A reasonable solution to the Boy Scout dilemma

Uh, they have removed openly gay Scoutmasters and members in leadership positions - IIRC, isn’t that what the USSC case was all about, a scout leader in NJ who was removed when it was discovered he was gay (outside of Scout activities)? I also know that openly gay scouts (as well as openly Atheist scouts) were asked to leave their troops, which is the main reason the Unitarian Universalist Association has been in conflict with the BSA over the past few years.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong.


Does not compute. What is the difference between banning someone and telling someone to leave?


I believe The Ryan’s point was that the BSA considers whether a homosexual is sexually active is irrelevant. They consider homosexuals morally, er, unstraight, and thus gays are banned from the organization.

That being said, Ryan, I think your criticism of Euty’s proposal is invalid. In point of fact the GSA has the very policy he describes. GSA leaders are banned from revealing/discussing their sexuality with their troops, be it het-, homo-, or bi-. In point of fact, this is a fiction - if your SO picks you up at the end of a meeting, you have revealed your sexuality, but the fiction has worked for GSA.


Just to set some facts straight, there are no female leaders in the Boy Scouts. “Den Mothers” help lead Cub Scout activities (up to about 10 years old), but Boy Scout leaders must be men. I’m reasonably certain that hasn’t changed since I made Eagle and dropped out.

Second, it has long been BSA policy that no sexuality of any kind has a place in their activities. My 1980s-era BS handbook had a very cheesy chapter on sex ed. Lots of breathless “You could catch VD!” stuff, with a healthy dose of abstinence propaganda. (Not that anyone was ever going to get laid wearing that butt-ugly uniform, but I digress.) In short, sexuality of all sorts is already frowned upon, and it’s the concept of homosexuality, not just the practice of it, that they’re freaked out about.

And FWIW, I fully support the right of the Boy Scouts to be as homophobic and exclusionary as they wanna be. I also fully support the right of every school district, church, and municipality in the country to withdraw every conceivable form of support. Fight marginalization with marginalization, that’s what I always say.

Euty, this ProJo editorial seems remarkably liberal (for the ProJo, that is). I’m glad to hear that they’re taking this stance.

I sort of agree with this, but…

…this is exactly right. I was a Girl Scout leader for a year. I found it a bit irritating that, if I had a male SO, for example, he could come on field trips to help chaperone. But if I had a female SO, her attendance at troop meetings or field trips probably would have been frowned upon. Even if there was no overt sexual behavior in either case, which, of course, there wouldn’t be.

Besides being a volunteer, I’ve worked for GSA in two states. While they don’t technically discriminate against lesbians, in my experience, they are very uncomfortable with the idea that their staff might be gay.
Clearly, I interpret the GSA policy to be aimed at same-sex partnerships, and the hiding thereof. Still, it’s better than the BSA policy.

So I guess I reluctantly agree with what the ProJo proposes. It’d be a step in the right direction.

Sorry Minty Green
You are wrong

Just to set some facts straight, there are no female leaders in the Boy Scouts. “Den Mothers” help lead Cub Scout activities (up to about 10 years old), but Boy Scout leaders must be men. I’m reasonably certain that hasn’t changed since I made Eagle and dropped out.

My sons scout leader was a woman.
She started a cub scout pack because the local one wasn’t taking any more kids. When the kids were ready to go into BS the same thing happened.She approached the B.S. office and they granted her a charter.

Think about this…most Scoutmasters are white men in their 30’s playing with boys in their early to mid teens. Hence the statement I heard repeated as sarcasm, “I haven’t had this much sex since I was a Boy Scout leader.”

I would much rather have an openly gay Scoutmaster who is very comfortable with himself than an uptight, white, born again Christian. As, IMO, more sex offenses are committed by so called “upstanding, moral, God-fearing men.”

This also plays into the stereotype that all gays engage in promiscuous, anonymous sex, which goes against the Judeo-Christian ethics of abstention until marrage.


I stand corrected, justwannano. For anyone who’s interested, you can find the BSA’s current leadership requirements here. Says nothing about homosexuality, but it clearly contemplates co-ed adult leaders in the Scouts. However, I do note that the woman in the picture is still only dressed as a den mother.

Guess things have changed a bit in the last 15 years. Which begs the question why the BSA doesn’t also reassess its policies on homosexuality.

If anyone is interested, the U.S. Supreme Court case in question is BSA v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, 120 S.Ct. 2446, 147 L.Ed.2d 554 (2000).

