Make the Boy Scouts Truly Private

Today I am happy to take part in a blogosphere-wide protest against the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts of America. I was never in scouting. Well, I went to the Cub Scouts for two weeks at a Mormon church when I was a kid, didn’t like it and didn’t stick with it. But I have many friends who loved it and got a great deal out of it. Unfortunately, many of them would never have been allowed to join the scouts at all if they had revealed that they were either gay or atheist. And that’s just plain wrong.

The BSA is a private organization, which is why the Supreme Court has upheld their right to discriminate. But if they want to be a truly private organization, they should give up the many forms of government endorsement and support that they receive. The Secular Coalition for America spelled out some of those forms of support in July:

Some of the support the BSA receives from the government are:

  • The US Code authorizes the Secretary of Defense to lend supplies and equipment and transportation for Boy Scout events.
  • All branches of the military issue a promotion (to E2 or E3) for Eagle Scouts, the highest Boy Scout rank. This constitutes discrimination in hiring by the military as well as government approval of the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policies.
  • Equal Opportunity regulations in the military explicitly prohibit support of organizations that discriminate. Yet there is a close collaboration between the military and the Scouts. Department of Defense Instruction 1015.9 directs the Secretary of the Army to the Executive Agent for all components of the DoD to promote scouting among military families as directed by the President.
  • The U.S. President traditionally serves as the honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, a tradition which President Obama has continued.
  • In early 2005, Congress passed a resolution expressing a sense of the Congress that the Department of Defense should support BSA activities through the use of military personnel, federal land use, and other assistance for their massive Jamborees. The 2005 Jamboree cost taxpayers approximately $8 million.
  • In 2008, Congress voted to pass the “Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act” (H.R. 5872). The bill mandated that the U.S. Mint create and sell as many as 350,000 one dollar coins commemorating the Scouts’ centennial in the year 2010. A ten dollar surcharge on each coin goes directly to the Boy Scouts of America, who will net as much as $3.5 million in the deal.

Millions of dollars in taxpayer funds are being used to support an organization that demeans and discriminates against young people merely for being gay and for not believing in God. And it needs to stop, immediately.

19 comments on this post.
  1. sailor1031:

    How many more millions in unwitting public contributions as these execrable people are firmly entrenched into United Way.

  2. democommie:

    All of teh GAY and atheist Eagles (Geagles & Atheagles?) should show up at local events and burn their merit badge sashes. Or, maybe they could just do a revamped version of “The Pledge of Allegiance”:

    I pledge allegiance to my constitution and to the republic for which it was written.Fuck alla that other shit.

  3. raven:

    federal land use, and other assistance for their massive Jamborees. The 2005 Jamboree cost taxpayers approximately $8 million.

    This.

    The one advantage the BSA has over the many similar organizations, Wiccan Scouts (there really is one, after the BSA refused to follow their own rules and charter a Wiccan troop), etc..

    The summer camps in scenic mountain and shoreline areas. There are thousands of these frequently on or near forest service or BLM land. AFAICT, many of these are leased from the federal government.

    By law, organizations that discriminate cannot get preferential leasing terms from the federal government. That includes the BSA. Hey, BSA, the Wiccans are coming for your summer camp!!!

  4. raven:

    Barnes-Wallace v. Boy Scouts of America – Wikipedia, the free …
    en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Barnes-Wallace_v._Boy_Scouts_of_America

    Jump to District Court‎: They alleged that the lease was unconstitutional. The case was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of California. … BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA; CITY OF SAN DIEGO; and BOY SCOUTS OF …

    The BSA were sued in San Diego for leasing a shoreline property to the BSA for $1 per year.

    They lost. Because they are bigots who discriminate against large sectors of the population.

  5. raven:

    The BSA discriminates against atheists and agnostics.

    They claim you can’t be a good citizen or person if you are an atheist. This is pure bigotry and factually wrong.

    You can be a good person and be a xian. It’s just a lot harder and many of them don’t make it. Just look at the social dysfunction statistics of the fundies. They are always higher than the general population.

    The Nones make up 20% of the population and are growing rapidly as the fundies destroy US xianity. Their hate is denying a huge proportion of the population opportunities for fun and learning. The BSA membership has been dropping for decades as more and more kids don’t meet their arbitrary entrance standards.

    The BSA is supposed to be an outdoor adventure group for kids. What does this have to do with religion anyway. Nothing.

    We know what it is.
    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything.

