Of all the groups to commission a survey on “values,” the Boy Scouts of America is particularly suspect. This is an organization, after all, that encourages young males not only to be loyal, thrifty and brave, but to be suspicious, intolerant and exclusionary as well.
Yet, here they are, the results of a new, BSA-sponsored poll on The Values of Men and Boys in America, lamenting that “the ethical and moral values of men and boys often fall short of the ideal.” Not surprisingly, the various BSA press releases make no mention of the group’s own immoral stand: If you’re gay, stay away.
This position is immoral because it rejects people for who they are. The evidence is increasingly clear that none of us chooses our sexual orientation. Yet even if one believes gays have a choice, that’s no reason to turn them away. People choose their religion, too. As long as they don’t try to impose their beliefs (or sexuality) on others, what’s the problem? The problem, of course, is fear on the part of some BSA leaders. And you can understand it. Having grown up at a time when most gays were shamed and closeted, they don’t know gay people. They cling to stereotypes about aggressive “recruiting,” and to the discredited belief that gays are more dangerous than heterosexuals.
With good intentions, no doubt, they’re infecting the next generation of Scouts with their fear. This damages even their presumably heterosexual kids, who learn a series of horrifying life lessons: to exclude those who are different, to see things in terms of “us vs. them,” and to be suspicious of male-to-male physical contact that is anything but aggressive.
This is especially sad because since 1910, the Boy Scouts have offered a unique combination of adventure, skills development and comradeship. That was why Tim Curran, a 13-yearold from Berkeley, Calif., joined the Boy Scouts in 1976. It’s also why - having earned Eagle Scout status - he sued local Scout leaders in 1981 for expelling him after he appeared in a newspaper story about gay teens.
Now, another 14 years down the road, Curran’s case finally may be heading toward conclusion. Lower courts have contradicted each other on the key issue: whether the BSA should be subject to antidiscrimination laws that apply to businesses. The California Supreme Court has said it will hear the suit beginning this fall.
Three other cases, in California, Illinois and New Jersey, are pending against the Scouts. Like Curran, they all involve members or leaders who have been turned away because they’re gay.
The BSA’s legal strategy is to claim it’s not a business but a “valuesoriented” group that should be free to decide who can become a member. “Our whole being is about promoting traditional American family values,” spokesman Richard Walker says. “And homosexuality is inconsistent with those values.”
Curran, now a 32-year-old filmmaker in Los Angeles, has contended that whatever BSA’s business status, it should not be free to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. He’s likened the BSA stance to that of the racist restaurant owners in mid-century America who refused to serve blacks.
To the extent that the analogy is valid, we can only encourage the courts do their job again - standing against discrimination - so that 40 years from now, the Boy Scouts of America can claim adherence to its own stated values of trustworthiness, kindness and courage.
Mention: Despite the Scout oath pledging to “help other people at all times,” just 39 percent of longtime Scouts agree strongly that “helping others should come before one’s own interests.”
Source: Boy Scouts of America’s “values” poll, 1995
Male call: Do you think the Scouts should admit gays? Send responses to VoiceMale, P.O. Box 8071, Lexington, Ky., 40533-8071, or to e-mail address nchetaol.com.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Neil Chethik Universal Press Syndicate