Boy Scouts’ leadership lost, unprepared for 21st century 2/7/13

The Boy Scouts of America have put off until their next meeting in May any decisions to change the existing policy that bans homosexuals from being Scouts or leaders.

A statement released by the BSA said:

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review.”

A cynic might be excused for thinking the BSA national leadership is feverishly attempting to find some way tie a knot in their bottom line, to prevent any further loss of corporate and foundation funding streams, without actually changing their ways.

Last week a trial balloon was floated in which it was suggested that the BSA’s National Executive Board would eliminate their ban on homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders.  The changed rules would allow local councils and sponsoring organizations (usually churches) to decide for themselves if they would maintain the discriminatory regulations formerly imposed by the national office.  (It should be noted that the rules currently in effect do not allow local sponsoring organizations, troops, or councils to accept gays as Scouts and leaders, even is this is acceptable to their stakeholders.  The national BSA is fine with the discrimination being imposed from above, but, apparently, not the ending of that discrimination.)

Groups on both sides of the issue popped that balloon in short order.  Anti-gay forces decry the idea that gays might be allowed in the Scouts anywhere, and those opposed to anti-gay discrimination found the idea of letting local officials decide the matter to be unacceptable.  Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, appeared on CNN and accused homosexuals of being pedophiles, while in the same breath denying that’s what his words meant.  The CNN host was having none of that.  Other right-wing nujobs, from Pat Robertson to Bryan Fischer, have charged that the loss of funding by corporations is due to pressure by the “homosexual lobby” and that homosexual activists are “bullies”.  They’ve all tuned up the outrage machine, and it’s in full throat.  It’s primary goal, to an objective observer, is not to “protect the children”, but rather to raise funds for each pitchman’s organization.  Gay rights organizations have released statements condemning the idea of patchwork regulations about who can be a member and who cannot.  They urge the Boy Scouts to drop their discriminatory limits, and embrace equality throughout their organization.

The national Boy Scouts of America has lost large corporate donors in the recent past, as companies adjust their charitable giving to reflect the values of their corporate and customer cultures.  The shift in the attitudes of an ever growing (now a majority) of Americans towards homosexuality has led to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, (and generally forgotten) Don’t Pursue” policy, the support of the President (before an election!) for marriage equality, and now his support, as honorary President of the Boy Scouts, for the repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the Scouts.  Companies, cities, counties, states, and other organizations across the country have adopted non-discrimination policies that reflect that growing shift in attitude.

The Boy Scouts have kicked the can down the trail to May, and it looks like nothing more than an attempt to find some path that allows them to appear to end discrimination and restore their cash flow.  If they continue on this path of denial and delay, they will continue to lose corporate and foundation financial support, and membership will continue it’s steady decline.

The only reasonable course for the Boy Scouts is to follow in the footsteps of other leadership groups, like the Girl Scouts of America, and remove discrimination across their organization.  Their attempt to suggest they can function with some troops maintaining discrimination and some not, is unacceptable.  If they decide to maintain their bans on gays (and atheists), despite the strong efforts of several members of their governing board, it won’t be long before the Boy Scouts are a fading memory of old men, sitting around reminiscing about the “old days”.  Their grandsons will wonder what this thing called “Boy Scouts” was, and why it died.  It would be a shame for them to learn it was because their grandfathers held on to discrimination long after it was a thing of the past.


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