When most of us think of the Boy Scouts of America, we generally picture boys learning to tie knots, collecting canned goods and building Pinewood Derby cars. However, in the past few weeks, the BSA has become synonymous with hate speech and discrimination - two things I believe we all agree should not be associated with childhood memories.
In 2012, the BSA’s National Executive Board came to a unanimous consensus to retain its policy to "not grant memberships to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals." They backed this by saying, "We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirements in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts." AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson, the man set to be president of the BSA board in 2014, intends to change this policy.
There has been much opposition to this possible policy change. John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, has been a major advocate against homosexuals in Scouts for the past decade and uses two things to fuel parents' fear: their children will either be turned gay themselves or will be molested by homosexual leaders. Like most fear-inducing hate speech, these allegations are in no way backed by any form of research.
"No parent would send their son to go on overnight campouts led by openly gay men who by their very nature and identity somehow sexually crave other males," Stemberger said. This is like stating all straight men are attracted to every single female, including young girls. The American Psychological Association shows there are no studies to conclude a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. APA goes on to say even men who molest young boys are not considered homosexual because pedophiles do not possess an adult sexual orientation that any open homosexual would possess.
The second concern is in regard to an openly gay Scout leader having an influence on the sexuality of the young boys in his troop. Stemberger states that there is already a "wave of boy-on-boy sexual activity" and "questioning gender has become popular in public schools." Since 1975, it has been the consensus of the scientific community that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a birthed characteristic, not one that can be influenced or changed by any outside source.
In 2000, the Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, in which a former Scoutmaster who was removed for being openly gay sued the BSA, brought this conflict to the top of the American judicial system. The court ruled in favor of the BSA, claiming the First Amendment's freedom of association clause protects a private organization’s right to exclude people from becoming members even for criteria covered under state non-discrimination laws. Justice John Paul Stevens said in his dissenting opinion, "Every state law prohibiting discrimination is designed to replace prejudice with principle."
Even though the Supreme Court set a precedent by ruling the Boy Scouts of America can discriminate against homosexuals and cannot face financial backlash such as being taxed or being disallowed from city buildings, this ruling must be overturned. The Supreme Court once ruled schools could be “separate, but equal,” and thought prohibition was constitutional for a while. Like they have done many times in the past, they must see the error of their decision in allowing the Boy Scouts of America to continue to use prejudice.
Former Chief Scout Executive Robert J. Mazzuca received $1,136,942 for his association with BSA, all of this money tax-exempted. Currently, the BSA is a tax-exempted group, and therefore should not be allowed to show such discrimination. If they continue to do so, the BSA must lose their charitable organization status and be deemed a business establishment.
I fully support the BSA in their great philanthropic efforts. I believe they give many young boys great experiences and great memories of community, service and education. If they continue to discriminate against those they let serve as Scoutmasters, they have every right. However, the IRS should exercise its right to collect their taxes. The Boy Scouts of America have hidden behind legal loopholes and misguided claims against homosexuals, and thus far have been able to get away with it politically, legally and socially. Many groups have changed outdated policies to allow all people equal opportunities. The BSA should take notice and allow all boys and their parents the equal opportunity to participate in Boy Scouting.
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