Boy Scouts of America (BSA), founded 102 years ago in 1910, chartered by the United States Congress, and for many decades afterwards considered a much beloved apple pie American cultural Icon, illustrated nostalgically in Norman Rockwell paintings, has sadly become an ugly shrunken shell of its former glory entirely because of religious extremists who hijacked the organization during the 1980’s.
Before that happened BSA entered into annual chartered-partner-sponsorship agreements with virtually every public elementary school in the United States, offering school aged boys and their parents exciting wholesome character building extracurricular educational activities.
The program was a public accommodation, primarily secular in nature, open to all, and its mission was to give each and every boy the opportunity to participate in scouting and outdoor adventures.
The honorary president of Boy Scouts of America has traditionally been the President of the United States. BSA has enjoyed the sponsorship promotion and financial support of federal state and local governments everywhere for many decades. It was a public organization – not a private club for almost 90 years.
But I suppose that all good things must eventually come to an end. It gradually came to pass that many of BSA’s chartered-partner-sponsors were not just public schools but thousands of churches and other religious organizations of every persuasion and denomination.
Soon the religious leaders from these churches, particularly the Mormon Church of the LDS, assumed most of the positions of leadership and control of the BSA. They slowly changed the purpose and focus of a wonderful public accommodation open to everyone into a religiously oriented and discriminatory private club.
BSA now requires all of its members without exception to willingly swear oaths affirming belief in and a duty to God, and to formally subscribe to the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle which specifies their religious obligations in detail.
The change came to a head in the year 2000 when an Eagle Scout who happened to be gay was kicked out of the BSA. He sued the organization for violation of his civil rights. The case wound its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By this time BSA was claiming that it was not open to the public but was instead a private invitation only club. The Supreme Court took BSA at its word holding that as a private club it enjoys a First Amendment right of expressive association, therefore is not subject to civil rights laws and can exclude anyone for any reason. Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, 120 S. Ct. 2446 (2000).
So BSA, as a private religiously oriented fraternity, won the right according to the highest court in the land to exclude gays, non-religious and anyone else it chooses, all of which has made their leadership very pleased indeed.
But after that the organization wanted it both ways. On the one hand they wanted to be considered a public accommodation when it came to continuing its longstanding chartered-partner-sponsorships with public schools and other government entities, while on the other hand it wants to retain its coveted status as a private religiously oriented club for the purpose of excluding gays, non-religious boys and others.
In short, BSA today wants to be public and private – religious and secular -- at the same time depending upon which interest suits it, a position which makes a mockery of the United States Constitution, federal and state Civil Rights laws.
The primary purpose and mission of Boy Scouts of America today is to promote religion among school-aged boys, and to exclude as members those persons who are unwilling to swear oaths to a duty to God, and subscribe to the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle.
It is precisely this new private purpose and mission which has resulted in the decline and fall from grace of the BSA in America. The organization is now facing the reality that it cannot have it both ways.
Had it remained public, it could have continued the chartered-partner-sponsorships with public schools and other government agencies, but could not exclude boys for ideological religious reasons. Since it is private, it can exclude boys, but can no longer enjoy the same chartered-partner-sponsorships.
As a result, during just the last few years, BSA has lost the support of many thousands of public schools and community organizations all across the United States. It can no longer recruit boys in their classrooms during regular school hours and associate its discriminatory activities with the schools.
The Boy Scouts said this summer it was sticking with the divisive, long-standing policy of excluding openly gay youth and adults as members and leaders. All of this has proved to be a tremendous blow to BSA. It is no longer considered a beloved apple pie American cultural Icon by mainstream Americans.
United Parcel Service (UPS) gave $167,000 to the Boy Scouts in 2010, but decided to stop providing funding to BSA last week because of its discrimination policies after an online petition protesting its annual grants to the Boy Scouts attracted more than 80,000 signatures.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker Intel has done the same after donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to BSA over the years.
UPS spokeswoman Kristen Petrella said groups applying for the foundation grants will have to adhere to the same standards UPS does by not discriminating against anyone based on race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. "We promote an environment of diversity and inclusion," she said. "UPS is a company that does the right things for the right reasons."
UPS and Intel changed course after Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the group Scouts for Equality, began online petitions calling for corporations to end their financial support of the Boy Scouts.
"Corporate America gets it better than most: policies that discriminate aren't simply wrong, they're bad for business and they're hurting the scouting community," Wahls said. "You would think that after all the Boy Scouts have lost as a result of this policy, they would understand that."
“As one of more than 2,000 Eagle Scouts who are part of Scouts for Equality, it pains me to watch the Boy Scouts of America undermine all of the incredible work it has done to build America’s future leaders,” he added.
“We join UPS in encouraging the BSA to adopt an inclusive membership policy and look forward to the full restoration of corporate support as soon as this policy is over.” “Until the Boy Scouts of America ends this hurtful policy, they do not deserve the financial backing of companies that strive for workplace equality.”
Adding insult to injury, Eagle Scouts of all ages are relinquishing their membership in the organization following the Boy Scouts’ announcement on July 17 that it would maintain the ban on gay members. The Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, called it "absolutely the best policy".
“The Scouts have taken their stand… They’re pretty clear that they are going to stick with this policy and I think we need to cut our ties and not associate with an organization that believes in discrimination and practices it," explained Burke Stansbury, who founded a blog called Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges.
The policy of excluding gays has also come under increased scrutiny within the last month, as thousands of confidential files released as part of a lawsuit show top Boy Scout leaders for decades carefully tracked thousands of scoutmasters and volunteers who sexually abused boys in their care but routinely failed to report those individuals to law enforcement.
How’s that for a moral and ethical contradiction? The Boy Scouts go out of their way to exclude gay and non-religious members from their organization but cover up for decades the predatory pedophile activities of thousands of scoutmasters and volunteers.
To that I say it deserves to die.