ONTD Political

Boy Scouts wimp out (well, what else would you call it?)

11:41 pm - 02/06/2013
February 6, 2013
After Floating Idea of Lifting Ban on Gays, Scouts Delay Decision

The Boy Scouts of America, which confirmed last summer its policy barring openly gay people from participation, then said last week that it was reconsidering the ban, announced Wednesday that it would postpone a decision once more, until May, as talk of gay men and lesbians in the ranks has roiled a storied organization that carries deep emotional connection and nostalgia for millions of Americans.

An end to the national ban, which the United States Supreme Court said in 2000 was legal free speech by a private organization, would create a new moment of risk, experimentation and change, people on both sides of the issue said. The proposal floated last week would allow local scouting units to decide membership rules for themselves, a middle road.

Even proposing the change created fracture lines. Some supporters of the ban said they feared a wave of departures by conservative church-sponsored troops, while supporters of a new policy said the risk was in not going far enough — although each side acknowledged that scouting, with fewer boys every year wearing the uniform, needed to find new ways to connect with young people.

Those scout leaders who favored an about-face on gay men and lesbians — prohibiting discrimination everywhere in the organization — said local choice would leave scouting open to criticism because discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would still be tolerated.

The Boy Scouts said in a statement that it had received “an outpouring of feedback from the American public.”

“After careful consideration,” the statement said, “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.”

The debate, according to scout leaders and parents, was shaped by two great forces that have defined scouting for decades: The huge role played by churches in sponsoring scout troops, and the tradition of local control, which can differ greatly from urban downtowns to rural farm country.

Maintaining local control became a crossroads of the debate. Although many of the church sponsors — almost 70 percent of local scout units are backed by a religion-based group — are culturally conservative, they also hugely cherish the right to make scouting an adjunct of their respective belief systems. In Mormon-led scout troops, a Mormon-style prayer usually opens and closes a troop’s meeting, while in a Catholic group, it might be the Lord’s Prayer.

“In a free society, organizations fail or flourish according to the private choices of innumerable families,” the Boy Scouts said in a brief to the United States Supreme Court in the 2000 case. “A society in which each and every organization must be equally diverse is a society which has destroyed diversity,” the Boy Scouts argued.

Jay L. Lenrow, who grew up in scouting as a Jewish boy in New Jersey, and stayed involved as an adult scout volunteer in Baltimore, where he works as a lawyer, said he thought that eventual acceptance of opposing views about gay leaders — troops and families and churches choosing different paths, to allow gay volunteers or not — will become an enriching element of the scouting experience going forward.

Mr. Lenrow called the decision to defer a vote on the proposed change “hugely disappointing.”

“As a youth in scouting, I sat in tents during the night after lights out with my Catholic friends and my Protestant friends, and kids who were Armenian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox, and we would tell each other what it meant to us to be a member of our religious grouping and what the principles were and what we were taught,” he said. “What that led to is, first of all, an understanding of what made my friends tick and, second of all, an appreciation for their feelings and their religious beliefs.”

Others urged the board to hold firm to the ban when it resumes discussion in May. “Do not back off against the principles you’ve had for 100 years,” said Kelly Williamson, 52, a second-generation scout in the suburbs of Dallas. “Really, this is nothing against the gay community,” he added. “Have them form their own organization. It’s kind of ironic, gay scouts come in and saying, ‘We want you to change how you’ve done this for 100 years.’ ”

A national poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University said that 55 percent of voters supported opening up scouting to gay men and lesbians, to 33 percent opposed. The poll of 1,772 registered voters, taken from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, after the proposed change was announced by the Boy Scouts, had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus two percentage points. Women, 61 percent to 27 percent, were more likely than men to favor dropping the ban. Among men, 49 percent approved ending the ban, compared with 39 percent opposed.

Lauren D’Avolio contributed reporting from Irving, Tex.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 6, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the color of the uniform worn by Boy Scouts. It is tan, not green.


