Culture

Obama Says Boy Scouts Should Open Up to Gays; He's Right.

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This week, the leaders of The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) are meeting to revisit the group's ban on allowing gays to participate as scouts and leaders. BSA is widely expected to vote to allow the individual chartering organizations that sponsor troops to make their own decision on the matter. Most observers expect many troops to allow gays and others, especially those linked to conservative churches, to maintain the ban.

As Reason 24/7 News (your indispensable source for breaking news all day long) points out, President Barack Obama has said he thinks the Scouts should allow gays full participation. Incumbent presidents have long been the honorary head of the organization, so his repsonse in a pre-Super Bowl interview is not just routine skylarking (though there's some of that in it, to be sure). Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), who is an Eagle Scout, has repeatedly said that the ban should stay.

As an Eagle Scout who chose not to let my own sons participate in scouts due to its longstanding policy of exclusion, I agree with the president.

The controversy on the matter was the subject of a piece I wrote that appears in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal:

I still draw on what I learned in the Scouts, whose mission statement talks about preparing "young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes." That creed has helped to make me a better father—or at least a less-bad one—to my two sons, whom I kept from joining the Boy Scouts because of the group's position on gays.

It was a decision that I made with much sadness and not a little anger, but it was fully in keeping with the Scout Oath, which requires members to do their best to be "morally straight" at all times and to do what they think is right.

Read more here. And read Reason comment thread on the piece here.

At the same time, even though I disagree about BSA's policy, it's worth keeping in mind that as a private organization, the group should have every right to set and enforce any membership policy they want. Voluntary association is a hugely important principle to maintain, especially in a society where we all have different ideas of how best to live our lives. In fact, BSA's right was upheld (correctly) by the Supreme Court in 2000 over the very issue of gays.

It's also worth keeping in mind that the organization has been paying a price for their retrograde policy whose basic error stems from confusing homosexuals with child molesters and perverts. That confusion is rooted in longstanding homophobia that is not only mistaken but somehow prevented the Boy Scouts from policing actual cases of child molesting that occurred under its aegis. Most, if not all, of the problems the group covered up for decades involved married men who preyed on children. Child molesters are child molesters, and it's a different issue than sexual orientation. I think if the Scouts openly allow gays to join and lead, the organization can only become more transparent in the ways it operates and, ultimately, better at protecting the boys it serves. And it may win back some of the support it has lost from companies such as UPS, which stopped giving it money due to the policy on gays. 

The Boy Scouts have been in a decades-long decline in terms of numbers and influence in American life for many reasons: It developed in a very different America and, like many social organizations that gained prominence before World War II, its relevance has waned as the United States has become more modern, more mobile, less gender-biased, and more. It's not clear that allowing gays to join openly at least some troops will do much to slow that decline—and if the opt-in/opt-out revision goes through, it's far from the sort of clear signal that group might send that it's moving into the 21st century. But it's still an improvement over the current policy. 

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  1. How can anyone say the boyscouts are a private organization?

    They are chartered by the U.S. Congress as the official paramilitary youth organization with the POTUS as its ceremonial head.

    Revoke their federal charter and start having eagle scout certificates signed by Henry H Snodgrass, and we can talk.

    1. How can anyone say the boyscouts are a private organization?

      It’s easy. The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization. That wasn’t that hard to type.

      1. slow down, you mean saying something doesn’t make it so?

        Explain Obama’s presidency then.

    2. When I ask people how the BSA can be a private, religious organization for the purpose of the First Amendment’s assembly clause, but not for the purpose of the First Amendment’s establishment clause, they immediately change the subject.

      1. “keep your hands off my body, but pay for my birth control.”

      2. Look over there! Elvis!

  2. Notice that Augusta National didnt admit women until AFTER the controversy and protests died down.

    Martha Burk probably delayed it happening by about a decade.

    Is the situation analogous? Maybe, maybe not.

    1. that’s a good analogy. As Hootie (I think that was the guy’s name) put it, decision-making at point of bayonet is usually not good.

      I suppose it’s possible that one’s sexual orientation is not a public matter and that it’s not a subject one would expect to have come up, but that horse seems long gone.

      1. 2 additional things that back up my point. Before he was in charge, Hootie was the guy behind the scenes back in the 80s that pushed to get blacks admitted. He was THE leader on that issue, browbeating the other members behind the scenes until it happened.

