The Boy Scouts of America vote tomorrow on a proposal that would end the organization's long-running ban on openly gay scouts. Predictably, traditional values types favor keeping the ban. Just as predictably, Florida Christian conservatives are in the forefront of the reaction, rallying to stem the tide of time.
The BSA meeting on the outskirts of Dallas consists of the 1400 members of the group's national council, who will consider new membership standards devised in February by the BSA executive committee. The new standards include this statement:
No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.
The new standards still ban openly gay adults in leadership positions and describe "any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age" as "contrary to the virtues of Scouting."
That's not good enough for John Stemberger. He's an Orlando attorney and Christian right activist who came up through Florida's "right to life" movement, has been close to Jeb Bush, and whose Florida Family Policy Council played a major role in the successful 2008 campaign to amend Florida's Constitution to ban gay marriage.
Stemberger, with his latest outfit, OnMyHonor.net, under the motto "Keep Sex & Politics Out of Scouting," argues that the proposed new standard is a slippery slope that will force the Scouts to allow:
a flaunting of sexuality and the promotion of a left-leaning social political agenda...images, speech, symbols and content which is blatantly sexual and utterly inappropriate for children...hyper-sexualized behavior and conduct...[and] the kind of inappropriate conversations, sexual innuendo, gay symbolism and emphasis on exhibiting sexuality that accompanies "open and avowed homosexuality".
Since gay life in America is not one long unending Greenwich Village Halloween Parade and Obama rally (more's the pity), it's clear that Stemberger doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. Neither are his fears of child sexual abuse fact-based. There's no shortage of marks who buy his tripe, though.
Again, though, all that is numbingly predictable, like poison mushrooms after rain. What interests us is the divisions the proposal has created, and most especially the fundamentalists' demonization of corporate America, whom they accuse of bribing the Scouts into Sodom.
We were surprised to be reminded Mitt Romney (remember him?) had spoken out against the ban on gay scouts, as had the Mormon Church. We were more surprised (and pleased) to see Stemberger turn on his fellow reactionaries over the issue, and pillory Ralph Reed as a weak sister and quisling accommodationist.
Why has the BSA lost its way? The ugly answer is money and politics. The board has been infiltrated by wealthy, pro-gay corporate CEOs who haven't been properly screened to ensure commitment to core BSA values. The board has caved to blackmail by corporations threatening to pull money and support. Top Scouting executives now are paid up to $815,000 a year. Having accepted golden handcuffs, the BSA fears financial hardship if it doesn't capitulate.
Even juicier was the conservative Washington Times, which called the proposed new policy "a cave-in to pressure from lavender lobby bullies." Times columnist Robert Knight was more specific, blaming Scout executive board members Randall L. Stephenson (AT&T CEO) and James S. Turley (Ernst & Young CEO) for the Scout's Armageddon.
It's a great irony to see conservatives spanked with a truth they could have learned from Karl Marx, who praised capitalism as a revolutionary advance over feudalism. As the Old Man famously wrote, under capitalism "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned."
The Boy Scout dispute is a reminder for those of us on the left, too: Capitalism, for all its problems, has a progressive face, dissolving ancient prejudices, even if only in pursuit of broader markets and greater profits. Lavender or pink, gays' money is still green.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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