COLUMN: Freedom: In Boy Scouts decision, whose freedom won?
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. Dr. Wayne Baker is traveling and welcomes back popular guest columnist Terry Gallagher.
Today, headlines around the world are reporting on the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on homosexual members and leaders — despite the hopes of many current and former members for a more inclusive policy.
The BSA’s right to discriminate against homosexuals was upheld when a 2000 Supreme Court decision reaffirmed the idea that private organizations can select their own members. (Note that Stephen Breyer, the only Eagle Scout on the Court at that time, voted with the minority in a 5-4 decision.)
The right of “free association” affirmed in that case is key to our concept of freedom: We don’t have to belong to any organization with which we disagree, and private organizations don’t have to accept members who are opposed to its mission or agenda.
But, is that the same as saying you have to quit an organization when you disagree with one of its policies? That’s just one of the tough new questions raised by BSA leaders’ decision.
Some of the corporate chiefs who serve on the BSA’s national board, including the CEO of AT&T, have said they’ll work from within to change the policy.
“We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything,” according to an AT&T statement. “Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”
Most news media around the world are playing this story with careful balance. Others are choosing sides. A headline in the conservative Washington Times chose to emphasize: “Freedom not to associate is an important American right.” But the LA Times published a commentary headlined: “Boy Scouts’ ban on gays, bigotry over values.”
Did you notice? Both headlines — from the right and the left — are using terms we frequently discuss here at OurValues: “Freedom,” “American right,” “bigotry” and “values.”
How do you sort it out today?
Do you support the BSA Leadership's freedom and rights?
What about the freedom and rights of gay scouts and leaders?
And, now that the decision is made — should dissenters quit the BSA?
ABOUT TERRY GALLAGHER: Terry is the communications director of the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor. Terry worked for two decades in higher education before moving to the Ecology Center. He is an expert in using media to connect and strengthen diverse communities.