        Secondly, the first woman (non Rice, the other one) was a long time business partner of his. So obviously, he was on good relations with her, she regularly played there as his guest, and he was the reason she was chosen. I cant imagine he waited until he was the reason she didnt get in until after he wasnt in charge anymore. I think Hootie absolutely refused to bow to Burk’s wishes. And Payne took over in 2006, so he didnt immediately bend either.

  3. Most observers expect many troops to allow gays and others, especially those linked to conservative churches, to maintain the ban.

    ??????????

  4. As an Eagle Scout who chose not to let my own sons participate in scouts due to its longstanding policy of exclusion, I agree with the president.

    Mighty white of you, Nick.

    1. guess Nick didn’t think of letting the boys make their own decision.

      1. Maybe they can’t be trusted to think for themselves.

      2. Really, he just didn’t want to drive them anywhere, but having an ideological excuse is necessary for him.

      3. Maybe they’re kids whose ability to join groups is dependent on parental support.

    2. Nick agrees with the President that “guns are icky” too.

    3. Does anyone actually believe a nerd like Gillespie would have his kids involved in the Boy Scouts if they let homosexuals participate? Please. His kids are busy playing Minecraft and watching Avengers, not camping in the woods. Gillespie is just trying to assert his progressive bona fides like the good little cosmotarian he is. He’s not going to get invited to write guest articles for The Atlantic or Slate without showing what a good little liberal he is.

      1. Oh Mary, why are you so upset?

      2. His kids are busy playing Minecraft and watching Avengers, not camping in the woods.

        I gotta say, I’m with em. Camping, fishing, hiking etc WAS fun, until I could afford my 1st computer.

        1. I’m like Calvin’s dad on this one.

  5. Hey, Gillespie. You have kids in the Boy Scouts? Does Obama? Then shut up, cunt.

  6. It was a decision that I made with much sadness and not a little anger, but it was fully in keeping with the Scout Oath, which requires members to do their best to be “morally straight” at all times and to do what they think is right.

    The “sexually straight” is implied.

  7. Obama Says Boy Scouts Should Open Up to Gays

    Not the best way to phrase it

  8. “That confusion is rooted in longstanding homophobia that is not only mistaken but somehow prevented the Boy Scouts from policing actual cases of child molesting that occurred under its aegis.”

    It is rooted in a thoughtcrime concept of non-conformity to the sensitivities of urban intellectuals. Got it.

  9. I don’t understand why it’s controversial to think that there might be some sexual side effects in the BSA lifting the gay ban. Would it be controversial to think there might be side effects in letting straight women become troop leaders of boys? Or having straight male troop leaders in girl scouts?

    1. I don’t understand why it’s controversial to think that there might be some sexual side effects in the BSA lifting the gay ban.

      Because equality, that’s why.

    2. I think Parks&Rec; solved this problem adequately. Make the groups activity-based, not gender-based. And, shit, nobody is stopping anybody from starting groups just like that! Parents, I’m looking at you.

      1. What makes you think co-ed activity-focused groups would be side-effect free?

        1. Because 4-H is co-ed and I’ve never seen them having problems. I admit that many 4-H clubs have stopped providing riflery, archery and other “icky” groups, but they let pretty much anyone in to no ill effect.

          Maybe that stems from the lack of cult like oath bound devotion that Scouts seem to thrive on.

          1. “Because 4-H is co-ed and I’ve never seen them having problems.”

            Perhaps this is because 4-H does not have controversial memebership policies and their problems are not propaganda fodder for the opposition.

  10. Oh, good. More of this.

  11. So the ban on atheists is A-OK? Add the fact that the BSA get free use of numerous public facilities to the points made by others, and one quickly sees that the BSA is a bunch of bigoted takers. Their as private as AMTRAK and the Post Office but deserve less sympathy.

    1. Why would an atheist want to join an organization that has oath requiring reverence for God?

      1. Because my tax dollar go towards supporting this organization and yet I wouldn’t even be allowed to join.

        1. Which is a stretch of an argument.

      2. Probably because scouting kicks ass. The whole “God” thing got completely ignored by me and everyone else in Scouts that wasn’t religious. Why would anyone want to be in ANY organization that has policies a person doesn’t like? Because it’s otherwise awesome.

        1. This. I grew up with an outdoorsy father and we hiked and camped and shot guns and hunted. Now with my heart condition being a bit worse I’d like my son to have similar experiences that I can’t provide. The Scouts would be great if they weren’t bigots.

        2. So if they allowed atheists in, the atheists would not start trying to change the Scout Oath?

          It seems to be a childish expectation that all institutions must accept your idiosyncrancies, which destroys true diversity of thought.

