The announcement by leaders of the Reform Jewish movement recommending that their congregations withdraw their support of the Boy Scouts of America sets a strong example for other groups to follow in the fight for gay and lesbian equality.
The Boy Scouts won a legal victory last June when the Supreme Court upheld the right of the organization to exclude gay leaders and members on the basis that it is a private group with the right to establish its own membership standards. Although the Boy Scouts claim to provide “character-building experiences” and to teach “respect for different ideas, customs and cultures,” the ban on gays from their group clearly contradicts these intents. An organization cannot espouse the values of inclusion and diversity and then exclude one particular group from their activities?it is illogical. The Boy Scouts are instead using their widespread influence over the youths of America to the message that homosexuals should be shunned and denied the same rights as heterosexuals.
Fortunately, members of the Joint Commission on Social Action of the Reform movement decided that the Boy Scouts’ stance on gays is, “incompatible with our consistent belief that every individual?regardless of his or her sexual orientation?is created in the image of God and is deserving of equal treatment.” In doing so, it asked its nearly membership of nearly 1000 congregations to stop sponsoring and housing Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs as well as to remove their children from the groups. Several synagogues have already acted, include one in Coral Gables, Fla. For those congregations that choose to continue sponsoring Boy Scouts, the movement’s leaders suggest publicly amending the local Scout charter to include a non-discrimination clause. Several rabbis have even returned their Eagle Scout badges, renouncing the highest rank offered in scouting.
Credit should also be given to other youth groups, such as 4-H Clubs, Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Campfire Girls and Boys, which have chosen not to discriminate.
These public stands against a blatantly discriminatory group deserve recognition. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and not likely to change its views; the only way to succeed in preventing discrimination against gays is to put pressure on the Boy Scouts to change. This can only be accomplished by more groups following the lead of the Reform Jewish movement.
Those who give to the United Way, a financial supporter of the Boy Scouts, should seriously consider donating their money to other causes that do not tolerate discrimination; likewise, consumers should re-evaluate their consumption of goods from those corporations that also offer support to the Boy Scouts. And other religious and social groups who sponsor Boy Scouts should reconsider their relationships with the scouting in view of its hypocritical and discriminatory practices. Only with solidarity can true diversity and equality be achieved.