Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
New England, USA
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.


APRIL 26, 2012 8:49PM

Help Restore Honor to the Boy Scouts

Rate: 15 Flag

I signed Jennifer Tyrrell’s petition to tell the Boy Scouts of America to end its policy of discriminating against gay youth and leaders.

You should sign, too.

It had a place for personal comments. This is what I wrote. Feel free to borrow from any part of it if you think it will help you express yourself:

I simply don’t understand the BSA’s homophobia but it must stop. Scout leaders don’t have any reason to bring sex into Scouting activities at all, so why does it matter if they’re leaving heterosexual or homosexual thoughts at home? Scouting should be about teaching basic survival skills, duty, honor, compassion, and respect. These are not the private province of those with a particular gender preference. And it’s hard to see how you teach respect by disrespecting the dignity of a whole class of people. Finally, as to teaching religion, religions vary a lot and an increasing number accept gays, so the BSA has no business telling anyone what the right or wrong religion is.

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Already signed. I have never understood basing hate off of something like color of one's skin, sexual preference, etc.

Course, rated.
Tink, thanks. It is indeed hard to wrap one's head around.
Well said Kent. Good to see you around here again.
My lot in life seems to forever be the voice of dissent, but ...

I have very mixed emotions about this issue. To be perfectly (or imperfectly) honest, I would be reluctant to have my son go off for the weekend with a gay scout leader. I suppose that's my prejudice showing. On the other hand, I'd be less concerned if that scout leader was openly gay than if he was pretending to be otherwise. Why the distinction?

Forgive my ignorance, but I believe by making homosexuality a perversion -- I don't believe it is -- we have created a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. That is to say, those who are forced to hide their nature in fear of being treated as a social pariah may often exhibit negative behaviors. Self-esteem must be difficult to come by and maintain when your are constantly told you are an abomination.

Or as they say of politicians and banksters -- it isn't the crime ... it's the cover-up. And before I get comments, that's not to suggest that homosexuality is a crime.

But beyond homosexuality, the whole matter of sex has been stained by religious extremism, rightwingnuttery, and abject hypocrisy about sex. Thus Rick "Wingnut" Santorum surely was embraced by countless people who very likely help make pornography a multi-billion dollar business.
Here's my objection to the BSA:

"Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God."

Sorry, guys, but this is not an organizational form of indoctrination I support. And it's no wonder they don't allow gays. But I signed the petition just to help make the point.
Um .. wow? "Lottsa ?stiff? here"?! :-o

First off, Kent, thank you for your always cordial pms to me alerting me to a post of yours. Agree HEARTILY with Abrawang that it's 'good to see you around here again'!.

Me -- having specially-treasured friends of all the differently defined gender identity &/or preference (i.e. I have friends who have defined themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual ... though I'm not cosmopolitan enough yet to know any of the post-surgical "transgendered") -- my first impulse was to say well sure, I'll sign. Then I started reading the comments to your post and got hung up first on Tom's, and only second on Rick's. Taking them one at a time:

Tom, why would you "be reluctant to have your son go off with a gay scout leader"? On first reading this is hard for me to understand (especially because just last night I was trying to reach by phone the perhaps one of only three of my age contemporaries who was a "closeted gay" for many years. He's been fighting (in a non-belligerent way) "anti-gay phobia" (if that's what to call it?) for so many years. I can't imagine a more caring and thoughtful person to whom you could assign responsibility, at any time, to anyone in your care. I have been following your recent posts on topics of your recent choices and will try to get back to you there.

Rick: I think you bring up some very interesting points about the Boy Scouts, themselves. Thank you for that! It seems to me to broaden the discussion here from whether (as might have initially seem implied?) we're pro or anti 'gays' to what organisations we support and what petitions we do or don't sign. Looking forward to the continuing comments and many thanks, Kent for -- as usual -- a fine succinct post, and for notifying me of it.

Tom, what's confusing to me about your position is that one way to classify the world is between two groups: “people who are openly gay” and “people who are potentially closeted gays.” Suppose I wanted to go on a campout with some boys. How do you know I'm not a closeted gay? Maybe I'm married to cover for that.

Or what if I'm just a heterosexual sadist or serial killer in training?

My point is that if it's abuse you fear, it is always a risk, and your protection must be either your specific knowledge of a person's character or some tangible other check like always having several supervisors together. And if those are in place, why does the underlying gender preference matter?

There's also the issue that you assume somehow that having a gender preference implies susceptibility to pedophilia, which is really different. I'm attracted to women, but that doesn't mean I salivate over girls, so why would it be any different if I liked men?

I think the Catholic church predation on boys has created a misconception. I'll bet that has nothing to do with (or little to do with) gays and everything to do with opportunity. They select people who are not allowed to marry (either gender) but they have the same sexual urges as anyone, just no opportunity to be alone with anyone but the one group, so it's little surprise that group caught the effect.

