Hooray for the Boy Scouts? Not so fast…

30 Jan
Too good to be true?

Too good to be true?

Less than six months after the Boy Scouts of America aggressively reiterated their anti-gay membership policy, the organization seems to have had a change of heart, or heart facsimile. In a media statement quietly linked from the homepage of their website, the Scouts present a brief statement about their membership policy. On the surface, it seems like a strong step forward.

Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.

That vague promise — pending a closed-door conversation like the one that reaffirmed the gay ban in July — has the media all a-tremble. Even major LGBT advocacy organizations are treating this statement like a major change in policy.

Sadly, I am skeptical. Beyond the less than emphatic phrase  “discussing potentially,” the whole thing feels like a desperate media grab rather than a sincere change of heart. Let’s look at another important part of the statement.

This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

“The best needs of their families?” Can you smell the hypocrisy? For decades the Scouts have bullied any local chapter that tried to be fully inclusive into toeing the national line. Suddenly, a patchwork of gay-might-be-okay troops that makes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell look like sound policy is perfectly acceptable. Rather than take a clear, inclusive stand, the so-called leaders of the Boy Scouts of America are lapsing into a laissez-faire confusion, or worse yet a “separate but equal policy”. It’s pretty clear that the motivation is greed.

Even before last July’s shocking affirmation of bigotry, the Scouts were bleeding money and support. Many companies were refusing to fund a blatantly bigoted group, and many local governments were voiding contracts with the Scouts as violations of non-discrimination policies. Feeling the financial pinch, the BSA is looking at their policy afresh. Rather than say that discrimination is wrong, however, they are afraid of the many conservative — often church-affiliated — groups that run local chapters. Fearing a reverse backlash, they hope to have their gays and hate them too.

Don’t get me wrong, progress is welcome. But after so many years of telling gay boys and leaders that they are unwelcome and unfit, trying to strike a muddled balance just won’t cut it. Forcing parents, scouts, local supporters, and sponsors to navigate a gay-might-be-okay morass doesn’t fit well with scout law.

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.

None of those adjectives reconcile with this clearly self-serving discussion of potentially reversing some policies. As long as there are other options available, parents who truly want their children to learn, share, and grow should continue to steer clear of the Boy Scouts of America.


5 Responses to “Hooray for the Boy Scouts? Not so fast…”

  1. Bruce Kestelman January 30, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Hi Michael,

    I too am cynical and cautious related to this announcement. I’m not sure I would have labeled the motivation as greed, but that will work.

    I think the ban is based upon the boy scout oath, specifically the phrase that says, being “morally straight.” So, as you say, can there be separate and equal? Can there really be two definitions of “morally straight?” And if there was ever a double entendre “morally straight” can be the poster child.

    I’d agree that the only folks benefiting from the proposed change in policy might be the organization, and not its members.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 30, 2013 at 8:30 am #

      Nicely put as always, Bruce. Putting organizational needs ahead of the needs of member scouts is almost as nefarious as the original ban. We shall see what the formal announcement is next week, but I don’t hold out much hope.

  2. Jennifer Carey January 30, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Thank you for pointing this out Michael. I know many wonderful men that were scouts growing up. The Boy Scouts can be a great organization, but their enforced bigotry in my opinion is not consistent with its stated mission. Boy Scouts currently have relationships with many religious organizations (Mormons for example) who will clearly withdraw their support (financial and otherwise) if the Boy Scouts mandate a new, non-discriminatory policy. Maybe they should. Perhaps the Boy Scouts should stand as an organization that does not side with discrimination and hate.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 30, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Thank you for being such a supportive and insightfull ally, Jennifer. I agree: the Scouts need to decide what (if any) core values they actually hold and move forward on that basis. Anything less demonstrates the hypocrisy and self-interest of the leadership.


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