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No Merit Badge for Courage for Boy Scouts

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Sometime in May, a special committee selected by Boy Scout executives will recommend whether the Scouts should allow gays to be members and leaders.

The decision may have more to do with funding than with any other policy.

Contributions from individuals, major corporations, and at least 50 United Way agencies stopped because of the Scouts' anti-gay policy. Among corporations that have not made annual six-figure donations are Intel, Merck, CVS, Chase Manhattan Bank, Verizon, Google, UPS, and Levi Straus. Stephen Spielberg, an Eagle Scout, in protest of the policy against gays dropped off the national advisory council.

The national council was also losing funds because of a drop of about 22 percent in membership the past 13 years.

So, the Scouts sent out a trial balloon a few months ago that it was considering whether or not to remove its anti-gay policy, and allow local units to determine their own policies.

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That led to a vicious backlash by the nation's right-wing, with talk show commentators, media pundits and blowhards, conservative politicians, and equally conservative businessmen backing the Scouts' right not to allow gays to become members. The right wing formed their own associations and threatened to pull their own funding if the Scouts allowed gay members, volunteer leaders, and professional staff.

Never willing to lead, the Scout executives decided there needed to be another   reconsideration."

The last "reconsideration" occurred in 1974 when the Scouts ended segregation--a few decades late.

In 1978, the national council issued a policy memorandum to deny gays membership or employment. By 1991, with the rise of the conservative movement in America, the Scouts issued a formal position statement that declared, "[H]omosexual 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 right wing picks "morally straight" as its justification for condemning gays in Scouting. The reality is that in 1910, when the Boy Scouts of America was formed, "straight" was not a synonym for heterosexual, but a word more closely associated with "righteous" or "honorable."

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, by a 5--4 vote largely along political ideology lines, declared that as a private organization the Boy Scouts could discriminate because of the First Amendment rights to associate--or not associate--with anyone. [ Boy Scouts v. Dale .]

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Two years later, the national executive board passed a binding resolution opposing membership of gays, atheists, or agnostics.

About 70 percent of all Scout packs, troops, and posts are sponsored by churches or faith-based organizations. However, in one of the great ironies affecting the Scouts, most of those churches, citing fundamental Christian theology, condemn homosexuality but allow gays to be church members; most, however, do not allow gays to be ordained.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, both Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Barack Obama, baptized as a member of the United Church of Christ, spoke against the Scouts excluding gays from membership. The Mormons sponsor almost 38,000 units with about 430,000 boys, the largest faith-based sponsor in Scouting. The Mormons late last year, although still refusing to ordain gays, slightly modified its stance, and now claims , "The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is."

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)

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Walter, take yourself back to being a little boy..... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 12:20:49 PM
And now I have two sons and I will protect them ag... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 12:23:23 PM
I empathize with you for the suffering you went th... by Walter Brasch on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:14:16 PM
I spent several years as a cub, scout, and explore... by Walter Brasch on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:18:35 PM
With all due respect you do not know what you are ... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:22:27 PM
for strong laws and enforcement, along with therap... by Daniel Geery on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 4:09:17 PM
I get it. No protection for heterosexual boys. For... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 5:44:03 PM
Having gay scout leaders in charge of young scouts... by Diane McNeill on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:10:17 PM
Cute response, but definitelty NOT backed up by fa... by Walter Brasch on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:15:01 PM
Maybe homosexuals should be happy they live in the... by Aric Brueske on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:24:21 PM
Apparently you haven't read the Christian Bible ve... by Walter Brasch on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 4:23:20 PM
Quote a passage from the Bible that looks like any... by Aric Brueske on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 5:13:28 PM
When we moved into this neighborhood, there was a ... by Bill Johnson on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 2:30:53 PM
 No gerbil stuffers allowed either. Prudes.... by Howard Lewis on Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 at 8:12:59 PM