A beaming young boy in a cute khaki uniform knocks on your door to sell popcorn. The first thing on your mind is probably whether to get cheesy popcorn, caramel or both — not the bigotry espoused by the organization the child represents.
Let’s be honest: you’d rather avoid that controversy altogether and think of the Boy Scouts of America as a basically positive organization, teaching young men the values of self-reliance, survival, good citizenship and responsibility.
Now imagine yourself as a gay parent. It is no longer possible to reconcile the contradictions inherent in the discriminatory practices of the BSA. Recently, the national organization proposed a new statute, a sign of a supposedly more tolerant policy, in which openly gay scouts would be permitted to participate in the Scouts, while openly gay scout leaders would be barred.
The first question that must be posed to the BSA is why. Why allow openly gay scouts and not openly gay leaders? If anything, openly gay scout leaders would be significantly more important to the self-esteem and character development of young men questioning their sexuality. Perhaps the BSA allows openly gay scouts with the full knowledge that most boys quit the organization before puberty when sexual relationships become relevant. There are few openly gay eight year olds.
None of the factions within the BSA are in support of this proposal. In fact, the proposal was established as a compromise, to appease the highly powerful faction controlled by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. BSA leaders feared that in passing a policy of actual tolerance, they might upset the loyalties of this faction. Is it coincidental that of the dozens of religious groups associated with the BSA, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives one of the largest annual donations?
It is nonsensical to favor one group’s religious preferences over the another’s and still maintain that the BSA is a multi-faith organization. The BSA supposedly welcomes all religious faiths, even affording religious merit badges to nearly 58 faiths. Clearly, though, the organization cares more about its pocketbook than it does about the welfare of the young boys it claims to shape into men. As a private organization, the BSA has every right to exclude openly gay leaders, but the right to do it does not make it okay. Given the BSA’s highly influential role in the life of American children, it is our job as citizens to stand up to lawful bigotry and pressure the organization to conduct itself in a way befitting the current decade.