From Here & Back Again

By Jim Coufal

(Cazenovia, NY – Sept. 2012) My comments may offend some readers. I can’t apologize because what I write is mostly the facts of what has occurred with the Boy Scouts of America, but yes, with some editorial comments. Further, our right of free speech carries no guarantee that someone will not be offended by that free speech.

I do believe Americans have gotten overly sensitive to perceived slights, including both those who perceive one of the “isms” in any speech and those that see pussyfooting, damned politically correct notions.

Among the goals of the BSA are the aims to build character and train boys for leadership. This admirably has happened many times over the years, largely in an era of unspoken “don’t ask, don’t tell.” It has only been since the 1980s that the religious right, especially the Mormon Church, has captured the BSA.

In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that as a private organization BSA has the right to discriminate against gay people by expelling them or barring them from joining. As one writer notes, they have been enforcing that policy “with gusto,” expelling gay and lesbian scouts and scout leaders across the country. And they have done the same with atheists. They have openly affirmed and reaffirmed the policy.

Is this a lesson of tolerance?

It is fair to ask, “How does this teach character and provide skills for leadership?”

What it teaches is discrimination and provides the unspoken message that some persons are simply unworthy of consideration. It teaches that a gay person can’t be a good person. One scout said a gay person does not present a desirable role model; a scout leader said a gay couldn’t be the best kind of citizen.

They are talking about neighbors, fellow citizens, even relatives and talking without evidence, often in the face of contradictory evidence, condemning them to some sort of lower-class citizenship. And since the Scouts must put duty to god before country, others and self, they also condemn non-believers in the same way – emotionally, unthinkingly.

Perhaps it points out the leadership lesson that, if you have connections, you use them, but with care. Why do I say this? Because, the three biggest sponsors of the BSA are the Mormon, Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist churches, whom many call the strongest purveyors of bigotry in the country.

The BSA is suffering for its intransigence in this matter. Many United Funds have cut support to the BSA (e.g., Harrisburg, Penn., and others across the country). On the other hand, many have continued such support (e.g., Carlisle, Penn.).

Many Eagle Scouts have turned in their medals, often with polite but scathing remarks.

Major media have strongly questioned the BSA on this policy. And in a recent 5-year period, scout enrollment went down 13 percent.

It has also been found that for a century, the BSA has had a confidential blacklist known as the “perversion files,” which was to be a defense against sexual predators. While it apparently worked in many cases, it also has been found that many predators were allowed to continue in their position and to molest scouts well after their proclivities were known and they were on this list.

In 2010, Kerry Lewis won nearly $20 million in a jury verdict against the Scouts, a prime example of the lax enforcement of the guards against perversion. Further, the list was never given to the police – shades of the Catholic Church.

When the BSA gives the excuse that major sponsors support their policy so they can’t afford to offend them, they overlook the fact the Girl Scouts have the same sponsors but have a commendable policy and record of no discrimination.

Further, the example this rationalization provides is expediency trumps principles. A Southern Baptist who chairs the BSA Religious Relationships Committee has said the no-gays policy is unlikely to change as long as it has the support of the churches most active in sponsoring Scout units.

Is this a rationalization or a double standard?

The scouts receive federal monies, use of government facilities at little or no cost, use of local schools, wanting on the one hand to be a public entity and on the other to be treated as a private organization. Like religion itself, the Scouts are treated as something special and beyond the law.

Famous American pollster, James Zogby, wasn’t pointedly speaking of the BSA when he said, “Left unchecked, those who prey on ignorance and fear to spread hatred, and those who sow the seeds of division and intolerance threaten to tear apart the very fabric of our nation and compromise the values of openness and inclusion that have made America united and strong.”

The BSA fits this description.

The only way to change their policy is to speak out against it and to stop supporting it financially. Yet, some gays who have been expelled by the BSA have had the heart to tell parents to go ahead and enroll their children as scouts. This is a choice each parent must make, but should do so in full knowledge of BSA policies and actions and the long-term impacts that bigotry will create.

Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends. He can be reached at

By martha

8 thoughts on “Boy Scouts: A Springboard for Bigotry, Intolerance?”
  1. I am not offended by your comments. However, I do disagree with them. Although the organization does exclude certain members, it does not condone bullying or open discrimination against these groups. I was a scout and my son is a Cub Scout. . .he is learning valuable skills. We live in a country that allows free speech. We are entitled to out opinions and allowed to disagree.

