Here’s the Scout Law:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
No where in there does it mention bigotry. And yet …
The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue to ban gay boys from joining and gay men and women from being troop volunteers is nothing less than institutionalized bigotry. It’s equally appalling that the Boy Scouts also ban atheists and agnostics.
So, what is the slogan now? Be Prepared – unless you’re gay or dare to question the existence of the God of the Bible. In which case – Be Gone.
It’s amazing, really. Now that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been eradicated, gay people can serve openly in the military. But they can’t join the Boy Scouts of America.
Apparently, the announcement this week that the BSA will continue to present itself as a bastion of intolerance is not the final word, even though the Supreme Court in 2000 said it was OK for the BSA, as a private entity, to discriminate against gay people. The Washington Post reports that a couple of BSA board members – one of whom could become the head of the organization in a couple of years – were not in favor of the continued discriminatory practice. So, that’s progress. Maybe.
It kind of goes hand in hand with a brief Twitter exchange I had today with a fellow blogger, who responded to my morning tweet of outrage about the BSA’s stance with a two-part answer that pointed out that my time as a Cub Scout in the 1970s hadn’t exactly twisted my mind into an anti-gay pretzel. Nor was rejecting the BSA outright necessarily the answer. Why wouldn’t we let Jay and Chris join, if they want to, and work to change the culture from within?
We could do that. Neither boy has expressed the slightest interest in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, but I suppose if they came to us and said they wanted to join, we would have to consider it. But a big part of that consideration would be investigating the local troops to discern whether the people in charge adhere to the national organization’s bigoted decree. I guess we would just come right out and ask: Does your troop discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or religious beliefs? If the answer was yes, then our answer would be no.
Why? Because while we have a say so, our kids are not going to join a group that teaches that it’s OK to exclude someone because that person is different. If they, for some reason, decide after they’ve exited our sphere of direct influence that “different is bad,” then at least we’ll know it wasn’t because they were indoctrinated into that skewed belief system because we let it happen.
And yes, belief that “different is bad” IS a skewed way of looking at the world. I’m aware that many religions leave no doubt – homosexuality is a sin, they preach. The implication is that gay people are “lesser” beings, unworthy of compassion. This is repulsive. I thought most religions stood for compassion for all. Those who truly practice that, who embrace inclusion, who believe that different is just different and not necessarily “bad,” would never endorse officially sanctioned bigotry as acceptable policy.
There is some speculation that one reason the BSA continues to take its backward stance against gay people is that the various religious instituations that provide monetary support would pull their financial backing otherwise. I don’t know about that. Maybe. But won’t other sources of money go dry if the BSA doesn’t join the rest of us in the 21st century? I would like to think so.
Now, I’m aware there are a lot of folks out there who find it tough to reconcile their memories and experiences with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts with this ferociously anti-gay stance. That angst is best reflected at the BSA’s official Facebook page, where hundreds of former scouts have expressed their sadness and outrage in comments on every post – all of which are posts about routine, mundane BSA activities, not about the policy announcement.
Some of the comments are poignant, like the one Tuesday from this man:
As an Eagle Scout, as someone who started in tiger cubs and was active all the way through scouting, as someone who went to Philmont, and as an Assistant Scoutmaster at a National Jamboree. I am very sad that the BSA is on the wrong side of history and tolerance. I understand the politics of it and the tough position the BSA is in when it comes to the diversity of opinion of its members; however, a generation from now this will be looked at as a low point in scouting history. It will be a time when scouting was not loyal to its gay scouts, was not helpful to ending discrimination, was not friendly courteous or kind to those who’s life is so much harder for who they are. Scouting was not brave enough to do the right thing, and scouting was not reverent towards those who lead a life full of love but only slightly different from their detractors. I believe scouting made me a better man and a better husband, I believe it what it teaches, and i believe that the BSA shamed scouting today.
Then again, there are more than a few posts like the one from this woman:
My sons will now be joining the boy scouts. Thank you for this brave stand.
Respectfully, ma’am, my sons almost certainly will not be joining yours.
UPDATE (Friday, July 20)
This is happening, too. There’s a new Facebook page decrying the stance of the BSA. It’s run by grassroots BSA members. I’d like to think the actions of the ruling board do not reflect the views of the millions of people involved in scouting. I’d like to think that.
UPDATE (July 20)
I just found this story on a group called Scouts for Equality in the LA Times from a couple of months ago. Eagle Scouts are fighting it. Good.