Kingsport (Tennessee) Newspaper Defends Anti-Gay Boy Scouts with Appalling Editorial

We’re used to seeing letters-to-the-editor and random conservative bloggers and pundits defend the Boy Scouts of America and their decision to ban gays (and atheists) from being members of their organization. Now that the BSA is reconsidering their decision, those people are urging them to stick with their current policy.

What we’re not used to seeing is editorial boards of newspapers defending the old policy. They’re supposed to be the voices of reason leading the way forward. So you have to wonder why the staffers at the Kingsport Times-News (Tennessee) believe that separate but equal is the best way to go. (The article is behind a paywall… maybe they thought it’d be best if only local residents saw this piece):

Because the Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, does not accept girls, the Girls Scouts of the United States was founded two years later. And because the Boy Scouts does not accept homosexuals, gays are as free to create their own organization, similarly modeled and based on whatever values they care to incorporate.

As if “gay” values were somehow different than the values already espoused by the BSA… The Boy Scouts have a legal right to do whatever they want, but the argument has always been that if they’re as good of an organization as they claim to be, they shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (or belief in god). The Girl Scouts have figured this out and they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

The editorial continues:

Other [non-church-related] troop sponsors will accept gays, which means parents who don’t want their sons associated with those troops will look elsewhere. What will change is the basic makeup of the BSA with straight troops, and gay troops, which worsens schisms within BSA, which means separate local campsites, which means troops will no longer come together at national events. Parents must be willing to trust scout leaders who take their children to remote areas for weekends, even entire weeks, with other troops.

YEAH! If parents want to be bigots, we should defend their right to be bigots… instead of encouraging them to open their hearts and minds a little bit.

And that last sentence is so goddamn offensive… it’s the type of line that only makes sense if you so-very-wrongly assume gay scout leaders must automatically be pedophiles.

If parents are uncomfortable with their kids hanging around gay scout leaders, that’s their problem, not the leaders’ problem. Parents have to trust scout leaders, no matter what their orientation is. Being gay has nothing to do with that outcome.

BSA should not change that message in the name of political correctness. It should remain the arbiter of its own morality and true to its values and not surrender to external pressure.

If the BSA’s values include bigotry, the writers have a point. But the BSA claims to be about building character and training responsible citizens. There’s just no good reason to reject gay troops other than pure hatred.

I agree there’s pressure for them to change it, but a lot of it is internal as well. Public school districts are finally becoming smart enough to ban the BSA from recruiting at their schools because of their exclusionary policies. If the BSA wants to continue as an organization, they’re going to have to make a change. They remain stuck in the past at their own peril.

The BSA’s stance would be indefensible if they excluded black people or Jewish people from their organization. It’s just as bad when they exclude gay people (and atheists).

It’s surprising that it’s taken the BSA this long to consider changing the rules.

But, seriously, what awful human beings would write a defense of bigotry, filled with prejudiced statements of their own?

That they would write this is horrible. That the Kingsport Times-News would go ahead and publish this is nauseating.

I hope their remaining readers cancel their subscriptions immediately.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    This paper is in Tennessee. I see nothing surprising about the editorial.

    Actually, I agree with it to the extent that I don’t support the change in policy currently being considered by the BSA. Frankly, leaving the decision of whether or not to accept gays up to local councils or troops is just as bad as the current policy. The only acceptable policy change is to require that every BSA organization consider it mandatory, and that any boy be accepted without question or judgement into the Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs.

    Otherwise, I say just let them go the way of the dinosaurs and the Catholic Church, and without any support from public resources.

  • sunburned

    The Op-Ed totally bypassed the reason why the public at large cares. The BSA takes public funds and perks. They do not have a constitutionally protected right to receive public funds and/or breaks.

    I’m a fan of revoking tax breaks and/or subsidies for any organization that does not treat people equally. They are getting these brakes because they supposedly provide a service to the greater good, something that is not congruent with with policies that promote inequality.

  • MD

    The UK’s Scout Association accepts homosexuals and, gasp, girls. And guess what, they are doing just fine. The values and goals remain the same: to help young people develop to their full potential. To teach them to care for themselves, their communities, and the world. In case the bigots forget, Scouting began in the UK.

  • David Benjamin Patton

    “Pure hatred?” Hm, probably not so much – but where does the root of ‘hatred’ always lie? In ignorance and in fear and that is the root of the problem here.