It’s an interesting case – five justices holding that the New Jersey statute requiring the inclusion of homosexuals in activities such as scouting was unconstitutional as violative of the BSA’s First Amendment right to free expression, and four justices holding that the statute was not unconstitutional and that the state could mandate inclusion.

Frankly, I agree with the majority, for a reason that has little to do with the law. The majority considered itself bound by the BSA’s representations of what it stood for and what it believed; the minority spent a great deal of time attempting to discern what it thought the BSA really stood for, even though that was different than what the BSA claimed it stood for. I don’t think that’s a proper function of the judiciary.

The bottom line is that if you have an organization that believes people are unequal in moral value, then you can’t demand that the organization express, through voice or action, that it believes people are all equal in moral value. Putting an open and politically active homosexual in a position of leadership carries the implication that the organization he leads does not believe his homosexuality is inconsistent with leadership. The Boy Scouts has unequivocally stated that it believes that homosexuality is inconsistent with its “values” and that therefore it is inappropriate to have homosexuals in positions of authority. We may all disagree with this belief, but I don’t think we can attack the organization’s right to hold it.

I work with a boy scout leader who says the BS has a problem with “the appearance” of hanky-panky in the ranks. It appears to me that the upper management is whitewashing their standing to the ranks so that they don’t come off as the rabid bunch of hypocrites they are. Waddya think?

You can’t make them express a belief they don’t hold,but neither can they expect to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws based on their say-so that this is their belief, and that this belief is important to their organization.If they don’t need to prove anything for the exemption, then any organization, formed for any purpose (homeowners association,for example) could say “We don’t believe “x” people are equal,that belief is important to us, and therefore we don’t have to accept “x” people as members” and be exempt from anti-discrimination laws.If this belief is that important to the organization, there should either be some statement of it on the application ( a little more explicit than “morally straight”,since that’s relatively meaningless}, or it should be discussed at some point in the program (preferably both, as is the requirement regarding religion). I mean, how can you say that it’s an important belief, and yet train your leaders to avoid any discussion of it,and make no reference to it in your literature. The minority wasn’t so much attacking the belief,as questioning whether it was as important to the organization as the BSA claimed it to be,and whether there was any literature expressing the belief that predated this case.

No. I’m saying that the BSA doesn’t simply ban homosexual behavior from their activities; they ban people who practice homosexual behavior from their activities. To be non-discriminatory, they would have to ban people who engage in heterosexual behavior as well.

You really don’t know how to tell the difference between homosexuality and homosexuals? Can you tell the difference between music and musicians? Mathematics and mathematicians? Medicine and doctors? Alcoholism and alcoholics?


Yes, of course it is possible to have the policy he describes. If you think that this invalidates my criticism, then you didn’t get the point of my criticism. My point was not that his suggestion is impossible, or that the BSA would be opposed to it, but that the Scouts would not think that it is enough. AFAIK, the BSA already holds the position that he suggests: no sex of any kind is allowed at Scout activities. However, the BSA position goes beyond that to demand no homosexual activities at all, at their activities or outside of them.

I have to say that this is one of the funniest things I have read today.

I also agree that the BSA position is both legal and stupid. I’m not wild about the GSA position in that it probably discourages girls from talking to trusted nonparental adults about sex, but it’s better than the BSA.

Does anyone know if 4-H has a policy on sexuality? (No bestiality jokes, please).


Oh, sure you can. As the Court said, “the fact that the organization does not trumpet its views from the housetops, or that it tolerates dissent within its ranks, does not mean that its views receive no First Amendment protection.” This is a private organization expressing privately-held opinion; it should not be required to prove the sincerity of that opinion. Nevertheless, even if you think this ought to be a requirement, the majority did look at the actual beliefs and deemed them sincerely held.

This, of course, is a pretext, and could be proven to be pretexual. There was no indication that the BSA’s position on homosexuality was pretextual, or recently formulated, or formulated for discriminatory purposes.

With respect, sez you. The Court specifically held that the BSA was not required to meet some kind of test to prove the sincerity of its beliefs – as if a person or organization that in ignorance failed to jump through procedural hoops would then be in danger of having its beliefs deemed insincere. And the BSA is not a religion; it’s a civic organization. It’s Rotary, not the Catholic Church.

Because it’s not an active type of disapproval. BSA apparently doesn’t talk about sexuality at all, straight or gay. They don’t think it’s the place of their leaders to have those sorts of discussions with the Scouts. That doesn’t mean they can’t disapprove of it all the same.

