Boy Scouts of America
by Debbie Rolen
This rugged Mountain State enjoys a long-term link to the Boy Scouts of America. The soon-to-open $400 million National Jamboree Center and high adventure camp in Fayette County promises to bring hundreds of thousands — maybe millions — of idealistic youths to the hills in coming decades, along with throngs of parents and leaders. It’s a win-win prospect for both the state and the visitors. Bravo.
Therefore, we hope the BSA resolves its current showdown over gay scoutmasters and scouts in a way that won’t damage either the worldwide scouting movement or the human rights of homosexuals.
Naturally, the BSA must do its utmost to protect boys from molesters — but it should acknowledge that the vast majority of gays are conscientious souls who never harm children. In fact, child-molesters rarely are gay. Researchers say they’re inadequate adults who can’t react with other adults, either male or female. Pedophiles are neither gay nor straight. They’re simply drawn to children.
For generations, the BSA has banned gays on the dubious premise that they menace boys. This policy has led to snowballing protests — especially as America turns more tolerant of the minority with a different orientation. Hundreds of former Eagle Scouts have returned their medals in protest. Petitions with more than 300,000 signatures have been signed. Membership dropped nearly 30 percent in the past 15 years.
Finally, the BSA decided to reconsider its ban. During its February biannual assembly, the national organization will discuss ways to halt discrimination — perhaps by letting local councils handle their own membership criteria.
The situation is complicated, because 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are sponsored by churches — and fundamentalist faiths feel hostility toward gays. Already, the Southern Baptist Convention is accusing the BSA of betraying “biblical principles.” Mormons sponsor 420,000 troops and Catholics 200,000. Both churches denounce gays. It won’t be easy to settle this quandary in a way acceptable to all parties. …
West Virginia’s future includes a rewarding link with Boy Scouts. We hope the BSA’s gay ban is phased out in a manner that reflects modern tolerance, and won’t cast a shadow as thousands of happy campers flock to Fayette County.
— Distributed by The Associated Press
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