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April 04, 2006


Patrick Rothwell

I strongly favor lifting the ban on gay scouts and favor less strongly lifting the ban on gay scoutmasters. I strongly, strongly disagree with P&T and your take on them. That piece is a hatchet job against the Boy Scouts. Its assertion that the ban on gays and atheists is something both new and tied into Mormon Church after the 1970s is laughable. All the old Scoutmaster Handbook said was that Scoutmasters shouldn't discuss sexual matters with Scouts. It certainly did not imply any sort of approval of homosexual sex. I don't think it can be seriously doubted that homosexuality or atheism would have been grounds for dismissal from the Scouts prior to the 1980s, assuming then as now that the local Scout troop or council was interested in rigid enforcement of the rules.

Second, it is true that the Mormon Church uses Scout Troops as an essential component in its youth ministry - more so than any other religious group that I am aware of. But, the program implies that non-Mormon scout troops are being indoctrinated in Mormon dogma. That simply isn't so - given the fact that other churches and religious groups sponsor scout troops, e.g. Catholic and Episcopal parishes and Methodist congregations nationwide. The show provided the raw number of Mormon scout troops, but declined to show the percentage of Mormon scout troops as a whole. Had they done so, we would have been able to judge for ourselves the supposedly inordinate influence of the Mormon Church on the Boy Scouts. Is it ever so possible that P and T might be bullshitting us, playing fast and loose with the facts? In my hometown at least, we had 10-15 Boy Scout troops, only one of which was Mormon.

Finally, the spending of public money on the Scouts on such things as jamborees is more than justified by the benefits that hundreds of thousands of boys - both straight and (secretly or not so secretly) gay receive from the Scouts. I can say for myself that the Boy Scouts was absolutely essential in allowing me to develop self-confidence and leadership skills in a variety of contexts. Because I was an extraordinarily timid and physically awkward child, most other avenues for such development, such as sports, were effectively closed to me. There have been no doubt thousands upon thousands of boys who were and are similarly situated. Had the sponsors of Boy Scout troops in my hometown boycotted the movement simply to make a point about discrimination, I and a lot of other boys would have been harmed in the process.

You can also say all you want that a gay teenage boy in Scouts should not have to keep a studied silence about his sexual orientation. I agree with that, and it is true so far as it goes. But, the homosexual boys who find themselves in this situation who nonetheless benefit from the Scouting program have a higher and prior claim than activists who would shut down their troops simply to make a point about "discrimination" - all supposedly for their own good - or worse, supposedly for the good of adult gay scoutmasters. I don't buy it one bit.

I could go on and on about other things that are wrong with the P and T episode, but won't. While I hope that the anti-gay policy is either abandoned or modified, that change must come in time from within the movement and its sponsoring institution. It cannot and should not come about as a result of pressure from the State or those persons, like the cantankerous magicians linked, who quite clearly do not have the best interests of the overall mission and purpose of the Boy Scouts at heart.


I know there are always at least a few lawyers among our readers, and I'd hope to hear their views, especially on the correctness of BSA v Dale.

I just don't see how you can get around the argument that a group that is receiving substantial government largesse is blatantly discriminating against gays and atheists, especially after Lawrence v Texas. Perhaps you could argue that gays are not yet a protected class, but surely no one could make that argument about people based on religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

Patrick, you'll get no argument out of me on the merits of being a Scout. But plenty of groups that do not get so entangled with government funding and accommodations are also worthy. The question is whether you can maintain discriminatory private membership requirements and continue to receive so many public benefits. In my mind, it would seem perfectly fine to have one or the other, but not both.

I'm admittedly not a lawyer, but I'm not stupid either, and I see no logic in the court's decision. I don't even see an attempt to make a stab at logic, beyond essentially saying that "Freedom of Speech" trumps everything. It looks so wrong from almost every perspective.


I'm glad of two things:

1) You watch Penn & Teller, too.
2) You've finally come to your senses on this topic.

Queer Conservative

Just a quick off the cuff thought - if we hold the BSA to those standards what about gay youth groups that receive public funding? Would they be forced to associate with Fred Phelps grandchildren as agitating members? NOTE: I'm not saying that gays would be agitating in the BSA, deliberately or otherwise.

Queer Conservative

In short - forcing open the doors to the BSA might make for some curious memberships down at the local chapter of Youth Pride.

Patrick Rothwell


I'm going on memory here, and won't dare to put on my full legal hat, but the fact that the Boy Scouts receive benefits from the U.S. Government as a result of its Congressional charter or otherwise does not make it a state actor. If the BSA is a state actor, of course, then its discrimination against atheists (though not gays) would likely be prohibited by courts under the First Amendment. Private schools which receive substantial state funding are not thereby automatically state actors. Generally, the government itself must be significantly involved with the private party's invidious discrimination or conduct. It is likely that, if the issue of whether providing free space at Ft. AP Hill or National Parks for jamborees significantly involves the state in invidious discrimination against atheists, I'll bet you dollars to donuts the Supreme Court would say no.

