Briefly, On The Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church, and Algebra
Texas’s Rick Perry is predictably aghast that his beloved Boy Scouts of America (BSA) would even consider even the possibility of admitting gays into the organization. While addressing the Texas Scouts 64th Annual Report To The State, Perry said the following:
“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization.”
Rick Perry wrote On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, a book the New York Times described as:
It detailed his deep love for the organization and explained why it should continue to embrace traditional conservative values — including excluding openly gay members and leaders.
And speaking of those “traditional conservative values,” I think it’s only fair that we mention the following: The Boy Scouts were ordered last week to release more of the organization’s “perversion files.” In case there’s any question about what something called perversion files actually are, let’s let a journalist and a lawyer explain them:
…these files are from internal Boy Scouts of America records on adult volunteers suspected of molestation that are widely known as the “perversion files,” but they cover a later period than records made public last October by court order in Oregon, which covered from 1965 to 1985. He called the order a triumph over institutional secrecy.
Ah yes. Above, when I wrote about the release, I tried to specify that the Boy Scouts were ordered to turn over more of the them. That’s because this was a process that had already been begun last summer, when thousands of the files were ordered released by a judge presiding over a former Scout’s claim that he’d been assaulted by a Scout leader long known as a pedophile by organizational leadership. The files revealed that the Boy Scouts of America had made it company policy to coverup abusive behavior rather than face any potential consequences for such activity.
If that strategy sounds familiar, that’s because it is familiar. It is precisely the same approach championed by the Catholic Church both here and abroad and abroad and abroad and…well, suffice it to say, I could keep going. For brevity’s sake, I won’t. Well, except for these countries and also this country and then here are a whole boatload of countries but then also these countries too. But that’s it.
Which brings us back to Rick Perry. His insistence that organizations like the Boy Scouts represent traditional, conservative values is, he’d better hope, at odds with the news in the papers. The most charitable reading of that claim is that he means the BSA’s encouragement of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance but not all of the rapes*. The Catholic Church and its defenders have been playing the same game since evidence of its widespread abuse scandal came to light. In both cases though, it seems reasonable to start to wonder how exactly we’re supposed to separate an entity’s claimed moral high-ground (“Listen to what we’re teaching!”) with that entity’s same bottom-feeding behavior (“But please ignore what we’ve been doing!”).
With every admission that the BSA valued its organization more than its most vulnerable participants, it gets that much harder to believe that the BSA gives a damn about things like Youth Protection, no matter what it’s now putting on its websites. It’s unfortunate then that there’s no clearly defined point at which this hypocrisy becomes overwhelmingly clear at the societal level.
And that lack of a clearly defined point? It biases the conversation hugely in the favor of those established entities. As it is currently defined, the point at which we ought to start seriously questioning an organization’s moral authority is n+1, with n equaling the total number of cases that we currently know about. The cultural warriors defending groups like the BSA and the Catholic Church want the number defined that way. They’re not dummies. They know that as long as n+1 continues, it simply won’t matter how many children are assaulted, because we’ll forever be almost, but not quite, there.
There is the point at which these organizations are no longer venerated, protected, or even taken seriously. There is also the point at which these organizations are forced to acknowledge that a means of doing business that once worked is perhaps no longer acceptable in a more modern, more tolerant, and dare I say it, more reasonable world.
The Boy Scouts vote Tuesday on rescinding its ban on gay participants.
(*it should go without saying that the least charitable reading of Rick Perry’s words is that rape is a traditional, conservative value, and I’ll simply leave it at that.)