Friday, July 31, 2015

BSA Takes Step Forward - But Not Far Enough

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on July 31, 2015

GOUVEIA: Being prepared to do the right thing

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Posted: Friday, July 31, 2015 9:55 am
Many times this space has been critical of the Boy Scouts of America concerning its policy towards homosexual scouts and scout leaders. When I thought what they were doing was wrong, I expressed that opinion strongly.
Now that organization has taken steps towards improving that policy. They haven’t totally reversed it. They haven’t made it what I and so many across the country think it should be. It still smacks of discrimination for reasons that should be obvious in this day and age.
But it’s a step in the right direction. It is an effort to make it better. It reflects a lot of hard work by a whole lot of people, as well as a serious attempt at honest compromise by many who hold certain beliefs near and dear to their heart.
So as incomplete as their change is, I give them credit for making it. I believe it is a step towards the day when the Boy Scouts will join the Girl Scouts as a great organization serving all children and families, regardless of the sexual orientation of anyone.
This week the BSA Executive Committee voted to remove the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees. However, it left a loophole that allows “religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
That’s polite language for saying religious organizations who sponsor the Boy Scouts can continue to practice discrimination against gay people by covering it with the blanket of “religious beliefs.” It’s pretty sad when a group like the Scouts can take that position and have it considered a positive step towards recognizing equality — but nonetheless that is what it is.
BSA President Robert Gates made it clear in his statement that aside from the moral issues that precipitated this move, there were compelling legal reasons for it to happen, as well. With the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage (it is time to put that silly term “gay marriage” aside), the position of the BSA regarding homosexuals was simply untenable.
“The country is changing, and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels,” Gates told the BSA’s national business meeting in May. He also told members they could not maintain their membership rules going forward because the law and the country was changing.
That does not seem to make certain religious organizations any more likely to adapt to the law. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a longtime supporter and sponsor of the Boy Scouts, said it is “re-evaluating” its relationship with scouting due to the policy change.
“The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation,” the church said in a statement. “However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
That’s a politically correct way of saying “We will allow homosexuals to be Boy Scouts in our troops, but once they grow up we don’t want them as leaders and won’t take them based upon nothing but their sexuality.”
Is this what we are moving toward in America? Is religion the last great haven for discrimination?
I fully support private organizations — including religious groups — having the right to set their own rules and establish and promote beliefs and standards consistent with the principles on which they are founded. But when those organizations branch out into the public or quasi-public world, they must comply with the same laws and rules that govern everyone else.
No one should ever force a religious group to accept into their fold those who do not believe as they do. But that does not give them the right to practice blanket discrimination in other areas.
So, congratulations to the Boy Scouts. You have done the right thing here — you just haven’t done it far enough.
But I have faith and confidence that as the political anger and persecution complexes so prevalent today begin to fade, the Boy Scouts and others will continue their journey forward. Let’s hope the religious organizations that have helped them grow over the years stick around for the ride.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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