Friday, February 1, 2013

BS of America

If the BS of America decides to “allow” gays into its ranks it will do so only as the result of disconnected local actions. Local leaders will be free to kick boys out, or refuse them advancement if they are not heterosexual. Since this announcement comes on the heels of the huge release (over 14,000 pages) of documented evidence of sexual misconduct between scout leaders and scouts it begs the question of what burden of proof for homosexuality the national BSA will require of those local troops that choose to continue the practices of discrimination.

The Boy Scouts of America maintains the veneer of a secular organization, but almost three quarters of all the boy scout troops in the US are “chartered” to religious organizations. One third of all the troops in the US are chartered to the LDS Church alone. 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the charter drawn up between the BSA and the Mormons.

In 1912 boy scout founder Sir Robert Baden Powell traveled to the US across the frigid February Atlantic. He then traveled around the US accompanied by James West to help develop the Boy Scouts of America in the image of his English scouting group.

On the long boat ride the aging bachelor Sir Robert (55) met and wooed a young heiress by the name of Olave (23). By October they were married. Shortly after they moved in together to a large house purchased by Olave’s parents Sir Robert began complaining of terrible headaches which were diagnosed as psychosomatic. When he moved out of his marriage bed to sleep in another part of the house the headaches went away.

It is interesting how Sir Robert’s cure for his headaches echos some of the cures he recommended for a boy’s desire to engage in “self-abuse” . He published the following in the seminal boy scout book called “Scouting for Boys” published in 1908. Apparently he had sent a longer and more detailed set of self-abuse instructions to the printer, but they had refused to print it, so this is an edited down version:

“Sometimes the desire is brought on by indigestion, or from eating too rich food, or from constipation or from sleeping in too warm a bed with too many blankets. It can therefore be cured by correcting these, and by bathing once in cold water, or by exercising the upper part of the body by arm exercises, boxing etc.” – Sir Robert Baden Powell from “Scouting for Boys” 1914 

The rumors of Sir Roberts homosexuality, his long-term relationship with Kenneth MacLaren, the hints at pedophilia, all remain only rumors decades after his death in 1941. It would certainly be awkward for the institution of British Knighthood if evidence of this were produced; that institution is still reeling from concrete allegations of pedophilia and sexual predation from within its ranks.

The association of Sir Robert and the Boy Scouts to fascism is not the stuff of rumors. Robert spoke glowingly of Mein Kampf and Benito Mussolini.

“Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organisation etc.” -- Baden Powell diary 1939

England's intelligence agency -MI5- released files in 2010 that describe a Sir Robert eager to align his scouts with the Jugend (Hitler Youth) movement. Robert personally expressed disappointment with the “socialist press when our boys had appeared in uniform at a Fascist Demonstration in Germany”. Robert expressed a desire to meet with Hitler and went so far as to meet with the German ambassador; the Nazi ambassador wrote glowingly of Sir Robert’s personality.

Some of the first badges of the boy scouts had swastikas on them. Boy Scout apologists have long stated that Sir Robert was unaware of the connection between swastikas and the Nazis. I don’t know if that story has changed in the aftermath of the MI5 file release.

Shortly after the Nazi-courting began the octogenarian Sir Robert left England to live in a small shack in Africa owned by his secretary Eric George Sherbrooke Walker. It was in Africa that Sir Robert passed away at the age of 83. Of most of the Nazi-courting happened over two decades after the BSA had established the special charter with the Mormon Church.

James West, who traveled through America with Sir Robert, is not rumored to have had a romantic relationship with him. He was, however, instrumental in shaping the BS of America. He personally pushed for inclusion of policy statements in high-order Scouting documents, like the BSA constitution. He was personally responsible for crafting article 3:

"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” – Article 3 of the Boy Scout Constitution

He was also undoubtedly responsible for crafting portions of the charter given to the Mormon church. This charter allows the church to choose leaders, types of activities, and mechanisms for advancement based on church doctrine. The LDS church essentially morphed their Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association into a BSA structure, using it as an augmentation for their Aaronic priesthood. In fact the special LDS-BSA charter Jamboree patch has the words “Duty”, “To God”, “Honor”, “Preisthood” encircling a picture of the Salt Lake Mormon Temple.

It is clear when scanning the LDS-BSA scouting handbook on the official LDS website ( that the LDS charter is distinct from BSA as a whole. Organizational duties are organized according to the rigid church authority framework.

“Each Scouting unit should be led by a young man who is nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members.” – Scouting Handbook for Church Units in the United States Revised June 2012

The LDS scouting handbook also contains directions for “two-deep” leadership. In this section it is clear that adults should not be left alone with Boy scouts, and even goes so far as to spell out that “Adult leaders must respect the privacy of youth in situations such as changing clothes and taking showers at camp, and intrude only when health and safety require doing so. Adults should also protect their own privacy in similar situations.”.

The embedding of BSA into the LDS church is one of the reasons why sexual abuse allegations against the Mormon Church are linked to allegations of abuse in Scouting.

So the Scouts encapsulate much of what is wrong with America: Fascism, Pedophilia, Intolerance, Bigotry…How long does the list have to be in order for sensitive Americans to be done with scouts?

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