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As suspected by many — including me — the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Committee voted unanimously to follow Robert Gate’s recommendation to end the organization’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders, leaving it to individual Scout units to set their own policy on the matter. This is probably the best of both worlds. It avoids having the national organization become the target of lawsuits while granting individual units the flexibility to reflect their values: some accepting gay leaders, some still banning, and some electing to make their decisions on a case-by-case basis.
While some will laud and others deplore this decision, my mind goes to the question of freedom of association. How much liberty does an organization really have if it feels compelled to make a decision out of fear of being sued by a raft of organizations with deep pockets? Does a decision like this really reflect the values of a national association of Scout leaders, or have they been bluffed into taking this position by rationalizing it as good stewardship for their organization? Or is there more to it? Are voting members living in fear of being singled out for special attacks, afraid of not being able or willing to defend themselves against charges of bigotry?
Why is it that organizations that actually have respectable records as defenders of high moral values are reluctant to defend those values, come what may?
How many would actually benefit from this policy? And why should they want to insert themselves in a situation that potentially could be the cause of the breakup of an existing unit or loss of sponsor?
As a parent, I’d find it difficult to object to a gay male who wanted to serve as a Scout leader, if he was an adoptive father, had his son in the Scouts, and was a former Scout himself. For this reason, I think the best policy is for individual units to decide on a case-by-case basis. This makes the new policy not the disaster it could have been, had the national organization decided to allow no exceptions and no discretion. I, therefore, don’t see this outcome as the end of the world for the BSA.
As for liberty, however…