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Scandal-plagued Boy Scouts of America pitch a tent for LGBT activists at national jamboree

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Boy Scouts march during the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade on June 28, 2015 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Arun Nevader/WireImage)

Working to salvage its reputation in the wake of a multibillion-dollar sex-abuse settlement and corresponding bankruptcy, the Boy Scouts of America has once again signaled whose esteem it values.

Mike De Socio penned a piece for the Washington Post Thursday wherein he lavished praise on the BSA for staging its first-ever "affinity space for LGBTQ youth" — a massive tent erected at the heart of the Scouts' National Jamboree in Glen Jean, West Virginia.

The tent, wrote De Socio, was "decorated with a canopy of LGBTQ Pride flags and a string of multicolored lights, its tables covered with bowls of rainbow bracelets, pronoun stickers and diversity patches."

The "LGBTQ+ and allied scouts" area was one among three featured "community spaces" inside the tent. There were also spaces for "scouts of color" and "women in scouting."

De Socio intimated that the popularity of these spaces late last month among members may signal a victor in the battle between "champions of diversity and inclusion against conservatives and the religious right," at least where the BSA is concerned.

Woke scouts

The BSA, founded in 1910, is one of the largest youth organizations in the U.S., with purportedly over 1 million youth members and 628,000 volunteers.

Its stated mission is to "prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."

The Scout Oath binds scouts to do their best to do their duty "to God and [their] country and to ... help other people at all times; to keep [themselves] physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

In 2019, it changed its name to Scouts BSA to reflect its decision to allow girls to become scouts.

Years earlier, it ended both its prohibition on openly gay scouts as well as its ban on openly gay scout leaders and had even welcomed girls who claimed to be boys.

In recent months and years, the organization has embraced woke initiatives, evidenced by its:

  • appointment of "DEI leads for each of our 16 National Service Territories to partner with the leaders and troops with the leaders and troops within their territories to implement and advance our commitment to DEI";
  • introduction of "training that will empower participants to identify and recognize implicit bias" along with race, sexual preference, and gender-based resource groups; and
  • roll out of a "Citizenship in Society" merit badge, "encouraging Scouts to explore important topics around diversity, equity, inclusion and ethical leadership and learn why these qualities are important in society and in Scouting."

During the BLM riots in 2020, the BSA announced it would require that Eagle Scouts earn a diversity and inclusion badge, force all BSA employees to undertake diversity and inclusion training, and altogether "ensure diversity and inclusion are engrained at every level for participants and volunteers."

Earlier this year, the BSA began surveying members over whether it was time to jettison century-long traditions and practices that may upset iconoclasts and activists worried about "cultural appropriation," reported NBC News.

It does not appear the BSA is done revolutionizing itself.

LGBT activists' latest forward operating base

The Washington Post reported that thousands of kids trafficked through the LGBT activist tent at this year's BSA National Jamboree where 18-year-old River Capell, a self-declared "pansexual" scout volunteer from Northern Virginia, joined other activists in peddling advice.

"There's been days where there's 2,000 kids in this tent alone. And that is just, like, absurd," said Capell. "I've had some scouts asking genuine questions, like 'What does it mean to be this? What does it mean to be that?' ... But it was all curiosity, and how do I help, rather than [hostility]. So it's all been incredibly welcoming and positive."

While the feeling was purportedly positive, the 10-day jamboree saw a significant drop in attendance in recent years.

The group of scouts former President Donald Trump addressed in 2017 — a speech the BSA later apologized for — comprised an estimated 40,000 souls, whereas De Socio observed a crowd no bigger than 15,000 scouts and volunteers this time around.

Dwayne Fontenette Jr., DEI lead at the Jamboree, told De Socio earlier this year that the plan with the tent was to enable scouts "to engage with the DEI programming throughout the day" and "share additional resources that leaders can take home, so that they can improve the culture within their local programs."

In some of the progressive "community spaces," De Socio indicated kids could find guidance on "how to be an ally" as well acquire agitprop.

Paige Morgan, a self-identified "bisexual" who spoke to De Socio, suggested that "the people that are coming through here, like trans, nonbinary youth, the queer youth, are having a great time seeing themselves represented in a space that they love so much."

The Post indicated that Christian tents appeared far less popular this year, although that may be a result of conservatives and Christians sending their kids elsewhere for strengthening and edification.

Some BSA alternatives

For instance, some might turn to Trail Life USA, an explicitly Christian BSA alternative that rose to prominence in 2013 following the Scouts' announcement it would begin admitting openly gay members.

The male-only organization's stated mission is "to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure."

Unencumbered by a debilitating sex scandal or deference to corporate donors, Trail Life has partnered with over 1,000 churches in all 50 states and presently has north of 50,000 members.

The Columbian Squires, a youth fraternity run by the Knights of Columbus for Catholic boys ages 10 to 18, was formed nearly a century ago and presently boasts around 25,000 members.

The Squires is touted as a program "to develop young men as leaders who understand their Catholic religion, who have a strong commitment to the Church and who are ready, willing and capable of patterning their lives after the Youth Christ."

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists has the co-ed Adventurers, the Pathfinders, and Master Guides ministries on offer.

The Calvinist Cadet Corps, established in 1952, is another option with tens of thousands of members in the U.S., Canada, Kenya, and Uganda.

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