No one should be especially surprised that the Boy Scouts of America recently announced they would maintain their policy of excluding gay people from membership. There’s little indication that they ever seriously considered revising their position 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.”
The BSA now claims that this policy has been under review for two years by a special committee, whose existence was never announced and whose composition is entirely unknown. They’ve stated that this mystery committee contained “a diversity of perspectives and opinions,” which apparently led them to conclude unanimously that the Boy Scouts should be for straight people only. And they’ve dismissed the significance of this issue with the flippant statement that “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.”
Legally speaking, the Boy Scouts are a private organization, and they’re fully within their rights to exclude whomever they choose for any reason at all, with no accountability to anyone. But we still have every right to expect them not to discriminate against people without good reason, just as we expect everyone else not to be racist, sexist or homophobic. Instead, the BSA has decided that the “life-changing benefits” of scouting should be denied to an entire segment of the population that they’ve deemed immoral, unclean, and poor role models. They have done this without even the barest explanation of why they believe this is so. Rather than pretending that there’s any sort of reason for this and hiding behind an unaccountable secret committee, it would have been more honest if they had simply told us, “Because screw you, that’s why.” That’s all it really boils down to when someone calls you immoral and refuses to say why.
Last month, the BSA offered a minimal justification for their current policy, saying:
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
Of course, this raises the question of whether opposite-sex attraction is a topic that the Boy Scouts program does discuss – and why same-sex attraction is so different that it must not only be left unaddressed, but literally banished. Does the presence of heterosexuals imply discussion of heterosexuality? If not, why is the mere presence of gay people considered synonymous with introducing and discussing homosexuality?
The notion that you can exclude the very idea of same-sex attraction just by banning anyone who possesses that attraction is pure fantasy anyway. Perhaps, like Anthony Esolen of Touchstone Magazine, they believe that any public awareness of homosexuality itself is corrosive to friendships between men, introducing the possibility of an element of attraction and making all close friendship suspect. Esolen’s solution, that being gay must once again be stigmatized to the point of being unthinkable, means requiring all gay people to live in secrecy, rather than expecting men who are friends to exhibit the maturity needed to recognize that homosexuality poses no threat to them. On an organizational scale, the BSA prefers the answer that’s most convenient to their prejudice.
But this is a genie that isn’t going back in the bottle. If the Boy Scouts don’t want to talk about sexuality, they certainly don’t have to, but removing so-called “known or avowed homosexuals” isn’t going to make anyone forget that they exist. This is the wrong answer to something that isn’t even a problem. And as a result of their moral laziness, families like mine have to explain to our sons why they can’t join the Scouts: because the BSA has decided that their parents just aren’t good people. The only thing life-changing about this is having to teach our 8-year-old how ugly the world can be.
Zinnia Jones is an atheist activist, writer, and video blogger focusing on LGBTQ rights and religious belief. Originally from Chicago, she’s currently living in Florida with her partner Heather and their two children.
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