  • baal

    I hope their remaining readers cancel their subscriptions immediately.

    I have to admit that this type of exhortation sits a bit askew for me. The editorial is almost certainly the work of 1-2 human beings. I rather the newspaper be flooded with requests for a retraction backed by the threat of the cancellation of subscriptions. The outcome I want is the responsible parties to be bit and have to retract their words rather than the end of the paper (which I assume is otherwise a responsible business in that community absent data to the contrary).

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    The BSA can discriminate all they want as long as they don’t get tax exempt status or money directly from the federal government. Love how this editorial repeats the idea that all gay men are pedophiles who would molest their children.

  • Sue Blue

    What cowardly little fear-mongers these bigots are, terrified that even the hint of anything or anyone different is just going to shatter their narrow little world. Their beliefs and values must be fragile and weak to be so threatened. Their god must be a powerless, lazy, worthless being if he has to get morons, idiots, imbeciles, and hate-filled bigots to enforce his rules.
    The Boy Scouts – because boys are delicate, wispy little things that must be protected from “different” people, especially gays and women, lest their fragile values twist and snap before the winds of change. Boo-friggety-hoo.

  • Daniel In The Lions’ Den

    Years ago, the company where I worked decided to move my division to Kingsport. After visiting there a few times, I quit my job rather than move there. Very insular, I would not have lasted long. People in stores and restaurants repeatedly commented on my “Yankee” accent and kept asking what I was “really” doing there. Maybe the area has advanced since then, but I don’t know.

    As for the BSA, according to Mother Jones, their numbers are dropping and a much more inclusive, but still very small, scouting type group is growing. The Navigators.

    Considering the sex scandals and catholic-style cover-up / sweeping under the rug, in the BSA, maybe the best thing to do is pull the plug on that entrenched group, and let them wither away into irrelevancy. Still, it’s a massive organization and that withering would take generations.

  • TheG

    Just for anyone with sons who is googling “The Navigators” to see if it would be a good fit for their family, the website is navigatorsusa dot org, not the first listing in google (which is a bat-crap crazy evangelical indoctrination group out of Colorado Springs).

  • chicago dyke

    while study after study reaffirms that a large majority of pedophiles are heterosexuals, regardless of the gender of their child victims.

    i never could stand the male scouts. guilty pleasure reference: in the original ‘red dawn,’ that right wing gun masturbation fest, there’s a scene where one of the poor americans bowing under the cuban/soviet knuckle of oppression has to admit that his son is part of “an elite paramilitary training unit.” the american is all like “huh? whut?”

    the cuban responds: “The Eagle Scouts.”

    but as a lefist-marxist-homofascist-african, i sort of agree. the scouts in this country really do strike me as a tad paramilitary/brainwashing xtian values for onward soldiers. never really liked that part of scouting much.

  • TheG

    Again, why is it that people keep saying that “Teh Gayz” can start their own organization that encompasses their own values (apparently, pedophilia). Why can’t the scouts do the morally right thing to do that is mandated by its own propaganda and become inclusive? Then, the bigots and fundies can start THEIR own scouting group and leave the homosexuality and tax breaks behind?

  • randomfactor

    Isn’t the solution obvious? If bigots don’t want to accept gays into the Boy Scouts, the bigots should form their own, separate-but-equal organization and leave the BSA to the decent folks.

  • Mario Strada

    Good point, it will be a mess and eventually they will have to become inclusive anyway, because last I checked, rarely things like this go backward.

    The catholic church, the Mormons, etc, will be more than welcome to form their own non-tax-exempt groups. As far as the BSA, maybe they should even consider a merge or a partnership with the Girl Scouts. They would gain some delicious cookies and a little bit of perspective.

  • Kengi

    I hate the message that the BSA is surrendering to “external pressure”. The movement to bring rules of equality originated from within the BSA. Many local troops have for years operated without discrimination, but have had to do so in secret.

    This pressure comes from within the organization, with support from people outside the organization.

    And just what did the editors think they were doing? Are they also applying “external pressure” or just supporting those who want to continue the discriminatory policies?

    They are not just bigots, but also hypocrites. And for those surprised by this fact I should also mention that the sun rose in the East this morning.

  • John

    Just shows you how far behind the BSA is when every other Scouting organization in the world as far as I know has a co-ed program.

  • CultOfReason

    The BSA’s leadership policy states that “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.

