Boy Scouts, GOP face same dilemma: How do you shake your bigoted base?

So the Boy Scouts are in a pickle. They’ve spent all these years saddling up to hateful far right bigots, and now that America has moved beyond hateful far-right bigotry, the Boy Scouts are afraid of losing their hateful bigoted base.

Ironically, the Republican party is facing the same predicament, after having spent far too many years sucking up to its own Frankenstein of hate – actually, nearly the exact same Frankenstein of hate – as the Boy Scouts.  And now that America’s moved on, the Republicans are losing elections and the Boy Scouts donors, and boys.

According to AP, the public is over the whole “Boy Scouts vs. the Gays” thing, and the gays won:

No national polling has been released conveying how current Scout parents and leaders feel about the ban. But overall, U.S. voters favor eliminating it by 55 percent to 33 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Quinnipiac said the poll’s margin of error was plus/minus 2.3 percentage points.

“Now that the armed forces ban on openly gay service members has been lifted, and polls show increasing acceptance of same-sex marriage, most American voters think it’s time to open up the Boy Scouts, too,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac’s Polling Institute.

When straight pro footballs players have become America’s best gay spokesman on TV, you know it’s a bad time to be anti-gay or pro-hate. But isn’t pro-hate exactly what the Republican party has become?  Look at this past election.  Pretty much every group the Republicans have ever loathed – blacks, women, Latinos and gays – gathered together, fought back, and beat the bejesus out of the GOP at the ballot box.  And the Republicans deserved it.  From their incessant Latino-bashing, to their war on women, the Republicans have aligned themselves with a base of hate.  And now that they’re beginning to realize that their nutty base is killing them, the base has them so tightly in their grasp that they can’t get away (or negotiate a budget).

Pivot to the Boy Scouts.  For years the Boy Scouts made their beds with America’s most conservative religions:

About 70 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by religious denominations, including many by conservative faiths that have supported the ban, including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention and the Mormon church.

The problem for the Boy Scouts is that America is n0 longer as conservative as those religions.  Heck, even Catholics aren’t as conservative as their own religion:

Catholics are breaking ranks with the church on all manner of social issues. A recent poll indicated that 49% of Catholics favor marriage equality legislation, of the kind currently being considered by the RI Senate.  A whopping 82% of Catholics believe that birth control is morally acceptable, in direct contravention to their church’s position. Finally, though most Catholics feel that abortion is morally wrong, 62% of Catholics support keeping abortion safe and legal.

But now that the Catholics, the Baptists and the Mormons have the Boy Scouts by the proverbial merit badge, making up 70% of their units, what are the Scouts – or the Republicans, for that matter – to do when faced with a choice between losing their small but powerful bigoted base, or losing the growing majority in America who find the Boy Scouts’ and the Republicans’ bigotry, and increasingly, their mere existence, a quaint anachronism?

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • caphillprof

    what about conflate do you not understand

    Subject: [americablog] Re: Boy Scouts, GOP face same dilemma: How do you shake your bigoted base?

  • The problem is that a 30% minority is large enough to dominate an organization, especially if they get rid of everyone else either by alienating them or explicitly purging them. When extremists outnumber the moderates, the group can shift into a death spiral of pursuing purity rather than growth.

  • I think Jesus was Bi.

  • No where in the BSA handbook for the scout or leader does the term “morally straight” refer to sex or sexual oreintation.

  • Sweetie


  • rmthunter

    Short answer: Adapt or die.

  • Thom Watson

    It has been astonishing to me the number of proponents of the gay ban who have pointed to the phrase “morally straight” in precisely that way. Yet 103 years ago when the scouting oath was created, “straight” was a great many years away from being slang for “heterosexual.”

  • Thom Watson

    WaPo had an excellent article today about the failure of leadership in this issue, regardless of which side of the ban you fall on:

    “…Is this leadership or a major lack thereof? The Boy Scouts of America is considering lifting its national ban on gay members and leaders, leaving that choice to local troops. Yet the decision from headquarters, which was expected Wednesday, has now been delayed until the organization’s annual meeting in May.

    “Whether you support the ban or oppose it, this is not an effective way to implement change.

    “…What’s driving the consideration to decentralize, it seems, is the BSA’s desire to retain the most money possible and the most people possible.

    “…The BSA is using a logic that wouldn’t hold around a campfire—keeping up numbers for the sake of keeping up numbers. Is that the core Boy Scout value? Bigger? More? The organization has fallen prey to the tyranny of spreadsheets.

    “It is forgetting a key point: In the long run, no one will want to invest in or be part of a values-based organization that won’t take a stand on values.

    “…The BSA has focused too much on its followers of the moment, not its followers of the future. This holds whether you believe they should keep or lift the ban on gays. Do you want followers who are anti-gay? Then keep the national ban, and be willing to give up money from companies that don’t share your view. But do you want followers who are inclusive? Then you need to have a national policy of tolerance and be brave enough to let those people and organizations walk away who don’t want the future you want.

