Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Should the Boy Scouts be allowed to discriminate?

Private organizations should face little interference when it comes to membership criteria

The Boy Scouts of America has decided to continue their ban on homosexual Scout leaders and members within their ranks.

After a secretive two-year review, the BSA concluded that "[the] policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts." An 11-member board determined unanimously that it wouldn't change the organization's longstanding rules regarding gay or lesbian members.

Critics lashed out at the decision:
The president of the largest U.S. gay-rights group, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, depicted the Scouts' decision as "a missed opportunity of colossal proportions."

"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."
Those are strong arguments of contention, valid points that the BSA shouldn't disregard lightly.

However, as a private organization, the BSA is and should be allowed to make its own rules regarding membership criteria. If it wants to ban gays from joining, it should be free to do so.

Whether or not it receives federal funding for doing so, however, should be up for contention. Federal law prohibits organizations that receive funding to discriminate against anyone if they're to use that money for charitable activities. While that still allows the BSA to limit who can join, it halts them from being able to discriminate whom they may serve through their various acts of goodwill.

In other words, if a Boy Scouts troop holds a food drive, it cannot distribute that food to only those who support its rules. It has to give that food to anyone in need of it.

And those grants, similarly, can be taken away, if the people pressure members of Congress enough to do so, through letter campaigns, phone calls, and even the ballot box, should they choose to base their vote in that way.

The right of an organization to create for itself its own rules should only be interfered with in extreme situations. Sadly, the Boy Scouts of America has chosen to continue to discriminate against gay and lesbian households despite national trends moving in the opposite direction.

I don't personally support the decision. But the way to create change through the organization lies not through laws or regulations -- at least in this instance -- but through other means that will compel the BSA to change. Boycotts of the group, their activities and their fundraising ventures may cause eventual change to come. More importantly, information, in the form of other venues outside of the BSA, is the key to changing society overall, including organizations that discriminate against gay and lesbian households.

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