          1. The idea that if I think something is right I should convince other people of it is childish? Sorry that I don’t subscribe to the conservative expectation that nothing should ever change, and “that’s the way it is” is all the justification anything needs. Diversity of thought. I’m sure it’s the last first thing on your mind.

            1. I don’t subscribe to the progressive expectation of change is good in of itself and bland equality of conformity to PC sensibilities is desirable. Your side’s argument basically comes down to the BSA is too big to have its own philosophy.

              How is what you a re advocating promoting real diversity?

              1. I don’t subscribe to the belief that the status quo is good in and of itself and can never be questioned, only followed with a conformity to traditional sensibilities of desirability. I ALSO don’t think change is good in itself, your straw assertion the contrary. I ALSO don’t try to claim “diversity of thought” in defense of an unchanging status quo.

                My personal argument is that they can set their policies, and can change their policies. If I can convince them to change their policies, fine. If the people in there change their own minds about their policies, fine. If the people there retire and their replacements have different minds on the matter, fine. If not, oh well. Diversity is not a justification for my beliefs on this matter.

                How is complete organizational stasis promoting real diversity?

        3. I was briefly involved in scouts as a young kid. Believe me, God was never mentioned…once.

    2. Are you saying the PO deserves sympathy? What kind of monster are you?!?

      1. Goodness no! And I’d swear an oath to that effect.

  12. Why would an atheist want to join an organization that has oath requiring reverence for God?

  13. The real travesty in all of this is that the Girl Scouts of America have been peddling delicious cookies for years, and the Boy Scouts of America are stuck selling stupid bags of popcorn. I want cookies, damnit! Take your carmel corn elsewhere, sir! I said GOOD DAY, sir!

    1. What do the Girl Scouts do besides sell cookies?

      1. Prepare for next year’s cookie sale?

        1. I used to think they baked them, too, but that is incorrect.

          1. Are they made from real Girl Scouts?

      2. Make macram

        1. Macram? shrouds for the bodies of Boy Scouts killed in action? Namely, killed trying to cross the lake from the Boy Scout camp to the Girl Scout one?

          1. Drowned? No such thing happens to REAL Boy Scouts. I mean, you remember the motto, right?

      3. Lots of similar stuff to the Boy Scouts but with less outdoorsey and more arts and crafty/developing career skills focus.

  14. Obama should keep his opinions to himself. Obama needs to spend a little more time worrying about Obama, and a little less time worrying about the picayune internal policies of a private organization.

    1. I think he thinks about Obama far too much. Perhaps he should think of the country he nominally has responsibilities to.

      1. What could you possibly mean? Everyman Barry is currently working hard to ensure that low-income earners who qualify only for sub-prime loans receive prime rates.

        That Obama, always looking out for the working man!

  15. The Cosmotarian Peril strikes again.

  16. Why the fuck are people in such a hurry to have their kids learn how to wear uniforms and obey, anyway? I don’t really give a shit if they ever allow fags, because I would never send any fag son of mine anywhere near the Boy Scouts.

    1. I was a Scout for a couple of years, but all I really liked about it was the hiking and making fires and stuff.

      I didn’t think the religious stuff was all that overt, other than some mention of God on occasion in the materials. And being reverent in the Scout law or whatever it’s called.

      One frustrating thing about the modern world is that it’s hard to get your kids much exposure to handling the outdoors, tools, etc. You can do all of that yourself, but an organization that helps isn’t entirely insane. Doesn’t have to be the Scouts, of course.

      1. Yeah, the religious stuff was almost entirely in the Oath and Pledge of Allegiance. On the last day of campouts there was usually some sort of religious ceremony, but it was entirely devoid of any religion-specific allegiance. It was more “spiritual” than a religious endorsement of any particular belief structure.

        The outdoor stuff was a great help, though. I didn’t participate very much at first because I always had my nose in a book. It frustrated my mom to no end. I eventually got more involved in the activities (and other scouts), though, and ended up getting my Eagle right at the end.

      2. The religion stuff isn’t overt and isn’t even enforced like it used to be. When my father was in the scouts, c.1964 – 1970, they would actually stop at the nearest church or synagogue to whatever excursion they were heading home from on sundays to make sure the kids got a bit of prayer in. Likewise, you had to have a signed document from your local pastor / priest / rabbi verifying that you were indeed reverent before they’d give you Eagle status.That was not the case when my friends and I went through it 30 years later.

