The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 29, 2013

Updating what it means to be a citizen

Daily Item

---- — Just seven months ago, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its stance against allowing gays into its organization. This came on the heels of a lengthy study and had the backing of a Supreme Court ruling upholding the ban in 2000.

Now it seems like Scouts have changed their tune. The organization is considering lifting the ban on gay leaders and members.

Certainly the move has lasting social implications. The Boy Scouts are one of the final true forms of Americana. They boast of "building character" and training Scouts "in the responsibilities of participating citizenship," which are certainly worthwhile goals.

In a statement released Monday, BSA said if the move to lift the ban is finalized, "there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation."

Does this mean the BSA is updating how it defines character in the 21st Century, or is hiking unhappily in a new direction under the pressure of financial losses?

Under pressure from consumers, several high-profile sponsors have backed off their financial support, including Merck Company Foundation and UPS. Like many organizations, the Boy Scouts rely on sponsorship support. When the Scouts reaffirmed the ban last summer, Patrick Boyle, an author and a blogger for the Huffington Post, said it put the issue back on the front burner. When that happened, sponsors began to pull back.

"From the outside it looks like a business decision. They had several funders cutting and dropping funding because of the issue," Boyle said. "More Scouts and more unit sponsors openly challenging them … it's one thing getting grief from gay advocates and another when your friends turn against you."

Long-held beliefs are may be tough to let go. Forcing someone's hand with money may cause him to tighten his grip, temporarily. Eventually, reason overcomes stubbornness.

Of the more than 130 merit badges offered today, citizenship appears among the badges awarded most often.

Over the past three years, the Scouts have awarded more than 3.2 million merit badges for Citizenship of the Community and another 3 million for Citizenship of the Nation, both of which rank in the top 10.

Maybe the Boy Scouts are merely updating what it means to be a citizen in the 21st Century where everyone agrees that individual liberty can flourish best within a community where differences are accepted and respected -- a community called America.