The Boy Scouts and Homosexuality: California Bullying

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This news article on the Boy Scouts and homosexuality prompted a knee-jerk reaction in me, as I think it probably will do for many. That’s not helpful, and I admit it. It seems at first glance there’s bullying going on here, but what we need is clear thinking instead of emotional reflex.

SAN FRANCISCO – California lawmakers are considering taking some tax exemptions away from youth groups that do not accept gay, transgender or atheist members — a move intended to pressure the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders. . . .

Churches that sponsor Boy Scouts troops would not lose their underlying tax-exempt status, but an array of nonprofits, ranging from the Young Men’s Christian Association and Pop Warner football to the American Youth Soccer Association and 4-H clubs would have their tax returns and membership policies scrutinized by the state Franchise Tax Board if the bill becomes law, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts Office.

[From California bill would eliminate tax breaks to punish Boy Scouts for excluding gays | Fox News]

My first impression was that this was sheer bullying on California’s part, or it would be if it were made law. It’s unconscionable that YMCAs and 4-H Clubs would be pushed around in such a heavy-handed manner. I get that homosexuals are bullied way too often (any bullying at all is too often), but this is aggression at the highest level, enforceable by law. It’s wrong.

That was my first quick thought. On further reflection I still believe that, but not for the first reasons that jumped into mind. You see, I don’t think it’s morally wrong to feel a same-sex attraction. It’s certainly not sin, any more than it’s sin to feel a desire for more money than one earns, or to think about having sex with someone to whom one is not married. It’s wrong only insofar as it leads to wrong actions. (Update 4/15: See this comment and the following one.) Speaking from a biblical perspective, intimate sexual contact outside of marriage is always wrong, and since same-sex persons cannot be married (notwithstanding some erroneously conceived state laws), intimate same-sex contact is always wrong.

In short, same-sex attraction is not necessarily sin, but homosexual intimacy is.

Any temptation can lead to wrong actions. We have to think carefully before we decide there’s something intrinsically worse about homosexual temptation; otherwise the Boy Scouts would have to exclude everyone who ever gets tempted by anything — which would make it the smallest voluntary organization in all history.

So then, is there anything different about homosexuality? I think so.

First, one of the most glorious things about Scouting is that it’s a sex-free zone. It’s even a sexual- and romantic-weirdness-free zone. Where there are special relationships, there are not-special relationships. Where one hopes for romance or desire, one’s life is complicated by that hope. Teenagers’ lives are complicated enough without that.

Second, we don’t usually condone women sleeping with teenaged boys, for obvious sexual reasons. Why would those reasons be any different for homosexual men with teenaged boys?

Third, if homosexual intimacy is wrong, then it is also wrong to endorse, support, encourage or condone it. In the current climate, to allow homosexual leadership in the Boy Scouts would be to give approval to homosexuality, which cannot be separated from giving tacit endorsement to homosexual practice. That would be wrong.

Let me re-emphasize: there’s nothing sinful in having homosexual orientation per se. If the Scouts could admit that orientation without the rest that accompanies it, I’d be at least moderately in favor of this proposed California law (although with reservations about what the law should tell organizations to be or to do). But that’s impossible in the nature of things. To apply legal power to force the Scouts or their sponsors to accept homosexuality is to be no better than any other obnoxious bully.

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38 Responses to “ The Boy Scouts and Homosexuality: California Bullying ”

  1. You really did get to the core of it. Extrapolating broadly: having an appetite for ANYTHING is not in and of itself wrong. FEEDING unhealthy appetites is wrong.

    Society ebbs and flows on which appetites it deems unhealthy (sometimes dressing capriciousness in pseudo-scientific garb). The Church occasionally does, too – but when it recognizes this and tries to reach back towards bedrock principles, society often lashes out as distance opens between society’s definitions and those of the Church.

  2. …we don’t usually condone women sleeping with teenaged boys, for obvious sexual reasons. Why would those reasons be any different for homosexual men with teenaged boys?

    Men do not sleep with boys in the Scouts, with the sole exception of parents and their sons. Adults sleep in separate tents – women can come on campouts, too, but they sleep separately from the scouts, just like the male leaders.

    Indeed, Google up “two-deep leadership”. No adult (male or female) is ever allowed to be alone with a scout.

    Three of my boys are in Scouting, so I know whereof I speak.

    So I don’t see how your second objection has any purchase, or purpose.

