Quantcast

«

»

Jan 29 2013

Boy scouts to accept gays?

News reports are emerging that the Boy Scouts are seriously considering lifting the ban on gay members and scout leaders and that the decision might come very soon.

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest private youth organizations, is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders, according to scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions.

The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization’s rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.

The discussion of a potential change in policy is nearing its final stages, according to outside scouting supporters. If approved, the change could be announced as early as next week, after the BSA’s national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting.

This reversal, coming just seven months after the national body affirmed its ban on gay members, demonstrates the remarkable rapidity with which acceptance of equal rights for the LGBT community is advancing. The Boy Scouts have been getting a public relations hammering and losing donors because of their reactionary stand of excluding gays and seem to have realized that any group that depends on membership of young people cannot have such a policy and survive because young people are way ahead of the old guard in acceptance of diversity.

As I wrote earlier, it is usually the case that in such reversals by large organizations, they usually edge slowly towards doing the right thing by taking incremental steps. The Boy Scout policy change, if confirmed, will not positively welcome gays into the group but simply drops the national banning policy, allowing local troops to make their own decisions. So in the short term one could expect some affiliates to accept gays and others not.

But such minimal steps tend to create their own problems. For example, what happens to a gay scout whose family moves from an area with an accepting troop to one that bans them? What would happen if a gay scout leader rises in the hierarchy to a position overseeing a local affiliate that excludes gays? The proposed change, while it is to be welcomed, will cause all manner of internal contradictions.

It is only a matter of time (I give it five years at the most) before the national group shifts to a more affirmative position, requiring that all affiliates not exclude gays.

12 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Cathy W

    I heard about this on NPR this morning. The internal contradiction was one of the objections cited by a Baptist minister whose church sponsors a troop: “Even if we exclude gays, we’ll come in contact with gay scouts and leaders at Jamborees and other gatherings, so we don’t actually get to exclude gays….” It’s really going to have to be all or nothing, eventually.

    Except that, ideally, the topic won’t even come up, unless they’re planning on requiring all gay scouts and leaders to wear a sign – it’s not like there’s a merit badge in Gay Studies!

  2. 2
    Corvus illustris

    From the Boy Scouts’ webpage on legal matthers:

    The Boy Scouts of America maintains* that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.

    Well, I thought I should mention this, you know, Freethought Blog and all. It will be interesting to watch them deal with the steady growth of the “nones” as a demographic fact.

    *I understand the logic but the disagreement of number is to me as the sound of the fingernails upon the blackboard.

  3. 3
    twosheds1

    This was really good news. I don’t think it will even take five years. I expect they’re in the process of re-writing their policy right now, and the change will be BSA-wide within a year.

    local sponsoring organizations free to decide

    What this means is that the organizations that host troops – churches, American Legion posts, etc. – will be the ones deciding. That will be very interesting, especially in my case. Our troop is sponsored by a church with a large number of gays and lesbians in the congregation, so I am sure that they’ll expect us to not discriminate. Unfortunately, this won’t sit well with our old-school Catholic scoutmaster.

    What puzzled me (well, actually it didn’t) from the beginning was why the BSA, if they’re all about the youth, didn’t put it to a vote of the youths involved. Seems that would have been the most democratic way.

  4. 4
    Timothy

    “But such minimal steps tend to create their own problems. For example, what happens to a gay scout whose family moves from an area with an accepting troop to one that bans them? What would happen if a gay scout leader rises in the hierarchy to a position overseeing a local affiliate that excludes gays? The proposed change, while it is to be welcomed, will cause all manner of internal contradictions.”

    And it is these internal contradictions — these ‘problems’ — that continue to create the opportunity for challenge and discussion, dialog and (dare I say it) even exposure that leads to change.

    So hooray for these kinds of problems!

  5. 5
    invivoMark

    As several states are moving to allow gays to tie the knot, Boy Scouts decides it’s okay to teach gays to tie knots.

  6. 6
    glodson

    From the article: “About 50 local United Way groups and several corporations and charities have concluded that the ban violates their non-discrimination requirements and have ceased providing financial aid to the Boy Scouts.”

    Maybe some of the leaders are worried about the how much funding they could lose. A good way to get a group’s attention is to punch them in the wallet.

    But it doesn’t really matter why they are considering it, as long as they go through with it. It is good for the gay parents who want to be active in their kid’s Scouting, and good for gay Scouts who want to take part, and good for the non-gay volunteers and Scouts as they get to know someone who is gay. It might help erode more of that prejudice out there.