OMG, over 70% of local units in scouting are church-sponsored?? Well, THAT certainly explains a HELL of a lot!

Sounds to me like the BSA need to decide whether they are a religious organization or a secular one. If they ARE a secular organization, they need to start behaving like one and become fully inclusive of everyone, including people of all (or no) religious persuasions. And if they're a religious organization, they need to own up to THAT and quit trying to pretend otherwise.
ook 7th-Feb-2013 12:23 pm (UTC)
Boy and Girl Scouts are not supposed to be religious organizations -- I was a Girl Scout and my brothers and father were all heavily involved in Boy Scouting. Troops need places to hold their meetings/special events and churches provide an easy place to do that. Some churches even set aside a small plot of land where a Scout meeting hall can be built (note also that the Scouts don't have to pay property taxes on the meeting hall since its on the church property and the church will also pay for electricity and water). When I was in Girl Scouts, we'd use homes of people in the troop for meetings, but the girl troops tended to be smaller in number. The Boy Scout troops had more members -- I think because (at the time) the boys did a lot of camping and outdoor events and Girl Scouts were more about community service -- and so the boys needed a larger, more official meeting place and churches were an easy solution. Other than that, it seemed like the churches weren't that involved with the activities of the Boy Scout troops.

I've only recently heard about the involvement of the LDS in the Boy Scouts and that is something that might have changed in the decades since myself and my family members were involved in Scouting. I do know that there was a rule that an adult had to have a kid in a troop if that adult wanted to be a Scout leader (which left a lot of older adults with time and experience running troops, out in the cold).

I might add that as someone who has organized community group meetups, it was impossible to find anyplace to hold regular meetings that was "free" to the public. Everyone wanted money to pay for room rentals. Sometimes you can find a school, but many schools really don't want groups not affiliated with their school on the premises. Since many Scout members belong to a church, it's often easy to arrange meetups on the church grounds.
kishmet 7th-Feb-2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
You're right about finding places to meet - my family has close ties to the local library and the county fair board here or my 4-H club would be holding its meetings in an empty lot, lol

Boy Scouts of America is an explicitly religious organization though. It's part of the handbook and the oath and afaik Boy Scouts still disallows atheist and non-theist members and leaders as well as homosexual ones. Girl Scouts is a completely different thing, as evidenced by their vastly different policies
mutive 7th-Feb-2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
Yup, from the beginning, GS was explicitly non-religious, while BS was. They also have fairly different founding philosophies. GS has always inherently been fairly feminist/liberal, while BS tends to be far more traditionally focused.
postynotedreams 8th-Feb-2013 05:12 am (UTC)
from the beginning, GS was explicitly non-religious

Really? I recall saying,

"On my honor, I will try:
To serve God,
My country and mankind,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law"

an awful lot.
nycscribbler 8th-Feb-2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
Yeah, "to serve God" is in the oath, but they were cool with you leaving it out (most of my troop did). Something tells me that Boy Scouts would not have been as sanguine about that.
abiding 7th-Feb-2013 10:11 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent comment right here. /former GS
ebay313 7th-Feb-2013 12:55 pm (UTC)
"if they're a religious organization, they need to own up to THAT and quit trying to pretend otherwise."