  3. “First, one of the most glorious things about Scouting is that it’s a sex-free zone. It’s even a sexual- and romantic-weirdness-free zone. Where there are special relationships, there are not-special relationships. Where one hopes for romance or desire, one’s life is complicated by that hope. Teenagers’ lives are complicated enough without that.”

    Exactly. I’ve never understood all the hooting and hollering about homosexuality in the Scouts. My first and intuitive reaction has always been that it’s about keeping sex and romance out of things. That’s it. Homosexuals aren’t allowed for the same reason girls/women aren’t. Having homosexual boys bunk together would be the same as having heterosexual boys and girls bunk together. It’s just not what they do, for reasonable reasons.

  4. Ray, I wasn’t aware of what you explained here. The other two reasons remain determinative, however.

    Thanks for the comments, BillT, SteveK, Beez and David.

  5. Further on Ray’s comment. I have a son who is a Scout as well. Yes, the “two-deep leadership” rules do exist however incidents of abuse occur in spite of this. The reality that no one will talk about is that homosexual men account for what? 4% of the population. However homosexual pedophilia accounts for something like 40% of the cases of pedophilia. A statistical deviation of 25% would be significant. I’m almost afraid to do the math on these numbers.

    David’s comments cover the homosexual scout problem perfectly.

  6. BillT,

    I would hope even defenders of traditional marriage could pick apart the many things wrong with that last comment…

  7. Just curious on the thoughts here… is the whole tax-exempt status thing something that that needs to be re-thought?

    If any organizations should be tax exempt, what should the criteria be? And why should the boy scouts qualify (or why not?)

  8. Re #9: the tax-exempt status question is addressed quite clearly in part 501(C) 3 of the US tax code. I do think it would make a lot of sense to re-examine the tax code, in light of the preferability of the flat tax. But I don’t think that will happen.

  9. Actually, as a beginning point, for a start, I would request that you point to us to whatever you want us to see specifically documented in that long article. Would you mind?

  10. Tom,

    The entire thing is relevant to BillT’s post (and its not really that long)… but sure, I’ll provide some cliff notes:

    The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes.

    In yet another approach to studying adult sexual attraction to children, some Canadian researchers observed how homosexual and heterosexual adult men responded to slides of males and females of various ages (child, pubescent, and mature adult). All of the research subjects were first screened to ensure that they preferred physically mature sexual partners.

    ….

    The researchers found that homosexual males responded no more to male children than heterosexual males responded to female children (Freund et al., 1989).

    Are homosexual adults in general sexually attracted to children and are preadolescent children at greater risk of molestation from homosexual adults than from heterosexual adults? There is no reason to believe so. The research to date all points to there being no significant relationship between a homosexual lifestyle and child molestation. There appears to be practically no reportage of sexual molestation of girls by lesbian adults, and the adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual (Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147).

  11. Tom said, “You see, I don’t think it’s morally wrong to feel a same-sex attraction.”

    I think you should have stopped there. If you’re pointing out that the sin doesn’t lie in the “predisposition” of homosexuality much like an alcoholic is not necessarily a sinner in his struggle with the want of alcohol, I could agree with you. However, you went on to say, “It’s certainly not sin, any more than it’s sin to feel a desire for more money than one earns, or to think about having sex with someone to whom one is not married.”

    No, that’s coveting, idolatry and lust. And those are big sins. Add gluttony and you probably have most Christians covered (including me). The biggest (if there can be) sin comes in refusing to bend the knee to God and accept His definition of what is or isn’t sin.

    Robert

  12. Robert, this is one of those lines of fine distinction. I can see why you said that, and I thought for a moment about entering a correction.

    But if you were right about the desire for more money than one earns, and if it were always coveting, then it would always be an expression of coveting to ask for a raise or to be thankful I got one. Coveting (as I understand it from the Tenth Commandment) includes a desire to take something that is specifically someone else’s and not earned.

    To think about having sex with someone to whom I am not married is similarly not quite so cut and dried. I think on this one I came a lot closer to the error you say I made, and the exceptions I could suggest are fewer and thinner. As a married man, the thought has occasionally crossed my mind, “what would sex be like with that other woman?” I’ve told my wife about this sometimes, and this is what I’ve said: “Boring. Sex with someone else might have all the physical stuff, but it wouldn’t be a real whole-person, deep, intimate connection like I have with you, and that just sounds boring.” That’s not lust. It’s a thought about sin that doesn’t include a desire to sin.

