It's hard to imagine a more dramatic symbol of how swiftly acceptance of homosexuality is increasing than if the Boy Scouts of America drops its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders. Even the growing number of states that recognize gay marriage addresses more the liberal corners of the nation, and the findings by various courts that prohibitions on same-sex marriage are illegally discriminatory.
For an organization that took a decidedly conservative turn some years ago, reconsidering its position is an unexpected admission that public opinion has changed both outside and within the Scouts. To Christian conservatives, the Boy Scouts of America is cravenly bending to societal pressure; the better description is that it is realizing that the world has changed and that it will have to change along with it to remain a viable organization that is true to its original goals of public service and inclusiveness.
Yes, some argue that even this proposal wouldn't go far enough because it doesn't require its troops to follow the policy. But the Boy Scouts is a private organization; its right to set its own membership standards has long been upheld in the courts. And it has the right to allow the evolution of belief within the ranks to take its course over time.
Just as the recognition of same-sex marriage in some states has shown the public that nothing bad happens to heterosexual marriages as a result, the emergence of Scouting troops that welcome gays will show the Scouting world that the sexual orientation of Scouts and their leaders in no way makes them less trustworthy, kind, helpful, friendly and all the rest. Somehow the Girl Scouts never lost its value by remaining inclusive and keeping its focus on teaching girls life skills and the importance of giving more to society than they take from it, no matter their sexual orientation and religious beliefs.
So I hope the Boy Scouts' national board will vote for kindness, helpfulness and friendliness next week by changing the policy.
And about those atheists ...