  6. Erp:

    The pressure is slowly working. The next national jamboree (2013) will not be held at a US army base (Fort A.P. Hill) as it has since 1981 but on BSA owned land. It will also be interesting in that for the first time girls will be allowed [women scoutmasters have been allowed for some time] (girls are allowed in Venturing [for older teens] but until now Venturing crews couldn’t go to Jamboree). World jamborees have had both young women and young men (almost all will be in their older teens into young adult) for decades and have a strong emphasis on safe sex (they hand out condoms among other things) and consent. I don’t quite see the BSA doing this.

    Obama has continued with the honorary president tradition though he did not show up in person for the last jamboree (he did send a recorded message). The message was allegedly booed (though if the scouts had any wits they should have cheered given the logistics of a presidential visit [the second Bush visit had been a disaster due to the scouts having to be gathered and waiting for hours in extreme heat, several collapsed]).

  7. magistramarla:

    My son made it almost to Eagle when he had a run-in with the leader. It was Texas, and the boys were talking sports.
    My son quoted what he had heard his sister and her boyfriend say the night before – “The Cowboys suck.”
    He was kicked out of the troop for “cursing”.
    He chose not to pursue getting his Eagle done, since he had a leadership role in ROTC, and that was keeping him busy.
    ROTC membership also gave him that boost in rank when he joined the Marines that he had been working for with the boy scouts.

  8. ArtK:

    @Erp

    World jamborees have had both young women and young men (almost all will be in their older teens into young adult) for decades and have a strong emphasis on safe sex (they hand out condoms among other things) and consent. I don’t quite see the BSA doing this.

    Tom Lehrer gave some good advice many years ago: “Be Prepared”

    If you’re looking for adventure of a new and different kind,
    And you come across a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined,
    Don’t be nervous, don’t be flustered, don’t be scared.
    Be prepared!

    Slightly more serious, the Scouts and their institutionalized discrimination make me very, very sad. I was a Scout, made Eagle even, but couldn’t let my sons join. I got a lot out of Scouting, but the moral drawbacks far outweigh any benefits.

  9. reasonbeing:

    Thanks for posting and taking part in our “blog boycott”. I appreciate it greatly. Cheers!

  10. Sastra:

    raven #5 wrote:

    The BSA discriminates against atheists and agnostics.
    They claim you can’t be a good citizen or person if you are an atheist. This is pure bigotry and factually wrong.

    Absolutely. And their argument for this is based on a belief which comes right out of what could be called ‘Theistic privilege’ — the insistence that the existence of God is such a clear, obvious, and uncontroversial fact that people who fail to “acknowledge” God are failing to do their duty. They would only deny this “duty” to God if they wished to duck the responsibility of being thankful, appreciative, honest, accountable, etc. Thus the argument goes, resting on a refusal to address the question of whether a reasonable person really might find belief in God unwarranted and thus unethical. No, we all agree on God, He’s so obvious. Atheism then is perverse — even more so than being gay, because they deny everything good.

    From what I can tell virtually all the anger in the mainstream over the Boy Scouts and their discriminatory policies are aimed only against their position on homosexuality. Few organizations (besides the UU and other explicitly humanist ones) want to touch atheism with a ten-foot pole. If the Scouts “reform” rather than lose their special public rights and status, it will likely leave the religious test status quo as status quo. My guess.

  11. raven:

    From what I can tell virtually all the anger in the mainstream over the Boy Scouts and their discriminatory policies are aimed only against their position on homosexuality.

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that.

    Although most of the people they kick out or don’t let in seem to be atheists or agnostics.

    There are a lot more Nones than gays.

    My guess is that gays make up ca. 4% of the population. The Nones are 20% and growing rapidly. Xians are on track to go below 50% in 2030 to 2040.

    No, we all agree on God, He’s so obvious. Atheism then is perverse — even more so than being gay, because they deny everything good.

    They say that sometimes. But it is obviously factually untrue. The suicide bombers, terrorists, and guys flying jet planes into skyscrapers aren’t atheists, they are deeply devout religionists.

  12. Erp:

    @ArtK I agree, the Boy Scouts of America are a mix of good and bad. At its best Scouting brings together youth from around the world (the World Jamboree held every 4 years by WOSM and Our Chalet/Our Cabana/Sangam/Pax Lodge of WAGGGS among other things) no matter what their race, religion, nationality, etc.. In many countries (and the Girl Scouts in the USA) being gay wouldn’t matter as far as Scouts/Guides are concerned. Being atheist is still problematic in more (Canadian/Australian/Guides have a revised promise (and US Girl Scouts can alter the God bit to fit their beliefs) but UK Scouts/Girl Guides and a few others still have a barrier[1]).

