COMMENTARY | “David, a Boy Scout, dislikes African-Americans and thinks they should not socialize with Caucasians. His troop is chartered to a church which, until 1978, denied full membership rights to African-American men. Steven, an African-American youth, applies to be a member in the troop and is denied membership. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this troop to deny Steven membership in the troop?”
Mainstream America would be horrified at this question. It would be even more horrified seing this question as part of an official Boy Scouts of American questionnaire. Yet, this question is part of such an official questionnaire. Except instead of race, the world’s largest youth organization is talking about sexual orientation. A BSA questionnaire seeking members’ opinions on repealing the ban on homosexual members and volunteers has been distributed ahead of a May vote on the issue, reports CNN.
I am an Eagle Scout and worked for eight summers during college at Philmont Scout Ranch, the world’s largest privately owned wilderness backpacking preserve and the premier BSA high adventure base. During this time I rarely met anyone associated with the BSA who espoused homophobic views. Many were actually quite liberal. Regardless of any of that, and regardless of the results of the questionnaire, civil rights need not, and should not, be open to opinion. Did the U.S. Supreme Court pass out questionnaires to U.S. citizens asking their opinions on extending full rights to women and minorities? No. Right was right and wrong was wrong, regardless of opinion.
Avoiding tyranny of the majority was why the U.S. Constitution was established. It is also the reason why we have appeals courts, including a national Supreme Court. These courts have widely rejected discrimination based on race and gender. So, even if private organizations are still allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation, as the Supreme Court decided in 2000, why not challenge these organizations to poll members about their opinions on continuing to allow members of all races and genders to join? After all, many churches do not allow women to become members of the clergy, so why should they allow female volunteers in their Boy Scout troops?
If private organizations like the Boy Scouts of America are not willing to poll their members about continuing to allow members and volunteers of all races and genders they should not withhold membership rights from those with different sexual orientations.