    Can I assume, then, that adulterers and divorcees are also nor allowed in the BSA? After all, that would be hypocritical of them if these other groups weren’t also excluded, no?

  • SeekerLancer

    Their opening argument is, “well we have the girl scouts you can make your own gay scouts.” I can’t get past how absurd that is. There is no “gay agenda” here. There are gay scouts and scoutmasters who just want equal treatment and respect. If you don’t want to play ball BSA then give up your public funding and we’ll let you be as bigoted as you want.

  • Skeptosaurus

    The South/Bible belt is a wasteland for rational thought and acceptance.
    Yes, I’m generalizing and stereotyping but I’m doing so based on
    historical evidence. I have friends who moved from Florida to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee a
    few years ago and they hate it. Because they are not from that region
    and their name is not “recognized” by the local yocals, they are being
    discriminated against. They have not been allowed/able to purchase a
    business or open up their own business because of this. Local realtors
    will not work with them. People selling commercial property will not
    sell to them. Local officials, will not work with them or approve any
    plans they have submitted.

    When I was there for their wedding i kept thinking how fucked up the area was. Pigeon Forge is a tourist trap and all I kept seeing was religious propaganda everywhere. There is a giant cross that is visible from all around the city. The tourist shops and even the Walgreens and other retailers in the city have more paraphernalia that has to do with Jeebus and Xianity than it does with the region. I must have heard “Lord have mercy” and “Praise the Lord” a million times during that 5 day period. I’ll never go back. But it’s like that all over the South. I’ve encountered it in every state from Florida to Indiana. Depressing to say the least.

  • gd

    How very christian of him (sarcasm in case you could not tell. Lower cap c)

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Plus they’d get in line with the rest of the world.

  • Carpinions

    Good luck getting the BSA traditional supporters to see their own hypocrisy. They willingly overlook the public funding aspect whenever it suits their interests. On a related tangent, notice how we hear all sorts of bloviating in D.C. about cutting tax money to unnecessary programs like arts education, “meaningless” scientific research into fruit flies and snail sex, etc., but nobody has mentioned cutting funds to the BSA.

  • Carpinions

    Thanks for adding the point about most pedophile activity occurring amongst heterosexuals. It illustrates with increasing clarity that opponents of gay marriage have nothing resembling even a single halfway decent argument against allowing LGBTQ marriage. What, heterosexuals don’t commit felony sexual assault on kids? What about the spate of female teachers that have been caught over the last 10 years? But no, sexual deviance hinges first and foremost on men thinking homosexual thoughts, and everything follows from there, as the logic goes.

    Every aspect of their view fails because the very basis they stand on is utterly corrupt and wrong.

  • liu

    Eh, I’ve seen worse. I defend people’s rights to be bigots, just not their ability to influence public policy with their bigotry. What the Boy Scouts shouldn’t are public funds, tax breaks, and perks. After that they can do whatever the hell they want.

  • Angus Bohanon

    Even if I agreed with them on the issues, I’d be appalled at how poorly this was written. It sounds like a third-grade book report.

  • Don Gwinn

    You’re right, but it’s worse: the BSA has hidden and protected molesters. (at least locally.) Their concern comes and goes.

  • fsm

    No, the pressure is coming largely from without.

    Really? I got the impression that the reason they are considering a change now is all of the people inside the organization that think it is time for a change.

    Or maybe they justify the statement by assuming that everyone that doesn’t like it will quit and be ‘outsiders’.

  • Kwame

    As a Black freethinker, I agree with the crux of the article. Africans Americans fought ( and continue to fight) the battle for equality. However, Blacks do have ‘separate’ institutions and organizations acknowledging their unique culture and “lifestyle”. So, in this sense, instituting a ‘gay scouts’ would solve the problem. A win-win situation for everybody.

  • Kwame

    “..the large majority of pedophiles are heterosexuals”? News flash: The vast majority of human beings are heterosexual. The greater question to address is the percentage of pedophiles found within both groups. The results might even a dyke form chicago.

  • PhiloKGB

    Do blacks have “separate institutions” because they are forced to?

  • Anna

    What purpose would such segregation serve? How are gay Scouts different from straight Scouts? Scouting has nothing to do with sexual orientation. And how would that even work? Given that most boys are too young to know their orientation when they first join the Scouts, how are you going to divide them into gay or straight?

