Mercer’s campus has always seemed to foster an environment for an accepting community no matter what the differences are between the students, faculty and staff.
Recently, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they are looking towards eliminating the exclusion of gays from membership at the national level.
As a result, the decision to include gays is left to the local units. Of course, just as with the Chick-fil-a controversy, units associated with more religious conservative members have become “gravely distressed” by the threat of inclusion.
Personally, I don’t really understand why everyone is so up in arms about the potential of lifting the ban.
Using Mercer’s community as an example, Mercer has a very rich Southern Baptist tradition.
Much of that tradition includes the resistance against the LGBT community. Since leaving the Baptist co
nvention, Mercer has turned into what I perceive as a liberal institution; a very accepting liberal institution.
Why should it be any different with the Boy Scouts of America?
I realize I’m getting ahead of myself by using such a small example as Mercer and applying it to a much more widespread group of people like the Scouts.
However, if we take a step back from the issue for a second, there are similarities between Mercer and the Scouts that can help this issue make sense.
Based on the research I have done, the ban is being lifted at the national level, thereby giving the power to accept or exclude gays at the local units.
These local units are very similar to the relatively small Mercer community we find ourselves in.
The fact of the matter is religious affiliations are involved and of course they are butting heads with each other.
I was greatly disturbed by a quote from Roger “Sing” Oldham, spokesman for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention.
He says, “I think it’s clear that the Scouts have made a sea of change in who they are and that down the road they will be a different organization than they are today.”
This quote disturbs me because the general consensus among those of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention is typically the belief that gays don’t have a place in their affiliated organizations.
To say that the Scouts will be a different organization in the future makes it sound like they approve of the direction the Scouts want to take by lifting the ban.
I believe it would be reasonable to argue that if the ban was not lifted, the Scout organization would remain stagnant; preventing the Scout organization from making any progress in either direction.
For the Scouts to lift the ban would mean to eliminate another level of segregation that exists in our modern day society.
Barbara Jones, when interviewed about the possibility of the Scouts welcoming gay scouts and scout leaders says, “I think it’s fine because it’s a part of life and it’s a reality of life. I think it’s so important for our children to understand and value each individual as they are.”
Most boys start Boy Scouts around ages 6-8. At that age, sexual orientation is not a priority.
Will Batts, the Executive Director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, weighed in on the issue. “There have always been gay scouts. I was a gay scout. Obviously I wasn’t out at 11 but was starting to realize things about myself and didn’t feel comfortable in scouting at that time,” Batts said. “Diversity is spreading across the country; people are feeling more comfortable being exactly who they are and that’s what America is about.”
The movement to petition for the lifting of the ban gained a valuable ally when President Obama went public in an interview with CBS.
Anchor Scott Pelley asked the president if he believed scouting should be open to gays, Obama said: “Yes.”
The president went on to say, “My attitude is … that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life. The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred [from] that.”
I fully agree with what President Obama stated on the issue of the ban. The LGBT community is no different from the heterosexual community.
In fact, we have a lot more to learn about acceptance from those in the LGBT community than we can learn from heterosexuals.
The United States has been though this type of issue before — segregation of blacks. We constantly want to put things in boxes; categorize and separate things while singing “one of these things is not like the other.” It’s childish.
I understand wanting to separate things out and give life order, but sometimes life doesn’t work that way.
These are people we are dealing with; people with feelings.
I’m grateful that I live in a community such as Mercer that is able to be open to accepting the differences that make us human and I can only hope that the Scouts are able to do the same.
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