Any Boy Scout can tell you that there are a lot of different types of knots. Square knots. Slip knots. Rope knots. Figure eight knots. They each have a different purpose, significance and importance, and they’re not interchangeable. Kind of like men and women.
Of course, these days you won’t hear a lot of people talking about the uniqueness of the male-female dichotomy. It’s not considered polite to point out that only women can have babies, with the complementary help from men. Beyond that, it’s now illegal to tell two women they can’t marry each other, and God forbid we slip and call Caitlyn by his/her former name: Bruce “Olympian” Jenner. Society has evolved.
And so have the Boy Scouts. As of this week, while it continues to be important to distinguish between an Alpine Butterfly and a Timber Hitch, Scouts will now be taught that gender and sexual orientation are fungible things. In other words, their scoutmasters and den mothers no longer have to keep their sexuality in the closet and can publicize their intimate lives.
Because really, that’s what Robert Gates, the organization’s current president, meant when he said that gay, and to a lesser extent lesbian, adults will no longer be barred from positions of authority in the organization.
Up until now, gay and lesbian employees of the Scouts were welcome to participate in all activities and at all levels, just so long as they didn’t talk about who they were sleeping with.
Sexual preference, which had no relevance to the good work of the organization, was an inappropriate topic regardless of orientation. My mother was a Cub Scout den leader for a few years in the 1970s and not once did she start a meeting by handing out juice and cookies while saying “You know boys, Mr. Flowers and I have a fulfilling sex life.”
Eight-year-olds don’t care, 10-year-olds might care, 12-year-olds do care and 14-year-olds are 14-year-olds, but none of them should have to confront the issue of their adult leaders’ sexual orientation at the Pinewood Derby.
That’s why this whole same sex crusade to drag the Scouts into the tolerant light of the 21st century is so hypocritical, as are the pious pronouncement from advocates about how “it’s for the kids.”
No, it’s not. As I’ve been saying for years, ever since the City of, ahem, Brotherly Love bullied the local Cradle of Liberty chapter into either accepting gay Scout leaders (and as an afterthought, gay children) or vacating the building they’d erected, paid for and maintained for almost a century. The Scouts won that battle, but it was ultimately a Pyrrhic victory once Anthony Kennedy started writing his Harlequin Romance novels, disguised as legitimate legal precedent.
That was the reason Gates finally caved. He didn’t actually put it in those terms. The former secretary of defense argued that society had moved so rapidly toward acceptance of gays that it was now “unsustainable” to ban them from positions of authority. So for him, this wasn’t surrender. It was a grudging acknowledgement of reality.
But I think there’s another reality at play here, one which has about as much to do with the welfare of kids as a Webelo has to do with an Eagle (that’s inside baseball for you non-Scout people)
Gay and lesbian adults have been demanding what they call equal rights for decades, and their juggernaut has picked up amazing speed in the past few years. First, sodomy is decriminalized. Then, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” joins the ash heap of history. Then federal benefits are given to same sex couples. And last month, Anthony Kennedy created a fundamental right to gay marriage and enshrined it in the pantheon of constitutional entitlements (like that other man-made freebie, abortion.)
This is indeed all about dignity, but only the dignity of grown-ups. Kids don’t give a damn who their Scout leaders go home to, they only want people who will guide them along the straight (sorry, can’t use another word here) and narrow. There were probably many gay Scout leaders in the past who did an excellent job shepherding those boys to young adulthood, but they never felt the need to scream their sexual orientation at the top of their lungs.
Now, they get to do that and we’re all supposed to bow down and say how fabulous this is for the Scouts.
Well I don’t buy it. Yes, there are probably some kids who will be happy to know that there are leaders just like them, because two years ago the ban on gay scouts was removed. But the vast majority of young boys don’t want to know what their mentors do in their private lives. The mentors, however, want them to know.
And now, through a fiat triggered by coercion, they will. More importantly, there’s the very real possibility that troops chartered by religious organizations will end up leaving the Scouts altogether and establish their own organizations, because no matter how much you say a faith-based group is exempt from a non-discrimination policy, there’s always someone ready to sue if you don’t bake them a cake.
Or teach them how to tie a rainbow knot.
Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.