Ethical dilemma: What should Scouts do when another Scout makes OA elections political?


How should your Scouts respond if another Scout wants to make Order of the Arrow elections political?

Learn more about the Scoutmaster’s role in OA elections.

The Ethical Dilemma
Before joining the Order of the Arrow, the BSA’s national honor society, Scouts must be nominated by their Scoutmaster and then chosen by their peers in a unit election. These elections aren’t popularity contests; they’re designed to identify candidates who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Scout Law in their daily lives. Campaigning is not permitted, a rule that has created a dilemma for the members of Troop 1273.

Joel McGreevy is Troop 1273’s senior patrol leader and its oldest Scout. After being nominated for the OA elections and then passed over by his peers the past three years, Joel is intent on getting elected this time around. He knows that he has been nominated for this year’s election and the troop must have half its active members present for the election, so he makes personal phone calls to every troop member in the week leading up to the vote.

While he doesn’t exactly ask Scouts to vote for him, he talks about his accomplishments and makes vague promises about how having the senior patrol leader in the OA could help the troop get better campsites at camporees. Joel’s calls make several Scouts uncomfortable, but they aren’t sure whom to tell or what to say.

For Discussion
After reading the scenario with your Scouts, discuss these questions about reporting questionable behavior:

  • How confident should Scouts be before they report questionable behavior?
  • To whom should Scouts report questionable behavior? Why would you choose that person?
  • In this situation, the troop’s top Scout is the person accused of questionable behavior. Is it fair for the Scouts not to share their concerns with him? Why or why not?

Next, discuss these questions:

  • Do you think Joel crossed the line in what he said to the Scouts he called? If so, what did he say that crossed the line?
  • The younger Scouts might not know what Joel accomplished before they joined the troop. Is it OK for him to tell them what he did a few years ago?
  • Do you think Joel should be disqualified from the OA election because of his actions?

Finally, let the Scouts decide a course of action the Scoutmaster should take in light of this situation. Discuss these questions:

  • How is that solution fair to the troop?
  • Other Scouts?
  • Joel?
  • What about the Order of the Arrow?

Read more about how to prevent OA elections from becoming a popularity contest.


  1. We routinely elect 20 youth to the OA. We put on the ballot a box that allows everyone on the ballot to be elected. Also there are troops that I am familiar with who have been known to tweak the numbers to allow a deserving scout who has been over looked more than a few times because he is not popular.

  2. Our troop would give the candidates for OA an opportunity to tell the other members of the troop why they felt that they deserved their vote. Any vote is a political action.Elections into the OA or for office at the troop or patrol level are exercises in democracy. It is up to the leaders and the OA members to educate the voters (scouts) as to the meaning of the Order of the Arrow and the importance to elect scouts that live up to the ideals of service and brotherhood.

  3. The issue is of Scout Spirit and the prime mission of the OA. The SPL example cited is self serving. He doesn’t get the “Big Picture”. His behavior is antithetical to service to others, before self.

    The “popularity contest” has been an issue for most organizations with elected leadership or membership. Boy Scouts earn rank by merit and growth in Scout Spirit.

    Maybe that is where the Scoutmaster should start, when advising the troop membership to vote for those who have best exhibited the traits expressed in the Scout Law and Oath.

    The O.A. is the honor society of Boy Scouts. We should encourage and challenge these young men to elect those among them, who are the best examples.

  4. I am an Adviser in OA. He was making grandiose promises, like what a lot of politicians do, so he was very much politicizing the election.

  5. Scouting is an organization of integrity, and politicizing OA Elections, knowingly breaking a rule is the antithesis of integrity. A Scout is Trustworthy.

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