Bent Toward Justice
The Boy Scouts’ survey on homosexuality is biased toward scrapping its ban on gays.
Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP
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The Boy Scouts of America has launched a survey asking its members about homosexuality. The survey’s purpose is to help the organization decide whether to drop its ban on openly gay Scouts or leaders. Media reports depict the questionnaire as neutral. It isn’t. It’s biased toward dropping the ban, and for good reason.
The best place to read the questionnaire is on the website that first posted it for public viewing: the Dallas Voice. There, you can see how it’s laid out. First you’re asked about various scenarios in which homosexuality might come up during typical Scouting activities. Then you’re asked whether to keep the ban on homosexuality or to defer to local troops, families, and chartering organizations. The scenarios answer that question for you. They make the ban look overbroad and clumsy, because it is.
The section that deals with homosexuality starts with a list of “possible scenarios that could happen if the Boy Scouts keeps or changes its policy.” Here’s one scenario:
"Johnny, a first-grade boy, has joined Tiger Cubs with his friends. Johnny's friends and their parents unanimously nominate Johnny's mom, who is known by them to be lesbian, to be the den leader. Johnny's pack is chartered to a church where the doctrine of that faith does not teach that homosexuality is wrong. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for his mother to serve as a den leader for his Cub Scout den?”
Everything in the scenario tugs at you to say it’s acceptable. The person in question is the mom of one of the kids. Everyone in the troop, kids as well as parents, knows she’s gay. And all of them, knowing this, want her to be the den leader. The church that sponsors and manages the troop has no problem with it. To conclude that their decision is unacceptable, you’d have to override everybody involved.
Here’s another scenario from the questionnaire: “Tom started in the program as a Tiger Cub, and finished every requirement for the Eagle Scout Award at 16 years of age. At his board of review Tom reveals that he is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the review board to deny his Eagle Scout award based on that admission?"
Again, the scenario tugs at you. The kid has “finished every requirement” to be an Eagle Scout. Now, at the last minute, you’re asked whether to void all of that accomplishment just because he’s gay. It’s not even because he’s gay. It’s because of his “admission” that he’s gay. Are you willing to ignore years of dedication and work because, at his final review, he told the truth?
Here’s a third scenario: "A troop is chartered by an organization that does not believe homosexuality is wrong and allows gays to be ministers. The youth minister traditionally serves as the scoutmaster for the troop. The congregation hires a youth minister who is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this youth minister to serve as the Scoutmaster?"
Let’s see. The chartering organization has no problem with homosexuality. There’s a standard practice of assigning the youth minister to be the scoutmaster. To say no, you’d have to come in as an outsider and override the organization’s standard practice as well as its moral position. And since they’ve already hired this person as a youth minister, you’d have to second-guess that, too. This doesn’t feel like defending your morals. It feels more like employment discrimination, imposed on the employer by you.
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.