Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Scouting Conundrum

A recent article at Computer World (about the Boy Scouts asking for help developing software) spawned a spirited discussion over at Slashdot. I knew it would be interesting when the automated tags associated with the discussion included "bigotry" and "homophobia." As a group, Slashdotters are pretty libertarian and thus not inclined to play nice with BSA.

In the wake of the US Supreme Court's ruling in BSA v. Dale (in which the court said that the BSA was a private group that could discriminate), Margaret Downey wrote in the Fall 2000 issue of Free Inquiry:
The BSA will lose the respect of people who hold dear the moral tenet of nondiscrimination. It is a terrible loss of an opportunity to teach values such as tolerance, brotherhood, and reverence to the religious as well as the nonreligious.
Note that I don't think every organization should be forced to be open-minded, but I think that any group that accepts public money (and BSA accepts lots) should not discriminate. On a separate note, just as any private group is free to discriminate, I am free to register my opinion of that discrimination by writing about it, speaking about it, and not joining the group.

Mrs. Kid and I have had some discussions about scouting and have more in our future. I have fond memories of camp outs and tying knots and rope bridges and social connections. There are great things to be said for scouting, but it comes at a price. I don't want to support the organization that has policies with which I disagree so strongly.

The problem is that BSA is a bigoted organization that discriminates based on sexual orientation and on religious belief. Maybe it's just that litigation has increased, but it seems to me that this bigotry has gotten worse in the past few years. I have no interest in supporting such an organization, but I want Boy Kid to have the experiences that made scouting a positive experience for me (note that Girl Kid can join GSA without creating any similar ill feelings since GSA are more open-minded.)

Maybe our local troop is really cool. Maybe we can find ways for scouting to be a learning experience on many levels. Maybe BSA will change their ways in the next few years. Maybe I'm just dreaming that Mrs. Kid and I can avoid some tough decisions.

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