Boy Scouts of America must recognize gay scouts nationally

by Heidi Krick – Asst. Campus Voice Editor – hkrick@unca.edu

The Boy Scouts of America must accept change and end the organization’s practice of perpetuating prejudice and needless fear.

Accepting change is never easy, especially when those changes conflict with one’s existing morals and beliefs. This week, the BSA will discuss, and possibly vote on, lifting the organization’s national ban prohibiting openly gay and lesbian members and Scout leaders from joining.

The BSA’s ban against gays and lesbians seems based on ancient myths and stereotypes. For generations, homosexuality was irrationally associated with pedophilia and other forms of sexual abuse.  However, gays and lesbians are no more likely than heterosexuals to abuse children, according to a 2010 Harvard Health report.

The BSA must also recognize many pedophiles often hide behind the guise of a traditional, heterosexual marriage, with one such example being Pennsylvania State University’s Jerry Sandusky.  Sandusky faces 30 to 60 years for 45 counts of sexual crimes against children.

Long-lasting fears regarding the recruitment of children into the gay agenda now give way to the scientifically proven fact that being gay involves the individual’s genetic make-up, in the same way hair and eye color are biologically determined.  The only choice when it comes to homosexuality is choosing to live life fully and completely.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed on Saturday that lifting the BSA’s ban bends the organization to the whims of pop culture.  However, homosexuality should not just be confined to pop culture.

Gays and lesbians become increasingly less likely to hide their sexual orientation simply because their sexuality makes others uncomfortable.  Imagine the amount of discomfort gays feel while experiencing daily discrimination, lasting from childhood through adulthood.

During the civil rights movement, African-Americans fought against discrimination and segregation and other hateful acts that demonize human beings simply because of their skin color. The world today is experiencing the gay civil rights movement.

Gay soldiers now serve proudly and openly in the U.S. armed forces.  Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

More than 462,000 Americans signed an online protest petition last year after an openly gay California Scout was denied Eagle, the highest rank in the Scouts, because of his sexual orientation.

Several companies such as UPS, Merck and Intel withdrew financial support to the BSA when the organization’s discriminatory practices were made public.  These examples prove much of America no longer shares the same limited view the BSA currently practices.

Scout membership is down 30 percent since 1999, the year before the Supreme Court upheld the organization’s right to ban an openly gay New Jersey Scout leader.

The growing number of changes reflect a deep shift in how the public views gay Americans.

Refusing to allow gays and lesbians to participate in civil acts like marriage and organizations like the Boy Scouts damages those on both sides of the argument.

The Boy Scouts teach self-reliance and other leadership qualities.  The organization teaches boys to be conscientious, responsible and productive, according to the BSA website.

Put simply, the organization enables boys to grow into strong, capable and respectable men.  Unfortunately, with the organization’s current practices, the BSA provides these opportunities only to a portion of the young male population.

As much as 21 percent of the adolescent male population admits to being gay, according to the American Psychological Association.  The BSA misses out on a lot of dues and investments by denying these boys entrance in the organization.

The BSA claims the existing ban prohibiting openly gay members and leaders prevents sexual abuse.  However, recent so-called perversion files released in October to police and sheriff’s departments across the country show the BSA actually shielded sexually abusive leaders in the past, revealing the BSA’s own misguided concerns.

The BSA seems more content reinforcing old prejudices against gays than publicly acknowledging and taking action against abusers already within the organization.

Lifting the BSA’s national ban against openly gay members and leaders will, unfortunately, leave the ultimate decision to the organization’s 290 local governing councils and the 116,000 religious and civic groups that sponsor the BSA.

The BSA’s strong ties to conservative religions make an outright ban on gay discrimination extremely unlikely.  However, ending the current restrictions against gays moves the organization one step closer toward the values taught to their Scouts –– tolerance, acceptance and understanding.

According to the most recent Gallup poll, more than half of Americans accept gay and lesbian relationships. Now the BSA must accept these changes as well.  One cannot teach tolerance completely while behaving intolerantly toward others.

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