    When it comes to lust, I have the typical male tendency to “enjoy the view,” which is wrong as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount. But in my case at least, that’s different from “thinking of having sex with her.”

    So I would say that the things I wrote are not necessarily sin. However, the parallel with homosexual desire is probably closer to the latter form of sexual “desire” than the first, the one that is sin, not the one that isn’t. So on this one I think I erred, as you say. I was confusing one instance my mind that was not one, with another one that typically is.

    In the end you’re right about this much for sure: there must have been a better way I could have said it. I’ll make a note in the OP referring readers to your comment and this reply.

  13. BillT –

    Yes, the “two-deep leadership” rules do exist however incidents of abuse occur in spite of this.

    And there are rules about knife and axe use but accidents still happen. (I actually got a corner torn off my Totin’ Chip as it was handed to me.) No system involving humans is perfect.

    Indeed, speaking of that, from Tom’s post:

    …one of the most glorious things about Scouting is that it’s a sex-free zone. It’s even a sexual- and romantic-weirdness-free zone.

    Yes, and no. The topic of girls definitely came up once or twice (ahem) amongst the scouts when I was there. And I assume no one believes the older scouts universally refrain from anything sex-related away from the scout meetings and campouts.

    Scouting has standards for behavior while taking part in scouting events. Those rules don’t have to change if homosexual scouts were allowed. I’m sure there would still be incidents of ‘fraternization’… but I’m sure there are incidents now. Making the expectations clear and insisting on living up to them is what the Scouts do, though.

  14. My first impression was that this was sheer bullying on California’s part, or it would be if it were made law. It’s unconscionable that YMCAs and 4-H Clubs would be pushed around in such a heavy-handed manner.

    I’m not convinced this is ‘bullying’. The proposal isn’t to make Scouting, the YMCA, or 4-H clubs, or anything else illegal. It’s to withdraw tax breaks.

    On what grounds is Scouting entitled to or owed tax breaks, exactly? Especially an organization that specifically excludes members of the public?

    Don’t get me wrong, a private organization can have any membership rules they like. They can refuse to accept women, Jews, the left-handed, whatever. Tax-exempt status, though, is extended to (a) organizations with a specific religion, or (b) non-profit organizations serving the public.

    If Scouting decides it does not, in fact, want to be open to the public, then that may have some tax-related consequences. It’s not clear to me that’s the same as bullying.

  15. Ray, don’t be naive. The topic of girls is not the kind of sexual- and romantic-weirdness that I was talking about. In fact it is totally not-weird, for boys, to talk about this. What’s weird is for them to do it where there’s actual sexual tension present, as in the case of a girl, for example, or if there’s actual or perceived sexual tension from one boy toward another. That’s what makes it weird.

    And rules don’t change that.

  16. As far as d’s reply this is a case or dueling studies. The UC Davis study is a reply to a FRC study found here. I can pull quotes from that as well. That d feels this is a adequate rebuttal, he is entitled to his opinion. If we want to do dueling quotes I’ll provide. “Individuals from the 1 to 3 percent of the population that is sexually attracted to the same sex are committing up to one-third of the sex crimes against children.”

    The UC Davis study tries to define the problem away by claiming that “many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation.” Does this, even if it’s partially true, explain away all the homosexual pedophilia? Seems unlikely, and even flies in the face of, what we have seen from the homosexual community and its quite public attempts to legitimize and normalize adult/minor sexual liaisons. Even if we give their explanation a 50% legitimacy rate it still leave a statistical deviation orders of magnitude past significant.

    And this continues not to address Tom’s most important point about Scouting; ”First, one of the most glorious things about Scouting is that it’s a sex-free zone. It’s even a sexual- and romantic-weirdness-free zone. Where there are special relationships, there are not-special relationships. Where one hopes for romance or desire, one’s life is complicated by that hope. Teenagers’ lives are complicated enough without that.”

  17. Tom, you are right it is a very fine line we walk. And your clearer statements of coveting etc I agree with fully. I guess I reacted quickly to what I worried was a bit of a retreat and /or some equivocating.
    We as Christians must guard our thought life. It’s so easy to cross from the normal male subconscious response to “beauty” to “enjoying the view” as you say. I also find the “desire for more money” (even if well deserved) is too close to idolatry for me and leads to discontent and even pushes me away from loving and trusting God in all things as He supplies my everything.
    In the end my issue is not with gays per se but in the constant drive to bend my arm behind my back and force me to say their actions are not sin.

