Viewpoint: The Boy Scouts Stoop to a New Low

Why their latest p.r. stunt will misfire, and what they need to do next

  • Share
  • Read Later
Getty Images

While the entire U.S., and indeed much of the world, was glued to television sets watching a massive manhunt for one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, the Boy Scouts of America thought it would be the perfect time to announce that they will finally be taking a long-delayed vote at a national meeting on May 20 about whether to overturn their controversial policy banning homosexuals from scouting.

(MORE: Boy Scouts Consider Ending Policy Banning Gay Members and Troop Leaders)

In p.r. parlance, this is called “burying the news.” It works like this: when an organization doesn’t want an announcement to get attention then they release the information on a busy news day, or a Friday, or in this case, both. The thinking is that more pressing news will overshadow the story; that the shift between weekday and weekend staffs at news organizations will help it “get lost in the shuffle”; and that by the time Monday rolls around, more current events will have overshadowed the announcement, essentially making it “old news.”

As a veteran media-relations counselor, I have executed this strategy myself. And depending on what is being announced, it can work. But in this case, it not only has no chance for success, it’s almost guaranteed to anger both the media and the interested parties and cast the Boy Scouts in a more negative lights. The end result is that not only is the issue not buried, it gets even more attention.

(PHOTOS: LIFE with the Boy Scouts, 1971: Photos from an Era of Change)

It’s not surprising that the Boy Scouts used such a misguided tactic. They have handled the public aspects of this issue badly ever since it first became a topic of discussion in the early 1980s. As recently as January, they announced that they would be voting on a resolution at a national executive meeting, only to contradict themselves by later announcing that the issue “needed more study.”

Not only that, but the compromise that will be voted on in May is sure to appease no one: it allows gay scouts but not gay or lesbian leaders. This calls to attention the sexual orientation of what is essentially a membership of underage boys while at the same time reinforcing the scientifically incorrect and blatantly homophobic stereotype of adult gays and lesbian as pedophiliac predators.

(MORE: Eagle Scouts Return Badges in Protest of Gay Ban)

I understand why the Scouts would prefer that this issue simply go away, but that’s not going to happen. The fight for gay and lesbian rights is arguably the civil rights battle of our time. Moreover, the Boy Scouts is running a grave risk of permanently damaging its reputation not only with p.r. blunders but also by being “on the wrong side of history.” If I were advising the Scouts in this situation, I would point out the following:

1. No decision you make is going to please everyone. This issue is too polarizing, beliefs are too strongly held, and you will likely lose members whatever you decide.

2. We live in a transparent world. Every discussion, every meeting, every e-mail and every vote is a public moment. If the head of the CIA can’t keep his e-mails private, you don’t have a chance.

3. Both presidential candidates opposed this ban, nearly 60% of the country supports gay marriage, and the opposition is literally dying off as younger people support gay rights by an even larger margin than do the elderly.

4. Diversity will not weaken the scouting mission, as has been shown in business, politics and even the military. The Scouts will end up stronger, more impassioned and more unified as a result of tolerance and inclusion.

But this is not a marketing issue. It is a moral issue, and the right decision should be strikingly clear.

472 comments
Todd_Cannon
Todd_Cannon

@TIME The're going to let gay boys tent together.They're saying kids dont know if they are gay guess boys get to tent w/ girls too

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice.”


- Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

splawrence
splawrence

As a Boy Scout in the 1960s, this proposed step seems like a good one. Back in that day, leaders were gay, and certainly scouts were, too. No one discussed it, but it was obvious. BSA will get there again, and without the exploitation that then tolerated.

Derek.bolander
Derek.bolander

I'm a gay man and I really don't care if they don't allow gays—they should just be stripped of their non-profit status, however.


Letting them remain discriminatory will further hasten the demise of the organization’s influence. It's a dying school of thought and they should be allowed to fall on their own sword. At that point we can all move on to something more inclusive that still teaches the outdoor skills without the Christian tomfoolery.

