The Boy Scouts could learn a thing or two about tolerance from the Girl Scouts

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

It’s that time again. All across the region, girls have begun peddling their delicious cookies, dutifully stationed outside of Wawas and grocery stores and going door-to-door with Thin Mints, Tagalongs and the rest of your resolution-destroying favorites. 

I bet when you bent over to give that little girl your $20 for those delectable treats, the last thing on your mind was, “I wonder if she’s gay.” Like most Americans, you were probably more focused on helping fund a great scouting organization that has helped mold millions of young girls into upstanding citizens than the sexuality of the children in question.

See, the Girl Scouts are more representative of our society’s every-growing inclusiveness of homosexuality. They practice what conservatives preach – they respect the values of their members and don’t intrude into their personal matters. That’s inclusion, not exclusion. Forget “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Girl Scouts practice “Come One, Come All!”

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And that brings me to the Boy Scouts.

As many of you might know, I’m a former Eagle Scout. Last year, I mailed my Eagle Scout Badge (much to the chagrin of my mother, a lifelong Scouting volunteer) back to the heads of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in protest of their decision to continue their discriminatory policy of banning gay scouts and scoutmasters. 

Last week, when all signs seemed to point to the Boy Scouts finally changing their outdated views on what the term “morally straight” means, they backtracked again, delaying a decision on any policy change until May at the earliest. 

The paranoia is ridiculous.

Defenders of the Boy Scouts bigoted policies think the only thing a young man who happens to be gay cares about is having as much sex as possible and talking about it all the time. They also seem to think gay adults are the only ones capable of sexually abusing children. That doesn’t require having a gay scoutmaster, it just requires having a weak or immoral one, as the Boy Scouts clearly know (and have tried to cover-up over the years).

The irony of course is any bigoted policy harms young men instead of helping them. What will a young man learn from the Boy Scouts current policies – kids that happen to be gay are somehow different and weird, and can’t be trusted to participate in activities with “normal” kids? That’s a far cry from the Boy Scout’s slogan, “Do a good turn daily.”

It’s not as if the Boy Scouts have always been so vocally anti-gay. In the first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, they promised, “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” That seems pretty inclusive to me. 

What makes the Boy Scouts so scared of allowing gay members into their ranks, when the Girl Scouts have been doing so successfully for as long as I can remember? It’s easy to blame the influence of religion, but it’s more complicated than that. 

The scouting movement began in England in the early 1900s to let boys experience adventure and outdoor activities together. Lord Baden-Powell founded the scouting movement in America 1910 as a youth organization “independent of any single faith or religion.”

The Mormon Church basically co-opted the movement in 1913. Today, virtually every Mormon Church in the country has a scout troop, and Mormon boys are automatically enrolled in the Boy Scouts.

However, it’s not that black-and-white. After all, while Mormons don’t allow same-sex marriage, they do allow gay and lesbian members into the church. Even Mitt Romney, who was on the executive board of the Boy Scouts back in 1994, said he personally felt that “all people should be allowed to participate… regardless of their sexual orientation.”

So why have the Boy Scouts turned up the anti-gay dial to 11 in recent years? 

Look no further than the current Boy Scout leadership, best embodied by Wayne Perry, a proud member of the Mormon Church and the National President of the Boy Scouts of America

. According to campaign filings, Perry gave $15,000 to the Free and Strong America PAC, which among other things, helped fund outfits like the National Organization of Marriage, which worked hard to ban same-sex marriage in California.

Perry also put a lot of money behind the support of anti-LGBT candidates, like Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA). Hastings voted for a Constitutional ban on gay marriage and supports a ban on gay adoptions, and has a 0 percent voting record towards gay rights, by the Human Rights Campaign.

Think lest morals, more politics. Talk about not being trustworthy. 

The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are a secular organization. Not shackled by religious bigotry, they are free to do what is in the best interest of their kids, which should really be the driving force behind any scouting organization. That’s not to say they exclude religion – on the contrary, they encourage girls to take their own spiritual journeys via their own faiths’ religious recognitions. 

Maybe it’s their level of inclusiveness that makes their cookies taste so damn good. 


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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