By The Herald Bulletin Anderson, Ind.
A social drama played out May 23 in Grapevine, Texas, where local leaders of the Boy Scouts of America convened and voted — 61 percent in favor — to welcome openly gay boys into the Boy Scouts.
This was a monumental decision for an organization that is steeped in tradition and espouses many conservative American values. Some of the Boy Scouts’ largest supporters are national and local church organizations, many of which opposed opening the Scouts up to openly gay kids.
While the vote is encouraging, the Boy Scouts still have a ways to go in embracing openly gay membership. The ban on openly gay adults serving as Scout leaders remains a barrier to inclusiveness in the organization.
Predictably, gay and lesbian rights groups and liberal churches pushed the Boy Scouts to take the logical next step of allowing openly gay adults to be leaders in the organization. While the reaction of many Scout officials might be let’s take one step at a time, that’s little consolation to gay adults who want to be involved in helping boys tap into the leadership, maturity and personal competence that the Boy Scouts are so good at fostering.
It’s almost as if Scout leaders are saying to openly gay Scouts, “We’ll let you in now, but when you reach adulthood you won’t be worthy of helping boys become men.”
Opening scouting and other organizations up to all, regardless of skin color, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation is the right thing to do. When a diverse group of people mix together, it leads to a greater understanding and reduces fear of the unknown.
The Boy Scouts have taken an important step toward a higher level of inclusiveness, but the denial of openly gay adults represents an inconsistency of policy and an unwillingness to take the plunge of fully embracing diversity. Yes, it is the Boy Scouts’ legal right, as upheld by a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case that is more than 20 years old, to exclude gay people.
But as one of America’s great social and service institutions, the Boys Scouts have a higher calling to be a leader for all boys, regardless of sexual orientation.
In summary Boy Scouts send mixed message by continuing ban on openly gay Scout leaders.