Can good people disagree?

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

“Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic…”

But can “good people” personally disagree “on this topic”?

The careful wording euphemistically avoids mentioning what “this topic” we are discussing. In fact, “this topic” is not explicitly stated anywhere within the Boy Scout’s press release. As a piece of diversionary and obfuscatory rhetoric, it is brilliant. It says almost nothing:

After careful consideration of a resolution asking the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its longstanding membership standards policy, today the organization affirmed its current policy, stating that it remains in the best interest of Scouting and that there will be no further action taken on the resolution.

This decision follows a nearly two-year-long examination, started in 2010, of the policy commissioned by the Chief Scout Executive and national president. Under their leadership, the BSA convened a special committee of volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate whether the policy continued to be in the best interest of the organization.

The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions. The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations – both from within Scouting and from outside the organization. The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.

“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”

Following the recommendation to affirm the BSA’s membership policy, the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board released the following statement: “Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting. While not all Board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.”

Resolutions asking the BSA both to affirm and reconsider this policy have been raised throughout the years. With any resolution, regardless of subject, the BSA may or may not refer it to a committee for review or may immediately determine no further action is necessary. [emphasis added]

This policy, the policy, WHAT policy?

The only semi-direct reference would suggest that there was some question about whether or not parents value the right to address issue of same-sex orientation. The uninformed could be forgiven for assuming that the Boy Scouts chose not to incorporate a new sex education program. Or maybe they have chosen not to end their policy of opposing bullying. Or their policy supporting bullying. Or their policy of creating intentionally vague and deceptive press releases.

The Boy Scouts of America have good reason to be less than direct. Because the policy to which they take great strides to hide is shameful and an embarrassment and if stated plainly is offensive.

Not that they ever put that policy in words. In fact, the words “homosexual” or “gay” (other than as a name) are no where to be found on their website. Instead it is a policy that exists in insinuation, an understood but unstated policy, one which relies on long held exclusion of those who know full well that they are unwanted.

So let me do the BSA a little favor. Let me put their policy in words (as honestly as I can based on the comments of the Boy Scouts of America and their actions).

The Boy Scouts of America believes that possessing the quality of being attracted to the same rather than to the opposite sex is an indication of insufficient moral character. The BSA therefore forbids any same-sex attracted persons, irrespective of relationship status – even if committed to celibacy – from participation in any way in the Boy Scouts or its programs. This blanket exclusion applies to all aspects, troops, groups, or subsets of the BSA and includes –

– Boy Scout members
– Troop leaders
– Den mothers
– Participation by parents
– Scout Sponsors (for example, an MCC church)
– Any other conceivable connection whatsoever to the BSA, its leadership, or its programs

Put in honest and unambiguous language, this is a reprehensible policy. And contrary to the assertions of the BSA spokesman, I very much doubt that it is supported in its entirety by “a majority of the parents”. And I think few boys would smile and agree if told, “Should any of your friends turn out to be gay, we will consider them to be undesirable and will kick them out.”

This unstated policy makes no pretense to being based on any connection to the interests of the boys involved. They don’t even quote the usual collection of bogus fear claims or trot out the ookie-spookie “HOMOSEXUAL MEN with LITTLE BOYS in the WOODS”. They simply run with, “we don’t like you, and we don’t have to, so go away”.

Which brings me back to my original question, can “good people” personally disagree “on this topic”?

If the topic is generically about homosexuality, its etiology, culture, social position, expression, morality of expression, history, political standing, structure of relationship and matters along that line, then sure. Good people can and do differ on a whole host of aspects of understanding about human sexuality.

But when it comes to a blanket exclusion of a group of people based on an benign attribute, that’s a different matter. That is bigotry. And no, bigots don’t count as “good people”.

F Young

July 17th, 2012

“Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting.”

No big deal. It all makes sense as long as you understand that for “good people,” “working together” means banned from working together. It’s simple, really. Now, move along, move along.

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

F Young,

Thanks. I stole your idea and turned it into a short commentary.

