As has been well-reported, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are reviewing their policy this week on discriminating against gay scouts and troop leaders. Supposedly, they are considering letting each indivudal troop make their own policy.
I am dubious of the whole enterprise. With Mormon and Catholic money at the center of BSA funding, I doubt they would allow such ‘immorality’ in the organization they fund. What would national Boy Scout events look like with religious conservative troops enacting such a ban and tolerant, diverse troops having gay scouts and leaders? Still, any step forward is a step. Even ‘separate, but equal’ is better than ‘nothing at all.’
Will this be like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – a stepping stone to openness? Or will this be like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ a panacea that was used to keep stall equality for EIGHTEEN years? So I began to think more about it…
This is my sermon from Friday night at Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley, CA. I should have said this a while ago.
“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Groucho Marx famously opined this in response to being inducted in the Friar’s Club. This week when the Boy Scouts of America affirmed their policy that gay scouts and gay adult leaders were not welcome in the Boy Scouts, Groucho’s words ran through my head.
What do we do about the troubling issue of the Boy Scouts of America and their rejection of all gay people? The BSA is synonymous with the best of our youth. Boy Scouts tie knots, earn badges, help old ladies across the street, and are generally known for helping people as in the retort, “What are you, some kind of boy scout?”
Since their founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts have long been heavily influence by Christianity. Today the Mormons are the largest financial backer of the BSA. Although the troops are not religiously run, the organization encourages religious observance and study including faith based pins and badges and scout sabbaths. The Scout Law requires scouts to be, among other things, trustworthy, loyal, brave, and reverent.  Such religious influence has meant that atheists and agnostics have not been welcome as scouts since their founding saying “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
A traditional religious undertone of scouting and their backers makes anti-gay policies a natural outcome. As gay rights became a greater national issue, the BSA found itself clarifying its position. In 1991, they shared, “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be
morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.” Law suits followed and in 2000 the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, declared that as a private organization the Boy Scouts had the right to determine their own criteria for membership.