Friday’s editorial weighs in on the recent decision by the Boy Scouts to keep their ban on gay members in place:
Scouting is between a rock and a hard place on its decision announced this week to continue to exclude gay members, whether they be Boy Scouts or Scout leaders. While continuing a policy of discrimination is clearly not going to make protests go away, the decision probably is one that suits many parents of Boy Scouts.
The online poll The Sun News conducted, for example, while hardly scientific, indicated a strong majority of our own readers (69 percent of them) agreed with the Boy Scouts in excluding gay members. Nevertheless, the decision is simply wrong.
But though the Supreme Court determined years ago that the Boy Scouts have the right to exclude, it does not follow that it is right to exclude. Doing so sends a dangerous message of discrimination to young troop members. As society continues to grow more accepting of homosexuality, those current Scouts will be asked to work side by side with gay co-workers, will interact with gay members of society at grocery stores and movie theaters, perhaps even see gay parishioners at their church. To teach young minds that these people they will encounter throughout their lives are somehow not normal, dangerous or damaged goods is a disservice to the Boy Scouts who will learn that prejudice is acceptable and a disappointing action by Scouting leaders. Yet that is exactly the path the organization has chosen.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Boy Scouts’ right to bar gay members, accepting the group’s contention that homosexuality contravenes the image and values of Scouting and being forced to accept gay members would unfairly undermine the message they hope to send to young boys. Specifically, the organization argued that homosexuals violate the Scout Oath and Law that require members to be “morally straight” and “clean.”
Scouting is essentially a nonpublic organization, although one can rightly wonder how an organization excluding anyone can receive United Way funds – or how non-discriminatory organizations can financially support a program that does discriminate.
Obviously, Scouting is different from a public high school, and as a private organization can set its own rules for membership. Nevertheless, Scouting has missed an opportunity of acceptance. A Scout is trustworthy, obedient, loyal cheerful, helpful, thrifty, friendly, brave, courteous and clean, according to the Scout Law. It is frustrating and disheartening to add biased and homophobic to that list.
Iowa Eagle Scout Zach Wahls told the Associated Press this week that he still believes the Scouts will eventually change their policy: “I’m sure they’ll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy,” he said. And we imagine Wahls is correct that at some future time Scouting will accept homosexuals. Girl Scouts have already done so, and in a more perfect society, Boy Scouts would have followed the lead of their female counterparts.
One possible compromise springs to mind: Why not leave exclusion up to the regional councils? The Presbyterian Church USA, for example, has allowed for the ordination of homosexual pastors, elders, etc., but whether that happens is up to the regional presbyteries that govern individual churches. Perhaps the Boy Scouts could consider a similar approach, phasing in gay leaders and members as regional leadership deems them acceptable.
As a practical matter, it seems unlikely that boys of Scouting age would be openly homosexual in behavior, though Scout leaders may be a different story. Nevertheless, in a more perfect society, parents would not be fearful of their sons associating in Scouting with boys or men who are “different” in some ways.
Another generation of American boys and girls heard that “different / not like us” concern about blacks and Jews and in some cases Roman Catholics. We’ve overcome those concerns and some sunny day we’ll be able to say that about sexual orientation.