The decision has been greeted with approval from LGBTQ rights voices who see the decision as good for youth, while still decrying the ban on LGBTQ leaders. GLSEN, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and other pro-equality organizations issued statements to this effect shortly after the Boy Scouts of America announced their decision.
Homophobes are unhappy, of course. Some conservative churches have rejected the Boy Scouts over the decision, according to ABC News and WBRC. Predictably, voices from the Religious Right have denounced the decision, resorting to old, ugly stereotypes about gays.
In a May 24th press release, the Brian Brown of the National organization for Marriage (NOM) lamented the "beginning of the end" for the Boy Scouts. He accused the Boy Scouts of America of succumbing to political pressure in an attempt to "appease" LGBTQ advocates and donors. Brown painted LGBTQ rights activists as a wrathful force that seeks to "punish" anyone who does not accept them. (See www[dot]nomblog[dot]com/35300)
"Today is a sad day for the Boy Scouts of America. They have succumbed to political pressure and abandoned their historic roots in what will prove to be a failed attempt to appease gay activists and corporate donors. Unfortunately, what they have done is said to the world that their oath no longer means much. Their decision to admit openly gay scouts will end up sexualizing the organization. I am certain that having changed their policy on homosexuality, it's only a matter of time before courts order them to admit homosexual scout leaders. Meanwhile, countless thousands of churches will very likely pull their sponsorship rather than endorse homosexuality, and the entire organization will begin to collapse. All of this is happening not because of a true grassroots demand of gay youth to be part of the organization but by an orchestrated political effort by gay activists who want to punish any group or organization that does not embrace homosexuality. It's the beginning of the end for what once was one of America's noblest organizations."
Concerned Women for America wasted no time in lambasting the decision. In a May 23rd press release, CWA CEO Penny Nance accused the Boy Scouts of straying from their purpose and injecting unnecessary sexuality into scouting. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=22284)
"Sex and politics do not belong in the Boy Scouts. Any sort of sexual activity has always been barred from within the Boy Scouts, and now our children are forced to be subject to topics and actions that have nothing to do with scouting. This was a political move at the expense of our children, not born out of the Boy Scouts membership, but out of the desire of a few radicals in leadership who knowingly joined the institution, supposedly agreeing to its core principles, only to turn around and push their own agendas onto a 103-year-old institution. Christian parents have no other choice but to reassess their involvement in the Boy Scouts, who have officially strayed from their original purpose. It is a sad day for children and families."
Scott Lively, ever bombastic in his homophobia, penned a May 24th commentary entitled "Satan Wins Back the Scouts." Demonizing LGBTQ activists as "homo-fascists" and "perverts", Lively raged against a "homosexualized scouting movement" in the wake of the decision. (See www[dot]defendthefamily[dot]com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=5310985)
"Sadly, the Boy Scouts of America has gone the opposite direction and officially voted to abandon Biblical values and must now begin to experience the consequences of its cowardice and stupidity. One consequence should be the complete and immediate withdrawal of all support by all of us who still hold to those values."
Outrageously, Lively claimed that allowing gay and bisexual scouts would delight child abusers in the ranks. He described at length all sorts of salacious accusations against youth scouting and hiking organizations.
"There are no doubt many hidden and very cautious pederasts already lurking in the Boy Scout leadership who are now salivating over the prospect of having in their care self-declared “gay” boys whom they can approach sexually with far less fear of exposure. “Gay” boys who can also help to recruit their peers into intergenerational “gay” relationships. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that pederasts naturally gravitate to all-male societies."
John Stemberger, president of On My Honor, penned a May 23rd commentary piece for CNN on the decision. On My Honor is an anti-LGBTQ organization that opposes "open homosexuality" in the Boy Scouts. (See www[dot]onmyhonor[dot]net) In his CNN piece, Stemberger insists that the Boy Scouts has never discriminated agains gays, ignoring claims to the contrary. Hen bemoans how "open homosexuality" will now be tolerated in the organization, without defining what exactly "open homosexuality" is.
"Sex and politics have no place in the Boy Scouts, and allowing open homosexuality will lead to myriad bad consequences," he writes. Stemberger adds that he has removed his children from Boy Scout organizations for their "safety" and "security", suggesting that he may see gay and bisexual youth as a sexual threat.
Predictably, Stemberger claims that respecting gay and bisexual scouts constitutes an affront to religious freedom.
"Further, the new policy forces every chartered Scouting unit, irrespective of religious convictions, to facilitate open homosexuality among boys in their program. The policy fails to respect or revere the religious beliefs, values and theology of the vast majority of Christian churches, which charter more than 70% of all Scouting units."
I fail to see how religious homophobia trumps the right of gay and bisexual boys to be treated as human beings. If someone's religious beliefs compel them to treat LGBTQ youth poorly, the problem lies with them, not the LGBTQ youth.
Stemberger has been depicting gay scouts as potentially predatory for some time. According to Right Wing Watch, Stemberger appeared on The Janet Mefferd Show and claimed that gay activists with "ill motives" and an interest in the others boys could "destroy the program".
"What they’re thinking of is a little boy saying, ‘oh I think I’m attracted to guys, I think I’m gay,’ well that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the sixteen, seventeen-year-old openly gay activist from the local campus that is there for ill-motives. There as a plaintiff, there as a person to either have interest in the other boys or to promote their agenda. That is going to be the problem, not the boys. We have those boys already, scoutmasters take them in and we deal with them, we talk with them, we work with them. It’s the activists that we’re concerned with and that’s why we think sex and politics have absolutely no place in scouting. It will utterly destroy the program."
Frankly, these Religious Right responses disgust me. Lifting a discriminatory ban on gay and bisexual youth is NOT going to sexualize the Boy Scouts, and LGBTQ persons are NOT automatically predators. As usual, homophobes have resorted to salacious scare-tactics in their battle against LGBTQ equality, oblivious to how their rhetoric harms real people.
The Boy Scouts of America has a long way to go before it can be considered an equality-minded organization. Its decision to retain the ban on gay and bisexual adult leaders is unethical and discriminator, and it needs to be rejected. However, the decision to allow gay and bisexual youth is a step in the right direction. Let's hope that the Religious Right's ugly rhetoric fails to discourage gay and bisexual Boy Scouts, who should feel very proud.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Truth Wins Out: Hate Group Leaders React To The Boy Scouts Decision
Americablog: Boy Scouts lift ban on gay scouts, still consider us pedophiles when we hit 18
Policy Mic: Boy Scouts Gay Ban Policy: Don't Forget the Gay Adults Who Are Still Banned From Scouting Forever