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GULLIXSON: Scouts caught in the middle

  • Paul Gullixson

The saddest aspect of this debate about the Boy Scouts of America is that, based on the rhetoric, one would think that all Scouts and their leaders do is sit around thinking of ways to persecute gay youth. One parent actually told me she didn't want her son to join because she didn't want him exposed to that.

Please, let's put that notion to rest. Scout leaders spend far too much time trying to get Tenderfoots to first aid merit badge classes at camp, helping get Eagle projects completed before 18th birthdays and picking melted marshmallows out of the hair of Webelos to deal with that kind of nonsense.

I know. I've done my share of ushering and hair-picking. My son joined Scouts five years ago, and I've been a trained adult leader for most of that time. Yes, neckerchief, slide, shorts and all. And in all my experience, the issue of sexual preference and the organization's policy on gays has come up only a handful of times, usually due to circumstances beyond our control.

Once was when my son was selling popcorn door to door and a potential customer made an acerbic remark about the organization's rules regarding gays and, in the most literal sense, slammed the door in his face. Unfortunately, this forced me to have a discussion with Christopher that I hoped would wait for a few more years.

On another occasion, it came up while our troop was doing a fundraiser in front of a Santa Rosa grocery store. When a Scout asked a shopper if he was interested in buying tickets to a pancake breakfast, he responded, “Do you still hate gays?” He might just as well have asked this lad if he still hated bouillabaisse.

The fact is Scouting is about teaching boys how to build campfires, make square knots and bait a hook, all while learning what it means to be trustworthy, courteous and self-reliant. There is no merit badge for sexual orientation. The only orienteering Scouts do is with maps and compasses. The issue of sexuality is as far from the day-to-day activities of Scouting as the Boy Scouts National Executive Board and BSA headquarters in Texas.

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