Good News: Boy Scouts officially lift blanket ban on gay scout leaders
We start this week with some Good News, this one coming in the form of an update.
A couple of weeks ago, I reported that the executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America had voted to lift the group's long-standing blanket ban on gay scout leaders and employees, saying that individual scout troops could make their own policies on the matter. I said then that the policy would become final if it was approved by the organization's national executive board at its meeting on July 27.
Well, come July 27, the national board did just that, with seventy-nine percent of those present and voting approving the executive committee's decision to life the blanket ban. The new policy takes effect immediately.
As I said in the wake of the executive committee vote, the move is far from perfect because by its nature it allows individual scout units to continue to ban gay scout leaders, that is, to continue to be bigots. But it was undoubtedly done to ease the hurt feelings of such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, which sponsor large numbers of Scout units.
However, it appears it may not be enough to mollify the Mormon Church, which sponsors more Scout units than any other organization. The Church issued a statement saying it is "deeply troubled" by the decision, which they claimed is "inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church," which is pretty odd since the Mormon Church's own policy allows for men who experience what the group calls "same-gender attraction" (because it won't say "gay men") to be priests and serve in leadership roles provided they remain celibate.
On the other hand, other folks were not so forgiving of the "leave it up to the units" compromise. The Human Rights Campaign said the Boy Scouts should not allow any unit to continue excluding gays, saying in a statement "Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period."
For my part, while I agree with the HRC, I'm prepared to cut the BSA a little slack - for now. I'm sure the national board felt itself between a rock and a hard place, the rock being the reality of a changing world which they could not (and, in fairness, perhaps did not want) to ignore; the hard place being the fact that 70% of local scout units are church-supported - and in the face of the fact that participation in scouting is and has declining for some years now, the potential loss of the church support was no doubt a daunting prospect.
Bottom line here is that this is progress - more accurately, it reflects progress in our society on the issue of LGBTQ rights. It's not the end, but it is a clear if single step on the way. And that, no matter how you look at it, is good news.
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