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More letters from alumni about Boy Scouts

January 23, 2002

I would like to clear up some misconceptions in David Forrer’s answer to my defense of the Boy Scouts (Letters, November 5).

I’m not sure which part of "homosexual activity is intrinsically immoral" he finds vague, but I am most assuredly not saying that a man with a homosexual orientation is by definition unfit to be a role model. And I agree with him that traditional morality does not include judging a person based solely on whom he or she loves; it does, however, include judging a person’s fitness to be a moral guide based on with whom he or she has sexual relations. (I would ask, for example, whether a married man is expected to celebrate other men’s loving relationships with his wife as being intrinsically good.)

The core of the Boy Scout controversy, though, concerns discrimination. A company that does not discriminate among its employees on the basis of their performance will not stay in business very long. A judge who does not discriminate over a defendant’s innocence or guilt when passing sentence is committing a grave injustice. Thus we see that discrimination on the basis of a person’s actions is not only commonplace and acceptable, it is necessary. It is discrimination on the basis of who a person is that is morally questionable.

If a homosexual man embraces a celibate lifestyle and does not make a public issue of his homosexuality, the Boy Scouts will welcome him as an adult leader with open arms. If, however, he proclaims publicly that he is a homosexual and implies or states that we should jettison our moral code, as homosexuals do when they speak of "an acceptable alternative lifestyle," that is an action that forms a reasonable basis for the Boy Scouts to discriminate against him.

Mr. Forrer also mentions that the Boy Scouts’ policy was implemented in 1991 and that before that sexuality had never been part of their agenda. The Supreme Court majority opinion cites a 1978 position statement by the president of Boy Scouting to the effect that homosexuality is incompatible with leadership in Boy Scouting. Before this, a formal policy on sexual orientation was not necessary.

John F. Fay *85
Mary Esther, Fla.

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November 5

John F. Fay *85’s defense of the Boy Scouts’ antigay policy is, as most such attempts are, sophistry (Letters, October 24). Tellingly, he never actually identifies the stance that he is defending, i.e., that a gay man is, by definition, unfit to be a role model. Instead, Fay lauds a vague "traditional morality" and attempts to imbue the Boy Scouts with the halo of victimhood.

I am an Eagle Scout, and if you ask me, "traditional morality" does not include judging a person based solely upon whom he or she loves. Traditional morality celebrates loving relationships as intrinsically good. Moreover, the Scouts themselves have no "tradition" to hide behind. Its policy was first announced in 1991. For the prior 80 years, sexuality had never been part of the Boy Scouts’ agenda.

Fay sees a "homosexual community" that is "persecuting" the Boy Scouts, "invading" them, and "trying to remove them from the public sphere." Not one of these characterizations is apt. The Boy Scouts have won. They wanted to discriminate so badly that they took it all the way to the Supreme Court, and they won. Now they simply have to live with the public disgust they have engendered.

I applaud Princeton for withdrawing its support for the Boy Scouts, but I expected nothing less. The Scouts’ new "traditional morality" mocks the American ideal of equality.

David R. Forrer '91
Annapolis, Md.

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October 17, 2001

I was grateful to read David Harten '84's apology for and explanation of the Mormon Church's influence on the Boy Scouts of America's ban on homosexual members. Like many people, I have long been internally torn on this issue, contrasting my wonderful experience as a Boy Scout – where I learned life-lessons in responsibility, leadership, self-reliance, and decision-making, and where religion and any ethics beyond the Golden Rule never came up – with the organization's abhorrent and ignorant position on homosexuality. So I was particularly interested to read in Mr. Harten's letter that the antigay policy stems less from ideological considerations within the Boy Scouts and more from the age-old dilemma of the capitalist system the guy with the money gets to impose the value-system. Perhaps those who agree that the true values of the Boy Scouts deserve to be both protected and released from the influence of hate-mongering bigots who control their budget could solve the real problem at its root. Someone with the means to do it could organize a fundraising campaign to undermine the Mormon Church's death grip on free thought in the Boy Scouts. If the majority of the Boy Scout's funding came from sources that demanded tolerance and rejection of archaic religious extremism, we would truly be acting in the nation's service.

Ben Waterhouse '00
Paris, France

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July 8, 2001

I am writing to retract my letter to the editor published in a 1993 issue of PAW, apologize, and attempt to rectify the situation. In my 1993 letter, I defended the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding gay scout leaders (I did not realize they also banned gay children), and attacked Princeton's cutoff of funding to the Boy Scouts. Since it was published, I've had second thoughts about my letter, because it didn't reflect the mixed feelings I had, even then, about the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy. Upon rereading my 1993 submission, I was shocked at how bigoted and "holier-than-thou" my words sound now. I apologize to those I must have offended when I wrote, "Princeton may tolerate immorality in the name of political correctness, but the Boy Scouts strive to set a higher standard."

In my defense, in 1993 I was a recent convert to the Mormon Church, which bans homosexuals, and had just been appointed by my bishop as a Boy Scout leader. I was writing as a good Mormon, repeating Church terminology ("immorality," to Mormons, is a sexual term referring to any act outside of marriage, including homosexuality).

As I pointed out in my 1993 letter, the Mormon Church is by far the largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts. They threaten that if the Scouts accept homosexuals, they will withdraw all support, leading to the collapse of the Boy Scouts. I now disagree with my Church's doctrine that homosexuality is immoral, as well as their threat to destroy scouting, and my 1993 letter compels me to state this publicly.

Coincidentally, as I was writing this letter today, 60 Minutes came on with a segment about the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy. They told of a town where 60 parents from eight scout troops wrote a letter to Boy Scout headquarters saying that if a qualified gay man applied as a scoutmaster, they would accept him. The Boys Scouts of America, in another heavy-handed punishment of free speech, sent letters expelling all those troops from scouting, giving the boys in that town no place to go. The letters from Scout headquarters said they had to comply with the wishes of their religious sponsors, specifically mentioning my Church. The Supreme Court may have narrowly ruled that the Boy Scouts have the legal right to discriminate against gays, but that does not make such discrimination morally right.

David L. Harten ’84
Avenal, N.J.  

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September 23, 2001

Since it appears from David Harten ’84's letter that the Boy Scouts may need a new champion in the Princeton community, I guess I will step up and try my humble best.

For nineteen-and-a-half centuries Christianity has unanimously taught, and most Christian churches still teach, that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered state and that homosexual activity is intrinsically immoral. I know of no traditional religion that has taught differently, and most Americans when pinned down with no room for doubletalk will also agree.

People who are interested in learning why Christianity teaches these things may read the Roman Catholic Church's encyclicals "Casti Connubii" ("On the Chastity of Marriage") and "Humanae Vitae" ("Of Human Life"). People who wish simply to scream "I'm right and you're wrong" I cannot speak to.

The Boy Scouts of America simply adhere to these traditional – and still widely held – principles and attempt to live by them. The acceptance of the traditional morality is part of the scouting package; you may take the package, or you may leave it. If the homosexual community is so concerned that homosexual boys have a good scouting experience, let them form their own scouting organization and do the work themselves.

The Boy Scouts of America are not seeking to exclude the homosexual community from society at large; nor are they trying to prevent homosexuals from being homosexual. The homosexual community, in contrast, is trying to invade the Boy Scouts and bend them to their will. Failing that, they are persecuting the Boy Scouts and trying to remove them from the public sphere entirely. Of the two groups, the homosexuals are showing true intolerance; the Boy Scouts wish simply to be left alone.

John F. Fay *85
Mary Esther, Fla.

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