published Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Scouts' gay ban is bad policy

The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to continue its policy of excluding gays from membership and from leadership positions is an unsound one. The resolution, reached after a secret two-year review, does meet legal standards — the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the policy in a controversial 2000 ruling — but it violates the organization's founding principles and it ignores the growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in contemporary American society. It should be reversed.

The policy review was prompted by widespread and understandable concerns about the fairness of the ban, which applies to leaders and scouts. Many individuals active in the scouting movement, including Eagle Scouts, parents whose children participate in Scout programs and who serve as troop and pack leaders, the general public and an array of public and private organizations urged the Boy Scouts to reconsider the policy. The reasonable request for change was rejected.

The Boy Scouts announced Tuesday that the unidentified members of the special committee created to review the policy unanimously recommended that the organization retain its long-standing policy of excluding gays. That's putting a considerable spin on a decision that promotes inequality.

At least two members of the Boy Scouts' national executive board — who may or may not have been on the committee — have publicly stated the exclusionary policy should end. James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, have said they would work to end the ban. Clearly, then, the announcement of a "unanimous" decision might be technically correct, but in a broader sense it is a ploy to paper over what appears to be considerable internal dissent in the Boy Scout hierarchy.

The Boy Scouts refusal to adopt a more inclusive policy toward gays reaffirms the view that homosexuality is morally wrong — despite growing scientific opinion that homosexuality is a matter of genetics and not choice — and that gays can not and should not be trusted around children. The latter is pure nonsense.

Gays are no more likely to target an individual than anyone else. There are, in fact, predators in the straight community and in groups — the clergy and teachers, for example — that have unfettered and unquestioned access to youngsters. The horrendous actions of a few, though, have not led to broad-based bans of others within those groups.

The Boy Scouts of America has worked for more than a century in the service of the nation's youngsters. It "... knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible and productive society." To that end, it provides "a program ... that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship and develops personal fitness." Those claims mean little, though, in light of the organization's continued exclusion of gays that flies in the face of increasing public approval of gays in the United States.

The Boy Scouts of America proclaims certain values — equality, responsibility, good citizenship, etc. — but then refuses to practice them. That defies and contradicts the very lessons of fairness and justice the organization purports to teach. The ban on gays should be reconsidered — again — and promptly overturned.

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