And, it is very questionnable that the Federal Government could constitutionally tie federal funding to abolition of the no-gay or -atheist rule. Since the Government cannot directly prohibit the BSA to drop its anti-gay or anti-atheist without running afoul of the BSA's First Amendment rights, the Government can't condition funding on that basis either. (I think the Feds might be able to simply abolish the BSA charter without explanation, but few people would want that).


That's really not a tough call for me, QC. My answer would be: Yes. If Phelps & Co. wanted to associate with gays who receive federal funding, then let them. Phelps seems like such a closet case, anyway.

Although I think one could make a case to exclude a group if it had, say, a history of advocating violence against those with whom they disagree.

Queer Conservative

Well I would say yes too, Mal. Sauce for the goose and all, but I doubt Youth Pride would go quietly. Careful what you wish for...

Queer Conservative

Okay, I'm gonna ease up on the metaphors...

just me

I am not sure that I agree.

Scouts is one place where kids who don't often quite fit in can succeed. I have a son with an autism spectrum disorder, we have tried all sorts of stuff for him, and Scouts is the one activity he loves to go to. I think mostly because while he can't always succeed at every activity, he can succeed and often excel at others. Scouts have been a great experience for him, and there isn't any other alternative.

Also, I have to say that the Scouts also give back a lot to their communities. The Scout troop in our community has built dugouts and bleachers for various softball and baseball fields, built playgrounds, and done all sorts of stuff that the community at large benefits from.

So I guess if you are going to smack the scouts around for what they take, maybe you should also consider what they give, and giving to the community is a huge part of Scouts.

And I will also note that our scout troop is extremely non religious-even the religious awards are activities done at home-although they can be shared at meetings. This aspect may vary more from region to region, but for the most part our stroop is much closer to secular than religious.


Just Me: Please don't misinterpret my post. As you probably read, I used to be a Boy Scout, and I am proud of that. Nor do I intend to denigrate in any way the work that the Scouts do. I know what they do, because I used to do it.

I just feel very strongly that no organization that discriminates should be able to enjoy government support. Indeed, the Congress has voted to punish schools or other organizations that would deny access to the Boy Scouts because of problems they have with the BSA's membership requirements.

In other words, lawmakers (and judges) seem to be making qualitative judgments about "whose speech" is more worthy of protection.

Queer Conservative

Just Me,

I don't think the Scouts' altruism is in question. It's rather the fact that they discriminate against a segment of the population - homosexuals - while accepting government funds (i.e. the tax dollars of gays and lesbians.) I for one, don't see it as "smacking" around the Scouts' to ask them to explain how they rationalize that as fair.

Queer Conservative

Add atheists to that mix as well. I understand they aren't very popular in the BSA either.

just me

Okay, I get a little more where you are coming from, but I have a few questions, in what ways are the Scouts getting public funds, and are they the only organization that receives this type of support?

I doubt the Scouts would fail to survive, if they were privately funded, but I am not sure exactly what funding they are getting, how they are getting it, and if they are the only group that receives it.

I honestly have no issues with any community group-one that discriminates or not using school or other public facilities during non work hours, but other types of funding I could probably agree with, I just don't know what that other funding is (I didn't see the show, and my computer has no sound, and I don't know how to fix it, and am not interested enough in taking it to somebody who can at the moment).


If you watch the video, you'll see several instances where government funds or in-kind contributions go to the Boy Scouts. The government cost of hosting the annual Jamboree alone is about $5 million. Several local juridictions allow the Scouts to sign leases allowing public accommodations free of charge or a symbolic $1 per year fee. From my time in Congress, I know that direct federal appropriations also go to Scout projects. I don't know how many millions of dollars a year we're talking there.

I wish I could answer your question about how many other groups have such arrangements. Again, it is not the discrimination that gets me so much as the fact that as a taxpayer, I am subsidizing that discrimination.

just me

Watching the video wouldn't help much, given that I can't hear the words.

My boys aren't old enough to participate in the Jamboree, and if they were, we would be unlikely to be able to afford to send them. We can barely swing some of the overnight trips or family camps at the moment.

Several local juridictions allow the Scouts to sign leases allowing public accommodations free of charge or a symbolic $1 per year fee.

I assume this is for meetings? Every community I have lived in, Scouts usually have met in churches. My boys meet in a church here, although the schools permit any community group to use school facilities for free, if it is during hours, when a Custodian is present (this is usually until about 7/8 in the evening). Weekend use, it is always for the cost of the Custodian to be there on overtime (about $50 an hour).