First, I don’t really see the distinction you are attempting to draw between “attacking” the sincerity of the belief and “questioning whether it was as important as BSA claimed it to be.” Second, I don’t think BSA ever took the stance that it was “important” – meaning, a core belief, fostered and taught by the organization. But the fact that it is not a central tenet of Scouting doesn’t mean it isn’t sincerely held nevertheless. Third, the dissent’s questioning of the sincerity of the BSA’s beliefs ignored that the BSA had espoused its anti-homosexual stance in a California court case in the early 1980s, and in its own literature in the 1970s. The majority therefore said “we cannot doubt that the Boy Scouts sincerely holds this view.”

To me, the question of the sincerity of beliefs is one that the courts have no business making, unless there is reason to believe the statement of belief is pretextual, to further a discriminatory goal, as it would be in your example of a homeowners’ association attempting to exclude “x” just because they don’t like “x.” Certainly I realize opinions may differ on this issue; even the Court was split 5 to 4 over it.

What’s with the smartassedness?
Try to re-read the question - “how do you separate ‘homosexuality’ from ‘homosexuals’?” - Not “what’s the difference between them?”
Does not a musician perform music? Does not a mathematician perform mathematics? Does not a doctor practice medicine? Does not an alcoholic consume alcohol?

To say “we don’t ban homosexuality, but we do ban homosexuals” is a preposterous statement. Get off the friggin’ fence. I’m not saying they can’t do what they want in their own club, but don’t sugar coat it. Call a spade a spade.

I think I’ll start a club. I won’t ban music, but musicians aren’t allowed. :rolleyes:


I’m not sure what the principle is here - it’s okay to discriminate against a group if you truly believe that group is inferior?

A private club has the right to pretty much discriminate against anyone they want for whatever reason they want, so says the Supreme Court.

I, for one, find it completely crazy that the people in charge are willing to allow the BSA to lose a lot of the respect and support of society in order to uphold an outdated and hypocritical belief that has nothing to do with what being a Boy Scout is all about.

Morality will probably never be outdated, but what we percieve as right and wrong changes quite often. When our country first came into existance, it was acceptable to believe that blacks are inferior, but now racists get the disrespect they deserve. Same with homophobia. The BSA needs to accept that. The government can’t force them to admit gays, but we can show them just how “morally straight” they really are in the eyes of society.

What do you mean, a “pretext”? It seems obvious to me that if a group goes to the trouble of excluding some group, they must believe that that group is inferior. I must be misinterpreting you, because you seem to be saying that their discriminatory attitude towards “x” is a pretext for discriminating against “x”. If that’s what you meant, you really don’t understand what a pretext is.

The purpose of the policy is to exclude homosexuals. How can that not be discriminatory?

Jack Batty:

To differentiate or discriminate between; distinguish.

Not constantly, no. It is possible to ban music without banning musicians. That’s my point.

You seem to have acquired the curious idea that I am defending the BSA. Far from it. Furthermore, I am not saying that they “don’t ban homosexuality, but… do ban homosexual”, I am saying that they don’t just ban homosexuality, but that they also ban homosexuals. The ban of homosexuals is addition to, not a replacement of, the ban of homosexuality. Perhaps quoting myself, placing the emphasis on a different word, will illustrate this


I’m not talking about shouting it from the rooftops, just maybe a mention of it in the “Leadership Requirements” section of the adult application, or perhaps asking on the application if the person is a homosexual, just as it asks if the applicant uses illegal drugs or has been charged with child abuse.

How exactly could you prove it’s pretextual if ( from a previous post}

If they are bound by the BSA’s assertions, they are also bound by the homeowners association’s assertions.And anyway, why couldn’t a homeowner’s association sincerely believe that a particular group is inferior?

Guess I wasn’t clear here- I’m not comparing the BSA to a religion,I was referring to the BSA’s requirement that neither adult leaders nor youth members be athiests, which is mentioned on the applications,and is emphasized by religious requirements to earn ranks (at least in Cub Scouts). And if you don’t have to show sincerity, you’re allowing pretext in again.

That doesn’t explain why,if it’s so important to the organization (not just the people on the board),it’s never mentioned to potential leaders or parents of potential youth members.

They did take that stance. The sincerity of the belief was not enough.It also had to be shown that the NJ law placed an “undue burden” on the BSA’s rights. If it wasn’t a core belief,they’d be in the same position as when the Jaycees sought to continue to exclude women, or when the homeowners association seeks to exclude “X” people, because the association sincerely believes them to be inferior (or immoral)

The Ryan, ok so we’re arguing the same point and got lost in a flurry of semantics. Fair enough. [ no use re-quoting everything, or digging up a different definition of “separate” ]

You’re right, I did think you were somehow rationalizing BSA’s decision. I will not attempt to press any more points, as there are none to press. I’ll just offer my opinion, and a clarification.

