Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Is the Boy Scouts of America not living up to its convictions?

A fascinating trial began yesterday in Philadelphia, where the city is threatening to revoke its $1-a-year lease of a downtown building to a local Boy Scouts of America chapter because it won't accept openly gay boys into the program.

As I read this report from the Associated Press, I found myself drawn to one conclusion -- is the desperately financially strapped city attempting to generate funds from a now convenient target?

I'll return to that point below, but for now consider this comment from this Philadelphia Inquirer story:

Jason P. Gosselin, who represents the Cradle of Liberty Council, told the jury in his opening address that the city's effort is unconstitutional, and motivated only by hostility to the anti-gay viewpoint expressed by the Scouts' national leadership policy.

I think Mr. Gosselin has missed an important point, namely that since the molestation scandal rocked the Boy Scouts of America earlier this year, the organization as a whole is viewed as overly protective of its image to the extent that it will hide sexually deviant acts involving male Scout leaders and underage Scouts. BSA's decision to fight the release of its self-described "perversion files" is not aiding its cause.

As a result and much like the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America is seen as a tainted brand and one that does not deserve (for lack of a better term) a financial or other break for the good work it does in thousands of communities across the country (not to mention around the world).

If the organization were to come clean and admit that it tried to cover up disgusting acts by men who said they were interested in teaching young men lessons that would sustain and better them as they moved into adulthood, the image would improve. Then, and especially in Philadelphia, it might have some cachet when it argues that the city is unfairly singled it out for a money grab.

However, with the financial hole that Philadelphia is in, it is hard for the BSA chapter in that city to argue that it didn't like the national organization's no-gays rule while it appeared (according to the city) to instead secretly try to support it.

I think the BSA is sailing into stormy waters here, and in my opinion it will lose this case. An appeal will certainly follow, but the damage to the organization's overall reputation will be enhanced.

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