Boy Scouts considering an end to discrimination

The Boy Scouts of America is telling several media outlets that they are seriously considering a new policy that would end discrimination based on sexual orientation — at least as a national organization policy. Individual troops would be able to set their own rules. This is incredibly good news and I am so proud of all of you who joined in the protest against this policy back in the Summer. Your decisions seem to have made a difference.


  1. I had heard some rumblings to the effect that the Church of Latter-Day Saints was reconsidering this issue, which would remove the single largest barrier to BSA doing so. (BSA relies heavily on support from the Mormon community.)

    We’ll see what happens. This pendulum moves back and forth periodically, and I’m not sure whether it will stop short, stop at the peak, or swing back.

    1. I wouldn’t expect just the LDS changing their position to change things for BSA. The BSA relies just as heavily on The Catholic Church as they do on LDS and that particular org isn’t reversing position any time soon. 

    2. went live weeks ago. I think that the timing is relevant. The mormons (church) have been trying to convince mormons (the adherents) that the problem is with the sin (hetero or homo) not the sinner. Now the BSA can stop blanket restrictions based on _identity_ and only deal with _behavior_ that interferes its programs.

  2. Is there any information as to whether the new policy will allow atheist Scouts and adult Scouters to participate?

    1. Supposedly yes they will, at the unit level, based on the chartering organization of the unit.  If you chartering org is a Catholic Church, you may want to go to a different unit.

  3. I love how Morman Jebus can just speak to the head of the Morman church and doctrine can change…. 

    Like mythical Morman Jebus just said ” you know what… we were all wrong about that anti gay thing…. they are not going to hell + let them be boy scouts.  If you are questioning my new Jebus opinion on it, see Mormans vs. Black people as reference to how  often I change my mind when it suits the church….”

    1. Interesting how religion-based policies, which are supposed to be based on eternal, immutable truths, are constantly being revised to work better in today’s world. I think adapting to changes over time is natural and a good idea, but I’m not religious- how do they simultaneously hold the idea that their beliefs are straight from God himself and thus perfect and unquestionable (to the point that you should do everything you can to spread them to every other person in the world!), yet change them when needed without invalidating their entire belief system? The cognitive dissonance must be unbearable.

      1. I agree about the dissonance, but I think they would just chock it up to fallible human being fallible.

        Keeps God in the clear and humans in their place.

      2. I don’t think most people think of their religion as a strict doctrine. I think they think of it as a set of ethical guidelines derived from a supernatural source. Thus, when injustice is pointed out and explained, most religious people will adapt.

        Note: I’m an atheist, so take what I have with a grain of salt. But from discussions with religious laypersons, I’ve felt that ethics was more important than doctrine in most discussions (at least with Catholics and Mormons–the people I’ve discussed it most with).

        1.  Sounds like you were talking to secular or even “culturally” religious laypersons.  Check out some of William Lane Craig’s stuff to get an idea of how very sincerely religious Christians approach morality.

          1. I’m a sincerely religious Christian.  I also sincerely believe that dogma is dictated by human beings trying to interpret Scripture (and that Paul wasn’t a huge fan of women), and that humans are fallible, and often just plain suck, and many will interpret them however is convenient to their agenda.  Hence we have homosexuality commonly accepted as the “sin of Sodom” which…it isn’t.

      3. Interesting how religion-based policies, which are upposed to be based on eternal, immutable truths, are constantly being revised to work better in today’s world

        Conservative philosophies offer mainstream philosophy with a low pass filter. Just like the Amish and right wing politics. Some people like to ride behind the wave.

      4. Lots of religions try the alternative where they don’t change with time.  They are all, without exception, dead.

        Religion is a meme.  Good memes live and spread, bad memes die.  One of the best traits a meme can have, especially in the modern world where shit is constantly changing is the capacity to change with it.

        The environment a meme like religion lives in is the mind.  If that environment is changing, the meme has to be resilient enough to change with it.  Once minds became much more hostile and toxic to ideas that advocate overt racial bigotry, the Mormon church modified to adapt.    Well, the same thing is happening with homosexuality, with even more rapidity.  

