Opinion: Boy Scouts are no moral authority

Bengt George

The Boy Scouts of America have come under fire lately for their membership standards, which specifically ban homosexuals from the ranks of both Scouts and adult leaders. The recent media attention has brought about much opposition, including that of President Obama. But the disapproval from scores of egalitarian-minded Americans may be falling on deaf ears, as groups defending the BSA’s position begin to step up their game. While American society modernizes and secularizes, slowly shedding discriminatory attitudes about race, gender and sexuality, the BSA and their supporters in this conflict are clinging to outdated cultural views.

A new ad to be run in national news publications has been released, funded by various religious-right organizations including Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays. The top of the ad urges the BSA to “Show courage. Stand firm for timeless values.” Scattered throughout the text of the ad are bald-faced statements warning that a change of policy is dangerous, immoral and would “be a grave mistake.” This, coupled with a Rockwell-esque image of a boy solemnly saluting, makes the ad feel laughably like 1950s propaganda.

The author claims religious liberty and the moral principles of the BSA are under attack and that compromising under the recent pressure “would teach boys cowardice, not courage.” This is nothing but attempting to rationalize homophobic views. Not changing the policy teaches young boys social exclusion and reinforces the straight, white, Christian, male-dominated American hierarchy.

Beyond this, there’s one thing near the end of the ad that’s really bothersome. The author claims that the policy is an effort to protect scouts from sexual abuse. So now we have an implication that gay men are largely pedophiles. The ad then references the court-ordered release of files on abuse accusations in the BSA this past October. The author describes them as containing “the names of hundreds of sexual predators who had managed to hide their attraction to boys and enter the Boy Scouts.”

The files actually detail 1,200 sexual abuse allegations against adult Scout leaders between 1965 and 1985, revealing the BSA’s alarmingly high prevalence of sexual abuse throughout its history. They’ve even enacted a policy that no adult member may be alone with a youth member that isn’t their own child in response to the frequent abuse.

The groups that put out this ad refuse to recognize how a repressed, conservative, male-driven organization (much like the Catholic Church with its abuse scandals) is advantageous to family men who are secretly child molesters, and they instead seem to have an attitude of “Oops, one of them gays snuck in” towards sexual abuse.

Drawing a correlation between open homosexuality and pedophilia is nothing short of ridiculous in modern society and is no justification for excluding a group of people from an organization. The BSA’s supporters can tout family values all they want, but a group whose history is so full of child sexual abuse has no room to assert itself as a champion of morality. Proponents of the BSA’s anti-gay membership standards are just hiding their prejudice behind religious and traditional values.

Contact Bengt George at [email protected].