Let me stipulate from the outset here that I’ve always thought the Boy Scouts of America has every legal right, as a private organization, to exclude whomever it wants and to promote whatever beliefs it chooses.
On the other hand, if I had a son, I wouldn’t want him to join the BSA. The organization’s intolerance of people who don’t hew to certain conservative religious principles is unacceptable to me.
We’re all aware, of course, that the BSA currently bars homosexuals from its ranks. Speculation on whether that prohibition might soon be dropped has been a big news story of late, and polls show that most Americans favor a more tolerant policy (see HERE). But that doesn’t mean the BSA will change its position on that matter. Nor, as I say, should it be legally required to.
Militating against any change on the issue of gays is the fact that the BSA is so closely tied to religions known for their homophobia. As the Associated Press reported the other day, “about 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious denominations, including many by conservative faiths that have supported the ban [on gays], including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mormon church.”
In light of those religious ties, it’s not surprising that the BSA also bars atheists and agnostics from its ranks. As Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell said more than a century ago in the first Scout handbook: “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws.”
That’s an unfortunate notion to promote among boys and young men, but again, the BSA can promote whatever notions it wants, just like any other religious organization. And that’s what it is — a religious organization.