URBAN JOURNAL: Boy Scouts, gays, and the company we keep


We are such a deeply divided nation. And while we occasionally make great strides – electing a black president, permitting openly gay Americans to serve in the military, passing laws permitting same-sex marriage – the divisions persist. And at times, they seem to be getting deeper.

NPR’s Morning Edition on Tuesday included an interview with a Florida man who lost his job and is struggling to get by on unemployment checks. He is clearly bitter. He follows politics. He listens to Rush Limbaugh. And he blames President Obama for his misfortune. Obama, he told Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep, believes white people are evil, “and so does his wife.”

Feeding this kind of mistrust, this gut-deep dislike, are people like Limbaugh and, yes, politicians of both major political parties.

But also, troublingly, the Boy Scouts of America, which earlier this summer, after two years of study, reaffirmed its position barring gay people from membership or adult service. No Boy Scouts. No troop leaders. No den mothers.

When I ranted about the Scouts’ decision in a blog recently, several readers ranted back. “You miss the point that it is a PRIVATE organization,” wrote one, “and as such has the right to set its rules.”

Private organizations do indeed have the right to decide who can be a member. That doesn’t make it right when it’s blatant, harmful discrimination, and the Scouts’ action is exactly that. Prejudice against gays and lesbians has had terrible consequences: discriminatory employment practices, bullying, injury, and, tragically, both murder and suicide.

For the Scouts to continue to ban gays and lesbians from membership and service is to ostracize an entire group of boys, men, and women – ostracizing them because the Scout leadership believes there’s something wrong with them. And with that ostracizing, Boy Scouts USA tells gay children that they are inferior, not worthy of belonging. This is not harmless.

The Scouts organization – which has a strong presence in many communities (and benefits from both tax-exempt status and donations) – should be a leader, a model. Instead, it has chosen to be openly prejudiced, encouraging some children and adults to look down on others.

The Scouts’ decision has prompted some Scouts to turn in their merit badges. My e-mail last week brought a letter from a reader who has found his own means of protest: Gates resident Jim Maher, a retired Air Force master sergeant, resigned from the American Legion. He has been a member for more than 20 years and has been historian of Post 367 in Scottsville, but the Legion is a major supporter of the Scouts, sponsoring some 2500 dens, troops, and other US Scout units.

Continuing to participate in the Legion, Maher wrote, would make him a hypocrite. “I can no longer stand proudly and recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” he wrote, “knowing that the Legion and the main youth organization that it supports (the Boy Scouts of America) deny justice to all.”

Maher cites the Scout oath, which includes a promise “to help other people at all times.” And he notes that with its anti-gay policy, the Scouts have put their organization in the company of a host of bigoted organizations – including one of the worst of them all, the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas, whose members picket the funerals of service members holding “God hates fags” signs.

That’s a harsh condemnation, but Maher’s right.

I’m sure the Scouts’ leadership would insist that it abhors the Westboro members’ actions, that it is simply responding to concerns of many Scouts and Scouting families. Unfortunately, the result is the same. Prejudice is prejudice, regardless of how respectable its face. It is an ugly, dangerous thing. And when we embrace it, we foster it.

The Boy Scouts are devoted to serving and nurturing children. For them to embrace prejudice against children, to foster doing harm to children, is a sad thing indeed.



  1. Do they think homosexuality is contagious, maybe. ;-)

  2. Why another completely overwrought bit of histrionics when the last one was so thoroughly dismissed?

    The authoress is still entitled to her ideology, but whether she likes it or not, the fact remains that homosexuality is unavoidably a serious moral issue that families have every right and duty to address privately with their minor children. Congratulations to the BSA for standing up for parental rights and family privacy over political correctness and morally confused scolds.

    And btw, the ludicrous Fred Phelps reference makes it all but impossible to take anything in this piece seriously. Not that there was much chance anyway.

  3. j.a.m.:
    Your statement “homosexuality is unavoidably a serious moral issue” is troubling at best. You are certainly inferring that homosexuality is immoral. Do you think heterosexuality is immoral as well?

    1. For purposes of this discussion, the point is that, regardless of one’s sexual ethics, a family has the right and duty to guide its children’s moral formation without outside interference of any kind. The BSA policy supports and protects the family’s rights and privacy in this regard.

  4. I agree with j.a.m.- homosexuality is a serious issue that families have the primary role of addressing because it deals with sex. There is no separating that homosexuality by definition is about sexual attraction and whom people like to have sex with.

