My scouting career was like a patchwork quilt. I joined Cub Scouts in second grade. I don’t think I was a particularly outstanding member of the troop, but I’m also not sure how outstanding any 8-year-olds really are.
In third grade we moved twice during the school year (and once during the summer between the end of third grade and the beginning of fourth). One of towns we moved to didn’t have any scouting troops, it was just two small. Another we didn’t stay long enough to finish unpacking before Dad’s company said, “No, we need that oil rig back in Colorado. Time for y’all to pack up your families again.” That town may well have had a troop, but we weren’t there long enough to find out.
I don’t remember much about the troop I joined when we moved to Ft Morgan, Colorado. I do remember having to say good-bye again just before Thanksgiving. But what I really remember is how shocked I was, once we settled into the next town, that there was only one troop and it was associated with a church that (at the time) Southern Baptists considered a cult rather than a denomination. The feeling was more than a bit mutual. I was informed that the only way to join the troop would be for our family to convert to the other church.
That was only the beginning of a lot of bizarre experiences that most people think could never happen in America as we tried to get by in a town where more than 95% of the population belonged to the same church. Those experiences convinced me at an early age of the true value of separation of church and state.
That would come later. At that point, I was simply dumbfounded to learn that I wasn’t welcome. I hadn’t really understood, before then, how closely the Boy Scouts were tied to churches. Yes, my original troop had been sponsored by the church my family belonged to, but several of the boys in our troop weren’t members of our church. My subsequent troops had been similar. I’m not sure if it was because all of the towns were so small that each had only one troop that drew from all the churches in town, but I had never before felt that my membership as a scout had been dependent upon being a member in good standing of an “acceptable” church.
By the time we were once more living in a town that had a troop which wouldn’t exclude me because of which church I belonged to, puberty had hit and finally told me in no uncertain terms that all the bullies at each school who had called me “faggot” and “queer” had been on to something. I don’t know if the Scouts explicitly had the no gays rule at the time, but it was quite clear to me that “boys like me” weren’t going to be welcomed by “boys like them.”
So the current controversies about Boy Scouts of America polices strike close to home. I wasn’t kicked out for being gay. I wasn’t ever formally kicked out at all. But I certainly felt the sting of rejection, and can’t completely understand why there are so many people who claim to have the well-being of children in mind while they are being coldhearted and bloodyminded. It’s bad enough that people believe and repeat the lies that all gays are pedophiles, that all gay kids are predators, et cetera, but some of them seem compelled to lie about anything and everything to further their bigoted agenda.
The notorious Family Research Council has posted a video calling for people to stand firm on the Scout’s ban on gay members. The script of the video is full of all the usual lies and distortions, but also the image I’ve included here. A bunch of people in some sort of meeting room, with the Boy Scouts’ emblem on the wall, and a sign visible on the left that says “2013 Planning Meeting.”
Except it’s a lie.
The original photo was found, by Jeremy Hooper of the Good As You blog, to be from a 2009 story published at LegalGeekery.com, where it is identified as the federal district court for the District of Massachusetts.
It’s clear that someone swiped the original picture, cropped it a bit, then Photoshopped the BSA emblem in place of the U.S. District Court seal and the fake 2013 meeting sign on top of the closed circuit TV screen.
You can say that the stolen image is pretty trivial. Nothing they did to the image itself causes any harm to any gay scouts, but it’s still a lie. And it’s just one of many lies in the video. Why, if their cause is so just, must they lie so much?
They like to quote the part of Scout Law that calls for every scout to be “morally straight.” But when my old scout handbook explained that particular phrase, the explanation begins, “By morally straight we mean you are to live your life with honesty…”
So why does the Family Research Council—an organization that has been caught lying again and again about matters both great and (as in this case) exceedingly trivial—get to advise anyone on morality?