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Scouts linger in the Victorian Age

POSTED January 11, 2013 8:19 p.m.

There is little argument that gay teens have been in Scouting since the movement started a century ago.
There is little argument that Scouting has the right to set its own standards, since it is not subject carte blanche to public accommodation laws.
At the same time, parents - and indeed Scouts themselves - should have an expectation that pedophiles or any adult leader, whether they are straight, gay or whatever, would not engage in sexual discussions, let alone act in a sexual manner under the auspices of Scouting.
It's not what Scouting is about.
The decision by Scouting on Wednesday to deny 18-year-old Ryan Andresen of Moraga Eagle Scout status can be justified - to a degree - under the bedrock standards that Scouting strives to impart.
It is only to a degree because Andresen's transgression wasn't being gay as much as it was coming out publicly that he was gay.
Scouting doesn't ask prospective members their sexual orientation or preferences. They are more focused on moral reinforcement and character building. Moral, in this case, doesn't mean preaching against gays or sexuality. They are subjects that simply aren't part Scouting.
It becomes an issue only when Scouts are open about being gay.
That's where an organization, founded in the Teddy Roosevelt era when Victorian values still dominated society to help mold boys into young men, is crossing over the rumble strip when it comes to being consistent.
It is doubtful that Scouting would really want to accommodate what one might call hyper-sexual straight teens either. That would run the gamut from publicly professing specific sexual tendencies to injecting sexual banter into Scouting. You would - and should - expect Scouting to have a serious issue with such behavior.
The act of coming out - whether it is a public proclamation or doing what an Eagle Scout did a few years back in the East Bay and take a male date to a very public function such as a school prom - forces Scouting's hand.
Today is about as close to the Victorian Age as the space shuttle is to the Wright Brothers' airplane. During the Victorian Age, there was a lot going on behind closed doors, but one simply didn't talk about sexuality publicly. Today it seems you can't get some people to shut up about their sexuality.
The real litmus test for Scouting has always been the general character of potential Scouts. They have never conducted witch hunts for gays within the ranks of Scouts.
Andresen, for the record, met the criteria for the Eagle award based on his project as well as Scouting history and spiritual beliefs. Where he failed was under Scouting's "avowed homosexual" clause.
It should be noted that Andresen didn't stage a parade and get into people's faces to tell them he was gay. That, in itself, shows great moral character. One wishes some gays - and a lot of straights - showed similar restraint.
Perhaps Scouting is worried about opening the door slightly for one solid teen that happens to tell people he's gay for fear the militants will come barging in.
Yes, sexuality - or sex - shouldn't enter into the Scouting arena. At the same time, Scouting has an obligation to remember they are entrusted with a lot of boys, which means they do need to make sure sexual abuse and such doesn't happen on their watch.
There are no indications that Andresen committed any such sin. He didn't stand up at a Scouting event and proclaim that he was gay. Nor is there any evidence he conducted himself in any manner that wasn't fitting for the character standards that Scouting strives to encourage and develop in young men.
Scouting shouldn't be demonized for their decision regarding Andresen. They should, however, start doing a little more three-dimensional soul searching on what exactly they are trying to accomplish instead of taking a one-dimensional approach and assume all teen gays somehow lack moral fiber and standards.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

 

 

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