    Just don’t read the comments. I got about a third of the way down the page before I had to stop. A person conflated homosexuality with pedophilia, and that got a number of likes.

  7. 7
    Synfandel

    twosheds1 wrote:

    What puzzled me (well, actually it didn’t) from the beginning was why the BSA, if they’re all about the youth, didn’t put it to a vote of the youths involved. Seems that would have been the most democratic way.

    The Boy Scouts of American is not a democratic organization. It’s a paramilitary organization with a hierarchical command structure, a code of conduct, oaths, and uniforms.

  8. 8
    Mano Singham

    I rarely read the comments to newspaper articles because, as you point out, they rapidly degenerate into really obnoxious stuff.

  9. 9
    Jim Jelf

    The BSA is NOT “Paramilitary” and is indeed democratic; saying so means you do not know the scouting program. Troop meetings, adgenda, events and its Troop leaders are all voted on by the boys to emulate the responsibility of management, government and experence business skills. No one salutes another; this action is reserved to respect our flag and honor our country. Even adult leaders are just Moms and Dads who have opened their hearts and support of their Sons and his troop. Even advancement and how far a boy wishes to go in Scouting is decided on by the boy himself. There is only encouragment to be better than you are now. Uniforms are used to display badges of accomplishments and teamwork.

    Any decision of the BSA to accept gays has nothing to do with right or wrong. The BSA is simply deciding not to have a position and to leave it to the individual Troop or Cub Scout members to decide; it will not work and the BSA must take a position. I think the BSA is taking an easy way out, being forced by the loss of corporate donations. A cowardly position, they need to fully accept gays or hold their position.

  10. 10
    Argle Bargle

    Unfortunately the Mormon Church has hijacked the Boy Scouts into being the church’s young men’s organization. Since the LDS Presidensity is anti-GBLT (primarily because Boyd K. Packer, the leader of the “12 Apostles”, is a raging homophobe) don’t expect the BSA to be very welcoming to gays.

  11. 11
    slc1

    I have a flash for the muck da mucks who run the BSA. There are gay scouts and gay scout leaders right now and they have been around for decades. They have just stayed in the closet and have not identified themselves as such (sort of like don’t ask, don’t tell).

    By the way, Mr. Nelson @ #9 is absolutely correct and accurate. And I would add that the Raping Children Church is also heavily involved in sponsoring scout troops. I think that the strategy behind this position by the national leadership is to bypass giving the Mormon and RC sponsored troops a veto over this by making it troop specific.

  12. 12
    thomasmorris

    Even advancement and how far a boy wishes to go in Scouting is decided on by the boy himself.

    While that is the ideal, it’s at least sometimes not true in practice, in my experience. Growing up in Utah, where Boy Scouts is a big thing, I knew multiple friends whose parents wouldn’t let them take driver’s ed/get a driver’s license until they have gotten their Eagle. They would sometimes also withhold other privileges, like dating. My parents wouldn’t try to do that – I got my Eagle at 14 anyways – but it always kind of pissed me off. Scouting isn’t that important, and it’s not the indicator of future success that some of our leaders/families claimed it to be.

    (I’m not blaming the BSA as a whole for that, of course – it’s clearly the fault of overzealous parents.)

    Troop meetings, adgenda, events and its Troop leaders are all voted on by the boys to emulate the responsibility of management, government and experence business skills. … There is only encouragment to be better than you are now.

    Claims of the importance of scouting as a means of self-improvement are vastly overstated. Claims that it helps you develop skills that will be useful later in life are also generally exaggerated. (I even remember being told on multiple occasions that putting “Eagle Scout” on my resume would help me get a job!)

    Boy Scouts can be fun – but, in spite of their stated goals to create “well-rounded” individuals, the focus almost always seemed to be on the physical. As a nerdy teenager who already had a hard time connecting with most people my age, I can’t say that it really made me a better person. In fact, it kind of made me feel more alienated from my peers – after all, I wasn’t interested in sports, knot-tying, or fart jokes, and those were the interests my leaders catered to (I did/do love hiking, but that was something we did surprisingly little of, considering we lived in the mountains of Utah.) If it hadn’t been for my one friend who followed me into the program, I probably wouldn’t have stuck through it at all.

    I am glad for my Eagle Scout project, though – it’s the one thing I did in scouting that I think actually made the world a tiny bit better.

    -

    But yeah… While I don’t particularly care about Boy Scouts, I’m glad for this (potential) change, since I know there are many gays who do want to enter the program and who should have the chance. If it actually happens, it means that the world will be a slightly better and more just place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>