Imagine it. Over 7,000 boys in full Boy Scout uniform roaming around Indiana University and the city of Bloomington. They fill the residential halls and use the lecture halls for classes.
National Order of the Arrow Conference
That was the reality for IU’s campus in early August. The Boy Scouts of America hosted its biannual National Order of the Arrow Conference at Indiana University-Bloomington for the ninth time in its history since 1948. Besides the visible presence of the scouts, they gained little attention during their week-long stay on campus.
In other places, the Scouts have been criticized, even sued, for the use of public facilities given their exclusionary policies, namely their ban on homosexual members, as well as agnostics and atheists.
However, two events were hosted during their stay here – one by IU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Student Support Services office focusing on the ban on gay and bisexual members, and another by the Bloomington Committee Against Racism and Homophobia in Youth Organizations focusing on the exclusionary policies and the offensive use of American Indian costumes and traditions by Boy Scouts. But, generally, the Scouts caused little stir around town.
Alfred Kinsey The Eagle Scout
We at the Kinsey Institute chuckled a little looking at the old photograph of Alfred Kinsey in his Boy Scout uniform. For some scouts, Kinsey is actually lauded as one of their heroes – a famous person that used to be a Boy Scout. In fact, one Boy Scout came into the Institute desperate for a tour. It’s a bit ironic, given Kinsey’s famous research on sexuality, especially homosexuality, and the scouts’ exclusionary policies regarding sexual orientation. It was through the Eagle Scouts that Kinsey discovered nature and the outdoors.
Certainly, the scouting experience can, and continues to be, a positive experience for boys as they transition into adulthood – Kinsey certainly gained a lot from his days in the scouts. I remember my days in the Boy Scouts – I made great friendships learning from others from different backgrounds and with different interests and viewpoints, I learned more about myself and my strengths, and I learned skills that I wasn’t taught in school like purifying water from a stream.
I think that joining the Boy Scouts is an opportunity that all boys should have access to, regardless of their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. In addition to benefitting the lives of those who are currently excluded, other scouts who are not gay, bisexual, atheist, and agnostic can gain from friendships and connections with those who are.