Imagine being a young boy, sitting with your fellow Boy Scouts at Scout camp, listening to one of your leaders talk about how diverse your troop has become in terms of religious background. He’s praising this religious diversity as a good thing. So when asked, you reveal your own religious background, only to be told two days later that you’re “too different” and the leadership would like you to leave the troop. How long do you suppose it’ll be before you ever trust an adult that tells you they value “diversity” again?
Sadly, this scenarios actually happened to young Cody and Justin Buchheim in Anacoco. While most of the boys were showing their “diversity” by the fact that they attended a Baptist church, a Methodist church, or a Catholic church, Cody spoke up and indicated that he and his brother did not attend a Christian church at all, but were Wiccan. Unfortunately, the sponsors of their troop felt that being Wiccan was “too far outside the box” to make good Boy Scout material.
Now, I first have to wonder, if “diversity” means “everyone just goes to a different church, but are still essentially Christian,” can it really be called diversity? Truth be told, the actual doctrinal differences between many Christian denominations are so subtle and complex, that many of the members of those denominations would have trouble clearly explaining those differences.
So when two boys hear these proclamations of diversity being good without being able to realize just how superficial this “diversity” being praised really is, they find themselves in a trap. A trap that they were practically pulled into. After all, Cody only volunteered information about his religious background when the Scout leader explicitly asked him what church he attended. It seems to me that Scout leaders need to be more prepared for the answers they get when asking a question. They also need to be prepared not to punish boys for the answers they give.
Then you have the leader who told the boys’ father that the boys would not have been asked to leave if Cody had just lied when answering the question. Now, bear in mind that the first word in the Boy Scout Law (the bit about doing one’s duty to one’s country and God is actually part of the Boy Scout Oath, not the Law) after “A scout is…” happens to be “trustworthy.” Furthermore the first statement on the BSA website when explaining what it means to be trustworthy reads, “a Scout tells the truth.” So you have a Scout leader who basically says that the boys should have avoided getting kicked out by breaking the law they promised to obey when they took the Scout Oath (second line of the oath). What exactly is the BSA teaching their boys these days, anyway?
I think what I found really telling was the region’s executive regional director’s comments on the situation. He laid it all at the feet of the local troop and their sponsor, claiming that it’s the local troop’s sponsor’s call on who they accept as members. Does that mean that I can sponsor a Boy Scout troop (oh wait, that whole homosexuality thing would get in the way) and exclude all Christian boys from the troop? I’m willing to bet good money that the regional and national directors would be real quick to step in.
Fortunately, the sponsor’s own district church committe — within the United Methodist Church — took the bull by the horns, and told the local church/sponsor “you can’t do that.”
In the end, the boys were invited to come back, only to leave the troop of their own volition (and I can’t say as I blame them). Their mother is currently filing to start a local chapter of Spiral Scouts.
The BSA needs to take notice. This constant practice of narrowly defining what kind of boy makes a “proper Scout” is only hurting them. They lost support over the homosexuality debacle, and they’ll most likely continue to lose support as they allow “local sponsors” to define what religious practices are acceptable for Scouts. And it’s making more people turn to other options, like the Spiral Scouts.