Smith: Scouts use gay issue to divert attention

Being a Boy Scout used to be a simple: Sign up, pay dues, earn merit badges and move up the chain to Eagle Scout.

Today, it's tough to be a Boy Scout because the national council that creates policies decided many years ago to exclude gays.

The national council is in the middle of a major hand-wringing because its members can't decide whether to allow local Scout chapters to allow gay members, create a national policy allowing gay members, or just leave the ban in place.

According to Feb. 7 Daily Pilot article, "Scouts await ruling," "the [national council] said it needed more time to study the issue of sexual orientation."

That's hard to believe, considering that the issue of sexual orientation has been studied about as much as marijuana has been tested for its effects on the human brain.

The issues have some common ground in that they reflect the increasing inability of our society to put a stake in the ground and make a decision. We see the problem locally, for example, when the city of Costa Mesa created the Homeless Task Force a couple of years ago, despite the fact that it had studied the issue a few years before. The new task force's conclusion was that, yep, there are still homeless in the city and we need to do something about them. (Disclosure: I served on the more recent task force)

In Washington, D.C., they're still debating abortion, gun control, taxes and many other decades-old issues. Why? Because we keep electing the same type of person — those more interested in poll numbers and fundraising than getting work done.

Making firm decisions and making progress is not in the best interest of decision-makers because that puts them out of a job. As long as they kick problems down the street, they'll eventually turn the corner to review them again in a few years. At that time, they can create another committee or task force and study the issue again. It's the best form of job security. All you have to do is nothing.

I'm guessing that the Boy Scout leadership doesn't need to study the issue of sexual orientation; they need to study the financial and legal implications of the correct decision to allow gay members.

Financially, there could be a mass exodus from the Scouts by parents of heterosexual kids who believe that the presence of a gay member or two in a local chapter is going to make their child gay. That's absurd, of course, but that belief is common.

Then there is the potential legal challenge, should the council determine that gays should be banned. They could, and should, be sued over such a ruling.

Really, though, it's the biggest non-issue in recent years. Should the council decide to allow gay members, the impact will be nearly invisible — that is, there will not be thousands of gay kids enrolling in the program. That's because some of the kids do not yet realize they are gay, and if they do know, the last thing they're going to do is tell anyone in Scouting. Besides, would the parent of a gay child really want to enroll him in a program that has taken more than 100 years to decide whether homosexuals are worthy of admittance?

Here's the funny part: There are about 2.7 million Scouts nationwide, and I'm guessing that there are already quite a few who are gay. Some don't know it, and the rest don't broadcast it.

Perhaps there's another angle to this gay Scouting thing. Perhaps the council is making a big deal out of the gay membership issue in order to deflect attention away from the multiple stories of molestations by some of its scoutmasters.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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