Boy Scouts Gay Policy Causes Controversy

Reese Levine, Editor-in-Chief

The Boy Scouts of America, ever since their founding in 1910, have always held to a policy that bans openly gay males from acting as Scouts or Scout leaders. As America becomes more accepting of homosexuality and as gay individuals have become more prominent in society, the BSA’s policy is becoming an increasing source of controversy. This recently culminated with their refusal to give Ryan Andresen, a Moraga resident, his Eagle Scout rank.  The BSA’s position on homosexuality is not just wrong and discriminatory, but it is also a commentary on the situation of gay rights in America.

The BSA should not be allowed to get away with an obviously discriminatory policy. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that private organizations are allowed to exclude people from membership when that person could interfere with the group’s ability to advocate for a certain viewpoint. The Supreme Court based their decision on freedom of association, a right not explicitly referred to in the Constitution but seen as an extension of freedom of speech.

The idea of freedom of association brings up some sensitive issues. A person is not required to associate with someone of another race or religion if he does not want to, even if his actions are frowned on by society. However, when it comes to organizations and companies, the lines become blurrier.

Since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, American society has agreed that organizations are not allowed to discriminate based on race. At the same time, religious groups don’t count atheists among their members, because their basic philosophies are completely different.

People do not choose to be white or black; therefore, the color of their skin cannot be used as a basis for discrimination. However, people can choose to be atheists, so it is reasonable to bar them from being part of a religious group.

But gays occupy a gray area in society. Some still believe that homosexuality is a choice, not an innate trait, even though most scientific evidence and anecdotal experiences point to it not being a choice. Due to this difference, the laws about discriminating against homosexuals are not the same in all situations. Though companies are not allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation due to federal hate crime laws, private organizations are not held to the same standards.

Many boys join the BSA at the age of 11 or younger, before they are sure of their sexual orientation. For many, this isn’t a problem, as they grow up to be heterosexual and are not punished by the BSA. Those who do come to terms with their sexuality, and are open about it, are not so lucky.

After going through the same challenges and meeting the same requirements as their fellow Scouts, the BSA suddenly decides that they are no longer fit to be a Scout and unceremoniously kicks them out.

When the BSA explained why Andresen was not eligible to receive his Eagle Scout rank, they mentioned that he does not hold up the Scouting principle of “Duty to God.” Andresen says he does believe in a higher power, so he meets the BSA’s rule that a Scout must believe in God. The BSA therefore implies that because Andresen is gay, he cannot possibly follow the teachings of God.

And yet, the BSA accepts numerous religious sects, including some of which do not consider homosexuality a sin. To ban Andresen based on his sexual orientation, while reasonable according to some religious doctrines, does not fit in with the BSA’s message of tolerance for all religions.

It is not completely the BSA’s fault that Andresen was denied his Eagle Scout rank. Instead, it is part of an endemic problem in American society, where many religious conservatives use the Bible to oppose gay marriage, and sometimes gay rights overall.

Like the discussion on civil rights, which took hundreds of years to fully evolve in America, politicians and the media are slowly beginning to talk more about the topic of gay rights. Going forward, it is inevitable that gays will enjoy the same privileges and liberties as every other U.S. citizen. In fact, issues like this one, which bring intense media coverage and scrutiny, are sure to hasten change in the BSA’s policy.