Boy Scouts edging towards doing the right thing

One of the hallmarks of how change occurs in religious organizations is that it is done very slowly, by a series of small steps. We see that happening with the Boy Scouts of America. They have been getting a beating about their hostile attitude towards gay members and leaders, with people and businesses withdrawing their financial support, always a bad sign for organizations like that.

So now a resolution will be presented at the May meeting of its governing board that, if approved, will allow openly gay members to participate but not openly gay adults. This kind of halfway measure is unlikely to satisfy critics and will also anger supporters of the current ban. It is an inherently unstable compromise but the kind of thing that such organizations tend to adopt.

Supporters of the current policy of total exclusion of all gays have said that a change would cause problems for those troops that are associated with the Catholic and Mormon churches, which have taken a hard line against homosexuality. But it turns out that at least as far as the Mormon church is concerned, it is going wobbly on this issue, as a result of the huge backlash it experienced for its massive role in passing California’s Proposition 8, a role that it had tried to conceal. While it has not reversed itself, it seems unlikely that it will go to the mat on anti-gay issues again.

While the Mormon church still describes homosexuality as a sin, and it filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Proposition 8 case in the Supreme Court, it took pains to describe its opposition as being based on state’s rights. More tellingly, it did not provide any financial support to the anti-same sex marriage movements in the four states that passed ballot measures last November.

Here’s the song Turn it off from the musical The Book of Mormon that describes current Mormon policy.


  1. Cuttlefish says

    I just got an email from a neighbor, a supporter of the BSA, asking me to show up at a meeting this week about allowing gays in the BSA.

    I asked him if this also applied to atheists.

    Not so much. “Scouting… requires a belief in God…” I was told.

    I may show up at the meeting. He may or may not like what I have to say.

  2. dano says

    I do not wish to give out the web page but there is a huge list of people and businesses that will be stopping any future donations should the BSA change their policy on homosexuals. It will be interesting to see which will cause a greater financial strain for them.

  3. Zugswang says

    Not so much. “Scouting… requires a belief in God…” I was told.

    I may show up at the meeting. He may or may not like what I have to say.

    Funny thing, though, Scouting allows for “Unitarian Universalists” and Buddhists, neither of which necessarily requires belief in a supernatural deity. In fact, there are many Unitarians who are atheist, and who are very involved in scouting.

    It’s pretty funny, actually.

  4. says

    My thoughts exactly. Several of my friends have children in scouting and I’m always asked to buy things to support them. I’m sure they’ll see the limited gay-acceptance as a good thing (which it is), but my family will still be targeted as “not good enough for scouts”, so I’ll still not be able to support them.

  5. lanir says

    It’s a step I guess. An interesting question is, how would this outcome be different if they secretly believed that homosexuality was a disease the kids needed to be “saved” from, possibly with overtones of molestation, but were forced to make changes anyway by a public that isn’t as ready to believe in the same old hateful fairy-tales?

  6. left0ver1under says

    Allowing gay kids but not gay adults?

    The implication is still there that gay adults are a “threat to molest”. If only straights are allowed now, then only straights are molesting children in the scouts. How would gay group leaders be a problem?

  7. Matt G says

    I have very little confidence that they are doing the right thing for the right reasons. As usual, money (and PR) talks. My father, brother and I are all Eagle Scouts, atheists, and pro-equality. My father has strongly considered turning in his badge. Why is the Catholic Church taking child rape as seriously as it is? It certainly isn’t because it’s the right thing to do. It’s because they’re being sued left and right, and their membership is melting away (at least in developed countries).

  8. jamessweet says

    Mostly you just have to say that religion is totes awesome, and express an affinity for “spirituality”.

    It will change. I just hope it changes in time for my sons to do scouting. I’ve actually talked to some other parents about maybe starting a Campfire Scouts chapter or similar in our town, as there is currently no scouting alternative for boys other than the BSA ’round these parts. (Or BSA council is relatively progressive, so that may have staunched demand for an alternative)

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