I do have a bit of sympathy for the Boy Scouts of America. No matter what scouting promises to do in regard to gay men and boys, it seems to turn out wrong.
A few years ago, when the Boy Scout policy was adamantly anti-gay, it enjoyed the seeming approval of most Americans. Even the Supreme Court said the scouts could set their own policy. Victory, it seemed, had been accomplished.
The only problem was that the American attitude toward gays and lesbians was in rapid flux.
My clergy friends told me this at least a decade ago. The public debate on the issue might have been raging, but, among their young members, the pastors told me, there was no issue at all. The controversy just seemed stupid.
So, even as the scouts won their battles, they began to lose the war. Fewer and fewer boys seemed to want to join. Corporations that once were eager to fund the movement now feared being labeled as bigoted.
All this exacerbated the "bowling alone" syndrome which has changed so much of American life. People just don't like to join broad-based groups anymore. Churches, civic organizations, and, yes, bowling leagues, are having a hard time maintaining membership. The scouts are part of the trend.
But an even bigger problem for the scouts is that no one can really explain the reason for the gay exclusion in the first place.
We don't really think gay men are more likely to be child molesters than straight men are -- and recent revelations about decades of cover up of abuses by presumably straight scout leaders demonstrate that in spades.
No one really thinks gay boys and men are really likely to turn heterosexual boys gay.
Well, actually, Madison's Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino does keep suggesting in his weekly messages to local Catholics that being gay is a choice but he's in a real minority.
The Madison Catholic Diocese does, however, reflect Morlino's decision. In a statement on scouting, the diocese said "The Catholic Church teaches very clearly that that the homosexual person must be treated with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
The diocese then went on to say the "Boy Scouts present policy does not amount to unjust discrimination."
Which, of course, is nonsensical double-speak and that kind of nonsensical double-speak is one reason why scouting is losing its positive image among young people.
And that loss of positive image is the real reason why the Scouts will change their policy. They'd be better off just getting on with it.
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