Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gays in the Boy Scouts

I’ve been following this “discussion.” I have to put “discussion” in quotes because while everyone is talking and expressing opinions, they’re clearly not discussing. They’re just talking to the ether as it were.

It’s a little hard to pin down the actual objections but they seem to fall into two basic categories. The first is an objection to homosexuality itself. The key is how can an organization that claims to be “morally straight” accept immoral and sinful behavior?

I think the point here is that not everyone agrees that homosexuality is immoral and sinful behavior. Granted, many of the groups that sponsor scout units do take that view. But the national board wouldn’t be forcing them to accept gays. For those units nothing would change except possibly for one little thing.

Rather than the national organization being the target for activists, individual units could be targeted. Have you ever heard the phrase “divide and conquer?” I don’t know how realistic a concern this is, the economics don’t seem to make sense, but I guess you never know. Now the Girl Scouts, who accept both gays and atheists, don’t seem to have any problems. But things always seem to be more serious when the boys are involved.

Besides, that gets us to the second objection. The concern that allowing gay leaders into the scouts would increase the chances for sexual abuse. There is no disagreement about the fact that the overwhelming majority of sexual abusers are male.

I’ve heard a number of right wing types ask would you let your teenage daughter share a tent in the woods with an adult male leader? Obviously the answer is no. Even the army doesn’t put males and females together in the same tent. But neither do the scouts have adults and scouts sharing a tent or at least they didn’t when I was a scout back in the stone age.

Impropriety is impropriety and I suspect it would be avoided in any case.

Opponents of gay inclusion seem to talk out of multiple sides of their mouths on this question on different days. On Monday they’ll claim that homosexuality is tantamount to pedophilia but on Tuesday they’ll back peddle and claim they meant that homosexual pedophiles would be drawn to the opportunity.

So which is it folks?

That homosexuality and pedophilia are synonymous, or even highly correlated, is demonstrably false. My understanding of pedophilia is that it is independent of sexual orientation, almost an orientation in itself, but one that is inherently harmful because the child, by definition, cannot give informed consent.

Pedophilia can overlap with heterosexuality or homosexuality which is why most pedophiles are also heterosexual. Jerry Sandusky, constantly being named by the right wing as an example of the horrors that will occur, was actually heterosexual even though he victimized male children. It’s the youth of the victim that attracts the pedophile and not the sex. The last I looked the probability of anyone being a pedophile was the same regardless of their sexual orientation.

That means that the scouts have the problem now just like Penn State had the problem. Allowing gay leaders isn’t going to change anything.

But what about openly gay scouts?

There are gay scouts today that stay in the closet for various reasons. I doubt “because the scouts would kick me out” is high on that list of reasons. That means there are probably gay scouts now so again, nothing really changes.

The bottom line is I see no rational reason for not lifting the global ban. As long as individual units can decide for themselves nothing really changes other than the acknowledgement of reality. Ok, granted, acknowledgement of reality isn’t high on a conservative’s list of “talents.”

No rational reason, but what about emotional reasons?

Given the amount of noise this issue has raised, it’s quite possible that lifting the ban will result in a devastating backlash with large numbers of parents pulling their kids from the program and leaders quitting.

Could it cripple the scout organization? It’s possible.

So now comes, to my mind, the big question, is this change important enough to risk the survival of the scouting organization?

Personally I think that risk is modest and this is a change that ultimately will make the organization stronger. Fifty years from now scouts, and everyone else, will be flabbergasted that there was even a debate.

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