The Boy Scouts’ New Policy

Last week delegates representing the Boy Scouts of America voted to change the organization’s membership policy.  The traditional Scout policy excluded openly gay members.  Liberal activists have fought against that policy for a number of years, but have been resisted by traditionalists.  Now the Scouts are trying out something of a compromise.  The new policy retains the ban on openly gay Scout leaders while lifting the ban on gay members.  Now an openly gay youth will be able to be a member, but an openly gay man will not be able to be a leader.

Over at Public Discourse I argue that this new policy cannot last long.  There is a certain incoherence to it, I contend, that makes it impossible to defend.  After all, what rational justification could one think of for admitting gay youths but banning gay leaders?  If the Scouts hold to their old view that there is something morally problematic about homosexuality, why admit openly gay members?  If they have rejected that belief, why exclude openly gay leaders?  If they are worried about the possibility of scandalous sexual activity among members, isn’t that a danger both among members as well as between leaders and members?


This is a problem not just in the court of public opinion, where gay rights activists will certainly continue to press for further change, but also in courts of law as well, where we can expect actual lawsuits.  About 13 years ago, in Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Scouts prevailed in a legal challenge to their membership policy.  The challenge was based on a state anti-discrimination law, but the Scouts were able to persuade a majority of Supreme Court justices that they had a First Amendment right to control their own membership on issues central to the organization’s expressive aims.  For that argument to work, however, the organization’s membership policies have to be presentable as a real reflection of its moral ideology, and not just as a pretext to engage in discrimination.  The Scouts have undermined their ability to make that case by the compromise they have struck.

The whole article can be found here.



  • Jude

    Please look into the new organization that Taylor Marshall is starting, the Catholic Scouts of St. George.

  • Patrick

    Cecilia is right. It’s a safety issue. Given her post, I bet a gay Scout would NOT be safe in a tent with her son. I’d be very worried for the safety of that gay Scout.

  • Joe Vorwald

    How can they defend this policy when it goes against the scout oath.

  • Cecilia

    The problem I see is that the boys sleep alone at the other side of the camp with the adults at a different site! I would not want my son sleeping in the same tent as a gay boy! In Girl Scouts we have two adults in each tent or room for safety. It’s like putting a girl and a boy in the same tent! To me it os now a safety issue. I will not have my son in this situation and he will no longer be a Scout. Moral values have been lost.

    • joey

      Cecilia, your comment invokes complete ignorance of the situation. Even if openly gay scouts were still banned, your son would be sleeping next to closeted gay kids. Grow up.

  • JackB

    I should not be the first to respond here, but my gut aches.

    The Scouts appear to have made a cardinal error in judgment. Their moral high ground is fleeting. Admitting and or keeping openly gay Scouts appears to invite a legal challange from both sides. I remember in the Navy there was an analogy of sorts. When someone was discovered to be homosexual they were forced out and given an undesirable discharge. One petty officer was my good friend who had made the Navy hhis career. He was devastated. That was prior to “don’t ask, don’t tell” idiocy.

    Notice that the text is repleat with sexual orientation and forms of sexual deviation. Not on how a gay scout can make a contribution to the organization.

    Much more will be said about Scouting and its’ moral compass. We can only pray to God the the future will be positive. I get goose bumps when I see how the clergy mishandles the dilemma of being gay and acting it out.

  • http://Facebook Patricia Taylor

    I thInk this is a big mistake, It is just as big a sin to “drink the gravy” on Holy Day as it is to eat the meat, Let your YES mean YES and your NO mean No. NOT PLEASING TO GOD.

    • joey

      Patricia, being gay is not a sin. You are obviously not versed in Catholic teaching.



Receive our updates via email.