What does he do? He pretends not to be gay. He lives a lie. He has had to — until now — because gays were not allowed as Scouts.
Happily, the Boy Scouts of America has reached a compromise. Beginning at the end of this year, a boy can be openly gay and be a member. Many church-supported troops are protesting and might pull out of the Scouts because of this change in policy. More than half of all Boy Scout troops are supported by churches.
But the Boy Scouts of America saw the writing on the wall. They were losing members at an alarming rate. Even the Mormon Church supported what is now referred to as the compromise: the ruling that Boy Scouts can be openly gay, but their leaders may not.
Now let’s picture Johnny grown up. He is 18 and can no longer be a Boy Scout, but would be an ideal Scout leader. He loves the Scouts. He has mastered the Boy Scout Handbook and has moved up the ranks, earning more than 20 merit badges along the way. The boys and parents love him, admire him and look up to him. However, Johnny has a problem.
He’s still gay. If he admits it, he will have to quit and will never be able to have anything to do with Scouting again, no matter how good he is. Overnight, Johnny will go from being a model Scout to a pariah. Or he will have to lie. He will have to live a lie. What should Johnny do?
Let’s make it more complicated. Little Johnny, when he was younger, recited the Boy Scout Oath. “On my honor,” he would say, three fingers raised, “I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” (Clearly, morally straight is in the eye of the beholder.)
Now let’s say, around age 15, when he realized he was gay, Johnny started having doubts about God. He couldn’t understand how there could be a God who would allow so much suffering in the world. He also didn’t quite understand who or what God was. He tried to pray, but he felt that nobody was listening. He really wanted to believe in God, but it didn’t make sense to him. He learned the word atheist and began to realize that he might be one. He also learned that the Boy Scouts banned atheists. It was against the Scout Law (a Scout is reverent).
Johnny has a problem. If he says he is an atheist, he will have to quit and never be able to have anything to do with Scouting again. So, he pretends to believe in God. When he says the oath, he mumbles the part about duty to God and just says country. He lives a lie.
The good news is that after Johnny turns 18, he will be able to come out of the closet as a gay man and an atheist and finally live a life of truth. The bad news is that the Boy Scouts have turned Johnny into a liar, denied him his life ambition, kept him from fulfilling his potential, taught him that he is not a valued member of society and, worst of all, deprived the Boy Scouts of one of the best leaders the organization could have.
Talk about “honor.”