        Think about it.  When Billy Clinton introduced “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, it was consider a gay rights VICTORY because now the military couldn’t ask you if you were gay and hound you out if you said yes.  Twenty years later DADT was ripped down and it was considered a long over do victory.  Most Americans are pro-gay marriage, when twenty years ago there wasn’t even a serious conversation on the subject in the US.  

        Corporate America makes no pretense at permanent morality, and so with very few exceptions, are rainbow flag wavers in policy, if not also in practice.    They are quick and happy to react to the change in the environment.  Religious organizations are much slower to change, but even they will have to bend in the near future.  It is already starting to happen across a number of religions.  

        Minds are starting to be a hostile place for homophobia.  Memes that live there either need to retreat to ignorant hold outs or change.  I think LSD wants to expand and grow virulent meme.  I wouldn’t be shocked if they start contorting their way slowly towards the norm, as they did with polygamy and racial bigotry. 

        1. I do not remember gay people treating DADT as a victory at the time, especially since Clinton had campaigned on removing the ban entirely.

          1. Yeah, it is true that victory is an overstatement.  It was considered an incremental improvement.  Clinton did campaign on eliminating the ban entirely, but ended up having to settle for DADT, which lightened the previously far more brutal policy of “we will fucking hunt you down and find you mother fucker”.

            That sort of policy is dead, never to return.  The world moves forward, and not so slowly these days.  Even that douche bag Paul Ryan, who opposed the repeal of DADT, after the repeal, basically said “fuck it”.  The bigots are just performing a holding action at this point and losing rapidly.  The entire Northeast of the US, which is a very large portion of the US population happily live in marriage equality states with absolutely no signs of any sorts of repeal.

            These assholes are on the way out.  The fact that the Boy Scouts, even with there strong LDS and Catholic Church influences is considering at least a partial retreat is telling.  It can’t happen fast enough.

            Now if Obama would just grow a pair and murder off DOMA…

  4. Ah, the devil is in the details. So they are going to simply allow discrimination on the local level instead of on the organizational level.

    I don’t think anyone is fooled by this one step forward and a half step back. ‘Ending discrimination’, feh!

    1. It would still be a pretty significant move, in that it gives troops that aren’t inclined to discriminate room to do that in the open, rather than by covering their eyes and whistling innocently.

      Won’t change anything in bible-beltistan; but even a formal “We say gay is A-OK!” announcement from HQ would be unlikely to prevent local organizations from finding ways to uninvite people they don’t want. 

    2. They take it away from the council level – so if a unit says a boy is an Eagle, and his work is satisfactory, the council will agree, instead of pointing to national policy and tossing it.

    3. The NY Times said the same thing, IIRC, but with a caveat: the court case about BSA’s discrimination said the policy was ok b/c BSA’s discrimination was considered a core part of it’s mission. If it isn;t mandatory, it can’t possibly be core, so there goes that defense.

  5. Doesn’t matter, the Boy Scouts of America still indoctrinates our children to authoritarianism with outdoor recreation as merely an enticement. No one who holds egalitarian or pacifist morals would want anything to do with their organization.

    1. And yet, I hew to both egalitarian and pacifist ideals, and think Scouting is great program (but for the discriminatory membership policies and the normalization of prejudice they cause).

    2. No one who holds egalitarian or pacifist morals would want anything to do with their organization.

      Or fashion sense.

    3. Wow, I must be in the wrong Boy Scouts.  That or you fell in with a different group of Brown Shirts as a kid, and just got confused.  I mean, my son’s troop, 60 kids strong, is a service organization that spends time cleaning up local waterways, getting donations for the local food bank, and helping out around the school we’re affiliated with.  We have uniforms, but I mean, so do the Shriners.  Are they authoritarian?  We’re not marching close order drill and practicing with bayonets if that’s what you’re implying.  My son loves the outdoors.  Scouts gives him a chance to hang out with other kids who love the outdoors as much as he does.  This time around at winter camp we’re teaching the boys how to build a lean-to and read a compass and go orienteering.  His hope is to turn this outdoor experience into being a park ranger so he can protect national parks and the habitats for wild animals.  Whenever we drive by a recently razed set of land where they’re building a new housing developments (idiots) he gets sad and says “I wish they’d have left the land for the animals.  Now where will the deer and fox and birds go?” 

      So, please, until you’ve actually spent time with the Scouts, and seen them for who they really are, hold off on the generalizations.

