Re: Girls in BSA (Long)
Rodger Morris (rodger@FISHNET.NET)
Sun, 27 Aug 1995 16:20:56 GMT
Steve M. Burinsky" <smb@AFTERLIFE.NCSC.MIL> wrote:
>The BSA has already made it quite clear that it is willing to forfeit
>funding from any source which asks it to contradict its basic tenets.
True, but this does not apply to the issue of co-ed Scouting. If girls
in Scouting were against the basic tenets of Scouting, then the BSA
would not have admitted girls to the Explorers in 1971-1972.
I know of nobody who truly believes that letting girls become members
of the BSA would be evil. Doubtless, there are a few persons out there
who so believe, but they certainly do not represent the mainstream in
world Scouting in general and the BSA in particular.
Girls in Scouting is not a values-based issue, particularly as nobody
that I know of wishes to force any Troop or Pack to go co-ed. IMHO,
that decision needs to be made at the individual unit level, just as
it has been for almost the last quarter of a century in the Explorers.
There will continue to be all-boy Troops in a co-ed BSA. A few all-girl
Troops will form in a co-ed BSA, if the experience of other Scout
associations around the world is any guide. (no pun intended here,
folks ;-)). This is as it should be.
>The government has no role to play here.
The government must allow the plaintiffs their day in court. IMHO, it
would be a miscarriage of justice for the courts to abrogate the First
Amendment freedom of association clause, as well as unconstitutional.
The BSA is legally in the right. The BSA will prevail in court, but at
a very high financial cost. I regret the money being spent in keeping
girls out of Scouting that, IMHO, could be better spent in improving the
program for our Scouts.
However, I suspect the legal loophole in California state law that
Gloria Allred will try to exploit is that contained within the current
judicial interpretation of the "Unruh Act". One California superior
court judge has ruled that:
1) The Unruh Act prohibits discrimination by for-profit businesses on
the basis of race, creed, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
2) BSA councils have "Trading Posts" (aka Scout Shops) at their council
headquaters that sell BSA badges, uniforms, and other items.
3) The BSA pays state sales tax on these sales.
4) Therefor, since the BSA has retail outlets for BSA merchandise, it
is a for-profit business within the meaning of the Unruh Act.
5) Therefor, the BSA must allow avowed atheists to register in the BSA.
This rather strained interpretation of what constitutes a for-profit
business will almost certainly be overturned if and when it finally
gets to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the interim, a de facto way in which
to effectively nullify this rulling whilst complying with it would be to
lease the trading posts to private, not for profit consortiums of people
who support Scouting and let them sell the merchandise, instead of the
BSA itself selling it.
Interestingly enough, another superior court judge in a different part
of California independently reached the same conclusions in re items
1 through 4, but ruled in the case of Curren vs. BSA that the BSA has a
compelling interest in selecting leaders of good character that overrides
the Unruh Act, and may therefor exclude entire categories of individuals,
such as avowed homosexuals, from membership as Scouters within the BSA.
We shall most probably see a replay of what happened ten years ago with
the rash of lawsuits by women against the BSA petitioning for the right
to full membership in all volunteer positions within the BSA. The BSA
won every time in court nationwide. It was also squandering millions of
dollars in defending a membership policy that went against equity and
fair play. At last, the cost of defending this position became to high
for the BSA to continue to pay.
Eventually, the BSA changed its policy. If I recall correctly, all but
one of the dozens of women who were suing the BSA over their "right" to
be Scoutmasters then dropped out of the BSA entirely. They apparently
weren't in the program for the boys, but rather were merely pursuing a
As the story was related to me:
The one exception was a woman in her late 60s in a low income
neighborhood who had been a Girl Scout leader for decades, and who had
worked in the BSA for decades, first as a Den Mother (back when women
_were_ registered in that position), then as a Troop Committee member
in the Troop in which her husband was Scoutmaster.
When her husband died, the Troop fell on hard times. For several years,
she worked as the de facto Scoutmaster, with the District Executive
on the roster as the nominal Scooutmaster.
Finally, she found herself caught between the proverbial "rock and a hard
place". Some of her Scouts wanted her to become registered as the
Scoutmaster, because she was serving as the Scoutmaster. She explained to
them why this could not be. They insisted. She explained that her
application would be denied, and that the council would almost surely
rescind the Troop's charter if she filed suit over the issue.
Her Scouts showed her the passage in the Scout Handbook, wherein it
states that a Scout obeys the rules, and that if he thinks these rules
are unjust, that he seeks to change them in an orderly manner, rather
than to disobey them. They then asked her if she wasn't violating that
part of the Scout Law. She conceded that they were right and called the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU filed suit on her behalf. The local BSA council pulled her
Troop's charter and found her unfit to continue to be a Scouter,
thus destroying the only Troop in the neighborhood. When the BSA changed
its policy to admit women as Scoutmasters, she restarted the Troop.
All honor to her!!!!! And bouquets of skunk cabbage to the others.
Now there are hundreds of women serving honorably and well as
Scoutmasters. There are tens of thousands of women who are serving
honorably and well in Scouting volunteer positions which had heretofor
been denied to them. The boys in our charge have benefitted greatly from
the BSA's extension of full membership to women. I believe that we
shall see the same thing, in the long run, in re the extension of full
membersip in the BSA to all girls, instead of just to girls old enough
to enter the Exploring Division of the BSA.
>The second is the issue of whether or not the BSA should have a co-ed
>program for Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. I welcome that debate amongst
>those interested and involved in the Boy Scouts of America, not those
>who are trying to tear it down for what they perceive to be some
>over-riding noble purpose.
I concur. The admission of girls to all programs of the BSA is an
internal issue about which reasonable individuals may reasonably
disagree. It is properly a matter for us in the BSA to discuss and
to resolve in a manner that best serves the children in our care.
I've got almost 29 years in the BSA and I have two nieces and a nephew
who stand to benefit from what the BSA has to offer. I would prefer
that my nieces have the option of joining the BSA before they are 14
years old. However, the world will not come to an end if this does not
come to pass.
>If a choice is to be made about the admission of girls to the BSA's
>programs, it should be made by the BSA, not by the courts. After all,
>this is still America.
Again, I concur. The same applies to the GSUSA. As a private, not for
profit organization, they have the Constitutional right under the First
Amendment to set their membership policies, including the right to
restrict their youth membership to girls.
We abridge the First Amendment at great peril to ourselves and to our
posterity. Let us tread very warily here.
Yours in Scouting,
Rodger Morris <email@example.com>
Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 852, Camarillo, CA
Ventura County Council, Boy Scouts of America
National Woodbadge 416-18, Philmont, 1973
"I used to be a Beaver..."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City