    Is there no room for a dissenting opinion in regard to homosexual activity without being labeled a bigot? This term has become such a tool of liberal argument that in all honesty, it has become laughable. Disagree with liberal thought? You are woefully ignorant or more likely consumed with hate. Sounds pretty prejudicial to me. I do not believe that anyone has the authority to tell me that because I do not consider anal sex, oral sex or sex with an inanimate object to be the same as sex that is capable of producing human life, that I am filled with hate. Just because I believe this does not mean I see people participating in these forms of sex as inferior human beings. The over simplification of dissenting opinion by writers like Mary Anna Towler shows an entire lack of research and understanding into opinions which differ from her own.

  5. Dr.Everhardt Easbaer · · Reply

    FACT: Heterosexuality is every bit as capable of excesses & weirdness as any other sexuality.
    “Swinging” in suburban USA is largely a Hetero-Married Phenomena heavily populated with Teachers,Firefighters,Construction Workers,Military,Business people-all HETEROsexually “Married” BUT obviously INTO “Multiple SEX Partners”
    Social scientists have discoverd 45% of Married HETEROSEXUALS have discovered anal intercourse as highly erotic & capable of producing bigger & more profound Orgasms now have incorporated that into their regular lovemaking routine !
    Furthermore, It should be noted,since the dawn of AIDS in the ’80’s, MONOGAMY has grown steadily amongst Homosexual couples of BOTh genders,& as many as 50% of gay male couples NEVER practice anal intercourse,ever !!!
    The Human experience has ALWAYS been throughout history one of VARIETY in all it’s forms throughout nature, it’s all natural throughout every species!
    That”s why ALL religious Dogma,under close examination,is so unnatural & out of step with NATURE as well as ILLOGICAL !!!

  6. How much or how little anal sex people are having does nothing to change my argument. Parents should have the right to teach their own kids about sexual behavior. No one has the authority to get inside someone else’s head and say their belief about homosexual acts is based in hate or equate all those who disagree with homosexual activity as members of the Westboro Baptists.

    If religion is so unnatural, why does the vast, vast majority of the world adhere to one? Also, if you are claiming that every sexual act is natural, I am sure that there are still acts that nearly everyone can agree are still wrong- namely acts with children or with some one without their consent. “Natural” behavior is not an indication of moral behavior. Your belief summing up all religious dogma is arrogant and dogmatic itself.

  7. Also, the doctor seems to be arguing that swinging is totally natural in which case I have to ask, does this mean I have to agree with swinging or else I “hate” swinging couples? When people chose to make public what they do in private, they have no right to demand a specific reaction from everyone. When I said that there is no room for dissent in this discussion, what I am referring to is the all or nothing argument, either you “love” and embrace the person who engages in homosexual activity or you “hate” them and are entirely hostile to their very being. This is for the most part a self inflicted ultimatum. Ok, the “prized” example that Mary Anna Towler exhibits in the Westboro Baptists is very convenient for promoting her stereotype (as is her first example of the Rush listener), but there are 310 million people in America and if the best you can do is continuously site a bunch of loons to reflect the opinion of millions, you are guilty of your own accusal. “Prejudice” rearing its ugly head. “Intolerance” which is the hallmark sin projected onto anyone who dares question liberal theology.

  8. Dr. Everhardt Easbaer · · Reply

    Gay children are born to HETEROSEXUAL parents, who, if they have intelligence, realize you accept the child as they are made,or you will destroy them. Children,because they are born to you, are not your possessions, nor are they an empty vessel you are to fill with your architectuiral/engineering “plans”. Children evolve into the person they were all along genetically designed to be. Deal with THAT & realize you are but one influence over many,many others that come from withoin their very being.

  9. Anonymous · · Reply

    The problem is that gay activists are shoving their sexual preference in everyone’s face. They want to inject sex into EVERYTHING and people are getting tired of it. The Boy Scouts have NOTHING to do with sex or sexual issues, yet the gays are trying to bully them into recognizing their sexuality. If a scoutmaster happens to be gay, why does he need to make it anyone’s business? I say let organizations be asexual if they want to. If a potential member makes his sexual activities known the organization should be allowed to let him go.
    The homosexual activists are reaching the limits of what the public will listen to. Take the Chick-fil-a issue. This was a big loser for the “gay movement”. What does chicken have to do with sex? NOTHING. It became about free speech and overreaching liberal mayors. It also pointed out the hypopcrisy of the gay movement and their with resprect to intolerance.

  10. Dr.- which is it? If I have no control over who my child is “genetically designed to be”, if my influence is so small, how can anything I do destroy them?

    Again your arguments are based on the assumption that opposition to homosexual activity is based in hate. To raise children, you will continuously deal with their own free will. As adults, they will make decisions that you don’t agree with. While yes, I cannot block out all influence, I would charge I have more of a right to teach MY children about human sexuality than YOU do. If my children reject what I have taught them, you cannot assume that I will reject them!! Nor can you assume that I will do any damage to them by teaching them to avoid certain sexual behavior and circumstances.

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