Forum Center, 5/8/12

Boy Scouts of America Removes Lesbian Troop Leader

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is one of the largest private youth organizations in the United States. The organization’s fundamental policies are very conservative and would not be considered by most to be politically correct.  The BSA has policies that not only prohibit atheists and agnostics from membership in its Scouting program, but also prohibit “avowed” homosexual people from leadership roles in its Scouting program, because they claim it directly violates their fundamental principles and tenets.  BSA has argued that as a private organization it has the right to follow these tenets.  This has led to numerous court challenges.

The organization’s legal right to have these policies has been upheld repeatedly by both state and federal courts. The legal challenge to the BSA was as to whether or not an organization could set membership standards that outwardly discriminate against a class of people that courts have protected in other situations. In Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that, as a private organization, the BSA can set its own membership standards. The BSA’s policies have not been found to constitute illegal discrimination and ultimately the court found that, as a private organization in the United States, the BSA has the right to freedom of association.

Recently in Bridgeport, Ohio, the policy regarding sexual orientation has been the center of a controversy involving a den mother, who was the mother of one of the scouts and also a lesbian. Jennifer Tyrrell was removed from her position as den mother of Ohio Pack 109 Tiger Scouts when the BSA was informed that she was a lesbian. The parents of the other boys in the troop have rallied to Tyrrell’s defense, as most of them were aware of her sexual orientation and were comfortable with her position as the adult supervisor of their children. Last week many of the parents held a protest rally outside of the church where the scout troop holds its weekly meetings, demanding that she be reinstated.

The situation has reignited the issue about the BSA anti-gay policy. In addition to the parents of Ohio Pack 109, gay rights groups have taken up the cause, starting an online petition urging the Boy Scouts of America to change their policy.

Forum Question of the Week:

Should the Boy Scouts of America be required to change their policy on sexual orientation in order to allow parents like Jennifer Tyrrell the opportunity to participate with their children in scouting on an equal basis with the parents of other children?

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