Boy Scouts Gay Debate a Boon for Alternative Scouting Organizations

Groups cater to everyone from Pentecostals to pagans


For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America has had something of a monopoly on neckerchiefs, knot-tying, merit badges and all manner of backcountry skills for boys, treating snakebite and frostbite alike.

No more. The protracted debate over whether to allow gay scouts and scout leaders has angered many church leaders and parents across the political and religious spectrums. The result is a surge of enrollments in alternative outdoor and character-building programs that cater to pagans and Pentecostals and everyone in between.

"Before the Boy Scouts was founded in 1908 you had all these independent scouting groups like the Sons of Daniel Boone and the League of Woodcraft Indians," said Jay Mechling, professor emeritus of American studies at the University of California, Davis, and the author of "On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth." "Now we are starting to see those types of groups again."

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  1. I’m Gay and I was in the Boy Scouts. My troop was sponsored by St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Potomac, Maryland. Admittedly this was back in the late 1960s to early 1970s, when the modern Gay rights movement was in its infancy, and the prospect of Gay youth “coming out” was unthinkable. But the fact remains that my sexual orientation was irrelevant to scouting activities, and I imagine the same went for the majority of boys who were Straight (i.e. heterosexual). The official Boy Scout Handbook was not heterocentric. The issue of sexual orientation, one way or another, was simply irrelevant.

    Gay boys and men have always participated in the BSA and always will, regardless of the official policy. I’m just glad the when boys in the scouts start coming to grips with a different sexual orientation (usually while in their early teens), they will not be kicked out when they need that social support structure the most. And if some people are so consumed by their animosity toward Gay people that they choose to leave the BSA, they won’t be missed.

    This is not to say that individual Boy Scouts, regardless of their sexual orientation, shouldn’t be held accountable for inappropriate behavior. They should be. But sexual orientation in and of itself should not be a barrier to scouting.

  2. “The variety of choices include … as well as SpiralScouts International, founded by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Wicca, which awards badges named for pagan holidays.”

    Wow, that’s a blast from the past. I attended a meeting of the Aquarian TC back in, oh, 1980. At the retreat out in the middle of nowhere, Index WA. With the little stone circle and hot tubs. Pete Pathfinder has been running the church for the past 30+ years and was at one time the mayor of Index.

    I can’t imagine the SpiralScouts (named, no doubt, after Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance) are more than a tiny membership. The writer of this article must have been really digging for ‘alternative’ examples of scouting. Or maybe I’m wrong, and they exist in vast numbers. Vast… numbers.

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