The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are navigating new terrain as openly homosexual Scoutmasters joined leadership ranks earlier this week. Former Secretary of Defense, now BSA President, Robert Gates blazed this trail in May when he urgently called for a revised policy. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” Gates said.
Outside coercion led to the Scouts departure from its moral code. Corporate sponsors pressured the Scouts to jettison their long-standing policy. The BSA also faced lawsuits in states that protect sexual orientation in public accommodations. Immediately after the announcement, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, said he’d end the investigation of the Scouts for violation of state sexual orientation non-discrimination laws. And the crime committed by this wholesome, American as apple-pie organization?
The “world as it is” demands a “morality free” Scouts but in return it will only get an anemic version of an organization that once imparted wisdom, moral training and good citizenship which helped transform boys to men. The world will also get fewer Scouts. One year after allowing openly homosexual boys to join its ranks, total membership dropped by six percent. Expect hemorrhaging after this latest move.
While gay Scoutmasters may be coming out, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is suppressing juvenile counselors from its detention centers. Such was the case with David Wells, who’s ministered to troubled juveniles in the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center since 2005. Wells refused to sign a newly introduced agreement that says he would not “refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Of course, ministers like Wells enter detention facilities for the sole purpose of demeaning a captive audiences. Right. Troubled youth typically received some kind of abuse in their lives, but its not from ministers who enter jails and dedicate their time and energy to share truth about moral boundaries and God’s deliverance from sin. Wells has been ministering to the troubled youth in Warren County for 10 years without any charges of misconduct. So why the need for new policy now?
Irony of ironies. Jail is a place where people go when ethics are rejected and moral boundaries breeched. And now the state is handcuffing counselors from steering youths— many of whom are in state custody for committing sexual crimes—onto a path of wholeness and spiritual healing. So how can a counselor committed to Biblical principles sign a document in good conscience that prohibits them from teaching those principles they believe kids need the most?
The DJJ policy reasonably appears to protect children from verbal abuse deemed “derogatory” and “hateful.” Nobody wants that. Nor should detained youth be exposed to truly demeaning counsel. But hate defined by some is simply holding a contrary view of the politically correct version of human sexuality. “Derogatory” language is now often equivalent to calling homosexuality sin. According to attorney Mat Staver, who is representing Wells, “DJJ 912 equates the teaching of Biblical morality with ‘derogatory,’ ‘biased,’ and ‘hateful’ speech.” There it is.
DJJ’s new policy of sanitizing and discarding from its detention centers the Biblical language of sin was not done in a vacuum. Mitchell Gold, philanthropist and founder of the advocacy group, Faith in America said “[church leaders] must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.” New York Times editorial writer Frank Bruni recently said that “religion is going to be the final holdout and most stubborn refuge for homophobia. It will give license to discrimination.” Bruni’s proposal it that conservative religion “should bow to the enlightenment of modernity.”
The DJJ policy has certainly bowed to such modernity, but it must ask whether modernity allows counselors to tell kids that some things are right and some things are wrong. If it can’t answer that, then it might as well let the detainees go. The really damaging thing to minors is not saying homosexuality is sin; its to teach them that everything is permissible.
Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center, a nonpartisan public policy organization. He resides in Cadiz with his wife and children.