While the Boy Scouts of America, in the manner of the Catholic Church, continues to soft-pedal a documented pedophile threat within its leadership ranks, the organization has once again affirmed its ban on the participation of any boy or volunteer or officer who is gay or lesbian.
The century-old organiztion enforces the latter rule so diligently that not long ago it outed a Cub Scout den mother who was a closeted lesbian. Apparently, she was a bigger threat to the scouts than male BSA employees or volunteers with histories of sexual predation. How often? In USA scouting, literally thousands of sexual predation incidents have been documented.
[By the way, it goes without saying, at least among the enlightened readership of Uppity, that there is no statistical correlation between being gay and being a sexual predator, so any suggestion that banning gays prevents sexual predation is just nonsense.]
Now, US presidents historically have been honorary presidents of scouting since the early 20th Century. President Obama, to his credit, nevertheless has spoken out after the BSA recently reaffirmed its anti-gay stance. The White House said Wednesday that Obama opposes the BSA's policy of excluding gays as members and adult leaders.
Meanwhile, while it's always dicey to try to figure out what Mitt Romney thinks about any issue at any given moment, it's also the case that, back in 1994, he said: "I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation." Romney more recently went on to undermine that position by saying the BSA nevertheless ought to be able to set its own policies. That's sort of like supporting a federal Civil Rights law but saying states should still have the option of officially persecuting blacks.
But let's give Romney the benefit of the doubt and assume he really would prefer to see the BSA allow gays to participate. Now you have the two major party candidates for president in basic agreement on the issue, along with hundreds of thousands of Americans who have signed petitions urging the BSA to rethink its archaic, obsolete, dunderheaded approach to the subject. Not to mention the many former Boy Scouts -- yours truly, included -- who have written the organization to describe their anger, dismay and even shame at its egregious stance, and who in many cases have returned their treasured scouting badges and medals.
And yet the Boy Scout web site insists that as one of this country's most influential, pervasive youth organizations it is "truly a melting pot. Scouts come from all walks of life, all types of family units, faiths, and racial and ethnic groups. The BSA respects the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those encompassed in the Scout Oath and Law, and aims to allow youth to live and learn as children and enjoy Scouting without immersing them in the politics of the day." Except, that is, for all gays -- open, presumed or outed.
I now realize that I was a hetero scout, but while sexuality and gender identity are very powerful components of adolescent and teen-aged boys, no one presumed that any of us hetero scouts would cause any kind of upset. But of course some among us did, and others among us were sexually assaulted by other, most likely heterosexual men in the BSA's service.
The widely held presumption is that the BSA's anti-gay position is based on its concern that many of its local troops, which are sponsored by churches and other religious organizations, would be left without sponsors if it modernized its policy. Somehow, however, the Girl Scouts and international Scouting organizations have carried out their essentially identical missions without resorting to, as the Los Angeles Times has put it, the BSA's intolerance.
All of this leads your humble blogger to ask a local followup: What does Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker think of the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy? He reminds audiences frequently that he was once an Eagle Scout, and thus subject to the scouting oath and law. As an Eagle Scout, he was obliged, among other things, "To help other people at all times," and to follow the Scout Law, which instructed its inductees to be "helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, brave" and more.
Ah, but we rather expect Walker would latch on to the Scout Law phrase that he be "morally straight" and "reverent." Those are loaded, ambiguous phrases, just as a lot of sexuality in modern America is ambiguous, but we've a hunch how Scotty might interpret them.
In any case, would it kill a member of the Wisconsin press corps to ask Walker what his view is on the BSA's anti-gay policy, especially while the issue is still in the news? Inquiring fellow Scouts want to know!