The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is actively considering an end to its decades-long ban on gay scouts and leaders. If adopted, discriminatory language would be removed from the national organization’s rules leaving local scout troops to decide on admitting gay scouts and leaders.
Responding to these new developments, two Eagle Scouts and ordained clergy persons in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have written a letter to the BSA leadership encouraging them to repeal the anti-gay policy. Rev. Dr. Chris Iosso, Eagle Scout (1972) and Rev. Patrick Heery, Eagle Scout (2002), Order of the Arrow write, “We welcome correspondence with others in our church on this matter, and will share our letter with the Executive Board as a witness to how some churches are maintaining, even amplifying, their support for scouting under this new policy.”
From the years 1996–2003, I joined a hundred or so other scouts every Tuesday evening in a Cincinnati, Ohio, church basement: the same church that had baptized me. After six years of speech therapy and bullying, I was extremely quiet when I first started Scouting. And yet it was my Scoutmaster who encouraged this shy boy to become the Chaplain’s Aide. And it was my Scoutmaster who, after I nervously gave a public prayer before Scout campers and their families, told me how well I had spoken and what courage it took to speak before so many people—a moment that, unbeknownst to me, would be the beginning of my calling to ministry. No one had ever praised me for speaking before. No one had ever called me brave before.
In Scouts, I could hike and be outdoors; I could pray and worship; I could learn and think creatively about the conservation of God’s earth. Scouting for me fused spirituality, love of nature, and civic responsibility. Scouting was about breaking free of old constraints, whether speech impediments or prejudices. And so, when I went before the committee that was to examine my qualifications for becoming an Eagle Scout, I told them that I vehemently objected to the Boy Scout policy of exclusion of gay scouts and that, in becoming an Eagle Scout, I would work for the change of that policy. This was not courage on my part; this was just me doing what Boy Scouts do.
So please understand this: WE are Eagle Scouts. We are Christians. We are ministers ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And we support the full inclusion of gay, bisexual, and transgender boys in the Boy Scouts of America. For us, there is no contradiction. There is no way for us to be true to our oath as Eagle Scouts without affirming the dignity and inclusion of all God’s children. We do not set aside our morality in making this decision; we embrace it. This is a moral choice.
Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, a welcoming and affirming More Light Church in Maryland, formally challenged the BSA anti-gay ban in September. The session sent a letter to the BSA stating, “Troop 33 and Pack 33, with strong support from the church, will continue to be inclusive in their practices as they seek to serve all families to fulfill their mission of positive youth development and enhancement of the quality of life in our community, in partnership with a diverse pool of adult volunteers.”
You may take action today by signing the petition, “People of Faith Say: Lift the Ban on Gay Scouts.” You may also share stories and comments in support of policy change at the BSA on the Facebook Page, “People of Faith for Gay Scouts and Scout Leaders.” You may also weigh in directly with the BSA.