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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Boy Scouts’ vote will bring little change

What is being lost in the tumult about the Boy Scouts of America’s decision Thursday to allow gay Scouts is that the organization will remain virtually the same as it always has been. Most troops never sought to ferret out Scouts who might be gay. The question, after all, is largely irrelevant to a highly effective youth organization that teaches self-reliance and leadership. Any sexual conduct will remain absolutely prohibited, as it should be. These are minors, after all, so this whole focus on sexual expression has been largely misplaced. It is conduct that counts, and the BSA’s controversial vote won’t change the behavior — and dress code — required at Scout events.
Critics who act as if the BSA voted to become a swingers’ club are overreacting. Liberal activists, of course, are not satisfied, because the organization will still prohibit gay adult leaders. Their priority is scoring political points, not helping Scouts. The 1,400 members of the BSA’s National Council voted on the proposal, with 61 percent in favor. Perhaps activist pressure played a role, but the bigger influence surely was an evolving society that now — especially in the business world — sees prohibitions against homosexuals as discrimination. We preferred an earlier BSA proposal that would have allowed each organization sponsoring a troop to decide whether to allow gay scouts and leaders. This would have eliminated the blanket ban but also have addressed the religious beliefs of those churches that sponsor troops and oppose homosexual practices. But the Scouts’ leadership, which thoroughly reviewed the matter, thought a different strategy appropriate. We suspect the ban on gay adult leaders eventually will be eliminated, once this transition is made and BSA can demonstrate such changes won’t affect the Scouting program. But this is entirely the Scouts’ call. It is important to remember the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 rejected a challenge to Scout policy by a gay Eagle Scout. The justices found BSA was not a public accommodation, but rather a group upholding certain values it had the right to define as it saw fit. The Scouts now have seen fit to revise its policy on gays. We wish outsiders would see fit to let the Scouts focus on its mission: helping youths.
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