      1. Or you could just take your kids out into the woods and teach them orienteering without the “merit badge” bullshit.  I think it’s the lists of approved activities and the merit badges that are earned by scrupulously abiding by the conditions set for that badge and stuff like that that makes the scouts vaguely authoritarian.

        Honestly, none of that crap made any sense to me when I was a cub scout.  As with just about everything my mother tried to get me involved in as a kid I participated when other people were doing stuff that interested in me and blanked out into my imagination when they weren’t.  I didn’t even understand why I would want to earn merit badges.

        1. That’s great if you actually do take your kids out in the woods.  I find it happens a lot more often with my kids when we have the framework of scouting to schedule monthly trips. Plus we do some great stuff I would never self organize.  It’s the power of community and economies of scale.
          BTW earning merit badges isn’t a requirement for being in scouts – some kids resonate to that and some don’t but they’re all welcome to participate.  Some make eagle, some never even make tenderfoot, most end up in between but nobody really cares because the kids benefit either way.

  6. Even though this means individual troops will still be able to discriminate the really good thing about this policy shift is that it means that troops that don’t discriminate won’t have to worry about their openly gay members being denied an Eagle Award by the national organization.

    That is, of course, assuming they implement the policy.

    1. That was my question to Zach when I got the email from Scouts for Equality this morning.  They said something similar last year, and at the last minute, took it out of the general voting, and had a special committee decide, so that could still happen.  But, it’s a chink in the armor…

  7. It will never happen, after a concerted effort over the past few decades, the organization is too steeped in religion. The potential loss of members due to proudly discriminatory parents could be too much of a deterrent.
    If they make everything go local, it will just be a matter of finding the right troop. 

  8. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” he said.

    Oh, so you’re going to stop doing it?

  9. More than two-thirds of the country’s scout units are chartered by religious groups (not just Mormon) so there’s not a lot to change.

    So, here’s my obligatory salute to the Boy Scout’s founder, Robert Baden-Powell, and his well known love for the naked young male body, as well known as his distaste for the female form. All cheer Irony!

    1. Whether the BSA is a “public organization” is actually open to interpretation. The group has had a variable relationship with government, and at different times has enjoyed the benefit of Congressional charter, privileged access to tax-payer resources, official endorsement from elected officials, etc. Setting that aside — as a private citizen, I (to take myself as the example) am entitled to speak out against discrimination wherever I see it, and to encourage this private organization [sic] to change it policies. I’ve never understood the argument that the best way to protect our Constitutional freedoms is by not exercising them.

      1. But they are explicitly a private club and organization? Just because a group gets federal funding shouldn’t mean that the public gets to critique their membership policies. How would atheists feel if their get togethers were constantly flooded by Christian trolls and other loudmouths that try and hijack their organizations?

        1. I’m not sure I follow your argument. When you say, “Just because a group gets federal funding shouldn’t mean that the public gets to critique their membership policies” it sounds like you’re suggesting that federal funding is a shield against any sort of criticism. How exactly does that work?

          It seems to me that whether the Boy Scouts accept federal funding or not it’s still the public’s right to criticize them. If anything we have a greater obligation to criticize the organization and put its policies under scrutiny because they’re saying, “The taxes paid by LGBT citizens are good enough for us, but the citizens themselves aren’t worthy of being included.”

        2. I have to disagree with you.  If my tax dollars is are being used to fund an organization in any way, then they need to be open to all.  Not just those they *choose* to admit.  Discrimination should not be allowed.  If they are NOT getting ANY tax breaks or government support, then yes, they have a right to set their own rules, and I have a right to protest those rules.  I hate that the Boy Scouts have been taken over by religious groups. 

        3. “But they are explicitly a private club and organization?”
          Therein lies the rub. The BSA wants to claim the private exemption from federal nondiscrimination regulations, and at the seem time to enjoy the benefit of special, taxpayer-funded privileges.

          “Just because a group gets federal funding shouldn’t mean that the public gets to critique their membership policies.”
          It means something quite like that, actually.

          “How would atheists feel if their get togethers were constantly flooded by Christian trolls and other loudmouths to try and hijack their organizations?”
          Irritated, I suppose. Then again, the analogy doesn’t follow, because atheists don’t receive taxpayer funding.

