Discrimination: Alive and Well

boy scoutsLet’s just suppose that an organization existed that didn’t permit gays or atheists to join. Regardless of whatever good qualities this organization might have, would it be worthy of a formal legislative commendation?

A couple of Inland Empire politicians see nothing wrong with legitimizing this insidious form of discrimination. Assemblyman Curt Hagman and would-be assemblyman Mike Morrell have written the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin to condemn Democrats for refusing the pass a resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America on its 100th birthday.

I don’t quarrel with the Boy Scouts’ right to determine its own membership qualifications, although I think what they’ve done is short-sighted in the least and actually downright bigoted. (Other organizations serving young people — the Girl Scouts, Campfire, Boys and Girls Clubs, and probably a host of others — have seen the light.) What I don’t understand is the desire to celebrate and applaud discrimination, unless of course you approve of those views yourself.

Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts have lots of company when it comes to discrimination against atheists. During the past six months, I have had occasion to attend four meetings of public bodies. Three of them began with a sectarian, Christian prayer. Since I was there representing my employer, it would have been inappropriate for me to state openly what I felt — namely, I felt unwelcome. More recently, the City Council in Ontario has voted to add “Under God” to the display of the City Seal in the Council chambers. [Note: Council meetings are presided over by a Mayor who has openly admitted to adultery.] I wonder whether they also plan to hang signs on all the roadways leading into town, announcing that “Atheists Are Not Welcome.”

Some people claim that gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against because sexual orientation is not a choice. Personally, I’ve never been real happy with people who do (or believe) the right thing for the wrong reason. Gays and lesbians should not be discriminated against regardless of whether it’s a choice or not. But this misguided line of reasoning, albeit somewhat helpful in a crooked way with regard to the sexual orientation issue, is clearly not helpful to atheists, who are making a deliberate choice.

I feel confident in predicting that, at least in the United States (“the land of the free…with justice for all”), atheists will continue to experience discrimination for many generations — long after gays and lesbians have been received into conventional society by everyone except members of the Flat Earth Society.

Will the Boy Scouts be accepting either type of person when it celebrates its 200th birthday? Only time will tell.

Ron Wolff

Ronald Wolff publishes the blog Musings from Claremont, where this article first appeared. Republished with permission.


  1. marie says

    Boyscouts is for boys. Girlscouts is for girls.
    Where do you place a gay individual?
    According to his physical appearance or according to his inner-tendencies?
    Since scouts make a clear devision between the boys- and the girls-gathering, I have a problem with a gay-male-leader for boyscouts and a lesbian-leader for girlscouts. Otherwise you might aswell combine the girls and the boys in one group too.

  2. says

    Since there are tax privileges that go to not-for-profit organizations like the Boy Scouts then they should lose all tax benefits conferred upon them by the States and the Federal Government if they have a policy of discrimination against any other Americans. Then the Boy Scouts would have to pay tax on all the income they bring in as well as all their properties. They could discriminate but they wouldn’t get a benefit from government. I suspect they would make some changes rather quickly. Oh, I was a Boy Scout when young and earned quite a few merit badges. I didn’t know that the Scouts discriminated or I wouldn’t have belonged because the organization told me that Scouts believe in justice, fairness, and all kinds of stuff like that.

    • says

      Dusty, thanks for your comment. I agree that the Boy Scouts would drop their discriminatory policies (at least overtly) ASAP if they lost their tax-exempt status. By the way, I was a Scout as well. I was too young to understand, or perhaps was never even told about, the alleged inability of gays and atheists to join. (Was this where “don’t ask, don’t tell” got started? LOL) It got me out of the house and kindled a life-long interest in outdoor recreation — for which I am grateful. But not grateful enough to excuse their unnecessary and bigoted belief system.

  3. says

    Ron’s article in effect makes a very important point: we should demand rationality in public acts and decision-making. I quite share his frustration with attempts to justify right conduct by appeal to logically inadequate or factually dubious claims (e.g., that gayness is never a matter of choice).

    Politicians Hagman and Morrell endorsed a resolution with obnoxious implications, but the concern for rational and relevant public decision points up an even bigger mistake in their stance. Namely, their stance presumed that legislative bodies should feel free to waste their (and the public’s) limited time and energy and resources on resolutions which merely express sentiment.

    Even were the Boy Scouts to exemplify utter progressivism, a resolution commending that organization would be a waste, as it would simply express sentiment but actually change no law nor policy. Consideration of legally vacuous resolutions is not why we do or should bother with legislatures.

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