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Sent on Mormon-News: 24Sep01

By Paul Carter

Is Scouting Worth the Fight? Liberals say 'Yes'

FORT A.P. HILL, VIRGINIA -- Like a commander rallying his troops who have just been turned back in their assault on a strategic hill, Benjamin Sockis has outlined in The New Republic the liberals' call to courage in their continued effort to have the Boy Scouts of America yield on its stand against homosexuality. The goal, clearly, is to take the hill with continuing assault.

Benjamin Sockis is an assistant editor at The New Republic magazine. His September 17th article, entitled "Big Tent: Saving the Boy Scouts from its supporters", begins by presenting a verbal picture of the religious diversity and harmony that was clearly evident to him during the National Jamboree held in July.

The article touches on the history of the Boy Scouts, how it came to the US from England and how it grew into an important part of both male adolescence and the culture of America. Mr. Soskis asserts that the early history and success of Scouting were due to the movement's willingness to accept all young men, without regard to race or religion. He laments what he sees as the changes in Scouting of the past three decades which have brought about discrimination against and exclusion of gay boys and men. The source of these perceived changes is certain key sponsoring organizations for Scout troops.

"Is Scouting worth the fight?", Sockis asks his readers. He responds for them: "The answer is yes. For, even in its tarnished state, the Boy Scouts does bring together boys from diverse economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, providing, in Robert Putnam's terms, 'bridging social capital.'" (MN note: Robert Putnam uses the term "social capital" in his book "Bowling Alone", which describes the decrease in social interaction in modern society. "Bridging social capital" is defined on a web page of the World Bank as "cross-cutting ties between different groups". From the same source, "social capital" is "solidarity among homogenous groups." See

The place in American culture of the Boy Scouts makes changing the organization to accept gays an important strategic objective, as understood from The New Republic.

Mr. Sockis outlines how what has become this BSA battle against homosexuality has been fought in the newspapers and in the courts, as well as among organizations that sponsor Scout troops and even among the local Councils of the Boy Scouts.

The article describes The Boy Scouts of America as an organization that has lost its original moorings in diversity and shifted position due to pressure from certain large religious groups, among them the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mr. Soskis cites sources which suggest that the Boy Scouts of America is becoming a religion itself. He suggests that some "progressive" efforts from within the Boy Scouts should give hope to those who have been disappointed that the Boy Scouts can discriminate against those professing homosexuality.

His article concludes with his question, referenced above, "Is Scouting worth the fight?" As he responds in the affirmative, he offers encouragement to liberals to take heart. There are key efforts currently underway to help the organization return to its roots in diversity and acceptance.

For readers who support the moral values currently represented by the Boy Scouts of America, Mr. Soskis' article is a window into how change is being effected upon conservative principles in general and the Boy Scouts tenets in particular.

Reference is made in the article to the soon-to-be published book, "On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth," by Professor Jay Mechling of the University of California at Davis. Professor Mechling writes, "To maintain the position that homosexuality is immoral amounts to preferring some religions over others on this matter. Professor Mechling suggests that the Scouts are "acting like a church and departing from the founders' principles."

Support for this concept of the BSA playing favorites is offered by Mr. Soskis. He cites an excerpt from an amicus brief filed in the Boy Scouts' Supreme Court case by, among others the United Methodist Church, Reform Judaism, and the Episcopal Dicese of Newark, where these groups stated that "...our boys and young men do not participate in the Boy Scouts for the purpose of expressing the view that gay boys and men are immoral."

In encouraging the efforts for change within the Boy Scouts, Mr. Soskis offers a plan which he suggests will eventually prove to be successful: "Until society and the Boy Scouts with it, comes to a consensus about the equality of gays and lesbians, liberals should work to decentralize the BSA--allowing different troops to define their own moral and sexual rules..." Again, he references the writings of Jay Mechling, saying that "the Boys Scouts of America--that is, the legal corporation and the bureaucrats working in the office buildings of the national office and the council offices--is not the 'real' Boy Scouts in the sense that a boy experiences Scouting through a concrete folk group of men and boys."

And with regard to what will happen as these efforts are undertaken, Mr. Soskis invokes the Scout Motto while stating liberalism's goal for both the Boy Scouts and the greater society: "moral progress." His summation: "Of course, remaining in the Boy Scouts would require liberals to tolerate a degree of moral discomfort. It would also require faith in the nation's moral progress: that the BSA will, over time, come to see nondiscrimination as the principle that best honors scouting's heritage. And it would require a belief that the Boy Scouts, by joining together children of different backgrounds in "a brotherhood of youth," can help achieve that progress. Should that time come, liberals, by refusing to abandon the organization even when it seems to have abandoned them, will--in the best tradition of the Scouts--be prepared."


Big Tent: Saving the Boy Scouts from its supporters
The New Republic 17Sep01 N1
By Benjamin Soskis


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