I don't know that it would be the end of the world, if all public facilities said the Scouts couldn't use facilities for a reduced fee, I imagine most churches would step in and offer facilities.

But my question-is do you think the Scouts should be excluded from all public facilities, or is it just the special deals you don't like?


I think Mal's saying the Scouts should pay the same amount as any other private group to use public, taxpayer-funded facilities.


I guess I would ask this: Should the KKK be accorded government funds and benefits? Not as long as they remain a blatantly discriminatory organization.

The BSA is on the record as saying that "an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional moral values" and that "duty to God is not a mere ideal for those choosing to associate with the Boy Scouts of America; it is an obligation, which has defined good character throughout the BSA's 92-year history."

That's fine for you to believe that, but I should not be made to endorse it indirectly via my taxes.

just me

I think Mal's saying the Scouts should pay the same amount as any other private group to use public, taxpayer-funded facilities.

This I can agree with.

Should the KKK be accorded government funds and benefits?

I don't know that it is fair to compare the Scouts to the KKK. The KKK's stated purpose is to hate other groups-and their actions and words indicate this belief.

The Scouts so far in my experience do not teach or encourage hate-and to be honest it is one of the few places where teasing doesn't happen (my older son tried soccer, and because he gross motor skills are delayed he struggled, and I admit it was heartbreaking for me to see how the other boys on the team teased him and yelled at him over it). They absolutely do discriminate-but I think it would be more fair to compare them to a church or something like the Mason's than the KKK.

And I would argue that the Scouts should have the same access under similar rules to public facilities as churches would or any other community group would.


I don't know that it is fair to compare the Scouts to the KKK. The KKK's stated purpose is to hate other groups-and their actions and words indicate this belief.

Tomayto, tomahto.

Queer Conservative

Uh oh...let's hope this thread here, doesn't join up with this thread there...Oh the humanity...


I don't know this area of the law that well but I agree that the BSA are not viewed as state actors just for receiving funds. That does not mean that it would violate thier first amendment rights for the government to condition such funding or in-kind benefits on whether they discriminate on a particular basis. A local law like that, prohibiting public financial support for groups that discriminate on the basis of religion or sexuality, was recently upheld in California in a case involving the BSA.

Queer Conservative

That was California. Most likely that ruling will be overturned if it was a Federal case.

Bear Scout

I'm waiting for my "Bullshit" to load (bad connection), but I'm interested to see their view. To be honest, I've noticed that P & T use a lot of ad hominem and paper tiger logical fallacies to argue their points, but I do appreciate that they're at least trying to get people to think about these issues.

Second, I earned my Eagle Scout Award eleven years ago. Growing up in a small Mormon-dominated town in Idaho, it was not only expected but demanded of me. While Patrick can argue that his community was different, I should state that all young Mormon boys growing up where I lived (and indeed, all of the neighboring towns) were demanded to attend BSA. There was one Catholic troop in my town, but we openly mocked them for being the rejects.

So, on to my experience with the BSA. What did it do for me? JACK SHIT, as far as I can tell (except for enforcing a strong uniform fetish.) I'm sure it led to the development of strong character traits and other feel good self-agrandising terms, but just about any youth organization could have reached similar outcomes. Hell, I probably could have joined Satan's Camping and Murder Club and been just as well rounded in the end. The point I'm trying to make is that while I may have benefited in some manner from my time and efforts with the BSA (no matter how begrudgingly or willingly), it really shouldn't have to be on the tax payer's dime. Seriously, do we need more middle-class white boys who can tie proper bowline knots when there are serious problems like homelessness and NOLA repairs in the US?

You can argue that BSA helped keep me out of jail, or off of drugs, or any other notion, but I'll just counter argue by looking at my life. I'm still one of those dirty homosexuals that the BSA bans from their group, so I'm still not a model citizen in their eyes. My cock tastes the same to my boyfriend if I'm an Eagle Scout or not. I'm almost 30, and still haven't finished my BA degree, and use federal aid to get through school. Let's put it another way: I am an Eagle Scout awardee, and I'm still a waste to general society. And ha ha... some of you funded me through BSA (via your tax dollars) so I could be the loser I am today. How's that for poetic justice?

While I honestly don't think the government should be funding the BSA at all, I'm infuriated that they would do so when the BSA is clearly and openly promoting segregation and discrimination. I'm going to start a club for young males called "Bear Scouts of Amerika" and see if I can get some tax money after publicly declaring that no Christians are allowed, and no heterosexuals can be leaders, because they're notorious child molesters.

Another Gaymer

Would they be forced to associate with Fred Phelps grandchildren as agitating members?

I have the cutest picture in my head of them sitting around and playing Pokémon.

"My toadadile just whomped your pikachu."
"Well, you're still going to hell, you godless sodomite."
"Pony up the card, god-boy, and quit whining."

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