  • Kwame

    No. It was a rational choice that alleviated mauch of the stress of being in a place where you were not welcomed. Forcing someone into a environment that makes onother uncomfortable is just as wrong as forcing someone to accept you into an environment that makes them feel uncomfortable.

  • Kwame

    Based on what I have heard from a few Black homosexuals, they knew quite early in their youth they were ‘different’. Their words, not mine.

  • Anna

    You didn’t answer any of my questions. Of course, many gay people know they are “different” at a young age, but your proposal is ridiculous. In fact, I can’t even believe you are serious. In the first place, sexual orientation is irrelevant to Scouting. Secondly, most boys join Scouts when they are 6, 7 or 8 years old. How, pray tell, are you going to decide which ones belong in the gay troop and which belong in the straight one?

  • PhiloKGB

    Could a black person choose to participate in a ‘culturally white’ (assuming such a thing for the sake of argument) lifestyle if she desired?

  • Tom

    “…that only makes sense if you so-very-wrongly assume gay scout leaders must automatically be pedophiles.” No. It only makes sense if you assume homosexual male scout leaders are more likely to molest boys than heterosexual male scout leaders. I don’t see how that’s any more offensive than to say a heterosexual male leader of a girl scout troop is more likely to molest girls than a heterosexual male leader of a boy scout troop is to molest boys.

  • Erp

    The history of the Girl Scouts of the USA is a bit different than depicted. The GSUSA derives directly from the Girl Guides in the UK (which was set up as an alternative to the Boy Scouts there when some girls insisted on being scouts). The spinoff fromt the US Boy Scouts was Camp Fire Girls now Camp Fire USA (the Boy Scouts of America tried to force the GSUSA to drop the word ‘Scouts’ from their name among other things). Camp Fire btw is probably the biggest non-discriminatory similar youth group as far as gays, girls, and godless alternative to Boy Scouts but it is not ‘Scouting’ and not eligible to join either of the two major international Scouting organizations (one co-ed/male scouting, one female scouting/guiding [with a couple of very small exceptions]).

    In the long run the two international organizations will probably merge as will the national organizations within each country. ‘Duty to God’ within the respective groups leads to some interesting interpretations of the phrase especially given that a few Scouting national organizations are predominantly Buddhist; the BSA emphasis on believing in a ‘God’ as part of it is not held by all (and even the BSA turns a bit of a blind eye to the Buddhists within their own organization).

    More similar to the treatment of gays might be the history of racial segregation in both scouting organizations. Segregated troops, segregated camps (either by time or location) and at least in the case of the Girl Scouts often only white troops (officially) within a council since the council didn’t have funds for separate black troops and camps.

  • dan davis

    While I’m not a fan of the BSA and their discrimination, the stats given are misleading as you point out, this is not negative, this is the math. Don’t use stats to confuse.

  • dan davis

    Here’s an idea. Take your kids out camping/hiking as a family, learn about the natural world and teach it to your kids, don’t outsource and have a stranger teach them.

  • Bdole

    Unless they have some breed of gay-sniffing dogs, won’t gays always be able to join the scouts as kids or as leaders, anyway? I’m sure there’ve always been gays in the scouts, just like in the Church, Mosque, Temple, Synagogue, GOP, the SS, whatever.

  • Bdole

    So right. It seems that gays are always the end of the family while divorced Christians (all 50% of the ones that were married) do no damage to the fabric of our society, whatsoever. Go figure. Guess they can’t see past the planks in their eyes.

  • Kwame

    White culture exists (it is not an assumption). Westernized blacks ‘participate’ by default. That is the reality. So , yes, blacks choose to participate in varying degrees. Alternative options are limited, punished and discouraged. Thus, the tragic effects of intergenerational European culture and the havoc it has wrought on blacks.

  • Kwame

    Doesn’t the fact that we are discussing ‘allowing’ gay children to join the scouts conclude that these kids are already gay? Am I missing something here?

  • PhiloKGB

    Well that’s rather more existential than I was hoping. It seems Socrates isn’t with me here.

  • Anna

    You are the one proposing that troops be segregated based on sexual orientation. I’ve been pointing out that the typical young Scout is not yet aware of his orientation, and that it would be up to an adult to somehow determine whether the child is gay or straight. How does one divide a bunch of elementary school kids into gay and straight?

    You seem to be missing the fact that your proposal is ridiculous. Perhaps you could explain what sexual orientation has to do with Scouting. Why would there even be a need for separate troops? How are gay Scouts different from straight Scouts?