Viewpoint

Boy Scouts’ decision isn’t really about the kids at all

Eric Hetland, left, and Chris Zelis hold assistant scoutmaster applications in Oak Park, Ill., July 28. Hetland was in scouting for 17 years until he came out as bisexual.
Eric Hetland, left, and Chris Zelis hold assistant scoutmaster applications in Oak Park, Ill., July 28. Hetland was in scouting for 17 years until he came out as bisexual. AP

Any Boy Scout can tell you that there are a lot of different types of knots. They each have a different purpose and importance, and they’re not interchangeable. Kind of like men and women.

Of course, these days you won’t hear a lot of people talking about the uniqueness of the male-female dichotomy. It’s not polite to point out that only women can have babies. Beyond that, it’s now illegal to tell two women they can’t marry each other, and God forbid we call Caitlyn by his/her former name: Bruce “Olympian” Jenner. Society has evolved.

And so have the Boy Scouts. As of this week, Scouts will now be taught that gender and sexual orientation are fungible things. In other words, their scoutmasters and den mothers no longer have to keep their sexuality in the closet and can publicize their intimate lives.

Because really, that’s what Robert Gates, the organization’s current president, meant when he said that gay and lesbian adults will no longer be barred from positions of authority in the organization.

Up until now, gay and lesbian employees of the Scouts were welcome to participate at all levels, so long as they didn’t talk about who they were sleeping with. Sexual preference, which had no relevance to the work of the organization, was an inappropriate topic regardless of orientation.

Eight-year-olds don’t care, 10-year-olds might care and 12-year-olds do care, but none of them should have to confront their adult leaders’ sexual orientation at the Pinewood Derby.

That’s why this whole same sex crusade to drag the Scouts into the tolerant 21st Century is so hypocritical, as is the pronouncement from advocates that “it’s for the kids.”

No, it’s not. As I’ve been saying for years, ever since the City of Brotherly Love bullied the local Cradle of Liberty chapter into either accepting gay Scout leaders or vacating the building they’d erected and maintained for almost a century. The Scouts won that battle, but it was ultimately a Pyrrhic victory once Anthony Kennedy started writing Harlequin Romance novels.

That was the reason Gates finally caved. He argued that society had moved so rapidly toward acceptance of gays that it was now “unsustainable” to ban them from positions of authority. So for him, this wasn’t surrender. It was a grudging acknowledgement of reality.

But I think there’s another reality at play here.

Gay and lesbian adults have been demanding equal rights for decades, and their juggernaut has picked up amazing speed in the past few years. First, sodomy is decriminalized. Then, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” joins the ash heap of history. And last month, Anthony Kennedy created a fundamental right to gay marriage and enshrined it in the pantheon of constitutional entitlements (like that other man-made freebie, abortion).

This is indeed about dignity, but only the dignity of grown-ups. Kids don’t give a damn who their Scout leaders go home to. They only want people who will guide them along the straight and narrow. There were probably many gay Scout leaders in the past who did an excellent job but never felt the need to scream their sexual orientation.

Now, they get to do that and we’re supposed to say how fabulous this is for the Scouts.

Well I don’t buy it. Yes, there are some kids who will be happy to know that there are leaders just like them. But the vast majority don’t want to know about their mentors’ private lives.

More importantly, there’s the very real possibility that troops chartered by religious organizations will end up leaving the Scouts altogether, because no matter how much you say a faith-based group is exempt from a non-discrimination policy, there’s always someone ready to sue if you don’t bake them a cake.

Or teach them how to tie a rainbow knot.

Christine M. Flowers is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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