The Boy Scouts of America served notice once again that it will allow itself to be dragged only so far into modern times.
About a year ago, the BSA finally decided its policy of excluding young gay people from its ranks would change. The fact the organization stood to lose considerable support, financial and otherwise, no doubt played a role in its “change of heart.”
But the Boy Scouts stood fast on the policy of shunning openly gay leaders, and it has now targeted a gay scoutmaster in Washington state for violating that rule.
Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath’s “crime,” in the eyes of the BSA, was advocating for his rights and the rights of other LGBT people. According to a Yahoo News report, BSA leaders said they learned through a news story recently that McGrath was gay. The organization told Rainier Beach United Methodist Church of Seattle, sponsor of McGrath’s troop, to boot him out.
The church, to its everlasting credit, told the BSA to paddle its canoe up another river, so the BSA had one of its lawyers advise the church its chapter was being closed “as a result of this refusal to comply with the policies, guidelines, rules and regulations of the Boy Scouts of America.” The church also was told the kids in Troop 98 can “no longer use the Scouting program or any of its registered marks or brands.”
The pastor of the church, the Rev. Monica Corsaro, took the ouster in stride and said local Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts planned to meet as usual this week, without the imprimatur of the BSA. We’re guessing McGrath and other leaders will be able to instruct the youngsters on knot-tying, bird-watching, archery, hiking, camping and other such things without the benefit of an instructional manual from the BSA. As for the BSA merit badges the boys might have earned? We have a vision of Corsaro embracing the common adaptation of a line from “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and declaring, “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.”
The BSA’s decision to cut the baby in half – allowing gay Scouts but refusing to relent on gay leaders – is no doubt a stopgap attempt to pacify both sides in the debate. But by refusing to accept the leadership of openly gay adults, the organization is forcing gay people who already are working with Scouts or wish to share their time and talents with the youngsters to hide the sexual orientation with which they were born, and it also implies – regardless of whether that’s the intent – that the BSA considers gay people to have a tendency toward child molestation. Never mind the fact that most of the child sexual abuse cases we see involve heterosexuals, or that the vast majority of gay people are not trying to “recruit” others to their “lifestyle.” Gay people, you see, realize folks are born with their sexual orientation and don’t select it as if they were choosing between chicken and meatloaf in a cafeteria line.
McGrath was taken aback by the BSA’s move. He said the organization had known all along he was gay and openly supported LGBT rights.
But while many churches spend an inordinate amount of time, and money, fighting against gay equality, the Rev. Corsaro left no doubt about where her church’s allegiance lies. In a statement issued through the advocacy organization Scouts for Equality, she said, “Based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate.”
That’s certainly refreshing, and it gives us hope the youngsters of Troop 98 will learn not only about the great outdoors, but about great ideas and concepts, like common sense, critical thinking, tolerance, equality, justice, empathy and love for one’s fellow man, no matter whom he might love.