What Do Boy Scouts (and the Wall Street Journal) Want?

Jesse Helms’ screwball amendment to the education bill withholding federal funds to public schools that won’t permit Boy Scouts to meet on their premises has revived debate about whether the Boy Scouts should be allowed to discriminate against gays. Chatterbox is going to bypass the legal issues. (Though he can’t resist noting that if the First Amendment really required public schools to permit complete freedom of association for bigoted organizations that met on their premises, as a recent Wall Street Journal editorial argued in support of the Helms bill, Congress would hardly need to pass a new law affirming that right.) Instead, Chatterbox wants to examine why the Boy Scouts should want to exclude homosexuals from its organization in the first place. The official line is as follows:

Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person. Scouting’s message is, however, compromised when prospective leaders of youth present themselves as role models inconsistent with BSA standards.

We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the traditional moral values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values we wish to instill.

One of the basic methods the Boy Scouts ofAmericauses in accomplishing its mission is providing all Scouts, as they mature in the program, with leadership opportunities. They have the responsibility to act as role models for younger Scouts. In the event a boy were to express opposition to any of the values in the Scout Oath or Law, the Boy Scouts ofAmericawould not act precipitously. We would encourage the boy to seek counsel from his parents or religious leaders to make sure that his expression is the product of a mature decision. Sexual responsibility by youth members is well defined in our literature.

Inappropriate sexual behavior is inconsistent with the Scout Oath and Law.

To summarize: Homosexuality is inconsistent with Boy Scout values. We will not allow an “avowed homosexual” to be a Boy Scout leader. But we promise not to act too precipitously if we discover that an actual Boy Scout is homosexual, even though that would put him in violation of the Scout Oath and Law.

If homosexuality is grounds to dismiss a scout master, why isn’t it grounds to dismiss a scout? Because the Boy Scouts’ real agenda is to keep child molesters away from kids. That’s a worthy goal, but Chatterbox doubts that excluding “avowed homosexuals” from leadership positions is an effective solution. Most gays argue, persuasively, that an openly gay adult is much less likely to satisfy his sexual desires through the exploitation of children than someone who has not been forthright to others (or, possibly, himself) about his sexual orientation and must therefore seek sexual satisfaction furtively. It’s those scout masters who pretend to be straight you have to worry about, and these foxes are already inside the chicken coop! Indeed, to judge by the latest edition of the Cub Scout Wolf Book, today’s heterosexuals-only Boy Scouts of America is crawling with child molesters. How else to explain why the first 23 pages of the book address the question of how to prevent child abuse? It is, of course, always a good idea for parents to discuss with young children the need to avoid strangers, the appropriate boundaries concerning their bodies, the importance of telling another adult if a grown-up does something to make the child feel uncomfortable. But it’s actually a “Bobcat Requirement” to quiz Cub Scouts about a variety of highly specific scenarios. (Example: “What if an adult invites you on a camping trip and suggests that you allow him to take your picture when you are not wearing clothes?”) Apparently these elaborate precautions are necessary because every third scout master yearns to fondle the tender flesh in his care. Indeed, the very founder of the Boy Scouts was reputed to harbor an unwholesome fancy for young boys.

Alternatively, it’s possible that the Boy Scouts are a bit hysterical on the whole subject of child molestation and, in getting kids riled up on the subject, risk inflaming dangerous imaginations. Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer-winning editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal, made her name exposing McMartin-type witch hunts that destroyed the lives of falsely accused adults. The Journal editorial page regards hyper-vigilence about pedophilia to be more dangerous than the real thing, and Chatterbox can’t say with certainty that that’s wrong. But whether it’s a pedophile’s or a paranoiac’s paradise, the Boy Scouts seems an odd entity for Journal editorialists to place at the summit of American values.