Boy Scouts Affirm Gay Ban

Jim Burroway

July 17th, 2012

…after a “confidential two-year review“:

An 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts,” the organization’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press.

Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion — preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial ever since.

…The Scouts did not identify the members of the special committee, but said in a statement that they represented “a diversity of perspectives and opinions.”

Why such a closeted review? Why the secrecy? Why is such an important decision being made literally in the dark? And why were there no opportunities for opponents of the gay ban to weigh in — or to even know that a “confidential review” was taking place? The Dallas Voice has some inside-baseball which may explain today’s announcement:

The outgoing (Boy Scouts of America) president was Rex Tillerson, better known as CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with the lowest possible rating on LGBT equality from the Human Rights Campaign.

The incoming BSA president is Wayne Perry, who is retired from McCaw Cellular, which became a part of Dallas-based AT&T — a company that receives the highest possible score from HRC.

Today’s announcement smells like Tillerson’s trying to shut off the debate before Perry takes over.

This so-called two-year review comes on the heels of an announcement by James Turley, global chairman and CEO of tax firm Ernst & Young, who also sits on the board of directors at Boy Scouts of America, that he will fight to lift the gay ban. AT&T’s chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson, who also sits on the board, is also on record as being against the ban. Stephenson and Turley both reiterated their opposition to the ban last week.

Ben in Oakland

July 17th, 2012

And yet, and yet…

Their molestation problem continues.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

well gosh, who would question the opinions of “professional scout executives and adult volunteers”?

Nathaniel

July 17th, 2012

How convenient that, just months after a well-publicized national push to end the anti-gay discrimination, a secret panel finished their two year review, resulting in affirmation of the policy.

chiMaxx

July 17th, 2012

My question is simple. Haw can a committee representing “a diversity of perspectives and opinions” on this issue come to a unanimous conclusion?

ezam

July 17th, 2012

When is Wayne Perry going to take over and is he actually going to do something to repeal the policy?

Andrew

July 18th, 2012

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — the rank and file of the BSA are caught in a lose/lose here.

Parents entrust their kids to Scouts for extended periods — I attended overnight camp for 2 weeks at a stretch, where I cooked my own food on fires I built with wood I gathered and cut, yes with an axe (not all at the same time – we did have a duty roster). It’s hard enough – kids inevitably go home with broken limbs, burns, snakebites, bee-stings, and who knows what else. Not a year went by someone didn’t end up getting driven to the nurse, or maybe to the hospital. Camp was FUN, and the trips throughout the year were some of my best memories.

But Scouts is dependent on the goodwill of parents to “stay in business” — that means that they are subject to the whims, prejudices, misperceptions, stereotypes, irrational fears, and politics of parents — a group notably irrational when dealing with others concerning their kids. Even without sexuality ever being an issue, I saw more ugliness and viciousness initiated by adults during Scouting that I care to remember. That we were mostly kept at arm’s length from it was a testament to the great adult leadership we had.

So. If parents have a stupid notion that gay adults in the woods with their kids is a bad idea and will lead to molestation, Scouting has a problem in changing their policy – they will lose thousands of scouts as stupid parents pull them. Then, with one single controversy or unfortunate situation and you easily have a Penn State situation. Corporate sponsorships will evaporate. Government largess in the form of access to public spaces goes away as politicians duck for cover. It’s a tinderbox.

But, parents who understand that gays are no more likely to be childmolesters than anyone else, and find the gay ban ugly and discriminatory will… pull their kids out of Scouting… by the thousands. Corporate sponsorships evaporate. Scouting is taken to court and sued so that it now must pay full price for spaces it formerly got for a song, or is banned altogether.

It’s a lose / lose situation. Scouting must follow here, because it is entirely dependent on the parents. It cannot lead. Given that sexuality isn’t just peripheral but utterly absent from Scout teaching (other than about one line in the handbook about respecting girls and your body), it would be extremely weird for them to suddenly become the “hey, gays are pretty cool” ambassadors to American families.

It’s not their job.

They’ve been stupid, ham-handed, ignorant, and ugly in their handling of the issue. At the same time, they’d have been stupid, mismanaged, and quixotic if they had embraced gay leaders, especially considering that the original court cases were prior to laws criminalizing gays being struck down by the SCOTUS.

When I was a lad, there were gay scoutmasters — I found out years later I had one. (We also had one of two female assistant scoutmasters in the entire country). But none of that was discussed or made issue of. Adults private lives were off-limits (assuming they weren’t criminals, obviously). Forcing this issue to the front was just terribly damaging.

And, tragically, it’s the boys who suffer. Scouting is an incredible institution and program for teaching self-reliance, teamwork, leading, following, citizenship from town to country to world, and the focus on environmentalism is unmatched. They taught a gay kid like me that, in fact, I’m not only great with a .22, it’s huge fun. They insisted that I learn to swim, thank god. And they draw shy withdrawn kids out of their shells and provide them with peers — something that saves lives. It’s baked in.

How sad that they’ve allowed themselves to remain enmeshed with this issue – known now more for this than for helping old ladies across the street – and have become synonymous with discrimination.

The solution to allow each community to vet adult leaders for themselves would have been appropriate. And it would have side-stepped the “ambassadorial” question. It would be consistent with libertarian values, and allowed parents to remain in control. It’s a huge missed opportunity, and one this leadership should be deeply ashamed of.

But patience, friends. Part of me deeply suspects whether or not a Jewish or African-American scoutmaster would have been well-loved (or allowed) in 1920… they may be following, but they will, ultimately, follow.

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