  2. One day you wake up and you find that as a parent you are being told you are a bigot and discriminator when you are following the lessons of your upbringing, your religion, your parents, biology class, and scientific studies.

    You are told that one person’s freedom of speech gives them the right to call anyone that does not agree with them a bigot, how insensitive, distasteful and quite frankly maybe you ought to look in the mirror for being a bigot.

    As a parent, I have an obligation to raise my child correctly. The government does not tell you how to raise your child and should not. Government is not more important than our individual rights and our freedoms.

    You have your right to believe anything you like and take any path you want, that is just fine with me.

    However, when is a child an adult? Look up some MRI studies and you will find out that the human brain is not fully developed by the time they are 25. Whereas most people think some adults are adults are 18, 21…pick a number, but where is the truth?

    We are inudated with all kinds of people trying to penetrate the family infrastructure not to mention the Internet, the televsion, our computers, the government, schools, etc. In many cases its just someone that thinks they have the answer and one size fits all.

    I could care less about the lifestyle of gays or whatever it is. Some of them refer to it as not being a lifestyle, but whatever it is, it is consummated in one act, called sex.

    Natural sex is between a man and a woman, that is what we have been taught, and that what parents should be allowed to teach their children. Parents should be able to explain to their childen in their own terms what is approrpriate in this and what is not. What may be a fad, cool, the thing to do, etc is not healthy and can cause life long damage if impulses are acted upon without rational thought.

    Your other comments about the Morman church penetrating the Boy Scouts is so bogus. Out of several million the Mormon church makes up less than 10 percent. Additionally, units meet by in their respective locations and only during games of flipping pancakes and tying knots do you run into these other decent folks. There is no agenda at the big meetings, its a program designed for boys, whose parents want them in the program for a particular reason. If the parents want to let their children experience everything that every particular interest group wants them to let come into their home and neighborhood, again that is their business.

    But it is also a freedom of Americans to assemble in their respective groups. We fought for this and we expect you to keep on challenging our stance, but until you can ensure that learning and experimentation is not an extreme danger to youth that easily swade by anything, I say, you need to keep your keys off the keyboard and go tackle the other issues that are killing our kids: drugs, wars in Afghanistan, and loss of hope because there have been no jobs or a future for five years.

    Be thankful you are an adult and not a child, but for me, I earned my right be a parent and will fight to keep them in great organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.

  3. For James Blade:

    Your first paragraph, boiled down to its essence is: I was raised a bigot, so if it was good enough for me, it is good enough for my kids. Nice.

    Technically and legally, yes, you are right. You have the right to raise your kids as bigots. However, you do those kids no service and they will be behind the wall of history as the get older – notice I did not say “grow up” because they will have developmental and social stunting as a result of being raised by a bigot and as bigots.

    Second, Mr. Coufal spoke of the infiltration of the Mormon Church as developing policy for the BSA. Sure, perhaps there are very few Mormon scouts (remember that the percentage of Mormons in the USA as reported during the last census was 3-percent, so using that as a data-start, it makes sense there would be very few actual Mormon Scouts) but, the Mormon church has direct sway over the policy of the BSA and are one of the main financial supporters and controls of the BSA policy; hence the exclusion of gay and atheist scouts. You miss the point entirely and have not taken the time to check the facts. This is truth, and any perfunctory investigation will lead you to this conclusion. Simply put, you cannot hide from the facts. Now, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

    And yes, there are agendas at each and every BSA meeting. It is right in the user manual, the Boy Scout Handbook – it comes right out and says gays are not allowed and anyone not taking an oath to god is not worthy.

    Now, if the BSA was a true non-profit that received NO federal or governmental subsidies or funding, fine. BUt they do, and that is where they become the enemy of civil rights. The BSA either has to give up any federal or governmental assistance and fund themselves (which they do not) or they need to change the policy to allow gays and atheists or any other group that they actively discriminate against. Also, the BSA teaches kids that gays are not okay (excluding them from joining) and that anyone without a believe in a sky-fairy is a second rate citizen. How is this healthy?