    “In the short term, the BSA may have found a way to duck out of a complicated situation, but at what cost? This lack of leadership, whether by delaying the decision or pushing the decision down the organization, says the BSA is willing to cut out its own heart…”

  • Wicked and very funny. Good one!

  • Terry Leftgoff

    If it were purely about financial pressure then the severing of public subsidies and the huge drop in sponsors and membership since the ban was imposed (when the haters got control of the BSA) would have, in itself, been effective. These are religious-based nuts.

    Our ripping the veil from the incessant anti-gay electoral activities of the publicity averse Mormon Church succeded in neutralizing them. The Catholic church appears unmoved by contemporary thought or modern civilization.

    I believe the new National geographic program is their current soft spot. Pressure NatGeo for a disclaimer, and go after the advertisers. It will provide a huge push as they teeter on the tipping point.

  • Pro Forma

    I have no doubt part of the reason the Boy Scouts are currently drawn mostly from the most bigoted groups is because of attrition. I know for a fact that at my place of work more and more people were declining the United Way contribution from our paychecks because United Way supported the scouts and the scouts were bigoted. There was no similar rejection of girl scout cookies, since girl scouts have no such repressive agenda. In a sense the demographic shift has probably already effected the boy scouts.

  • Ultimately, I suspect the decision will be based on money. Although incorporated as a non-profit, the BSA is a massive cash machine and its managing executives are handsomely compensated.

    However, donations and bequests, as listed in their wiki entry for 2008, only account for roughly 12% of their total income. The rest comes from sales and fees. (It has become quite expensive to be a Scout, apparently…which has probably also contributed to declining membership numbers.)

    So in terms of money, it looks like membership is key, and thus pressuring corporate sponsors probably won’t wield as much leverage as some might like. That leaves the religious groups, and that same wiki entry shows the Scouts have, over the years, become an exceedingly religion-dependent organization, and the list of sponsoring religions is very fundamentalist.

    As long as this remains the status quo, I predict the BSA national organization will continue punting.

  • pappyvet

    How do ththey shake their bigoted base?
    The answer is not hidden or difficult. The desire to do so is the problem.

  • kingstonbears

    Of course Jesus was gay. Hell, he could carry off wearing white and sandals after labour day,

  • Skeptical Cicada

    I’m glad that rank-and-file Catholics are not following the lead of bigoted church officials, but can I just say what a disgusting display of hypocritical heterosexual privilege it is for 62% of them to say killing a fetus should be legal while only 49% of them deign to permit the gay couple down the street to get married? Who are those massively self-absorbed 13% who want the rules to apply only to the gays?

  • UncleBucky

    I will kick the RCC, Thumpers and Mormons until they shake their bigoted anachonisms. If they don’t I will keep kicking and mocking them. Perhaps a program of sticking fake ReMaxxx signs on public parkways outside of especially nasty RCC parishes? :D

  • 2patricius2

    How true as well of the RC Church, many of whose leaders are closeted gay men. And why do people still think Jesus could not possibly have been gay?

  • Texhimself

    Time wounds all heels. The new generation of Americans will reject the bigotry of their fathers, the religious pressures of today and the ideologues that make us divided. The far right is dying, as nature abhors the weak.

  • bkmn

    Much like the Catholic Church, the Scouts have a history of shielding and protecting pedophiles while maintaining an anti-gay public profile. Thousands of pages of info was released on pedophiles that were shifted from one pack to another after scandal broke out. Again, the Scouts much like the Catholics even maintained records of their shifting of pedophiles.

  • Hue-Man

    It’s not that difficult to find an alternative business model – other countries have had years of experience with gay and lesbian members and leaders. Here’s the annual report for one of those national organizations with its list of large donors on page 22 (corporate and government, not religious organizations).

    The BSA has a lot of community goodwill that would be even more evident with a change in approach to gays and lesbians. Leaders like Zach Wahls are pushing for positive change with few voices calling for BSA to cease to exist. This could change if they cave to the religious bigots…

  • caphillprof

    “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to
    make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in
    them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

    Scout OathOn my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong,
    mentally awake, and morally straight.

    Scout LawA Scout is:
    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
    Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
    Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
    Brave, Clean, Reverent”

    I suppose they conflate “morally straight” with issues of sexuality, but certain their bigotry is not helpful nor friendly nor courteous, certainly not kind, and downright cowardly rather than brave.

    Their motto is “Be Prepared,” but clearly they are not at all prepared for the 21st century.

  • My boyfriend was basically forced out of the scouts because he is gay when he was a teenager. It’s ironic because its well known that the founder of scouting was a closeted gay man.

  • PrahaPartizan

    Clearly, the proverbial “mad minute” has arrived for the Boy Scouts and the Repubicans. They can do what the Democrats did in the 1960s by facing down the bigots in their own party while fully recognizing the immediate term injury they might sustain in popularity with hope for the future or they can give in to their bigots hoping for short-term gain because they have no hope in the future of the nation or their party. It’s passing strange that people who claim to offer religions of hope seem to be so hopeless about their own and the nation’s prospects. I wonder just whose faith is the stronger when such moments of decision arrive.

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