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Another Glitch in Boy Scouts' Proposed Gay Policy

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Most of the conversations about the Boy Scouts of America's proposed revision to its Membership Standards has focused on the double standard of granting membership to openly homosexual youth as scouts and refusing membership to openly homosexual adults as leaders. As far as I'm aware, however, there hasn't been any discussion about another qualifier in the proposed language -- "alone."

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

This means the BSA may still deny membership to a youth on the basis of sexual orientation or preference if the organization combines this basis with at least one other disqualifying factor, such as atheism or agnosticism, or behavior deemed objectionable. For example, because Johnny is gay and has been suspended from school on several occasions after getting in fights ("behavior that [does not] exemplif[y] the highest level of good conduct and respect for others") with other boys who continually call him a "fag," the BSA may deny Johnny membership.

Admittedly, the BSA could cite the unacceptable behavior as the sole cause for Johnny's disqualification from joining its ranks. But the proposed revision also allows "one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations" to use Johnny's sexual orientation or preference as a secondary disqualifying basis.

The BSA has already proposed to replace one discriminatory policy with another one by still prohibiting openly gay adult leaders, even if they happen to be model Eagle Scouts, recipients of one of the multitude of religious awards, or holders of lifesaving and meritorious action awards. That the organization, who advertises it has "helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values," may still deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation or preference in its proposed revision is of no value at all.

Win Bassett is a third-generation, Silver Palm Eagle Scout.