Monday turned out to be a wild day. It was announced that the Scouts were ready to vote on changing the national policy banning openly homosexual men and teens from participating as Scout leaders and Scouts. The new rule would allow individual troops to determine for themselves whether they would keep the policy or not.
One news source claimed that this was the result of two different factors: external pressure from pro-homosexual groups and corporate sponsors withholding contributions, and internal pressure from sponsoring organizations that were at odds with the policy, and corporate sponsors and their presence on the national board of directors. “Scouting’s policy caused some volunteers and chartered organizations which oversee and deliver the program, to act in conflict with their missions, principles or religious beliefs,” one Scouting representative said.
Which is an interesting way to frame the dilemma. Much more interesting than they could have realized.
Because this has become the mother of all conflicts of interest. Or, as the case may be, the “two mommies” of all conflicts of interest.
Conflict 1: The Executive Committee members pushing for the change. It now appears that the change was only proposed due to pressure from corporate sponsors, over and against the results of their own study of the policy and in light of their 2000 Supreme Court case.
Conflict 2: Sponsoring organizations with Scout troops stuck with the current Scout policy that violates their own policies or beliefs. Mainline and Liberal churches with troops are already between a rock and a hard place regarding the policy; in the event that the policy change does not go through, they will be forced to consider ending their relationships with the BSA.
If the policy goes through, the effect will be to shift the focus of pressure from the national Scouting organization to every single troop in the country. Individuals in leadership with the troops would be subject to the same relentless pressure.
Which will in turn lead to:
Conflict 3: The ethically conservative church troops possibly (if not probably) severing ties with the Scouts. Most churches and Scout leaders do not want to be the recipient of a crusade; the number of troops associated with the LDS Church and the Southern Baptist Convention would likely plummet.
Conflict 4: The obvious moral conflict. How will the Scouts define, let alone enforce, multiple ideas of what it means to be “morally straight” regarding sexuality? How is it even possible to enforce a position that intrinsically has no ethical strength? What is the consequence for someone being punished for doing something that another considers acceptable, when both moralities are recognized?
Much ink has already been spilled on both sides of the issue, and everyone seems to agree on two things: The policy change will not appease anyone, and the Scouts will lose some members no matter what they do.
As an Eagle Scout from my own home troop wrote to the Scouts:
While I do not think this policy goes far enough to stop discrimination within the organization entirely, it is a step in the right direction and an acceptable compromise for now. I hope that eventually all troops will not be allowed to discriminate against anyone in the future.
“Not be allowed?” By whom?
Or, as the New York Times put it:
Now that the group is on the verge of making discrimination optional, it can no longer claim that discrimination is a “core” purpose — and therefore state nondiscrimination rules should apply to the Scouts. The halfway policy change would inevitably invite litigation.
Turns out I was right about Zach Wahls.
But the language of the left betrays the real conflict here: The Scouts, simply put, are being accused of being immoral. Of being wrong.
Which is precisely where the battle needs to be. And it’s one the Scouts can win–if they ask a few good questions, and ask their detractors to define a few things. From what is the source of morality? God? Society? Majority? Individuals themselves? If morality is from a source other than humans or human societies, it is not relative; something cannot be moral for you and immoral for me. And this is where the Scouts need to counter. To say that the traditional male role is the right one, given by God and nature. And they need to point out that those pressuring them obviously do not consider their own actions to be discriminatory: apparently it’s only discrimination if you disagree with it. But if such groups were to openly state that they thought the BSA was acting immorally, the game would change. They are appealing to a moral standard to criticize a moral standard in the name of moral relativism.
Ultimately, this is a repeat of the fight over the Health and Human Services contraception mandate. The exact same assault on freedom of conscience is at work against the Scouts.
An aside: David Silverman, president of American Atheists, also saw fit to prostitute himself in front of the media about the controversy, saying,
If they are considering lifting the ban on gays, that’s a good thing, that’s progress. If they lift that bigotry from their requirements, I would hope they remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well.
Refusing to admit atheists who decline the oath, Silverman says, “tells boys that atheists are immoral. If local groups want to behave in an ethical way, I’m confident they will make Boy Scouts about Scouting, not about bigotry.”
I will take David Silverman seriously when he carps about things like this when he voluntarily puts a Roman Catholic Cardinal on the board of American Atheists. What’s good for the atheist goose is good for the Boy Scout gander. By his own standard, he is saying that theists are immoral because he refuses them into his organization. Shall the state laws of non-discrimination be applied to American Atheists? Inquiring minds want to know.
A few things I think the Scouts should do:
1. Immediately dismiss board members Randall Stephenson and James Turley. They are not acting in the interest of the “vast majority“–their own words, from their study of the policy last year–of Scout leaders and families who support the current policy. Send them out the door with a fruit basket or something, thanking them for their time and service. Their talents and convictions are clearly needed elsewhere.
2. Ask the churches and social organizations whose own policies are at odds with the Scouts to reconsider their priorities. There is no shame in saying that your convictions are stronger than a relationship with an organization you deem immoral.
3. This is an extremely slim possibility, but the LDS Church should consider buying the BSA. They’re not exactly hurting for money, and they are already waist-deep in Scouting as it is.
The irony of it all is that if the Scouts go ahead and vote this change through, they will probably not need corporate sponsors anymore. And they will deserve the calamity that such a change will wreak for the abandonment of their convictions.
Also recommended: Al Mohler’s comments this week.