More than a month ago, the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) punted on using its authority to lift the discriminatory ban. My disappointment was compounded when it was revealed the vote would be open to the 1,400-member national council. But a report that the revered organization is sending surveys to 1.1 million scouts and their families nationwide to gauge their views on gay participation is another sign that the BSA is following the same playbook used by the Pentagon to prepare for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT).
According to the New York Times, “The questionnaire goes far beyond a simple yes or no, gays in or gays out.” The questions get to the core values of scouting.
Should gay and straight scouts, for example, be allowed to share a tent on a camping trip? What role should faith play in scouting, if a church sponsoring a local scout troop has taken a position on the inclusion or exclusion of gays and lesbians in its congregation? Does the scout oath, with its language about staying “morally straight,” declare a value about sexual orientation or just a general, admirable code of conduct?
As The Times notes, some are concerned about the wording of the questions. Now, where have I heard that before? Oh, yeah, back in 2010, when the defense department sent out a questionnaire to 400,000 servicemembers to plumb their thoughts on the possibility of gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. Folks thought it was all a set-up; that the result would ultimately give the Pentagon an excuse to maintain “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And they were wrong.
“More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent,” The Post reported in Nov. 2010. Further results reported by The Post “found that 69 percent of respondents said they had served with someone in their unit who they believed to be gay or lesbian. Of those who did, 92 percent stated that their unit’s ability to work together was very good, good, or neither good nor poor.”
One can only hope the BSA gets similar results to buck up its resolve to end its shameful ban when the national council votes in May. When 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious denominations, as the Associated Press reported last month, it won’t be easy. But it must be done. How can an organization that teaches its members to be “loyal” to it and to each other maintain a policy that isn’t loyal to them if they happen to be gay?
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