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The Boy Scouts of America have offered a compromise on membership for gays that is guaranteed to make almost everyone unhappy. It’s as if the organization is seeking a badge for waffle making rather than bravely declaring a sensible, overdue change.
In an attempt to move from old-fashioned prejudice when obsession about sexual orientation is on the wane in American life, the organization’s national leadership previously had proposed that individual troops and troop sponsors be allowed to accept homosexuals as Scouts and leaders.
Leaving the issue to local choice would have been no solution; imagine a U.S. military in which some bases are integrated and others are not.
After the predictable outcry, it is now proposed that gays be allowed as Scouts nationwide, but that adults who are homosexual still be barred from being leaders. That half-loaf will be submitted for a vote next month to the BSA’s National Council.
The Scouts are a great organization, one that aims to prepare “young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime.” Tolerance is an ethical and moral choice worthy of a Scout.
The Scouts are not quite there yet on the question of Scout leaders.The standard should be a simple one: All people are welcome and no one, of any persuasion, will be allowed to prey upon the young.
Any predator should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But as with Catholic priests, and as with military service, it is wrong to deny a gay man a chance to serve because he is gay.
The late Sen. Barry Goldwater said of gays in the military: “You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.” The question for a Scout leader is: Can he teach? Can he teach Scouting skills and values?
A real resolution would accept gays — adults and youths — as people worthy of respect and dignity, something denied to them often in the name of morality. There’s no going halves on that.