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Here’s what the Boy Scouts of America decided in cases of sexual abuse by Scout leaders against children: The good name of the Boy Scouts was more important than the safety of the Scouts themselves. Pedophilia, when it occurred, was often covered up.
And, literally adding insult to injury, the Scouts continue to compound this unforgiveable sin through the organization’s indefensible policy of protecting the child abusers in their midst while clinging desperately to an outdated and, in fact, cruel policy of excluding gays from the Scouts.
Perhaps the most shocking aspect of revelations that came to light last week is that the Scouts had official, high-placed accomplices in covering up the sexual abuse of young boys by Scout leaders. Police chiefs, prosecutors, local Scout leaders and even pastors shielded scoutmasters and others who allegedly molested children on the theory, it is said, that it was important to protect the integrity of the Scouts’ reputation.
But whatever that reputation was – molding young boys into young men; teaching honor and duty – it was fatally undermined by the despicable actions these people took. They sacrificed boys in about the worst way possible in order to protect a reputation for serving boys. The organization is still fighting to keep some of its files secret.
Like the Catholic Church, which also felt it was a law unto itself in protecting the pedophiles in its midst, the Boy Scouts needs to ensure that this seedy history is fully disclosed. The victims and the public both have a right to see that these events are given the public airing they require, both to make an effort to preserve the Scouts, which does serve a valuable purpose, and to ensure that such horrors do not occur again.
Meanwhile, the Scouts also needs to arrive in the 21st century, with its broadening understanding of the nature of homosexuality. To be gay or lesbian is not a moral question but a biological one. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is no more tolerable than racial or religious discrimination. All boys can benefit from the structure and program of Scouting, not just heterosexual ones or Christian ones or right-handed ones or skinny ones.
And to those who protest that young gays will be prospecting for partners, the answer is that sexual conduct by any member of the Scouts is forbidden.
If the Scouts wants to remain relevant in the 21st century, then the organization will have to come to terms with social changes that some of its leaders reject. Things have changed and either the Scouts can serve all boys, even at the risk of angering some members, or continue to wander down a path that will lead to irreversible disrespect.
We hope it will do the former. Regardless of that, though, it needs to make amends for decades of tolerated abuse and reassure the public that it will do a better job of weeding out pedophiles before they come into Scouting, and will deal with them properly when they put children at risk.