If you wanted to argue for no camping other than with multiple escorts, that would seem consistent, at least, though also expensive—perhaps making scouting inaccessible to some. (Oops, my wife, a boy scout leader, says BSA already requires this.) But sometimes the solution is simpler: Get to know people personally. Learn to trust (or not) personally. People are individuals and vary by individual situation, they don't report to Stereotyped Group Central for orders.
Full disclosure (with apologies to your wife): I was a boy scout, but dropped out because of a scout leader who imagined himself a DI and the boys under his charge a bunch of raw recruits at Parris Island. The pivotal event was an order to dig a large hole and then refill because of my "insubordination". That said, I have great admiration for anyone with the patience to deal with a group of rowdy young hellions.

I understand my position on the matter of homosexuality is rife with fallacies and contradictions, my only defense is so is life. The point I was trying to make, however inartfully, is our culture's attitude toward gays in particular and sex in general exacerbates the problem.

As to the specifics -- and again at the risk of being stereotyped myself as a gay-basher, I wouldn't knowingly send my son off unchaperoned with a gay male. Call me blind or prejudiced if you must, but to me that's just good, sensible parenting.

For the record, I've had many gay friends and associates, some out and some closeted -- and some in the closet with the door wide open. As a rule, those who were out struck me as happier and more well-adjusted. To name names (not of my friends or associates), it strikes me as fairly obvious that guys like Ted Haggard and Larry Craig led miserable lives trying to remain in the closet -- or I suppose in their case it's more accurate to say in denial. And surely they made the lives of those around them miserable as well.

That said, I understand that because of cultural, political and economic pressures, coming out isn't possible for many gays. A poster boy for that is Ken Mehlman, former head of the RNC. I understand his need to remain closeted; what I don't understand -- and frankly despise -- is his silence in the face of (and thereby his tacit encouragement of) gay-bashing politicians.

Sorry to have wandered so far afield, but in my view this is an area where we'd all be better off with a lot more transparency. And thus I have risked exposing my own foibles and prejudices.
Tom, it's brave of you to discuss your concerns openly, even if I disagree with the details. I think it's not trivial for people to shift positions on anything but being “out” about your concerns must likewise help. At least then people can engage you. A lot of bad comes from trying to reason with people who won't admit they even have the position that others are trying to talk them out of. What an internal tangle that must be.

Honestly, I think if you're open-minded you should see the risk you're perceiving is no less with straights, and that you should just be cautious with your kids if you like, but do it uniformly. Nothing wrong with caution, but associate it with a legit unknown: you may not know the individual(s) and that's enough reason to be careful. We all differ in life about where we allow risk. Some will climb a mountain but not risk love, others the other way around. Anyway, thanks for participating.

The youth of today are changing a lot of this, too. They are not raised with our backgrounds so they have different expectations. Just break the cycle by not passing on any fears you know to be irrational, even if they haunt you internally a bit.

Sorry about your scouting experience. There are schools like that, too. We attribute it to scouts or teachers, but really again it's just people. Individuals. And we blame groups. We're often compelled to generalize to be able to predict the future. They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, or that a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested. If so, individual experiences generalized. Overly sometimes.
Thanks for the heads up. I'll go sign it. I think she should file a lawsuit.

I'm glad you appreciated my attempt to broaden the discussion. I often do that, but it isn't often much appreciated, I think.
Rick, I certainly always appreciate your contributions to discussion. You're an intelligent and thoughtful person. Even on those occasions where we disagree, I respect your right to do so and I count on the fact that you don't do so capriciously. That, in turn, always means your rationale is going to be interesting.
Lefty, thanks for the supportive words.

Margaret, Mission, and Lunchlady—great to see the signatures rolling in. Thanks.

Abrawang, I wasn't really gone. Just busy and so quiet. I guess it amounts to the same. But I continue, almost daily, to try to find time to blog. More often than not it just doesn't work out. :( But oh well. One can only keep trying. I appreciate the encouragement.

Marte, thanks for joining in and offering your thoughts. I'm glad you enjoyed the offering.

Kanuk, I'm not up on the specific law under which such a suit would be dropped, but that doesn't mean it couldn't work. It is true that some sort of legal action like that is harder to ignore than a petition.
Kent, the Boy Scouts organization operates under a different worldview. It is a worldview in which belief in God and traditional moral values are important. That's the kind of organization it is.

With all respect, what I don't understand is why you are offended by that. You honestly disagree with that worldview. That's fine. So why don't you let the Boy Scouts be the Boy Scouts, and rather lend your support to the organizations with which you agree?

A while back I came across an old quotation from rabbi Samuel Raphael Hirsch. As a 19th century orthodox rabbi he opposed the efforts of the more liberal-minded Jews to "reform" Judaism. Rabbi Hirsch wrote --
"It is now no longer enough for the apostate to be able to live undisturbed according to his convictions, as he calls them; to him there is no well-being and no peace as long as his convictions have not become the only ones recognized as right and valid. He sees in the Law an intellectual slavery from which it is the godly task of a second Moses to redeem his unfortunate brothers. In Torah-loyalty he sees superstition, backwardness, and at the same time a calamity which is to blame for all the miseries of the past.

