Gay-rights groups were elated Monday after the Boy Scouts of America announced that it was considering dropping its long-standing national policy of disallowing open homosexuals from participating in its activities, but traditional-family groups were quick to condemn the shift.This might seem like a big deal, but there's less here than meets the eye. The key is the second graf -- local BSA organizations get to decide the issue. Each scout troop has a sponsoring organization, usually a local church. That means the church that sponsors the troop gets to decide if they want to open things up to gay scout leaders. A lot of churches, probably most of them, won't do that. The reason for the ban is that the Scouts had a big problem with sexual abuse, similar to what the Catholic Church has gone through. Was that an overreaction? Perhaps, but making the change and instituting exceptionally strict rules about contact between adult leaders and scouts has really cut down on the problem. As a Scout parent and adult leader, I have to retake the training every two years.
If adopted next week, the change would permit local BSA organizations to decide “how to address this issue” at their level.
As for gay Scouts, well, there have always been gay Scouts. It's likely not going to change the nature of the organization that much if the BSA acknowledges that.
We are a Scouting family. My son started out as a Tiger Cub Scout in the first grade and he's stayed with it ever since; he's been a leader in his troop for the last two years. It's been a great experience for him and he's become a good outdoorsman as a result, which is something that would not have happened otherwise -- my idea of roughing it is a hotel that doesn't offer continental breakfast.
It's been a challenge to keep boys in Scouting, since there are any number of distractions along the way. Of the 15-18 kids who started out in Scouting with my son, maybe 4 of them are still active. I lost interest in Scouting when I was a kid and it's something that I regret today. The lessons and practical skills that young men learn in Scouting are lifelong and utterly useful. The politics surrounding the organization aren't especially useful. This change probably won't end the controversies and criticism that Scouting faces in any event. We'll find out.