        4. “How would atheists feel if their get togethers were constantly flooded by Christian trolls and other loudmouths to try and hijack their organizations?”

          Civil and LGBT rights activists and non-activists who speak out against discrimination are not “trolls” or “loudmouths” trying to “hijack” anything.

          WE are just trying to fight for what is right, and to fight against discrimination.

          Do not compare people who are trying to do the right thing to “trolls”.

    2. The question of whether they are entitled to enact discriminatory policies isn’t the real issue. It’s a question of whether or not they should.

      The same Amendment that allows private organizations to act like a bunch of jerks also allows other folks to say “dude, stop acting like a bunch of jerks.”

    3.  Of course they are entitled. And you are entitled to be an utter jerk. That’s OK. Just don’t complain when no one wants to be around you anymore. The BSA are finally starting to realize that their policies might just have some very negative real world actions. But if they want to, metaphorically, shoot themselves in both feet, there’s nothing stopping them.

    4. The KKK is a private organization and is entitled to do whatever they want.  However, other private individuals are allowed to call them out as fucking bigots, corporations are free to not donate to them, and the general population is free to shun them.  

      No one has advocated bringing the boot heel of government onto their necks of BSA.  They have advocated bringing the boot heel of public pressure onto their necks.  It is a-okay and well within everyone’s first amendment rights to point to the BSA and say “what a bunch of fucking bigots, lets shun them and not give them any money”, and then turn around and cheer them should they ever decide to not be a bunch of bigots.

      Being a private organization doesn’t give you a magic shield that prevents people from criticism.

  10. This comes as a huge relief to those of us in scouting who have been trying to keep the program alive in the face of such a stupid, bigoted policy.  My heart is full with thanks to everyone out there that exerted the pressure, and my stomach is in knots waiting to see if this is for real or not.

  11. As a former Scout Master in a small village (~500 families) in central Michigan, I found the benefits of the program to be remarkably successful.  I am Jewish, and our meetings did not have a religious tone to them.  What we did was to accomplish the “impossible”.  The goal was to conquer their skills, and become more confident and sure of themselves.

    We built a 20 foot tall tower for a local jamboree out of poplar trees, growing on my farm, which we we felled.  It was held together with binder twine which made them use the knot-tying skills we learned.  We built it first at a local park after drawing up plans.  It was teepee shaped with triangulated cross-members.

    When we were done, I told the whole troop to climb up on it all at once. Their eyes became big as silver dollars.  It creaked and groaned as the twine took up the weight, and settled down without a problem.. You should have heard the spontaneous cheer!!!

    At the Jamboree, they built it again, and everyone who attended climbed it.  I know it was a lifetime high for the scouts.  I was exceedingly proud of them.

    The moral of this is that you need not have a secular background to accomplish the Boy Scout goals. [Shhhh. Don’t tell the home boys….]

      1. I think he’s trying to say ‘When you’re doing it right, scouting isn’t about who you worship, or about who you love, and certainly not about who you hate – it’s about giving kids a chance to do something they didn’t know they could do.’  And it sounds like we might be looking at a major step toward letting people do it right.  A lot of us are very excited by the prospect. 

  12. “It’s an extremely complex issue,” said one Boy Scouts of America official, who explained that other organizations have threatened to withdraw their financial support if the BSA drops the ban.

    No, it’s an extremely simple issue.  It’s the right thing to do.

    The consequences might be disagreeable, and weighing whether you want to do them might be a little tricky, but the issue itself is not complex at all.

    It’s the right thing to do.

    1. ‘Complex’ is a polite euphemism for ‘enough of my constituents disagree with each other that I don’t know how to pander to them anymore’.

    1. Just as there have always been lots of troops and packs that don’t care about anyone’s sexual orientation, there are lots of troops and packs that also don’t care about anyone’s religious views (they tend to be one and the same, the trick is to look for a unit chartered to a school or parent group – though lots of progressive church-chartered units don’t really care either).  The whole gods and gays thing wasn’t part of the scouting conversation a generation ago, and we seem to finally be heading back toward just thinking about outdoor and life skills with leadership development instead of all these other distractions.  We are clawing back the soul of scouting from the right wingers that took over BSA from the inside in recent years.  You’re absolutely right, the fight for official inclusiveness isn’t over yet, but things are looking up and that’s something to be happy about.  

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