"He sees in 'liberation' from the yoke of the Law a goal so high and so humanitarian that every means which seems capable of bringing about progress toward this great goal must be employed."
Note the rabbi's comment about the reformer who has no peace "as long as his convictions have not become the only ones recognized as right and valid." This reminds me of those who earnestly desire the Boy Scouts to become something that they are not, to become something that is contrary to the values they have had for many years. Not content simply to live in accordance with their own values, they want the Boy Scouts to have their values, as well. But why?
Tom writes: "To be perfectly (or imperfectly) honest, I would be reluctant to have my son go off for the weekend with a gay scout leader."

You don't need to apologize for common sense. When you send a child off for the weekend with another adult, the presumption is that the adult will not be sexually attracted to your child. My guess is that if you had a daughter, you wouldn't send her off camping with an adult heterosexual male either.
Ok who is it better your hypothetical son is out in the woods with, Dan Savage or Larry Craig?
I think mish makes a valid point in suggesting that we simply not support this organization, which is basically what I alluded to.

Mish, The primary reason someone would try to undermine this bigoted organizational perspective is that institutions that promote prejudice are a destructive force in society. Obviously, many people are seeing the anti-gay stance of the BSA as promoting a form of bigotry that is destructive. If it were not destructive, people would not oppose it. And as Kent has already pointed out, pedophilia is not a gay tendency.
Rick writes: "Obviously, many people are seeing the anti-gay stance of the BSA as promoting a form of bigotry that is destructive. If it were not destructive, people would not oppose it."

Just because people think something doesn't mean it is true. It is nothing more than an opinion, no more authoritative or definitive than any other opinion.

Attempts to force the Boy Scouts to admit atheists or homosexuals strike at the very heart of freedom. The Scouts are a private organization. As a private organization they have every right to include or associate with anyone they choose. They have a set of values that are both traditional and religious-based. Children and volunteers who associate with the organization do so willingly, either because they agree with or at least do not object to the values of the organization.

I don't like the whole "liberal vs. conservative" thing. But it really seems to me that social liberals have a desire to remake society in their image, and that any organization that doesn't go along must be "brought into line." In some ways that strikes me as totalitarian. Just because some people -- who do not share the organization's values or worldview to begin with -- decree that the organization's policy is "destructive," the organization is supposed to remake itself so as to please them.

Some people have even advocated, and continue to advocate legal action against the Scouts, in order to use the power of the State to turn them into a liberal organization. And where does that end? If a private organization such as the Scouts can be forced to adopt policies they disagree with, and that in fact they feel are destructive, then what other private organization cannot be likewise forced?
I signed about two weeks ago.
First of all to address comments from Tom C and Mishima: wrong, gentlemen. (and Mishima PLEASE stop spreading lies and misrepresentations!). The FACTS of the matter is that your son would be LESS likely to be molested by a gay scout master.

Pedophilia & child molestation are crimes of dominance and have NOTHING to do with other perps orientation or the child's gender. In fact, as cited in the reference, out of 269 investigated cases of molestation only two of the perps were gay/lesbian. So Tom allay your fears and Mishima stop with the BS.

As to the subject: The BSA is a homophobic, misogynistic, right wing fundimentalist driven organization. They DO have a right to believe what they want, just like the Klan does, however.

What they DON'T get to do, at least as long as they receive any public money or support, is get to discriminate. If they want to become a privately funded bunch of haters that's fine. If they receive one nickel of government money (inc. "freebies" like the dollar per year deal San Diego gave them on a multi million dollar boat launch facility), then they DAMN well better treat EVERYBODY equally.
I appreciate your defense of what I perceive to be simple common sense. I am a more than a bit confused tho, that you cite Rabbi Hirsh's indictment of the Christian obsession with conversion, and what I view here on OS as your defense of evangelicals who attempt to do exactly that with the larger society.
Safe Bet
You cite this statistic: "out of 269 investigated cases of molestation only two of the perps were gay/lesbian". I feel pretty safe in assuming that statistic refers all but entirely to males molesting females under their charge. While I'm sure we can agree those acts are criminal and detestable, by definition, that statistic has no relevance to the matter at hand.

Furthermore, given the social stigma associated with homosexuality, it would be very surprising indeed if homosexual molestations were reported -- particularly by male victims. It's reasonable to assume the incidence of unreported molestations is quite high, again particularly among males, given what we have learned about the prevalence of such crimes by Catholic priests -- not to mention a certain Jerry Sandusky.

Don't misunderstand me; I'm not fool enough to equate homosexuality with pedophilia and molestation. I'm fully aware the incidence of heterosexual pedophilia and molestation dwarfs the incidence of homosexual pedophilia and molestation, just as the incidence of heterosexual behavior in general dwarfs the incidence of homosexual behavior.

All that said, I'm comfortable with my position, and I certainly don't feel as though I'm "jumping" to any conclusion other than that as a parent, it's better to be safe than sorry,
I am glad this is here, again. r.