Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
On May 2, it was announced that Scouts USA – the organization formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America – plans to distribute condoms at the 2018 World Scout Jamboree. According to Section 7.3 of the World Organization of the Scout Movement Guidelines for Hosting the World Scout Jamboree, the condoms will be distributed at multiple sites on the reservation, to anyone who asks.
The condom distribution program continues a multiyear trajectory within Scouting, a series of changes which reflect an increasingly secularized understanding of gender identity and sexuality. In 2013, after years of pressure from homosexual rights organizations, the Boy Scouts lifted its ban on homosexual members. Two years later, in 2015, the organization announced that it would permit homosexual men to serve as troopmasters. And in January 2017, the Boy Scouts agreed to permit biological girls who self-identify as boys to enroll in scouting programs. Following on the heels of that disclosure, in May 2018 the organization announced that effective in February 2019, it will change its name to simply “Scouts USA”, reflecting its more inclusive understanding of modern gender theory.
And now this: In keeping with the policy of the World Organization of Scout Movements, the organization now intends to ensure that condoms are “readily and easily accessible” at the World Jamboree, which will be held July 21-August 1, 2019, in West Virginia. The condoms will be available to all participants and staff, on request at each medical station on the reservation.
U.S. Bishops' Support for the Boy Scouts
At least until today, the Scouts have enjoyed a cordial relationship with the U.S. Bishops. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes that ministering to young people is a vital aspect of the Catholic Church's life and mission. In their pastoral framework on youth ministry, the Bishops state:
“Ministry with adolescents (is) a concern for the entire church community, especially for leaders in parishes, schools, and dioceses.”
As part of that ministerial role, the USCCB has worked with the Boy Scouts of America through the USCCB's National Catholic Committee on Scouting. The USCCB has similar committees for other youth groups including the Girl Scouts, Camp Fire, American Heritage Girls, Catholic youth ministry, and Trail Life USA. But will the Boy Scouts' most recent diversion from Catholic teaching on matters of sexuality affect their relationship with the USCCB?
George Sparks, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, talked about the condom controversy, which was first brought to light in an article on the conservative website World Net Daily. First, Sparks clarified that the policy is not new: Condoms, he said, have been mandated by the World Organization for the past fifteen or twenty years, but this is the first time since the condom distribution policy was enacted that the Jamboree will be held here in America. And Sparks was confident that Catholic Scout troops would not be swept into the international conflict. “The Catholic Church,” Sparks said,
“...is not going to be expected to compromise any of its teachings with these changes.... So for instance, hopefully homosexual adults cannot be leaders in a scouting organization chartered to a Catholic unit. Even though the BSA will now accept them, the Catholic Church will not be required to adopt the same policy.”
Sparks' defense echoes an earlier statement from Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, an executive board member and former Episcopal Liaison to the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Bishop Guglielmone has held many positions within the Scouts, and he was appointed by the Holy See as World Chaplain to Catholic Scouting – a position he held until January 2009, when he was named the 13th Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina.
In February 2017, Bishop Guglielmone released a statement stressing the fact that the state's Catholic troops would not be impacted by the Boy Scouts of America's decision to accept transgender scouts. The diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Miscellany, quoted Bishop Guglielmone:
“Membership in individual packs, troops and venture crews will continue to be the responsibility of the chartering organization. Therefore, churches and other religious institutions will continue to offer membership in their units according to their religious beliefs, traditions and policies. In essence, for us as Catholics, the parish or school chartering the Scout unit determines qualifications for inclusion … Youth not able to be a part of a religious unit are to be assisted by the local Scout Council in finding a unit that would be able to accommodate them.”
But Others Raise Concerns Regarding the Scouts' Policies on Sexuality
But not everyone associated with the Boy Scouts believes that the changes in the Boy Scouts organization will not filter down to local level. Dr. Gerard Nadal, an assistant scoutmaster who serves on the Scouting Commissioner's staff, is not as confident as George Sparks and Bishop Guglielmone. Dr. Nadal contacted the Scouts' national headquarters in Irving, Texas, for clarification, but he was not satisfied with the answers he received. Dr. Nadal shared his concerns in an interview with the Register. “Why have we not needed condoms,” he asked,
“...in the several decades that we have had co-ed camping through our co-ed programs (Venturing, Explorers, Sea Scouts, STEM Scouts)? Aren't the adults supposed to ensure that there are separate sleeping facilities for male and female scouts, male and female staff?”
