Forum Left, 5/8/12

Pandering to a Fundamentalist Minority

By Marianne Stanley

The irony of this whole thing is that Jennifer Tyrrell’s removal from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is based on utter disrespect and exclusion, contrary to the founding principles of the BSA, as enunciated in 1908 by its founder, British general Robert Baden-Powell.  Two years later, Chicago publisher W. D. Boyce brought scouting to America to teach boys patriotism, courage and self-reliance.

This whole controversy revolves around two issues:  1) homosexuality and 2)  private vs. public.


Those who say homosexuality is the issue point to the part of the Scout Oath that requires a scout to be “morally straight” and to the Scout Law that requires a scout to be “clean.”  Written in the early part of the 1900s, “straight” did not connote heterosexual as it does today and “clean” only referred to bodily cleanliness that would complement the other required scout traits of being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, thrifty, brave and reverent.”

The irony of all this is that the Boy Scouts are supposed to be about developing character and citizenship, and yet they show a lack of both by sacking a woman who happens to be homosexual (statistics say one in ten of us are) rather than heterosexual, and who had the honesty and integrity to tell them this up front.   On the other hand, while she presented such integrity to the Boy Scouts, the Boy Scouts demonstrated a lack of character in the form of smallness of mind, bigotry and intolerance, and a willingness to hurt another.

What we call morality has taken an ugly U-turn in our land.   True morality embodies ethics that insist that we respect each person, accord them their human dignity and harm no one intentionally.  We see this anti-moral morality in today’s hate-mongering and targeting of Muslims, gays and women through the rapid spread of dehumanizing policies and laws. This intolerance and attempt to create fear is nothing but a clever plan to get us all working against, rather than with, each other to fight the real enemy — those who are reaping obscene profits on the backs of the common man, here and around the world.

We are told that homosexuals “threaten” family values.  How?  And we hear homosexuality equated with pedophilia, though proportionally more heterosexuals are pedophiles and a danger to our children.

We have often heard that reason and emotion don’t mix.   Not true.  Only negative emotions like fear and hatred don’t mix with reason. Positive emotions like empathy and appreciation give reason the oxygen it needs to breathe.  Fear shuts down our capacity for critical thinking and yet, without that capacity to question what we have been taught to believe or what we are being told, we are easy prey to those seeking to control us.

Private vs. Public:

As far as the Boy Scouts being a private rather than a public entity … Says who?  Since when?  If they are private, why then did they receive a Congressional Charter in 1916 and why are they given taxpayer support and privileged access to federal lands … and why has every President since Howard Taft, in the year of the BSA’s founding, served as its “Honorary President”?   How can an organization that has made a point of declaring itself open to all young men for more than a hundred years now try to present itself as a private organization, entitled to discriminate at-will, even if that violates its original intent and written code?   The Supreme Court decision is nothing more than the kind of judicial activism the Right likes to rail against, except in cases like this, when our current far-right Court finds in their favor.

It seems that we have come to a place in our lives where we either belly up to the bar and scrutinize how we arrive at the conclusions we do when it comes to social, religious and political issues or we go blindly forward believing what we have been told even though it will result in great misery in our country and great wrongs committed against each other in the name of a God …  who must, by now, be disgusted with us all.

Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at

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