    Robert

  18. Robert –

    In the end my issue is not with gays per se but in the constant drive to bend my arm behind my back and force me to say their actions are not sin.

    How are you forced to “say their actions are not sin”?

    The Westboro ‘Baptist’ Church got the support of the Supreme Court to say, in the most explicit terms possible, that homosexuality is a sin, even near funerals. They get police protection to do so.

    In what area do you think the Westboro types don’t go far enough?

  19. And Ray plays the Westboro Baptist Church card! And this, of course, even more proof of what Robert was saying. See, if you don’t play along you get smeared with things like a WBC association. Oh, Ray didn’t say that directly so he has deniability which he is sure to use. But have no doubt that putting you and the WBC in the same sentence achieves the desired effect.

  20. BillT –

    See, if you don’t play along you get smeared with things like a WBC association.

    No, no, you miss the point. It’s true that if you say homosexuality is a sin, you will find that you become unpopular in some circles. They may say things about you that you don’t like.

    But is that forcing you not to say that? (Are you entitled to popularity or the esteem of others?)

    I mean, in other circles, if someone says that they are a ‘practicing homosexual’, they might find themselves to be unpopular. People might say things about them that they do not like, for example that they are sinning thereby. Would they be forced to give up homosexuality, or even talking about it, because of that?

  21. No Ray, I don’t miss the point. The “if you don’t play along you get smeared with things like a WBC association” is all part of the trend to cast intolerance as tolerance as I said in comment #2 and your #23 confirmed. Either tow the line or suffer the consequences. Your argument that this doesn’t “force” anyone is a red herring. This kind of coercion works more subtly than that.

  22. BillT –

    Either tow the line or suffer the consequences.

    Can you elaborate on the ‘consequences’? Does it go beyond ‘being unpopular’?

    How would non-chaste homosexuals be treated in your ideal world, and how would it differ from the way people who don’t ‘toe the line’ are treated now?

    This kind of coercion works more subtly than that.

    Is all disapproval or disagreement ‘coercion’?

  23. ” Can you elaborate on the ‘consequences’?”

    Oh yes. See, first you say that you think there is a “…constant drive to bend my arm behind my back and force me to say their actions are not sin.” Then someone replies to you and associates you with one of the most reviled hate groups in America. He does this even though that hate group has nothing to do with the subject of the thread and nothing to do with what you posted. There is even the implication that you think “…the Westboro types don’t go far enough? And no, of course I don’t think that “…all disapproval or disagreement (is) ‘coercion’?” Just the kind in the above example.

  24. Tom Gilson – I’d just like to hear what kind of coercion is being complained about. You give a negative characterization – it’s not just “disapproval or disagreement”. That’s a start, I guess.

    Any positive attributes? Can Robert, who actually complained about being ‘forced’ to “say their actions are not sin”, describe the force used? For example, was it physical, legal, social, some combination thereof, or something else?

    While I don’t think social disapproval qualifies, I agree that there’s been some cases of actual coercion. If there are more than I think, I’d like to know about it.

  25. BillT – So, people might think less of you for advocating a position they disagree with, and that forces you to keep silent? How, exactly, did I “coerce” anyone?

    My point wasn’t that Robert was materially similar to the Westboro types. Indeed, I was pointing out that the Westboro types are far worse, and yet get full legal protection to say what they do, how they say it. The point wouldn’t work unless Robert was far less offensive!

    Say, am I coerced when Holopupenko associates all atheists with genocidal communists? I don’t recall you slapping him down for his comments… did I miss that?

  26. Ray. Robert’s “arm bending” comment speaks to a style of coercion that I pointed out casts intolerance as tolerance. In other words, the prevailing politically correct attitude towards homosexuality implies that unless you endorse it wholeheartedly in all regards you are intolerant.

    Therefore, describing homosexual behavior as sin makes you a bigot. There is more than a subtle difference between considered a bigot that and “…you will find that you become unpopular in some circles.” And it’s more than just “you”. It implies that religion in general is intolerant and bigoted for failing to provide that wholehearted endorsement.

