On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
The popular media commented on the recent Boy Scouts of America's vote in May 2013 in typical fashion, taking a linguistically-biased and subtly-loaded position in its opening lines: "The Boy Scouts of America voted…to end its controversial policy banning gay kids and teens from joining one of the nation's most popular youth organizations, ditching membership guidelines that had roiled the group in recent years." (italics added) What is not stated is as important as what is: the majority of those actually in scouting (not the Council who passed the measure) saw no controversy. They supported the Oath written above, and their Strategic Plan Motto "Timeless Values", among which, morality and adherence to God's law, are explicitly stated. The Supreme Court even decided 13 years ago that as a private membership organization, the BSA was free to decide who it would admit. Again, no controversy. The "roiling" would be more aptly termed instigation, and the instigation came from a vocal minority of activists who are regularly challenging anything that characterizes traditional values, be they in marriage, family, and now, youth groups.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, "gay kids" do not exist - if we take the science of developmental psychology and identity formation seriously - only confused kids, who are in the midst of trying to discover their vocation, who they are called to be, within a culture and society that is bombarding them with distorted and erroneous messages. In other words, the Scouts would be far better served by not compelling or even allowing discussion of non-marital genital sexuality - of any sort. In so doing, they might even provide confused or questioning male youth a place to bond in a healthy manner with other boys and men, giving them a necessary developmental experience that is known to foster healthy psychosexual development.
Psychological Development and Identity
While mainstream psychology has been subject to its own political challenges to research integrity over the past few decades, the foundational theories and practice of psychological science have long established that one's identity generally is fluid during childhood and adolescence, and recent research suggests that certain important areas of the brain continue to develop into one's mid-20s. More specifically, when it comes to the construct of so-called "sexual orientation", fluidity, change and reconsideration is more often the norm than not. Of course, monogamous, chaste, heterosexuality is by design the healthy outcome of any child's development, but it is naïve to fail to recognize the challenges that confront some youth. Research that attempts to utilize the idea of an "orientation" to classify and study people is fraught with inconsistent results, likely in part because a person who identifies as homosexual at one point in time could be expected to identify as heterosexual or bisexual at another. The bottom line then, is that the whole purported reason for the Scouts' Council to take up the policy, is based on a distorted question of who these children and adolescents at the heart of the matter are called to be.
At the tender age (pun intended) of scouting, it is not only impossible to determine one's "orientation", it risks damaging the person and delaying proper self-discovery. Furthermore, a significant distinction needs to be made when discussing homosexuality. When men define themselves as "gay", they are centering their whole being on that notion. In discussions with such persons, the point to be made is that they are not first and foremost homosexual or "gay"; they are first and foremost men: men who experience same sex attraction. One's sexuality does not define a person, rather, same sex attraction is but one aspect of a person. By capitulating, the Boy Scouts, not only propound a grave error, they further impede the path to genuine healing.
If it's really about the kids…
The leadership of Scouts, apparently feeling compelled by signs of the times, takes up this question of the place of sexually-confused kids in their organization. While insisting that they are trying to "put the kids first" (Wayne Brock, the BSA's Chief Scout executive), "serve more kids" (Perez, the BSA national commissioner), and promote "the best interest of our nation's children" (Wayne Perry, Boy Scouts president), the leaders appear to suffer confusion as well, oblivious to how their action is harming children (both those confused about their sexuality and those who are mercifully preserved from an obsession with sex despite the cultural milieu). In the end, they will almost certainly serve fewer children as some sponsoring organizations will likely break ties with BSA and form alternative groups.
Children learn most from the behavior observed and choices made by trusted and respected adults. A review of the Scouts' Executive Committee decision-making process indicates the leadership, by their own account, was swept up in the cultural tide: "Overall key findings that the Executive Committee considered to be critical to the development of a resolution (included):
Apparently a 103-year history can be abolished by a three-year trend, and the "wisdom" of teens trumps that of the majority and the elders of the community.
What was required in this situation, for the kids, was a tough, politically incorrect, but coherent and defensible stand by the leadership. Being "mentally awake and morally straight" means, at a minimum, recognizing that the Scouts were never created to be a place of sexual discernment or exploration; the prohibition that was formerly in place merely conveyed a concrete reflection of the standards embodied in the Oath and Law. What the children really needed was adult men who would provide sage counsel that whatever sexual attractions they may be feeling at the age of 10, 12 or 14, there is much life to be lived ahead; join us, and focus on what boys growing into manhood ought to be focused upon, the real strength of Scouting.
Making proclamations about one's sexual "orientation" publically is neither "obedient…brave, clean, nor reverent".