If condoms are distributed to Scouts, he asked,
“.... where are they going to use those condoms? If we have a policy of no sex on our reservations, will we permit youth to leave the reservation for the purpose of having sex? If not, then we are waiving our policy and facilitating sex among minors, sex among adults on our BSA reservations. And if we are facilitating sex on our reservations, we bear, at a minimum, moral culpability for any pregnancies and STDs from condom failures.”
The fact that this policy has been instituted by the World Organization of Scouts, and not by the BSA, raises a concern which Dr. Nadal posed to the scouts' administration: If international scouts lack their American counterparts' capability to exercise self-control, perhaps we should not welcome them onto our reservations.
Dr. Nadal voiced yet another concern: In handing condoms to pubescent boys, he warned, we pin a target on the backs of his daughters, everyone's daughters, every female at the campground. If scouts cannot control themselves and insist on seeking sexual gratification, he believes, then they should do so on their own time, in their homes, at their expense, and at their peril. He warns that if whitewater rafting, shooting sports, zip lining, rappelling, and all of the other activities are not enough excitement – if we need to add “sexual Olympics” to the Jamboree curriculum – then perhaps scouting has seen its day.
4-H Youth Organization Rejects LGBT Proposals
While the Boy Scouts have acquiesced to the demands of LGBT groups, thus risking their reputation as a wholesome boys' organization, the 4-H Club in the state of Iowa has maintained a steady course, and has resisted changing their rules.
Policy changes proposed by LGBT activists for the 4-H Clubs included the admission of biological males who self-identified as females into female restrooms, locker rooms, showers and overnight accommodations. In addition, the controversial LGBTQ “guidance” had been posted on the official website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which sponsors 4-H, as well as on other state university websites. When public criticism erupted, the document was removed from public websites; but World Net Daily preserved a copy of the original “guidance” and reported on its content. First, WND reported, the document defined terms such as “polysexual” and “intersex.” It then mandated that “4-H, including all paid and volunteer personnel, as well as youth members, will use pronouns and names consistent with a transgender or intersex individual's gender identity.”
“In other words, a biological male may claim he's female and vice versa. Such assertion needn't be supported by 'medical diagnosis' or legal 'identification documents.' Nevertheless, once the assertion is made, accommodation – from overnight housing to pronoun usage – must be met.
… Perhaps most controversially, '4-H shall ensure nondiscrimination to provide transgender and intersex individuals equal access to programs and activities,' even in circumstances when the youth member's family or guardian 'raise objections or concerns' over their child's decision to request such transgender accommodations.”
But before the LGBT-friendly policy could be implemented, the Christian public-interest law firm Liberty Counsel challenged the guidelines and demanded that Iowa State University, which oversees 4-H Clubs in the state of Iowa, reverse its course or face litigation. The LGBT Guidance, they argued, was discriminatory, unconstitutional, and without legal authority. Liberty Counsel's senior litigation counsel Mary McAlister wrote,
“It makes a number of unscientific and false claims regarding issues of sexuality, and takes a radical political position on human sexuality. It misstates the law regarding protected classes, and falsely adds 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity or expression' or 'transgender' status to those classes affirmatively recognized by federal and state law, and by fiat, elevates them above statutorily protected classes of biological 'sex' and 'religion.'”
The Liberty Counsel pointed out that it is not “discriminatory” for 4-H program participants to use correct gender pronouns, or for the organization to maintain separate sex-appropriate accommodations for biological males and females. She McAlister cited the importance of safety and privacy rights, as well as parents' right to control the associations of their minor children.
And in the end, the battle against the traditional values of 4-H Clubs is over. At least for now, at least in Iowa, the radical LGBTQ agenda has been rejected by the 4-H Clubs. In other states, the campaign continues.