    I am going to guess too that you are against “socialism”. Yet, the BSA receives federal money, governmental subsidies and reduced rates for rent on government land. This is a prime example of the socialism most scream out against. Yet here it is, in the BSA.

    Until the BSA changes its tune and stops its policy of discrimination and exclusion (and hate) it is an enemy of civil rights and is on the wrong side of history. I will not hire anyone with BSA experience on a resume or CV and I will actively fight against this discriminatory association.

    I would suggest Mr. Blade does the same, for the sake of his children.

  4. Dear Mr. Coufal,

    I would like to personally invite you(and the community) to the Cub Scout Pack 54 spaghetti dinner, 11/6, at the New Woodstock Federated Church in the center of town. We are serving from noon to 7:30pm. Cost is a free will donation.

    I would enjoy talking with you about your views regarding scouting.

    Best Regards,
    Shawn Skeele
    Webelos Scout Leader

  5. Thanks to all for taking the time to respond. Stephen, my original post notes that scouting has done many great things and even that some gays who have been unceremoniously thrown out of scouting still tell parents to have their kids join scouting. Personally, I’m not so generous in this case, but I did suggest each parent make an informed choice. So you’re wasting your anger railing against me on this. It seem to me what you are saying is that scouts are told it’s wrong to bully, but O.K. to discriminate and be intolerant—as if that isn’t a form of bullying. Further, I certainly agree that everyone is entitled to their opinions, but what i wrote about is not so much a question of opinion but of policy. My opinion is that we should be concerned with HUMAN rights, what’s yours?
    James, to paraphrase something Cedric said, upon reading your comments my first thought was an old religious song, something to the effect “it was good enuf for Grandma, it was good enuf for Grandpa, so it’s good enuf for me.” Religion, and cultural values, are basically cultural artifacts of where you were born and whom you were borne to. This notion reaches a kind of fruition in the Texas Republican Party Platform this year, wherein the want to legislate such that school curricula in Texas will not be allowed to teach critical thinking because it might lead to children not following parental values—in other words they may dare to think for themselves.
    James, I’m happy to look in the mirror because i do see a person who fights bigotry. Calling a spade a spade is not insensitive, it is truthful, and yes, truth hurts. By the way, regarding truth, I’d like to see citations for they biology and scientific studies you refer to.
    To paraphrase the Jesuits, give me a child before sever and I’ll give you the man. Teach bigotry or whatever to the young, and chances are they’ll grow up to be bigots. And just why is that homosexual relationship are “consummated in sex? Why not like heterosexual relationships (and homosexuals are humans too) “consummated in love/” They both end up with sex, don’t they?
    Science does indicate that in our natural world there is plenty of polygamy, many homosexual relationships, and plenty of gratuitous sex of all kinds, so are you recommending these practices? Or are you generously saying homosexuals can practice their “lifestyle” but they must do it as second class citizens?
    Finally, James, as Cedric pointed out, you confuse the fact of the number of Mormons in scouting with scouting policy based largely on Mormon (Catholic, and Southern Baptist) beliefs. And what makes you think that only those with opinions like yours “fought for this?”
    Shawn, thanks for your polite consideration and invitation. While I probably won’t be able to make the Cub Scout Pack 54 dinner, I’d be happy to meet you for coffee at Dave’s diner os some similar place. By the way, I was a Cub Scout.
    Once again, thanks to all for responding.

  6. I thought this country had free speech, but when someone makes a comment, I feel others try to make them feel like they are wrong for ever thinking the way they do.
    With that said, I think if you don’t like the organization, start up one yourself.

  7. For God’s sake, George, did i ever say anyone couldn’t say what they wanted?
    I have often defended the right of free speech in my writings. My right of free speech allows me to comment, criticize, and even say someone is wrong (so long as there is supporting evidence) and if that hurts the others feeling, such is the way of free speech. What you seem to want is a goody two-shoes approach to life, where the advance of thinking would be forever hindered.

    I just watched the President of the Texas Board of Education say he wants the Texas school curriculum in science to teach that dinosaurs were on Noah”s Arc. He has every right to say that as wrong as he is. To paraphrase, he also said that the experts would disagree, but he still believes it and wants it taught. His opinion is not the same as fact, nor does it come close to being in the same league as the findings of the experts. And i would call him foolish and a fool even if it ruffles his feathers.
    Think, George, think.

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