Knotty Boys

By Moynihan, Michael C. | Newsweek, February 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Knotty Boys


Moynihan, Michael C., Newsweek


Byline: Michael C. Moynihan

The Scouts finally earn their tolerance badge.

Last July the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its longstanding policy of excluding gays from being Scouts or Scout leaders, arguing that the prohibition was still "in the best interest of Scouting." As America continued its inexorable march toward legal equality for gays, the Scouts' stubborn resistance to change provided a source of inspiration for Christian, conservative activists. Writing in The Washington Times, Rebecca Hagelin, proprietor of Howtosaveyourfamily.com, huzzahed that the "Boy Scouts will continue to stand, on principle, behind timeless moral values."

Well, not exactly timeless. This week the Boy Scouts of America announced that it was reversing its 2012 injunction, issuing a new rule that would decentralize decisions on gay membership: no national policy will be promulgated, the group said, but local chapters could establish their own standards accepting or forbidding homosexual members.

The abrupt policy shift was greeted with two cheers from gay-rights activists, who have long challenged the Scout policy of discrimination (taking their fight all the way to the Supreme Court--and losing--in 2000). If their celebrations have been muted, so too have the protestations of conservatives, with a few notable holdouts. When searching for opponents to gay-rights measures, reporters can reliably call upon the Family Research Council, whose indefatigable antigay leader Tony Perkins quickly lamented their capitulation to "bullying ... homosexual activists."

Not quite. The Scouts are no longer merely battling loud, proud gay-rights crusaders, but are belatedly acknowledging a profound shift in American attitudes. As the Scouts concede, it isn't a shift that has bypassed their own membership, some of whom believe the ban to be either anachronistic or immoral. Or both.

Like the Japanese soldier who descends from the mountains to discover, 20 years after the war's end, that his side has capitulated, Perkins and his allies are guerrilla fighters in the great culture war. …

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