No Merit Badge for Courage for Boy Scouts

gay boy scout

Photo: Dave Blume/Flickr

Sometime in May, a special committee selected by Boy Scout executives will recommend whether the Scouts should allow gays to be members and leaders.

The decision may have more to do with funding than with any other policy.

Contributions from individuals, major corporations, and at least 50 United Way agencies stopped because of the Scouts’ anti-gay policy. Among corporations that have not made annual six-figure donations are Intel, Merck, CVS, Chase Manhattan Bank, Verizon, Google, UPS, and Levi Straus. Stephen Spielberg, an Eagle Scout, in protest of the policy against gays dropped off the national advisory council.

The national council was also losing funds because of a drop of about 22 percent in membership the past 13 years.

So, the Scouts sent out a trial balloon a few months ago that it was considering whether or not to remove its anti-gay policy, and allow local units to determine their own policies.

That led to a vicious backlash by the nation’s right-wing, with talk show commentators, media pundits and blowhards, conservative politicians, and equally conservative businessmen backing the Scouts’ right not to allow gays to become members. The right wing formed their own associations and threatened to pull their own funding if the Scouts allowed gay members, volunteer leaders, and professional staff.

Never willing to lead, the Scout executives decided there needed to be another  reconsideration.”

The last “reconsideration” occurred in 1974 when the Scouts ended segregation—a few decades late.

In 1978, the national council issued a policy memorandum to deny gays membership or employment. By 1991, with the rise of the conservative movement in America, the Scouts issued a formal position statement that declared, “[H]omosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.” The right wing picks “morally straight” as its justification for condemning gays in Scouting. The reality is that in 1910, when the Boy Scouts of America was formed, “straight” was not a synonym for heterosexual, but a word more closely associated with “righteous” or “honorable.”

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, by a 5–4 vote largely along political ideology lines, declared that as a private organization the Boy Scouts could discriminate because of the First Amendment rights to associate—or not associate—with anyone. [Boy Scouts v. Dale.]

Two years later, the national executive board passed a binding resolution opposing membership of gays, atheists, or agnostics.

About 70 percent of all Scout packs, troops, and posts are sponsored by churches or faith-based organizations. However, in one of the great ironies affecting the Scouts, most of those churches, citing fundamental Christian theology, condemn homosexuality but allow gays to be church members; most, however, do not allow gays to be ordained.

 During the 2012 presidential campaign, both Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Barack Obama, baptized as a member of the United Church of Christ, spoke against the Scouts excluding gays from membership. The Mormons sponsor almost 38,000 units with about 430,000 boys, the largest faith-based sponsor in Scouting. The Mormons late last year, although still refusing to ordain gays, slightly modified its stance, and now claims,“The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is.”

The United Methodist Church—which sponsors 364,000 Scouts—has no restrictions against gays as members or as ministers. The Roman Catholic Church, which sponsors about 274,000 Scouts, condemns homosexuality as both a divine and natural sin, but allows them to be church members. However, several religions, including the fundamental Southern Baptist Convention, which sponsors almost 4,000 units with about 108,000 boys, has threatened to drop out of the Scouting movement if the national council allows gays to be members.

Most Scout organizations in countries not controlled by autocratic fundamentalist leaders have no restrictions upon gays and lesbians becoming members. The 2.5 million member Girl Scouts have no restrictions against lesbians, bisexuals, or trans-sexuals becoming members or leaders, although the Catholic News Agency hasattacked the Girl Scouts leadership for being “driven by a liberal ideology far out of step with the families and churches that support them.”

walter braschGays are part of every business, trade, profession, and even the military. Only the most paranoid, homophobic, and ignorant see any problem. The U.S. military—first with its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” partial acknowledgement and now with rules than ban discrimination against any gay soldier—found it could still meet the demands of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan with gays serving side-by-side to straights. Of course, most of the world’s finest military forces, including Israel and England, found out decades ago that soldiers and officers, no matter their sexual orientation, would serve honorably.

One of those gay officers was an English lieutenant general who was a much-decorated combat veteran. His name is Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement.

Walter Brasch
Wanderings

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on March 28, 2013
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About Walter M. Brasch

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former multimedia writer-producer, newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and is professor emeritus of mass communications from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at the health, environmental, geological, and economic impact of natural gas horizontal fracturing. He also investigates political collusion between the natural gas industry and politicians. Among his 18 books--most of which integrate history, politics, and contemporary social issues--are The Press and the State, Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution, Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, The Joy of Sax: A Look at the Bill Clinton Administration, and Social Foundations of the Mass Media.
He is also the author of dozens of magazine articles, several multimedia productions, and has worked in the film industry and as a copy writer and political consultant. He is the author 16 books, most of them focusing upon the fusion of historical and contemporary social issues, including America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights (2005); Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of Geroge W. Bush (2008), Black English and the Mass Media (1981); Forerunners of Revolution: Muckrakers and the American Social Conscience (1991); With Just Cause: The Unionization of the American Journalist (1991); Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the 'Cornfield Journalist': The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris (2000); The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era (2001); and Sex and the Single Beer Can (3rd ed., 2009). He also is co-author of Social Foundations of the Mass Media (2001) and The Press and the State (1986), awarded Outstanding Academic Book distinction by Choice magazine, published by the American Library Association.

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