Do they do this often? Because I thought the Boy Scouts of America where always pretty clearly identified as being religious/having a religious component?
silver_apples 7th-Feb-2013 01:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, they have "God" in their oath and promote Christian values, and I'm pretty sure they seek out churches and religious schools to sponsor local troops. They aren't affiliated with a particular branch of Christianity, but they are religious.
wesleysgirl 7th-Feb-2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
And they specifically prohibit the participation of agnostics and atheists.
strangetwn_god 7th-Feb-2013 03:24 pm (UTC)
I think the BSA is going to go down swinging to defend their precious loophole in civil rights law. Punting to the sponsoring organizations isn't that much of a step forward given the BSA's favoritism among sponsoring organizations. No cookies (or popcorn) for them.
tigerdreams 7th-Feb-2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah -- and it bothers me how often this fact is left out in discussions of the BSA's discriminatory and exclusionary policies.
idemandjustice 7th-Feb-2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, my understanding is that they are a religious organization. They lead the kids in prayers; or at least they did when my husband used to be one. Which means that even if they lifted the ban, I won't be getting my son involved with them. Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are a pretty good organization that often gets unfairly mistaken to be associated with Boy Scouts. If I thought I could drum up enough interest and participation, I'd start up a Spiral Scouts troup out here.
pleasure_past 8th-Feb-2013 12:10 am (UTC)
I was just going to say the same thing. Maybe it's just because the boy scoots I know are very religious anyway, but in my experience the boy scouts has never pretended not to be a conservative religious organization.
sunhawk 7th-Feb-2013 01:09 pm (UTC)
Have them form their own organization. It’s kind of ironic, gay scouts come in and saying, ‘We want you to change how you’ve done this for 100 years.

How exactly is that ironic?
234_am 7th-Feb-2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
i wondered that too.

do they implying that they have been around for so a century, but homosexuality is recent? that they're old and gays are new?

wrestlingdog 7th-Feb-2013 05:27 pm (UTC)
A+ icon.

Edited at 2013-02-07 05:28 pm (UTC)
little_rachael 7th-Feb-2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
I was wondering that, too!
crossfire 7th-Feb-2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
Heteronormativity: it's not just a river running through that argument.

Or something.
thelilyqueen 7th-Feb-2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
If anything, I think what I've heard is that the BSA is *less* tolerant than it was decades ago. Some of that is probably due to the fact atheism and homosexuality were less accepted, so there were fewer people out/open about their beliefs to begin with which kind of swept things under the rug, but there wasn't an official, blanket ban until more recently.
kishmet 7th-Feb-2013 09:29 pm (UTC)
It's like rain on your wedding day

Gay in your scouts

Or something
sunhawk 8th-Feb-2013 12:39 am (UTC)
crooked_halo 8th-Feb-2013 12:10 am (UTC)
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

sunhawk 8th-Feb-2013 12:39 am (UTC)
That was totally my first thought lol
crooked_halo 8th-Feb-2013 03:12 am (UTC)
The Princess Bride is ALWAYS relevant. Especially with ignorance like this!
silver_apples 7th-Feb-2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
“Really, this is nothing against the gay community,” he added. “Have them form their own organization. It’s kind of ironic, gay scouts come in and saying, ‘We want you to change how you’ve done this for 100 years.’ ”

Stop trying to pretend you are accepting and tolerant while you are excluding a group. Also, that is not what irony means.

I wonder how many troops have an unofficial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and how many go beyond that to "don't care, don't tell HQ".
emofordino 7th-Feb-2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
UGH RAGE. that pisses me off so bad.

if this wasn't about disliking/hating gay people, then why won't they accept them? and why is change such a bad thing? progress is what got humans to where we are right now. just because you've been doing something some way for 100 years doesn't mean it's the right or best way.

odette_river 7th-Feb-2013 05:00 pm (UTC)
I have experience with two Boy Scout troops: my brother's and the one my church sponsors. I want to say right now that the fact that a troop is sponsored by a church does not mean that the church is influencing what goes on in the troop.

My brother's troop was sponsored by the local school district, up until rules changed a few years ago and they weren't allowed to be sponsored by the public schools anymore. At that point they found a church to sponsor them. Other than providing them meeting space, the church has nothing to do with them. The troop runs a spaghetti dinner once a year to help out the church financially and that's it.

It's the same deal with the troop my church sponsors. We have nothing to do with them aside from giving them a place to meet and checking in to make sure they're storing their stuff in the right place or whatever.

I'm sure it's not this way with all troops, but I just want to put this out there.
tinylegacies 7th-Feb-2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this was the same as both troops my brother was involved with.
louisiane_fille 7th-Feb-2013 06:45 pm (UTC)
There was a troop leader, I forget where, who was a lesbian. All the parents and kids in her son's troop loved her. When the national organization found out she was a lesbian, she lost her position. There was a lot of news coverage about it, along with a petition on Change.org to reinstate her.

