suggest that the national leadership of the BSA needs to stop lying to itself. It is intellectually dishonest to claim moral authority while at the same time looking for societal consensus before making a moral pronouncement. It is ridiculous to admonish a boy to do his duty to God while simultaneously maintaining a policy that encourages him to accept behavior his God unambiguously defines as sinful.
In her opinion piece on the BSA Thursday, Mary Garrison made some admirable points. It is indeed purposeless to rail against others and breed hate, as well as evil to engage in emotional and manipulative propaganda. However, she erred in her suggestion that the BSA acted nobly by changing its membership standard. There is nothing noble about abandoning a timeless core value because it happens to be unpopular in secular society.
Todayâ€™s majority easily dismisses arguments such as mine. Ms. Garrison herself echoed the common belief: no one consciously chooses to be homosexual; they are who they are, and therefore we must accept them for who they are. Even some Christian churches agree, justifying their position by either claiming scripture is irrelevant, wrong or wrongly interpreted. Besides, we live in an enlightened and scientific age, and we know the Bible canâ€™t be true. That settles the matter, doesnâ€™t it?
Actually, no. Not if you claim to know what it means to be â€śmorally straight.â€ť Not if you make 11-year-olds promise to do their duty to God. Not if, in response to the question, â€śHow do you know?â€ť the best you can come up with is, â€śBecause most people agree with me.â€ť That answer just wonâ€™t cut it, even with 11-year-old boys. Ultimate truth will never be determined by counting up the votes.
Clifton D. Taylor