In the debates over the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy against homosexuality—debates recently rekindled by reports that the BSA may lift that policy nationally—most of the focus has been on the impact (or asserted lack of impact) from having openly homosexual adults serve as Scoutmasters or other leaders or volunteers.

The current policy barring adult homosexual leaders and volunteers reflects three levels of concern:

1) Many parents, regardless of their specific opinions, wish to reserve to themselves the right to choose the timing and circumstances under which they will introduce and discuss with their children sensitive and controversial issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual ethics. Having leaders who are open about their homosexuality may run the risk of preempting that parental prerogative.

2) Many parents hold a traditional view of sexual ethics, including a conviction that sexual conduct between persons of the same sex is morally wrong. This view is still held by a majority of all Americans, so it is likely that it is held by an even larger majority of parents with sons in the Boy Scouts. Having openly homosexual leaders as role models in the Boy Scouts would send a message that homosexual conduct is morally acceptable, thus contradicting their own convictions and their right as parents to transmit those beliefs to their children.

3) Finally, the policy against homosexual leaders is consistent with efforts to reduce the risk of Boy Scouts becoming victims of child sexual abuse. (Yes, child sexual abuse has been a problem in the Boy Scouts even with the policy on homosexuality in place. And yes, homosexual activists vehemently reject the evidence which suggests that homosexual men—most of whom are not child molesters, and who do not commit most acts of child sexual abuse—are nevertheless, relative to their numbers, more likely to engage in such actions than are heterosexual men. Even without resolving that dispute, however, the logic of this concern is simple: Most parents would not want their daughters to go on overnight camping trips with adult men who are sexually attracted to females. By the same token, they would not want their sons to go on overnight camping trips with adult men who are sexually attracted to males.)

The Boy Scout policy against homosexuality does not just apply to adult leaders, however. It also bars boys who engage in homosexual conduct or publicly self-identify as homosexual from being Scouts. (Note that it would be impossible to bar a Scout merely because they experience same-sex attractions, unless they either proclaimed and/or acted on those attractions.) Some may wonder—why should this policy be imposed on the boys, as well as their adult leaders?

I recently came across a clear illustration of the answer. I was a guest on a radio program called AirTalk which was broadcast on KPCC, a Southern California Public Radio station. Another guest opposed the Boy Scout policy, I defended it, and listeners could call or email their own comments.

One emailed comment was read on the air, and after the program I found it posted on the station’s website as well. Here is what that listener, identified only as “Cruz,” had to say:

I am a gay man and while in the Boy Scouts, I heard my first dirty joke, heard my first sexually explicit language, learned how to cheat to win merit badges and had my first gay experience with another boy. Our Scout leader was a straight married man who had no idea that any of this was going on in his troop! Boys need GOOD leaders to give them GOOD guidance and it should not matter if they are straight or gay.

[W]hile in the Boy Scouts, I … had my first gay experience with another boy”?

This is what most parents do not want their sons to have happen when they sign them up for the Boy Scouts.

Cruz had his experience even with the policy against homosexuality in place. But can anyone deny (with a straight face), that such incidents will become more likely if the Scouts welcome into their ranks boys who openly proclaim their homosexuality?

That is exactly why the Boy Scout policy against homosexuality must apply to the boys as well as to their leaders.