Priya Lynn

July 17th, 2012

Timothy said “But when it comes to a blanket exclusion of a group of people based on an benign attribute, that’s a different matter. That is bigotry. And no, bigots don’t count as “good people”.”.

Wow! That sounds like something I might have wrote – quelle surprise.


July 17th, 2012

The decision was made by a secret 11-person star chamber that is accountable to no one.


July 17th, 2012

No, “good people” can never agree to disagree on questions of the fundamental equality of human beings. If you don’t believe that people, regardless of sexual orientation (or gender, or race, or religion), are of equal value and ought to be treated equitably, you are not a “good person.”

Mark F.

July 17th, 2012

Exactly, Martin.


July 17th, 2012


From the perspective of someone who’s an Eagle Scout, lapsed Order of the Arrow (the BSA honor-society) member, and comes from a long-tradition of scouting, grand-dad was the same, this policy is significantly more reprehensible than you’ve managed to state. In short: its explicit religious discrimination. If your religion is neutral, eg bhuddist, or LGBT-affirming, eg the MCC, the BSA will subsitute it’s own judgment for that of your church.

The policy is, as far as I have been able to find:

“Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.”[1]

Some background:

The BSA talks a lot about three over-arching duties in life, in order:
1) Duty to God
2) Duty to Country
3) Duty to Self

It was made very clear, during my time in the BSA, that being “morally straight” and “clean in thought, word, and deed” are primarily part of our duty to God. More over it was made clear that the standard for evaluating any persons fulfillment of their duty to God was purely the purview of that person’s church.

A concrete example of how this is /supposed to work/ from my childhood, with names changed to protect the not-so-innocent, went something like this:

A boy, let’s call him Timmy Johnson, got caught drinking beer at a non-scout related event. The scout master, Mr Clayburn, a good mormon man attempted to unilaterally kick Timmy out of the troop. Mr Johnson of course objected stating that it wasnt Mr Clayburn’s place to do such a thing. The troop parents comittee agreed, but couldnt decide if the drinking qualified as immoral and wrote the local Catholic parish where the Johnsons attended. Father Flannery, being a good Irish Catholic, replyed that there was nothing inherently immoral about the consumption of alcohol, that “boys will be boys”. Thus Timmy was allowed to remain in the troop and Mr Clayburn resigned in a huff and moved his son to another troop.

This basic process for resolving important issues of morality is used daily all across the country except for cases when the subject is homosexuality. The petition that Zach Wahls delivered to the BSA asked them to use the standard process by shifting dicisions about the morality of homosexuality down to the troop level where such decisions belong.

[1] (since removed)

Timothy (TRiG)

July 17th, 2012

Well-written commentary, Timothy.

I was at Dublin Pride recently, and there was a guy there in his scout uniform with a rainbow scarf. He said it was the standard uniform of the LGBT chapter of the British Scouts.

The USA has some catching up to do.


F Young

July 17th, 2012

FYI, gays are allowed to be scouts and scout leaders in Canada too.

And lesbians are allowed to be Girl Guides in the US.


July 17th, 2012

Weasel words — the whole thing strikes me as “statement” by an organization that is committed to prejudice, knows that prejudice is reprehensible and unjustifiable, and is trying to avoid the heat.

I will agree with them on one thing, though — the Boy Scouts should not be dealing with issues of sexuality. They’re obviously not equipped to handle those questions rationally.


July 17th, 2012

Considering which Church is behind this, it’s very recognizable language and tactic to those of us familiar with it. Ask anyone who lives in a certain part of the Western US. Hint: Starts with “U”.

Larry Rockwell

July 17th, 2012

Here’s what most people don’t know about the Boy Scouts of America: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formally affiliated with the Scouting movement in the United States in May of 1913 as its first institutional sponsor, and today sponsors more Scouts and Scouting units in the United States than any other organization. At the end of 2010, the Mormon Church’s use of Scouting included 142,085 Cub Scouts in 10,345 packs and 205,990 Boy Scouts in 19,285 troops.

Any questions?

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