Boy Scouts of America Will Now Allow Gay Youth, but Gay Leaders and Atheists Are Still Banned

The Boy Scouts of America just approved a resolution allowing gay youths to be part of the organization.


Yep, once you turn 18, gay scouts are kicked right back out. And if you’re an open atheist, you’re still never allowed to be a scout in the first place.

The American Humanist Association was quick to respond to the announcement:

“The Boy Scouts of America still supports an untenable, unreasonable and unnecessary discriminatory policy by excluding gay leaders and staff members,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “If the Boy Scouts are truly a values-based organization, bigotry can’t be part of the program.”

Speckhardt added, “In addition to ending all anti-gay policies, the Boy Scouts should also open their doors to those without a religious affiliation. Their national policy of discrimination against humanists and atheists, like the anti-gay policy, needlessly shuts out millions of Americans.”

It’s really a bittersweet victory. What’s great is that gay scouts who have had to hide an important part of their identities in order to remain in their troops no longer have to pretend to be people they’re not. Unfortunately, this half-hearted attempt to modernize the organization by welcoming gay scouts — but only until they turn 18 — shows just how little progress has been made within the BSA.

Even now, in their moment of glory when they celebrate being inclusive and welcoming, the silent truth is that the BSA is just as bigoted as ever.

We must keep the pressure on them and let them know it’s unacceptable to treat atheists and gay adults like second-class citizens. This particular battle has been won, but we’re not done fighting yet.

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.

  • Space Cadet

    So if a gay scout wants to be leader as an adult, they have to stay in the closet. Makes complete sense.

    BSA- all you did was put a band aid on a gunshot wound.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      And they are going to continue to fight for gay adults to become scout leaders. I’ll take a small step in the right direction over no step at all.

      • Gus Snarp

        Yes, and I think when the first crop of openly gay scouts, some Eagle Scouts, turn 18 and want to continue to serve, the pressure on the BSA is going to be enormous.

  • Matt Potter

    I am very embarrassed and saddened as a former scout about the lack of integrity from the headquarters. I still to this day remember the scout oath and this certainly is not helpful, friendly, courteous, and especially kind. I will never give a dime to an organization that so blatantly discriminates against gay and atheist scouts. I truly hope they change one day but I fear the religious have all the sway at this point.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’m planning to take note of how many leaders/groups celebrate this, and mention that it doesn’t go far enough as long as it leaves out gay scout leaders.

    And ignore non-theists.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Good point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/piercingsbytommy Tommy Towne Piercing

    It’s not true. My daughter is in the girlscouts and the word god can be changed to whatever. We are atheists so she choose to use the word “Earth” instead of “God”.

    “On my honor, I will try:

    To serve God (EARTH) and my country,

    To help people at all times,

    And to live by the Girl Scout Law.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/brian.westley Brian Westley

      The BSA and the GSUSA are two entirely separate organizations. The Girl Scouts don’t exclude atheists and gays; the BSA excludes atheists and gay adults.

    • Sweetredtele

      Hence the rise of Heritage Girls.

      • Erp

        American Heritage Girls (it is strictly an American organization so the American is important to them and strictly Christian). Also though the BSA and GSUSA are two entirely different organizations they are both part of the international scouting movement started by Baden-Powell; many of whose groups are more accepting.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

    I wonder how all the Mormon troops will react to this. Does the BSA have a way to effectively enforce the policy? Will they form scouting troops independent of the BSA?

    • Zugswang

      That is the murmuring among many large churches that sponsor troops and dens. Southeast Christian Church (aka Six Flags over Jesus) in Louisville, KY preemptively dissolved their very large troop when BSA announced even considering a change in policy. I’m sure they’ll all try to form their own versions of the scouts in the coming years, and, sadly, all these massive churches certainly have the money to fund such an organization.

    • Erp

      The Mormons seem to be ok with the policy. Note for the Mormons, the Boy Scouts is their young men’s organization so they don’t want the National organization making judgements on their youth (any kicking out will be done by the church not the BSA). I suspect the Mormon hierarchy considers being gay something that can be changed and want to provide constant support for that change.

    • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

      I believe I was thinking of this in the wrong way. BSA did not create a non-discrimination policy, they merely ended a discrimination policy. I’m not sure they have anything to enforce against troops that want to discriminate.

  • A3Kr0n

    I can’t wait until my Actually t-shirt arrives so I can wear it around scouting events.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I wish they allowed gay scout leaders, too, but this is still progress.

    • primenumbers

      It’s only progress in a PR sense for the BSA, towards people who don’t really dig into stories. Their position still codifies bigotry in their rules, and hence it’s a retrograde move. They’re demonstrating bigotry still rules in the BSA.

  • Sweetredtele

    Shoot, I thought they would bring back the Swastika Badge.

    http://adultonsetatheist.blogspot.com/2013/02/bs-of-america.html

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Fuck ‘em.

    It’s too little and too late. The BSA administration apparently went through so much soul-searching introspection, and this is all they could do? Their partial, begrudging inclusion of gay youth but not atheist youth does not feel like a hopeful baby step to me. It’s an even more hurtful insult that atheists weren’t even considered for inclusion in their oh, so magnanimous and condescending concession to the boys they still secretly call “fags.” So fuck ‘em.

    I’m done. I’m not interested in wasting any time or effort trying to convince the BSA to “reform.” They’ve had long enough. I won’t support them in any way, and anything I say or do about them will not be to help bring about their reforming, but to help bring about their dissolving.

    • Christopher Borum

      I agree. What happens if a gay kid goes from Webelos all the way to Eagle Scout, and then wants to turn around and help out his old troop? According to the BSA, it’s “Bugger off, queer, we don’t need your kind around here…any more.” They are still bigots, still homophobes, still unacceptable for my son.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I just had to share this gem posted over at The Blaze:

    Another win for NAMBLA and a loss for righteousness in America. If I were the parent of a young boy, I would not put my son in Scouts and risk his becoming the victim of a sexual predator. Sexual perversion IS NOT a right.

    • Timmah

      Yes because every gay man is also a pedophile AMIRITE???

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

        Well I left him the Billy Madison classic:

        What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

        • Lindsey

          You probably should have used quotation marks. It took me a second read to realize that those weren’t your words, but another person’s. Of course, I’m not exactly known for my observational skills.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

            It’s from the movie Billy Madison and I just assumed most people would get the reference.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              The Blaze one was the one that needed quotes. I had to double check your name.

  • Mark Hunter

    It’s a start. I’m a Scout leader here in Canada where Scouts Canada allows gay leaders and scouts (and they allow me and I don’t believe in God), It’s not perfect but it might purge the Scouts in the US of some of its more reactionary members and open it up to more (perhaps even females as we do in Canada too). Scouting is too important an experience for young people not to push to include everyone.

    • Spuddie

      They have to get the Mormons out of the organization’s funding and leadership. For the last generation, they have insinuated themselves into the BSA and driven out much of the secular support.

  • Alice

    Even though this is a step in the right direction, in a way it’s worse to only exclude gay men than it is to exclude gay males of all ages, because it clearly demonstrates that the BSA is implicitly perpetuating the vicious lie that all gay men are pedophiles. The BSA no longer has the smoke screen of other flimsy excuses.

  • DougI

    Boy Scouts will be lauded for their inclusion of gays and the fact they discriminate against Atheists will be largely ignored by the media, and sadly, probably a lot of the LGBT groups.

  • JET

    In California, some of our legislators have threatened a bill that would strip state tax exempt status from the BS of A because of equal rights violations. We would be the first state to do this. I believe United Way has already pulled funding. I’m wondering if the Scouts are finally seeing the writing on the wall. But it’s still not enough. Allowing gay youth but not adults to join the organization sounds too much like they think there might still be “hope” for young boys and I don’t like where that might lead. And there’s still the whole anti-atheist thing.

  • Lindsey

    I think this new policy pretty clearly demonstrates that the leaders of the BSA still have nothing but contempt for gay people. I’m afraid that some of the troupes might take it upon themselves to try and “straighten” out their openly gay scouts so they don’t turn into one of those evil icky gay adults.

  • kevin collins

    Ever wonder why they say no gay adults and only allow gay kids now? The gay kids will be without any support or supervision by others in the LGBT community. Easy Pickens for the evangelicals to try some conversion therapy on unknowing kids. Just watch the months and years ahead.

