Scouts must lead

FI-EditorialThe Boy Scouts of America may have decided that they need more time to debate whether or not to change their policy on not admitting gay Scouts, but the fact that this policy is bigoted and wrong remains crystal clear.

Following the conclusion of a three-day meeting, national leadership had been set to make an announcement on revising a policy that is a stain on this otherwise fine organization. For too long it has been tolerated for Boy Scouts’ leadership to openly carry out policies of bigotry and discrimination by not allowing gay members. That means no gay Scout leaders, robbing the organization of valuable mentors. And it means no gay Scouts, teaching kids at a young age that discrimination is OK because a person’s sexuality determines their worth as a person.

But instead of doing the right thing now without any more delay, the national leadership has instead said it needs more time even after three days of discussion on what should be a simple matter.  It’s beyond past time for the national Scout leadership to do  away with this discriminatory policy.  Yet instead of making a clear statement  for tolerance, national leadership has kicked the can down the road, making it more pressing than ever that local chapters like the Greenwich Council take the lead.

What had always seemed most likely, according to the leaked reports, is that the national council will not quite redefine the policy but rather move the decision to the local level, letting individual councils and charter groups make the call as to what is or isn’t acceptable. It would be a way for the national leadership to avoid making a decision and try not to anger the bigots and religious hucksters out there like failed presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Pat Robertson who try to hide their hatred behind buzzwords like “faith and family.”

But it would also open the door for Greenwich to be bold. And now that national leadership has failed to act, Greenwich’s Council should. It should say to its members and to this town that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable. It must act where the national leaders have not.

Greenwich’s Boy Scout Council is one richly tied into the history of the organization due to its links to the legendary Ernest Thompson Seton. And Greenwich is also a community that has striven to end the stereotype of the Gold Coast and show itself to be a truly diverse town. The Scouts in Greenwich have excelled in making clear the color of one’s skin, the ethnicity of one’s background and the bottom line of one’s bank account do not matter. It’s about character and living to the moral code of the Boy Scouts.

Sexuality should not matter either, and Greenwich’s council needs to make that clear. So far council leadership has deferred on this, saying it would wait until the national leadership made its ruling. This is understandable, but it is not particularly courageous. Greenwich’s Boy Scouts must lead. It is a valued organization in town for the best of reasons and as it teaches Greenwich’s boys how to be young men in this world it must set a standard by saying bigotry and intolerance will not be accepted.

What kind of message does it send to people that they must hide their sexuality in order to be accepted? The military has done away with this ridiculous policy, so why not the Boy Scouts? Forcing people back into the closet, particularly when it comes to our youth, is a policy best forgotten. It’s time to embrace modern values and openness and tolerance.

No matter what the word from national leadership is, Greenwich’s council needs to be clear. Homophobia is not acceptable. The Scouts must be open to all. Greenwich has a chance to set the standard here and truly show our youth what it means to be men. The silence on the national level is shameful. Greenwich’s Council must now lead.

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