FIRST-PERSON: Limping between two opinions: the moral evacuation of the Boy Scouts of America
And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go on limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." 1 Kings 18:21
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- The announcement this week that the Boy Scouts of America may soon rescind its national policy prohibiting the participation of openly homosexual members and leaders fell like a thunderclap. The B.S.A. national board is expected to approve the change early next week, just six months after that same board had announced that no change would be made, citing the unanimous recommendation of a special study committee. Back then, the B.S.A. CEO said that the "vast majority" of Boy Scout parents supported the policy.
That was then, but this is now. Just six months later, the B.S.A. board is prepared to capitulate to massive pressure from gay rights activists and their allies, some inside the board itself. The proposed policy amounts to a local option, with each Boy Scout unit deciding its own policy. As for the Boy Scouts of America -- the national group says it will "under no circumstances" dictate a national policy on the question of homosexuality.
This capitulation and the abandonment of the B.S.A.'s longstanding policy will, in the end, please no one. The new policy is a half-measure that amounts to cowardly moral evasion. No group can remain divided on a question of such moral importance and urgency. Homosexual conduct and relationships will be condemned or celebrated. There is no middle ground. Back in 2004, the B.S.A. maintained that homosexual conduct is "inconsistent" with the "morally straight" requirement of the Scout Oath. Now, the B.S.A. will claim to have no position whatsoever on the issue. This fails the test of seriousness. Those who believe that homosexual conduct is sin cannot endorse the new local option policy, and Scouting units that hold to this position will inevitably be marginalized. Those who celebrate and demand the normalization of homosexuality, on the other hand, cannot and will not be satisfied with a half-measure like a local option.
The predicted response now comes in the form of an editorial in the Jan. 30 edition of The New York Times. After pointing to the B.S.A. policy proposal as an indication of the nation's moral shift on homosexuality, the paper then complains that the policy "falls far short of the clear and strong renunciation of anti-gay bigotry that is called for." That will be the emphatic judgment of the cultural left and of gay rights activists. It is also inevitable, given the nature of this controversy.
The new policy, says the Times, is "an unprincipled position" and a "partial move" that "should hardly satisfy" those demanding the full inclusion of homosexuals at every level and in every Boy Scout unit. At this point, the editors go for a killer strike on the B.S.A.'s "unprincipled position." In their words: "The new policy would, however, undermine the rationale the Supreme Court voiced in 2000 when it affirmed the right of the Scouts to discriminate against gay people. The 5-to-4 ruling turned on the court's acceptance of the Scouts' claim that being anti-gay was a 'core' part of its mission and that its freedom of association right trumped any state nondiscrimination rules."
This is a key insight, and an indication of just how unworkable and unprincipled the new policy proposal really is. As the Times editors continued: "Now that the group is on the verge of making discrimination optional, it can no longer claim that discrimination is a "core" purpose -- and therefore state nondiscrimination rules should apply to the Scouts. The halfway policy change would inevitably invite litigation."
That is an understatement. The "halfway policy" will also invite the obvious realization that the Boy Scouts of America is now abandoning what the group claimed was a "core" belief and conviction just 13 years ago. The new policy reveals what will stand at the core of the Boy Scouts of America's national policy -- a vacuum of moral conviction.
This will not only fail the test of litigation, it will fail the test of moral sense. On this much, both sides in the controversy over homosexuality are agreed. The Boy Scouts of America will destroy themselves by this policy change. If they will not believe that argument when it comes from the "vast majority" of parents, or from the churches and faith-based groups that sponsor the greatest number of Boy Scout units, perhaps they will hear the argument now coming from the editors of The New York Times.
Then again, maybe not.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, AlbertMohler.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).