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And Now, Scouting Must Decide

You’ve heard, I take it, that the Boy Scouts of America are considering giving up their mandatory ban on homosexual Scoutmasters, instead making it a local option thing. Matthew J. Franck invokes Neuhaus’s Law:

If the Boy Scouts drop the organization’s present position on homosexuality, not only will millions of parents withdraw their sons from the organization, and thousands of pastors will drop their churches’ sponsorship of Scout troops, they will be absolutely right to do so. For it will only be a matter of time before the Boy Scouts of America will pronounce itself in favor of same-sex marriage; will adopt instructional materials, mandatory in all troops, on the compulsory acceptance, by all members and leaders, of homosexual relations as normal and normative; and will move to silence all dissent from the new orthodoxy by boys, parents, troop leaders, and sponsoring organizations. The Scouts, in short, will rapidly become, from the top down, a national pro-gay organization, local control be damned.

Neuhaus’s Law, for those who don’t know, holds that wherever orthodoxy is made optional, it will eventually be outlawed. The Episcopal Church’s evolution on the female clergy issue, and more recently on homosexuality, is a perfect example. What was introduced as an accommodationist measure to promote unity amid diversity, and toleration, eventually became an intolerant orthodoxy. In other words, the forces of Progress appeal to fair-mindedness and charity when they are weak, and when they are strong, insist that to tolerate “bigotry” would be immoral.

If the national Scouting organization gives in on this, it’s game over. That’s how it works. You don’t think so? The New York Times editorial page says that the Scouts are not going far enough:

Sadly, though, the change the organization is contemplating falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of antigay bigotry that is called for. It said it would no longer “dictate” an antigay policy to local scouting groups, but would let them decide whether to permit participation by openly gay people.

In other words, whether to persist in barring gay youngsters and their families would become a local option: an unprincipled position that would continue to send a message that discrimination is perfectly acceptable even if it is no longer mandatory under national Boy Scouts rules.

Such a partial move should hardly satisfy former donors who have been repelled by the Scouts’ discriminatory ways. And such a stance will not resolve the quandary faced by parents who want the positive experiences that scouting offers but are appalled by antigay bigotry.

The BSA cannot please everybody. If it yields one bit, the Times and everyone else on the liberal side will harass the organization until it expels the heretics in their midst. It will not end until they give up. If that’s the way the Scouts want to go, then, fine. But they will leave many, many conservative Americans behind. They cannot split the difference. Neuhaus’s Law is how it always works in these matters.

UPDATE: Leon J. Podles just added this to the comments thread:

When the Supreme Court decided 5-4 that the Boy Scouts could exclude homosexuals, it was based on the BSA’s contention that the exclusion was part of its core mission.

If the national office announces that the exclusion of homosexuals is not part of its core mission, that defense is rendered invalid, not only for the national office but for all subdivisions and troops.

The national office of the Boy Scouts would never require troops to accept homosexual leaders – it wouldn’t have to. Lawyers will go after any division of the scouts that still excludes gays, and the division will have not have the defense that the exclusion is part of the BSA central mission, not will the local units have the financial and legal resources of the national office.

I disagree with the national office, but I am even more disappointed in their dishonesty in pretending that they are not in effect requiring all troops to accept homosexual leaders, no matter what moral, religious, or practical objections the troop may have.

And all this for the sake of corporate donations.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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