    [1] Admittedly the UK Girl Guides have a sort of way around in that you aren’t actually required to make the promise except for the highest rank (or, I think, adult leader). Both UK Guides and Scouts have a few acceptable alternative promises (e.g., for Buddhists) but none that would allow an atheist (except Buddhist atheists).

  13. mathewgoldstein:

    If you look at the BSA Council tax returns, some of them will show government grants. The BSA Councils are likely to have a single bank account in which they mix the money from all of their programs. Some of the BSA programs are non-membership programs that don’t discriminate, and at least some of the government grants go to those non-membership programs. Once upon a time, the laws mandated that government grant money not go into bank accounts that are also utilized for grant ineligible programs. But that changed when the federal government started the Faith Based Initiative that gives government grants to social welfare programs sponsored by houses of worship without requiring separate bank accounts. It is not clear that none of the government grant money is going to the discriminatory membership programs. I have some reason to think rhat some of the government grants go to the discriminatory membership programs.

    BSA Councils also receive money from the Army and other government departments for food, lodging, and use of BSA owned facilities, particularly the camps and parks.

  14. goidaym8:

    God received little mention in Australian boy scouts where I enjoyed it immensely in the late 60s.
    It possibly depends on the particular clubs, as our scoutmaster was agnostic and I was known to be an atheist, though, we mainly concentrated on scouting activities without any emphisis on the religious side of scouting.
    I’m certain Baden Powell would be annoyed or dismayed at any children being rejectected due to religion or gender preference.
    It’s against what we were taught at our club anyway, where all young men (it was sexist back then) around the world can gain life skills.

    The American mob are an extreme disappointment. We had more freedom for belief in scouts even in the 1960s that exist now in the USA. It makes America appear increasingly backward.

    Aye M8z!

  15. goidaym8:

    Oops on reading further it appears that UK is also backwards, somehow Australia appears to have a slightly more open minded, secular take on many things, including Scouts.
    Most of the scouts that I grew up with are agnostics or atheists. Very few of our group were god botherers.
    Funny how we never realized that God and heterosexuality had anything major to do with being a Scout. Only to learn this thirty five years after leaving the Scouts in my late teens.
    Yes, first I heard of there being such a strong connection.

  16. Draken:

    I’m certain Baden Powell would be annoyed or dismayed at any children being rejectected due to religion or gender preference.

    Are you certain? Baden-Powell seems very much a product of his time: patriotic, militarist, conservative. To be fair, I don’t think he was extreme in any of these matters, but he was part and parcel of the sentiments that brought us the colonial separatist wars and the First World War (a refreshing bit of wrestling with the Hun, and back in time for Christmas).

    The scouts are first and foremost a military prep school with all the uniforms and the taking of oaths to God and Country, and learning to survive in the wild. I know many people have fine memories of their scouting time, but that mainly demonstrates how easily this sense of comradeship and adventure can be instilled, and later abused, in young people.

  17. dingojack:

    goidaym8 (#14) – Where abouts?

    Draken (#16) – Seconded. There were rumours about B-P’s sexuality swirling around (particularly due to the over emphasis on sexual perversion and masturbation), but ‘muscular christianity’ had it’s roots in the British Public School system, the Scouting movement was merely a later branch.
    (In the interest in disclosure, I was thrown out of a cub-scout ‘camping’ expedition (actually we were in dormitory huts) for showing to much interest in a wide-ranging discussion with a scout about what it was like to kiss a girl when I was about 11, much to my parent’s amusement. Apparently the leaders were worried about what other parents might think of such discussions between early teen-aged boys. Clearly the male adults had never had those kind of discussions themselves when they were that age, or something).

    :) Dingo

  18. uncephalized:

    @democommie #2:

    All of teh GAY and atheist Eagles (Geagles & Atheagles?) should show up at local events and burn their merit badge sashes.

    I won’t be doing that. My merit badges and my Eagle rank are distinctions I earned through years of my effort and dedication, and with the support of my Scouting friends and all our parents. Do I think Ed is absolutely right on in his condemnation of these discriminatory policies? Fuck yes. Am I withholding donations I might otherwise give to the BSA over it? Yup. Do I vocally condemn the policies to anyone I talk to about the subject? Sure do. Does that mean I throw away the symbols of my own (generally excellent) experience in the program? No way. That’s kind of like suggesting that someone who earned a degree at a all-white university before integration should burn their credentials because the university they attended was racist. Well, yeah, it was, but you still earned a degree there. KWIM?

  19. Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Make the Boy Scouts Truly Private:

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