Friday, July 27, 2012

Scouting for bigotry

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently spent two years reviewing its policy of excluding from its ranks anyone who is homosexual or not of an approved religion.  They spoke to great numbers of people and concluded that there was substantial disagreement and debate amongst their members over their longstanding policy of bigotry and discrimination and decided that the policy should stay.  They remain certain that the best thing for Scouts is to moralize on sexual orientation and keep the status quo because that way children can be educated about these things in their own homes with their own spiritual leaders.

Fr some reason they think that a Scout should be the epitome of honour, lawfulness and goodness... except when confronted with a person that is different.  Then they should uphold the virtues of hatred, exclusion, and bigotry.  Their desire to keep atheists out of their ranks isn't surprising because those atheists would probably complain about the mandatory religious services and fail to believe that the Scouts are directed by God in their activities.  I wouldn't want to join and they wouldn't want me to join - a match made in heaven, if you will.  I remember when I was in Scouts early in my life my father was a leader and refused to perform the prayer portions of the meetings - that must have led to some very tense conversations indeed.

There is a campaign going that is gathering steam to get Eagle Scouts (or any Scout, really) to return their Scouting medals and awards and cease any association with BSA.  I heartily approve of conscientious people breaking ties with BSA as a way to send a message; becoming an Eagle Scout is such a serious and time consuming process that abandoning it entirely cannot be easily ignored.  I doubt it will work right away but over time the BSA is going to have to either change or die because the steady increase of improvement in the rights given to LGBT people is impossible to ignore.

What is disturbing, though not entirely surprising, is that the Scouts have encountered many of the same difficulties Christian churches have over the last decades.  It turns out that people who are presented as being the representatives of an infallible Lord find it easy to abuse their power to do terrible things to young children.  That is really the crux of the issue right there:  Infallibility.  When you cannot admit to ever making a mistake a culture of protecting the institution regardless of its failings and crimes inevitably arises and terrible abuses occur.

Much like Christian churches the Scouts are on the way out.  They are shedding members and their once shining reputations are decidedly tarnished.  They could remedy this to some extent by trying to act like good people but apparently when given a choice between doing the right thing and keeping the bigots on board they chose the bigots.


  1. Girl Guides of Canada, on the other hand, removed from their promise reference to the Queen in the mid nineties, and at the same time, removed mandatory reference to God (it was phrased "my God / faith & Canada", with members choosing the word that suited them), and then took the next step and removed the reference to faith & God completely in 2010.

    Also, they have recently committed to providing programming to all girls, regardless of their sexual orientation.

  2. Good to hear! While I don't think much of intense nationalism in general either I definitely think that replacing mandatory religious expressions with more generic patriotic expressions is a step up. More importantly, I think, is the fact that they have demonstrated their willingness to change and accept those they once shunned. Saying "I was wrong, I will change" is certainly an encouraging thing for the future.

    References to the Queen are pretty ridiculous certainly but I look at that more as comedy than anything important. Nobody tries to change government policy based on what "Whatever I think is obviously what the Queen thinks so do what I say!" so it is a lot less dangerous. :) Still, editing it out is another data point in the trend of being willing to change when it seems appropriate, which is great.