        On the topic of OBEY, it was always funny when one of the nerdy older kids would try to pull rank on the new kids. The ones that refused and challenged the older kid would invariably be accepted by the existing patrol leaders and eventually be shepherded into leadership positions.

    2. Meh. Wearing a uniform doesn’t, by itself, do much to make you more obedient to authority in general. It wasn’t very formal (aside from the ceremonies; I’m not much for ceremony). I’m not sure where the idea comes that being in the Boy Scouts is somehow so different from any other organization. No matter where you go, there’s always an organizational structure and leadership, even if it’s not formally recognized.

      1. Bullshit. The entire point of a uniform is subservience. The camping and all that shit is great, but you can teach kids how to camp and shoot guns and sew without having a weird paramilitary command structure on top of it.

        I was a Cub Scout, and I remember liking the camping part. I wish I could say I quit because I didn’t like wearing uniforms, but I was 10 and I don’t remember. I probably just quit out of laziness.

        1. The entire point of a uniform is subservience.

          Well actually it’s about discipline and a sense of belonging. Having worn a uniform in Boy Scouts and knowing plenty of other people in Boy Scouts, wearing a uniform didn’t do a damn thing to make us “subservient”.

          weird paramilitary command structure

          Paramilitary? Sure, can’t argue with that. Weird? Not really. Having subgroups each with an elected leader and vice-leader, all being overseen by an elected senior leader and vice-leaders (this is without even mentioning the adults)? Not really. You can find those same elements in pretty much any organization. You have yet to mention anything in particular about the Scouting organizational structure that is particularly “weird” or wrong.

          1. I didn’t think it was that odd. It was a little outside the social order, which is one reason I stopped doing it. We did do some cool stuff, and the first rifle (or any firearm) I fired was as a Cub Scout at Jamboree.

            1. The structure and rhetoric notwithstanding, a group of adults and kids trying to get through group activities AND wearing uniforms really isn’t that different in practice from any other group of adults and kids trying to get through group activities. The first troop I was in was a bit of an exception to that, being run by an ex-Marine and an ex-Army guy (both really nice guys, though the Marine was a bit stern). Still wasn’t that different, though.

              Interestingly, I don’t recall ever firing a firearm in Boy Scouts. The first Troop I was part of did stuff like that I think, but if so I wasn’t part of it. The second Troop I was in wasn’t as interested in firearms, I think. Members did own guns, but I don’t remember any Troop activities with them. Just stuff related to Merit Badges, and that was of course specific to the kids trying to get said Badge.

            2. It was a little outside the social order, which is one reason I stopped doing it.

              Why, you little confirmist, you.

              1. Yeah, wasn’t it just a little bit ago that the B.S.A was considered one of those radical right-wing paramilitary groups that was emblematic of the perfidy of Republican thought?

              2. True enough. But girls, you see.

  17. So I see over on the 24/7 links that there is a Poll saying that most Americans want the Boy Scouts to drop the Gay ban.

    I think that is wrong, I thing most Americans have reached the point where they no longer give a fuck about gay rights and just want the boy scouts to drop the ban so they never have to hear that term again.

  18. In the most indebted nation that ever existed on the face of the Earth, it’s sure good to know that our president is devoting his attention to the crucial issue of gay Boy Scouts.

    1. surely this is a sign that the debt issue has been resolved. That is the only explanation for any amount of breath being wasted on something so miniscule.

  19. my understanding is that the Mormon church has a lot of influence on the BSA, and a substantial # of Mormons are members. Mormons are rather conservative when it comes to the gay ™ and this may have something to do with it. I have a lot of friends who are Mormon and most are (or were when they were of age) involved with BSA. interestingly, none of the girls were involved with girl scouts, but boy scout membership is high.

    this fact sheet seems to support this concept

    http://www.scouting.org/About/…..aints.aspx

    1. I’ve heard of this as well. My mom has gone on about this as the major cause of their direction today. She’s worried that they’re trying to take it over to make it conform to Mormon ideals.

  20. There is a reason women are not Boy Scout leaders: heterosexual women like men, and some like boys. Similarly, Gay men are attracted to boys. I can attest to having been a victim of gay harassment as a boy scout.

    1. I can attest to having female Boy Scout leaders. The idea that the boys are in great danger just be having female leaders is bullshit. That you were harassed is unfortunate (and undefined here), but that doesn’t prove the notion that gay scout leaders are more likely than married (and otherwise) openly heterosexual scout leaders to harass the boys. And the latter has most definitely happened, and been covered up, plenty of times. There’s no evidence that males who molest male children are so much gay as they are just interested in children.

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