Following the ouster last month of a lesbian Cub Scout leader in Ohio, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization is facing intense pressure to abandon its long-time policy of barring homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a Cub Scout den leader from Bridgeport, Ohio, was removed from that position in early April after Boy Scout officials discovered that she was a lesbian. The Scout Oath emphasizes the importance of Boy Scouts being “morally straight,” and homosexual conduct violates that value, BSA officials explained.
In 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the BSA has the right to bar homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders, finding that opposition to homosexuality was part of the organization’s “expressive message” and to force the BSA to include homosexual leaders would violate the group’s values. Writing for the 5-4 majority in the case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist explained: “Forcing a group to accept certain members may impair the ability of the group to express those views and only those views, it intends to express.”
In explaining its dismissal of Tyrrell, the BSA said in a statement that it did not think a Scout den “is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay. Rather, such complex matters should be discussed with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting.” Nonetheless, the organization said, “Scouting will continue to teach our members to treat everyone with courtesy and respect.”
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