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No Merit Badge for Courage for Boy Scouts

By       Message Walter Brasch       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   14 comments

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by GLAAD
 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

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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.

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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.

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."

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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 .]

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

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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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