If the Boy Scouts Had Any Credibility Left, They Threw It Away at Jamboree July 25, 2017

If the Boy Scouts Had Any Credibility Left, They Threw It Away at Jamboree

What do the Boy Scouts stand for anymore? When I was a kid, it was a group that was synonymous with leadership, self-reliance, and generosity. Then, at least for me, there was a time when the anti-gay, anti-atheist bigotry overrode all of that. And last night, just as they were starting to put the anti-gay nastiness behind them and regaining their reputation, they held a giant fawning session for Donald Trump.

During the Scouts’ National Jamboree, which takes place every four years, Trump turned what should have been a patriotic, uncontroversial speech into a self-aggrandizing political rally with the attendees essentially pledging their allegiance to him.


I’m not surprised that Trump turned an event honoring the work of the Scouts into an evening honoring himself. But what the hell were the Scout leaders thinking when they allowed this to happen? What was going through their minds as the kids went along with Trump’s chants?

Among other things, the Scouts cheered as Trump talked about killing Obamacare (a.k.a. leaving millions of Americans unable to purchase health insurance). Urged by Trump, they booed President Obama for only giving a video address to the crowd four years ago. Also with Trump’s encouragement, they booed Hillary Clinton… which, besides just being completely unnecessary, made for horrible optics. Trump said to the children, “We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” suggesting that anything short of complete loyalty to him was unpatriotic. Trump promised them they’d be “saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again” before long, as if that was ever a problem in the past. And Trump bragged to the children about how his friend with a yacht always got laid.

We always knew Scouts were taught to be “reverent.” I had no idea that meant worshiping Trump.

While the BSA said later this was not an endorsement of Trump and inviting the President was a “tradition,” they also didn’t apologize for what happened.

This is a typical problem for the Scouts. They cling to tradition even when those traditions need to be discarded. We know they still won’t allow atheist members or leaders because not pledging belief in a Higher Power would violate the Scout Oath and Scout Law. We know they took forever to allow openly gay Scout members and leaders because they didn’t want to rock the boat with their religious affiliates. But when the President is Donald Trump, how ignorant must you be to offer him an open-ended platform to speak and not expect it to turn into a campaign rally?

Donald Trump couldn’t give a toast at someone else’s wedding at this point without mentioning how he won the Rust Belt.

The BSA could’ve just broken with tradition and asked him to send a one-minute video. Instead, they rolled out the carpet, gave Donald Trump their full attention, and unwittingly threw away whatever credibility they had left in the process.

There’s no shortage of people on Twitter saying they wish to return their Eagle Scout badges and promising never to let their sons join.

What happened last night was also, arguably, a violation of the BSA’s own non-partisan policy:

Perhaps the best response came from Jesse McLaren, a former Scout, who pointed out how Trump has violated every principle Scouts are supposed to live by.

Anyone could’ve seen this coming. Yet, the Boy Scouts allowed it to happen. They didn’t do a damn thing to stop it even as the train was going off the rails.

Is that what leadership looks like to the BSA? Letting a despicable excuse for a human being brag about himself to tens of thousands of children, using their image to boost his own ego and political agenda?

The Boy Scouts could’ve said Jamboree would go on this year without the participation of the President and left it at that. That’s what leadership would have looked like. Instead, they bent over backwards for a man who knows as much about the Scouts as he does Christianity. He will pander to the crowd, pretend like he’s one of them, then live his life in complete opposition to everything they supposedly stand for. Along the way, he’s exposing how the values they espouse were never meant to be taken seriously by anyone. They were always suggestions at best. Because if Trump is welcome in your club, no decent person should want to join.

There have always been good reasons to stay away from the Boy Scouts. Their problems run deep and they still have a long way to go. But at least they could make the argument that they were always trying to live up to their own principles and traditions. Last night proved their principles were shallow and their traditions were pointless.

The Boy Scouts won’t change unless people actually leave due to the leaderships’ actions. Threatening to leave isn’t enough. And if the Jamboree-Turned-Trump-Rally isn’t enough to compel people to get out, I don’t know what is.

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