  27. Bill is on the money. Saying that behaviour is sin does not get you “disliked”. It gets you branded. You can fill in the label of your choice; homophobe, bigot, intolerant, right wing Neanderthal…. What happened to tolerating a diverse range of opinions? Seems tolerance is a one-way street.
    Again, at the end of the day I have no issue with any person. I am fine with live and let live. It’s not my place to tell pagans to stop acting like pagans. But the gay lobby is not fighting for tolerance of their actions. The gay lobby is fighting for endorsement by institutions that don’t agree with their actions. The gay lobby is not fighting for the “rights and privileges” of marriage or they would be happy and stop with some legally described equivalent union. They want the “term” marriage. They want me to agree that they have what I have. And I’m sorry but they will never have the “one flesh” that I have with my wife. Nor will I endorse that they do.

    Robert

  28. Robert –

    The gay lobby is not fighting for the “rights and privileges” of marriage or they would be happy and stop with some legally described equivalent union.

    Pop quiz. How many of the ‘defense of marriage’ amendments passed in the last decade or so in the various states explicitly ban civil unions, too? (What state do you live in? Did you vote for such an amendment?)

    As Sun Tzu put it, leave your opponent a line of retreat unless you want a fight to the death. A whole lot of ‘amenders’ seemed to want that ‘fight to the death’. I’d say the lack of satisfaction with civil unions owes at least as much to the intransigence of ‘defenders of marriage’ as to any unified ‘gay lobby’.

    They want me to agree that they have what I have.

    Even if the law allows same-sex marriage, who says you have to agree with it? You’ll still be free to say that they are not really married. Even to their faces, and their children’s faces. Even in public.

    That’s what the Catholic Church does with people who divorce and remarry. As far as they’re concerned, nobody ‘divorces’ in the eyes of God. And yet, they manage to maintain an awareness of the distinction between legal and spiritual marriage.

    “Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question – how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not.” – C.S. Lewis, ‘Mere Christianity’

  29. BillT –

    Saying that behaviour is sin does not get you “disliked”. It gets you branded.

    Try being an atheist around most Christians sometime. See how long it takes before you’re ‘branded’. Heck, just be a Republican among Democrats, or vice-versa.

    Therefore, describing homosexual behavior as sin makes you a bigot.

    Are you entitled to the good opinion of others? On what basis do you demand that no one think of you as a bigot?

    See, here’s the thing. If you’re complaining about some kind of actual discrimination – housing, employment, etc. – then that’s one thing. If you’re just saying, “The position I hold, that was once commonly accepted, is now an unpopular minority position, and that makes me sad”, then I’m less impressed.

  30. I never said I was entitled to anything. What I said was this issue is one of casting intolerance as tolerance (a point I have mentioned repeatedly and you have avoided addressing in any way). Your examples are more red herrings. The vast majority of the people I know are non-believers/atheists. I don’t think them bigots nor do I think the Christians you’ve met think of you that way. The vast majority of the people I know are Democrats. That doesn’t make them bigots either.

    However, my positions vis a vis homosexuality, no matter how thoughtfully held, make me a bigot. It’s a political tactic disqualify those of different opinion than yours from having a voice in the conversation. It itself is an intolerant and a bigoted position which brands those who disagree with you. And this from the very people who claim tolerance as their moral high ground.

  31. BillT –

    I don’t think them bigots nor do I think the Christians you’ve met think of you that way.

    I didn’t say many Christians I’ve met think I’m a bigot because I’m an atheist. No, they generally attribute different evils to met than that.

    However, my positions vis a vis homosexuality, no matter how thoughtfully held, make me a bigot.

    Having a well-thought-out position doesn’t guarantee someone’s correct, nor immunize anyone from bigotry. Sometimes people conclude that someone’s reasoning is wrong based on the conclusion they reach. (For example, Christians evaluating the reasoning of atheists.)

    It’s a political tactic disqualify those of different opinion than yours from having a voice in the conversation.

    I don’t generally find accusations of bigotry useful or productive. But I don’t confuse them with persecution.

    And this from the very people who claim tolerance as their moral high ground.

    Approval and tolerance are two different things. Lots of people strongly and vociferously disagree with people and positions that they nevertheless tolerate. I’ll repeat a question I asked earlier: How would non-chaste homosexuals be treated in your ideal world, and how would it differ from the way people who don’t ‘toe the line’ are treated now?

  32. I’ve had enough of you avoiding the points I raised and the red herrings you use to do so Ray.