    • Gus Snarp

      Or it could be that they’re worried their membership would flee in terror of gay adults who they assume to be potential abusers. While this perception of gay people is utterly ignorant, it’s also distressingly common. The BSA can’t change that overnight, and probably realizes that a lot of their members and parents share that perception. That’s wrong, of course, but it’s a lot more likely explanation for this policy than the notion that they’re intentionally setting the kids up to be proselytized to by the evangelical bigots who are threatening to quit the organization in droves anyway.

  • primenumbers

    This actually means that the BSA are worse than they were before, because now they’ve recognized their bigotry and made a change, but they’ve still kept some bigotry. The bigotry they’ve kept against atheists and adult gays basically demonstrates that the move to allow in gay scouts was for publicity only, and they don’t really believe it.

  • MD

    All those people who throw a hissy fit and leave BSA will also be cutting themselves off from the worldwide structure. No more worl jamborees for them. Then again, I guess people like that aren’t too interested in the international aspect of Scouting.

  • Gus Snarp

    This is a step in the right direction, and it will out a lot of bigotry. I mean anyone who can’t stand to work with a youth organization that allows gay kids to be a part of it isn’t worth having around in the first place.

    But I truly hope this is only the first step. I want to reward and thank the BSA for this, but I’m concerned that by taking half measures they’ll please no one. I’m still not satisfied, and I expect many others will agree with me, while the bigots are going to be angry as well, so this could end up hurting the BSA. I hope it doesn’t. I really do want them to get a positive response from this so they’re encouraged to continue moving forward.

    At the same time, I’m not willing to stop agitating until they accept all youth and their parents, regardless of sex, gender, orientation, or religious belief or lack thereof. And I still can’t encourage my kids to join, since it would require them to lie about their beliefs and I certainly won’t be a leader since I refuse to lie about mine.

    But I’m willing to hold on to my Eagle badge a bit longer and will send them an honest to goodness paper letter of thanks.

    • Spuddie

      I am going to send a letter to my old troop. Their leaders never accepted the policy and they always openly voiced their opinion on the subject. Its nice to see that rewarded for once.

  • edb3803

    I never financially support the BSA, and after this new resolution, I plan to continue giving them nothing. I do, however, buy lots of Girl Scout cookies.

  • Cortex_Returns

    The BSA has demonstrated that it will continue to be just as horrible as it can get away with. It’s a mystery to me why anyone would even desire to be included in such a poisonous organization in the first place.

    It should be laughed out of existence.

  • Ricky Ross

    Communist Goals – Congressional Record–Appendix, pp. A34-A35 January 10, 1963

    Current
    Communist Goals EXTENSION OF REMARKS OF HON. A. S. HERLONG, JR. OF
    FLORIDA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Thursday, January 10, 1963 .

    Mr.
    HERLONG. Mr. Speaker, Mrs. Patricia Nordman of De Land, Fla., is an
    ardent and articulate opponent of communism, and until recently
    published the De Land Courier, which she dedicated to the purpose of
    alerting the public to the dangers of communism in America.

    At
    Mrs. Nordman’s request, I include in the RECORD, under unanimous
    consent, the following “Current Communist Goals,” which she identifies
    as an excerpt from “The Naked Communist,” by Cleon Skousen:

    ______________________________________________________________

    25.
    Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and
    obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy”.

    • midnight rambler

      LOL. Yes, the Communists have given up and embraced capitalism in Russia, China, Vietnam, and everywhere else except North Korea, but they’re still trying to take over America by making us accept queerz.

  • Ricky Ross

    You all are going to make excellent COMMUNIST!

    The Communist Takeover Of America – 45 Declared Goals

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      1) That some property X is correlated with some ideology Y doesn’t make X good or bad.

      2) That Red Scared America thought Communism was somehow trying to use the promotion of homosexuality to destroy America doesn’t mean it was.

      btw, In the Soviet Union homosexuality was punishable by a five year prison sentence.

      Did you get your history from “I was a Communist Spy for the FBI?”

    • Cortex_Returns

      Man, communism just keeps sounding better all the time.


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