Scouting emphasizes values, among them honesty, loyalty and bravery. But it's hard to reconcile those values with recent actions by the top brass within the Boy Scouts of America.
This month, the national youth organization severed ties to a 19-year-old Eagle Scout who publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation. Two days later, the Scouts reaffirmed an archaic policy of excluding avowed gay members and leaders.
Eric Jones of Kearney, Mo. achieved Scouting's highest rank, but it didn't matter. Likewise, adult volunteers are turned away regardless of their contributions to scouting.
The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly affirmed the Scouts' exclusionary policy in 2000, but that doesn't make it right. And the American public is increasingly less forgiving of antigay discrimination.
There was reason to hope the Scouts were headed in the same direction when a committee was appointed two years ago to review the policy. More recently, two members of the national executive board — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson — expressed support for a change. Regrettably, their views didn't prevail.
Without explanation, or even identifying the committee members, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its national policy of excluding gays and lesbians. The BSA's policy is similar to the “don't ask, don't tell” standard that was in place until last year for the U.S. military. While the Boy Scouts don't inquire about the sexual orientation of its employees, volunteers or individual members, it still claims the right to deny membership to openly gay individuals.
The Scouts, as with any other responsible organization, must protect its members. But there's no credible evidence that banning gays serves that purpose. To the contrary, studies have repeatedly shown that there isn't any link between sexual orientation and pedophilia. As witnessed by the Penn State University scandal, pedophiles can present themselves as married heterosexuals.
While we disagree with the national organization's decision, we also disagree with those who would seek punitive measures such as revoking funding or denying access to public facilities for Boy Scouts. The scouts themselves are not to blame for this policy. Furthermore, many leaders, young and old, within scouting disagree with it. A story in Friday's Wall Street Journal noted how some troops across the nation are already ignoring the ban.
Nevertheless, this organization, which for more than 100 years has taught young men everything from canoeing to courage, needs to work something called inclusion. Young people face enough challenges in working through their teen years without facing this kind of preemptive bias. Scouting should be there for all of them.