W. D. Boyce incorporated the Boy Scouts of America on Feb. 8, 1910. Within the first two years of the organization’s existence, its moral compass was clearly outlined via the pledges within the Scout oath:
“On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”
Since the inception of the Boy Scouts, those taking this pledge have had a strong influence on our society. They have become presidents, congressmen, governors, even astronauts. The things they have stood for have served to mark out a path for them, and to carve out a place.
As Deputy Chief Scout Executive George J. Fisher said in 1937, “Each generation as it comes to maturity has no more important duty than that of teaching high ideals and proper behavior to the generation which follows.”
In the interest of remaining this force for good, Boy Scouts has focused its membership and leadership guidelines on those things that correspond with the “morally straight” aspects of the pledge and the “high ideals and proper behavior” Fisher referenced.
It is important to note that this is not a reflection of what the Boy Scouts are against, but of what they are for. In a word, this purposeful hedging in and maintenance of membership standards and practices is simply an outworking of their freedom to associate—and especially their freedom to associate with those whom they choose.
This was never a problem, and was not seen as a negation of any certain group or practice, until some began pushing to curtail the Boy Scouts’ freedom of association in the late 20th century.
We must remember that in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000), the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ right of freedom of association, and therefore their membership policy. The court found that while it may not represent the views of all, “the First Amendment does not require that every member of a group agree on every issue in order for the group’s policy to be expressive association.”
Yet now, even after winning at the Supreme Court, Boy Scouts national leadership, under pressure from activist groups who don’t agree with the Scouts’ values, is toying with the idea of allowing individual councils to decide for themselves whether to abide by this policy.
In other words, Boy Scouts national leadership is toying with the idea of giving up their freedom to choose what they stand for.