Monday, July 1, 2013

Scouts, Mormons, and doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

I generally don't blog about news because I am just too slow to do it.  I will probably get to commenting on SCOTUS's recent prop 8 and DOMA decisions by 2014.  In the mean time, I still wanted to comment on the less recent news that the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow gay scouts under age of 18.

There are a lot of reasons to think the change is too little too late.  There is still a ban on openly gay scouting leaders, and on atheist and agnostic participation.  I'm not sure they will punish troops that discriminate, since they didn't enact a non-discrimination policy, they only ended an explicit discrimination policy.  And the BSA still gets financially supported by the government.  Nonetheless, I was happy with the change.  They can take it a step at a time, and surely they'll let gay scout leaders quite soon.

My boyfriend was less happy with the change.  Disallowing openly gay leaders while allowing gay scouts only makes sense if you believe nonsense about gay men being sexual predators.  And I thought, it's good that we have different levels of approval.  In the hypothetical world where the BSA cares about what we think, my easily-won approval gives them incentive to step forward, and my boyfriend's hard-won approval gives incentive to step forward even more.  These dynamics play out on a larger scale, allowing cynics and optimists to work together for a better world.

But after some time, I became more cynical with the BSA's new decision.  I have a friend who is an eagle scout and LGBT activist, and I asked him what all the Mormon troops would do about it.  He explained, the LDS church (the church of Latter-day Saints, aka Mormons) is actually a major proponent of allowing gay scouts!  The opponents were mostly Southern Baptists and other religious groups.  But the LDS church, one of the biggest supporters of the BSA, apparently supports inclusion of gay youth in scouting, even as they oppose same-sex marriage.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense in my opinion.  It's probably for whimsical religion reasons.  You can see this in the church's press release:
The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the on-going dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.
Rather than having standards based on the inherent inclinations of scouting youth, the LDS church instead wishes to emphasize "a single standard of moral purity" and scouts' duty to God.  Presumably the reason openly gay leaders are disallowed is because most openly gay adults are having sex outside of marriage (which could only be between a man and woman), which goes against the Mormon standard of moral purity.  And "atheist scout", I suppose, is an oxymoron to them.

This is a case where religious people are doing right things for the wrong (religious) reasons, and it matters.  It matters because they're not going to be able to move forward any further with those wrong reasons.  Gay scout leaders won't happen.  Atheist scouts aren't even on the table.  And that's why I'm now more cynical about the new BSA policy.