I feel like if the local troops had the ultimate say so in who was allowed in, there would be a lot more gays participating, both as scouts and as troop leadership.
kishmet 7th-Feb-2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
“A society in which each and every organization must be equally diverse is a society which has destroyed diversity,”

lol wut. No one's mandating a gay quota for them. There's a difference between inclusivity and forced tokenism and the fact that they obvs didn't understand the difference in 2000 shows just what kind of people the higher-ups are

I know a lot of families involved in scouting don't even notice the exclusive religious policies in place but I really feel like those families need to fight harder against those policies. We joined 4-H specifically because my mother liked their non-discrimination clause (which includes religion or lack thereof, sexuality, and gender expression) so even if it doesn't affect some parents directly more of them ought to take a stand.
abiding 7th-Feb-2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oh for fucks sake.
pleasure_past 8th-Feb-2013 12:17 am (UTC)
Have them form their own organization.

Uh, didn't the Boy Scouts of America sue the Hell out of someone who tried to do just that because the BSA owns the rights to the English word "scout" or something equally ridiculous?

Though, honestly, it would be my strong preference for people to just start a new organization and let the BSA be the conservative stronghold it has always wanted to be.
agentsculder 8th-Feb-2013 11:01 am (UTC)
I don't think that gay people should have to start a separate organization in order to be Boy Scouts. It's possible to be gay and also religious. They shouldn't be excluded because a minority of people can't handle it. For God's sake, Girl Scouts have had openly lesbian members/ troop leaders for YEARS (my mom was a GS in the 60s and it wasn't a big deal) without issues. And yes, it is a bit more liberal organization on the whole, but GS accepted a LONG time ago that being a good scout has nothing to do with who you do or don't sleep with.

Another interesting thing about BSA is that because of their discriminatory policies, many schools CAN'T allow them to have meetings there. I would think being able to have regular meetings after school AT schools would help them increase their membership (minus the haters).
pleasure_past 8th-Feb-2013 12:54 pm (UTC)
I don't know what you're responding to but it doesn't seem to be anything that I actually said...

I said it would be my strong preference (as a lesbian Satanist former-girl scout) that people--not just gay scouts, but more liberal scouts in general--start a more liberal organization rather than trying salvage the BSA. Because I just don't think there's much there worth salvaging. And I doubt my opinion on that will change any time soon. I never said that I supported the ban on gay scouts and that I think queer scouts should have to, I said that I would prefer that they did because their homophobic policies are only one of many reasons why I really don't like the BSA.

I never said you couldn't be queer and religious. I know plenty of religious queer people, including myself but idk most people don't think Satanism counts for these things. It is also entirely possible to be religious and think the BSA is a shitty organization.

I really only think the Girls Scouts are relevant to this conversation insomuch as I would be totally happy if they would open their membership to liberal boys and solve the scouting problem forever, but at the same time I understand why some would prefer that that didn't happen.

BSA increasing their membership is like the complete opposite of what I want, though. :/
natyanayaki 8th-Feb-2013 01:25 am (UTC)
I've heard that boys have been kicked out of the BS because they weren't religious, apparently the religion one is a part of doesn't matter, they just have to be religious/attend religious services (not that that works with all religions). Can't be agnostic-atheists for example, or just plain atheists. Apparently there's some sort of religion badge.
mysid 8th-Feb-2013 04:12 am (UTC)
The LDS church (Mormons) have made Boy Scouting an intrinsic part of being in the church. Boys are essentially required to take part, and adults are "called" to be troop leaders by higher ups in the church. (Callings are said to inspired by God, so no one turns one down without intense guilt trips.) And given how much financial support the LDS church (the same people who bankrolled Prop 8) give the BSA, you can understand why the BSA is reluctant to disavow gay hate.
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