The Washington Post

A merit badge for bigotry?

The Boy Scouts of America just the other day reaffirmed its policy of banning openly gay boys from being members. The organization also continued its ban on gays or lesbians serving as leaders. The Scouts, in other words, came down squarely in favor of homophobia, which is a form of bigotry. Its ban strongly suggested that homosexuals are dangerous perverts who should not be allowed to hang around the campfire or, as leaders, will Pied Piper the boys of America into the gay life.

The BSA already has ample protections against the sort of thing any paranoid parent — a redundancy right there — would fear. Adults and Scouts cannot sleep in the same tent. Two adults, not just one, must accompany Scouts on trips or outings. What the BSA guidelines call “one-on-one contact between adults and Scouts is prohibited.” If a Scoutmaster has to meet with a Scout, another adult has to be present.

There are all sorts of regulations regarding showers and photos and photos in the showers — that sort of thing. There is no regulation, though, against the inevitable — homosexual contact between Scouts. This happens. This has to happen. Life and experience say so. If this is what the Scouts are seeking to avoid, it might as well have moss grow on the south side of the tree. It cannot be done.

In a sense, the ban on gay or lesbian Scout leaders is more pernicious. It suggests that there is scant difference between gay and predator or that the homosexuality of an adult will lead some youth in that direction. If that is the case, then homosexuals have to be banned from public life entirely, and we must hit the remote control whenever our kids watch Anderson Cooper.


In addition to being a former Scout, I am the former parent of a young child, and so I can appreciate the apprehension of any parent when the child goes out in what, to any parent, seems like a menacing world. But it is an astounding abdication of leadership, the very quality the Boy Scouts extols, for the BSA to side with ignorance and (unjustified) fear and add its voice to those of the bigots. If I were still the young parent I once was, I would not let my son become a Scout. In my neck of the woods, we don’t care where moss grows. We do care about homophobia. It grows wherever good people do not oppose it.

Richard Cohen writes a weekly political column for The Washington Post.


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