The BSA is a private organization. They choose to discriminate against homosexuals, as is their right (so far). I might offer the argument that at one time they had the right to discriminates against blacks too, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. I do not agree with their policy.

I guess what got my knickers in a twist in the first place, was a discussion that bandied about “homosexual” and “homosexuality” as if they were exclusive terms (or so it seemed to me). In the middle of our “does not a doohickey do whatever” rigamarole, I only wished to point out that, if a person announces that he is, or is discovered to be, a homosexual, he is banned from the BSA. Which is an out-and-out condemnation of homosexuality. As you might agree.

Now, let’s just get on with boycotting them and all will be fine.


Well, what do you mean by “okay”? It is not IMO “okay” to treat black people as if they are socially inferior, but that doesn’t mean I have the right to make you invite them to your party if you honestly (if wrongly) believe that they are. Here we have to draw a distinction between what is morally right and what is legal. It is absolutely legal to hold views that others (perhaps the majority of society) would consider reprehensible. And society as a whole cannot make you say (by word or action) something you do not believe (like, “homosexuality is okay”) without violating your First Amendment right to free expression. And that was the issue so far as the Boy Scouts were concerned – not that banning homosexuals from positions of leadership discriminated against them (as it obviously does), but that they (the BSA) could not put homosexuals in positions of leadership without being understood to hold beliefs they (the BSA) do not in fact hold – i.e., homosexuality is okay.


Legally, a “pretext” is an “ostensible reason or motive assigned or assumed as a colro or cover for the reason reason or motive.” Black’s Law Dictionary. The classic example of a legal pretext was literacy prerequisites for voting in the South starting after the Civil War. Southern lawmakers said that those laws were to ensure that voters understood what they were voting for, but it was clear that the real reason for the laws was to exclude Blacks.

What do you mean by “inferior”? In this case, the BSA has taken the position tha homosexuality is not consistent with the “values” it wants to intill in young men. They have never, to my knowledge, stated that homosexuals are “inferior.”

No. I said that their attitude is not pretextual; they did not formulate their ideas of moral fitness or “values” solely as a pretext to exclude homosexuals.

It appears that one of us doesn’t, but I frankly don’t think that it’s me.

I said:

To which THE RYAN replied:

I did not say it wasn’t discriminatory, I said it wasn’t formulated for discriminatory purposes; these are two different things. If your organization exists to instill your particular “values” into children, then it will almost inevitably discriminate against all who do not hold or evince those values. It will have the effect of discriminating against those people, but it will not have been formulated for the sake of discriminating against those people.

DOREEN says:

Again, I agree with the majority that a person or group should not have to evince its beliefs in some predetermined way or run the risk of having those beliefs deemed insincere.

??? By presenting any evidence tending to show that the BSA policy was pretextual, of which there was none in this case. That’s why the inquiry stopped there, as it should have. Without any evidence of pretextual intent, the Court has no business questioning the sincerity of the beliefs asserted to be held. Would evidence tending to show (or even make one suspect) a pretext trigger further inquiry? Of course.

No they’re not, because a homeowners association does not exist for expressive purposes. A homeowners association may certainly say that it requires people to be able to make X dollars a year, in order to pay the association fees. By doing so, it discriminates against poor people. Now, if a black couple, for example, could show that the income requirement was not reasonably related to the duties of the homeowners association but existed as a pretext to ban people of color, then they could sue for wrongful discrimination. But the homeowners association could not claim that its First Amendment right to free expression was being violated, because its raison d’etre does not include the expression of ideas, and the requirement that it admit people of all colors is not inconsistent with its goals and ideals (to keep up the neighborhood).

They can believe what they like, of course. They are prohibited from discriminating against people due to the fair housing laws which, aside from being federal law (of which nothing comparable existed in the BSA case), sound in equal protection, not in the First Amendment. Again, with the BSA case we are talking about freedom of expression. Homeowners associations do not exist to express or pass on ideas or ideals. The BSA does.

What I am trying to say is that there is not reason to require a showing of sincerity unless there is first a reasonable suspicion of the existence of a pretext. There wasn’t such a reasonable suspicion here, IMO, and therefore no reason to question the sincerity of the BSA’s avowed beliefs.