Over the years, local governments have slowly separated themselves from the Scouts, ending decades-long arrangements for discounted rents and facilities usages.
Philadelphia has been involved in a decade-long effort to enforce its nondiscrimination ordinance in a city-owned building the Scouts occupy rent-free, or end the subsidy. But efforts have been stymied by the courts and City Council and are currently in appeal.
Earlier this year, a Scouts council in Ohio ousted a lesbian den mother; on Wednesday, 275,000 signatures were delivered to the Scouts’ annual meeting in Florida calling for her reinstatement.
Former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell joined Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, whose videotaped testimony about his two moms in the Iowa state legislature last year went viral, to deliver the signatures.
Given that Tyrrell’s petition started online, this might be the way to move the Boy Scouts on this issue — or push the Scouts to further alienate youngsters and their families.
The Scouts’ oath has two clauses that have traditionally been used to exclude people: “to do my duty to God” and “to keep myself ... morally straight.”
The first clause, referring to God, is clearly aimed at the atheists and agnostics and underscores the organization’s Christian roots. The BSA calls itself “one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations,” insinuating that one must be Christian — or at least believe in God — to have “values.”
Though the Scouts have honorable goals, it’s unconscionable that the organization would instill discrimination as one of its tenets. Building character, training boys to be participatory citizens, service and conservation projects, sure. But discrimination?
Which begs the question, who’s funding the Scouts? Is the organization afraid to piss off its funders by accepting gay and atheist youth? Wouldn’t it better serve its goals of a “more conscientious, responsible and productive society” by opening its doors to gays and atheists?
Or is the organization so stuck in the 1900s that it can’t fathom change? That they’ve staked out a position and, by God, they are sticking to it? (Which doesn’t make them seem archaic or antiquated at all.)
It also begs the question of why other youth organizations, including the Girl Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Scouting for All and the 4H Club, welcome LGBT and atheist youth and leaders.
What are the Boy Scouts afraid of? That they’ll become irrelevant? Or perhaps that’s already happened and they haven’t realized it yet?