Yes: BSA should be in support of embracing all Americans
PETALUMA, Calif. — One thing we can count on is "what goes around comes around." And that is exactly what is happening with the Boy Scouts of America.
Soon after my election to Congress in 1992 a young scout came up to me at our hometown Butter and Eggs Parade and started a conversation about scouting and how unfairly gay leaders and gay scouts were treated.
This young boy, Steven Cozza, was defending the rights of his troop leader who had been kicked out for being gay. Cozza, who should run for president someday, was and remains a very impressive person. He not only knew why the situation was wrong, he had well thought out and researched solutions and had formed a support group. It was an easy call for me to join the effort and provide help at the federal level.
Believing scouting to be a good experience that all boys should have the opportunity to participate in, I found the Boy Scouts of America's policy of discrimination just plain wrong.
But knowing that the president of the United States was the honorary head of the Boy Scouts of America and that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the Scouts ban on homosexuals, it was an easy decision to become involved.
Working with "Scouting for All," I authored a letter to President Bill Clinton with 10 other members calling for him to resign as honorary head of the Boy Scouts.
Then I introduced legislation revoking Boy Scouts of America's federal charter. We weren't saying Boy Scouts are bad; we were saying intolerance is. And, their intolerant policies should not receive the support of the federal government.
Our letter and the legislation received mostly negative attention and few votes with comments about "voting against Santa Claus" and the like. Those who voted for tolerance were editorialized against, made fun of and pummeled by their constituents. You would consider it a loss for our side except we started the conversation. When you know you are on the right and fair side of an argument you take pride in bringing your views forward. And, as I said, "what goes around comes around."
Today with bad publicity about Boy Scout leadership sexual abuse and their obvious tolerance for and cover-ups of these incidents, plus many parents questioning involving their child in an organization that discriminates when other youth groups don't, the Boy Scouts of America is finally moving toward revoking its ban on gays in scouting.
The Boys Scouts of America has not made its final decision but will soon. If you agree that the Boys Scouts core mission — to foster an understanding and dedication to service — is good but that it is time to end discrimination and make this a truly All-American program, then we need to speak up now.
We must let local scouts, scouting leaders, and parents of scouts know that we support them.
Community support is essential to making positive changes of all kinds and this is no different and the Boys Scouts of America needs that support to do the right thing. But, if they can't or won't we must acknowledge them as a private organization and excise any federal support, because this is the 21st century and our government should stand up for acceptance and diversity.
Lynn Woolsey is the president of Americans for Democratic Action. Readers may write to her at ADA, 1625 K Street NW, Suite 102, Washington, D.C. 20006; website: www.adaction.org.
No: leaders need to firmly defend long-held traditions in scouting
WASHINGTON — For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has helped boys make the difficult journey to manhood. The Scouts have produced presidents, congressmen, astronauts and scores of respectable, resourceful and responsible citizens.
But now the organization, which has guided millions, may be losing its way. Corporate elites and gay activists are demanding the Scouts drop their long standing prohibition against open homosexuality within the Scouts.
Changing the policy would be a drastic mistake. It would not only dramatically alter the ethos of Scouting, but would undermine the principles of being a Boy Scout.
An organization that teaches character, courage and conviction shouldn't be exploited for the purpose of sexualized political correctness. For decades, the BSA has kept the interest of the boys it serves as the focus of all its actions.
No matter what, the Boy Scouts of America could be counted upon to do the right thing and not yield to any societal pressure. That would change if they kowtowed now.
From a practical perspective, departing from their long-held policies would be devastating to an organization that has prided itself on developing strong moral character in boys. It would also place these impressionable young men at risk to unwanted exposure to values and behaviors contrary to those taught by their parents and pastors.
There is also no evidence that the Boy Scouts of America's members want this change. Last July, the BSA announced that after two years examining its longtime policy of excluding "opened and avowed" gays, it had decided to change nothing.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," noted then-BSA chief Scout executive Bob Mazzuca.
Nothing has changed since then. According to a recent poll, parents are less likely by a two-to-one margin to want their sons to participate in a local troop led by an openly gay Scoutmaster.
Parents should be able to entrust their sons to the organization with the confidence that their desires will be honored, and that their sons will not be exposed to inappropriate sexual topics. The BSA should retain the current long-held and time-tested policy regarding gays.
Changing the current policy would likely result in drastic reductions in Scouting nationwide.
A similar policy, forced on Scouts in Canada, resulted in a 50 percent drop in membership. But that would not be the only consequence.
Once the Scouts drop their standard, the source of that standard will not be far behind. In the United Kingdom, after allowing gays, the push began to drop the requirement that Scouts believe in God. Scouting in America does not have to go the way of Canada or the U.K.
Thankfully, the BSA board's move to reverse tradition and abandon its policy on gays was stalled due to a public outcry from hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Unwilling to make a principled stand, the BSA board decided to put the decision to a vote of approximately 1,400 National Council members in late May.
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Ultimately the Boy Scouts of America will decide to do one of three things: It could decide to keep the current policy, completely overturn it or take a middle ground and relegate the decision on gay leaders to local chartered organizations.
This decision would send the wrong signal from the national body: that political correctness ultimately triumphs over character. For a century, Scouts have stood honorably for God and country. Scouting has never been about political correctness. Making it so today would have disastrous results for the organization.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. Readers may write to him at FRC, 801 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20001; website: www.frc.org.