Sunday, November 11, 2012


"At the end of 2010, the [Mormon] Church’s use of Scouting included: 142,085 Cub Scouts in 10,345 packs; 205,990 Boy Scouts in 19,285 troops; 64,645 Venturers in 8,298 crews."
--Boy Scouts of America

I was as much into the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as the next Mormon teenage boy, but I never got around to earning the rank of Eagle Scout. I got to the rank of Life (one step under Eagle) fairly early on in my scouting career and just coasted to the end. To me scouting was about having fun and learning some cool, albeit essentially useless skills. In this sense, I was a successful scout.

By the standard imposed upon me by the 1st counselor of the Stake Presidency (part of the local Mormon clergy), I had failed the day I turned 18 as anything less than an Eagle Scout. Just weeks before my 18th birthday, he told me that if I didn't make the rank of Eagle in time, I would regret it for the rest of my life. In a way, he was right.

At about the same time, my quasi-girlfriend told me that she wasn't interested in dating someone who wasn't of proper scouting rank. Coincidentally, she married a guy who made it to Eagle at the age of 13. Throughout much of my mission and while attending BYU, where I was surrounded by Eagle Scouts, I felt as though I was constantly having to defend my rank. In the long run, though, I have found that most people outside of Mormonism don't really care about Eagle Scouts, so I have stopped worrying about it. It is nothing more than an elitist club where grown men teach teenage boys how to tie knots, build camp fires, and segregate themselves from people with differing opinions...

The Boy Scout program was hijacked by the Mormon Church decades ago. Every teenage boy in the Church is automatically registered in the Boy Scouts of America. This comprises about 15% of the scouting program, making the Mormon Church the single largest supporter of the BSA, both financially and in the number of boys actively participating in the program.

As of right now, atheists and homosexuals cannot join the BSA as leaders or even scouts. This has become an increasingly hot topic as more and more states are legalizing gay marriage and the general social climate is much more in favor of gay rights than ever before. Here is where it gets interesting, however, as the Mormon Church has often vocally declared that if the BSA were to allow gays among their ranks (see what I did there?), the church would pull all of their boys from the program and stop funding events. The Mormon Church is so serious about this, that they have a program already set up and ready for immediate implementation to replace the BSA, should they decide to let in gay scouts and scout masters (like, say, the Girl Scouts).

Now, from a legal stand point, things get a little fuzzy. On the one hand, the BSA and the Mormon Church are private organizations and as such have the right to exclude whomever they want (not unlike the KKK having the right to exclude black people). But the BSA receives government subsidies and various perks, which means the government is using tax money to support a discriminatory organization. The legal precedent is a little unclear here, but some people are fighting the legal battle to remove government support of the BSA unless they revise their policies to be more inclusive. Honestly, I don't think legal battles will be as effective as other methods which seem to be turning the tide for the Scouts.

According to this article, Intel will be ceasing any donations to the BSA due to their policy on gay members. This may not pinch their pocket books quite as much as it would if the Mormon Church left the program, but I have a feeling as more private businesses voice their support for (or against) gay marriage, we will see this kind of monetary withholding more often.

Ultimately, I think the BSA will eventually have to accept gays (and probably atheists, too), as their funds begin to shift. Then they will finally be rid of the yoke of Mormon scouting.


Here is Penn and Teller: Bullsh!t on the Boy Scouts of America (explicit)

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