PatrickReid
PatrickReid

Can someone explain why everyone is so concerned if Scouts, a private orgainzaion changes their policy?  If you don't like their policy - don't join or support.  Start or join your own organization that meets your needs and beliefs.  To be clear, I stay involved though because on a whole I believe their overall charter outweighs this one policy.   I have been involved with Scouts for years and internally have fought the policy, and vote to change it on internal surveys. I try to chang it because it was my organization I chose to join, and I would like to see it changed.  However, I don't tell other organizations that they have to change to meet my moral values. I tell every boy and their parent upfront - Scouts have a policy of not admitting open homosexuals, athiests or agnostics - not because they are evil, or are pedeophiles, but because it it based on the religous aspect of the organization.  If you don't agree with these policies please don't join.  Why are people only excited about 1 of the 3? . My son an Eagle Scout just changed rooms at college because a non-Scout wouldn't share a room with a gay.   So the organization must not be teaching as much homophic beliefs at you all think.

VivianM.Ramirez
VivianM.Ramirez

You are all sound like the pro nazis crowds back in WWII.  20 years from now I bet you will all be embarrassed for making this such an issue.

jeffl76
jeffl76

@TIME @TIMEIdeas Boy Scouts to ban adult gay members. Their message to gay scouts: gay adults are pedophiles and one day you will be too.

UnclePhil
UnclePhil

Announcing that a vote will take place doesn't sound like big news even on a slow news day.  If the timing of this action is accurately described as "stooping to a new low," then this speaks rather well for the BSA.

trygor
trygor

"arguably the civil rights battle of our time" OK, so when are we going to see the argument instead of the media fiat?

jumpbackcat
jumpbackcat

I'm not sure that "impassioned" and "unified" were the best choice of words to use in arguing in favor of gay Scoutmasters and boys running around in the woods.  The Scouts will end up "Stronger" sure sounds like an argument a pedophile would use.

jodiegilb
jodiegilb

It seems that BSA is stuck between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.  BSA obviously has the desire to address this, and indications 6-12 months ago pointed that they were going to lift the ban.  However, United Way, who is a principal financial supporter of BSA, has threatened to pull all funding if the ban is lifted.  Morally, yes, someone's sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue...but, lets face it, it takes money to run an organization and they need UW's money to function.

FoolKiller
FoolKiller

“It works like this: when an organization doesn’t want an announcement to get attention then they release the information on a busy news day, or a Friday, or in this case, both.”

The Obama administration should be the poster child for this tactic...

do2
do2

Only Time could assert with a straight face that allowing the LGBT crowd to take over the Boy Scouts will make BSA stronger.

As a father to 2 former Scouts I will reiterate the obvious: 1) 99.99% of BSA members do not live in Manhattan and write for hyper-liberal magazines; 2) NO parent in their right mind will allow their children overnight camping with condoning homosexual participants; 3) allowing the above will be the end of a great organization.  Period.

Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui
Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui

The Boy Scout Code requires that a boy be "morally straight". Homosexuals do not think straight, much less strive to control their inclinations and passions. Marrying another man to start a family is not "straight" thinking.


bbsnews
bbsnews

I don't know why it did not occur to me before, but the BSA has backed itself into a corner. They have nearly come to the conclusion that they will allow gay youths but still ban gay adults. That means the gay youth who is a good scout, and attains the status of Eagle Scout, because he is gay the day he turns eighteen he will be out.

He will not be able to help other youths attain the status of Eagle Scout. Nope, once that Eagle Scout turns eighteen he'll be out. So, given that this raises an entirely new set of question that I have not seen yet either here or elsewhere, I wrote a column about it with links to the stories and the way back machine and BSA's religious ties including those to Islam. See

"Sorry Gay Eagle Scout – as an Adult – You’re Out!", http://bbsnews.net/sorry-gay-eagle-scout-as-an-adult-youre-out/ for the whole sordid mess.

cleverlyc
cleverlyc

@JohnRitchie If you consider treating homosexuals differently to be the 'moral' choice, your morals aren't worth saving.

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@JohnRitchie 

@JohnRitchie ----- "to surrender 'moral values'"  You guys think you have the high-ground by staking out words and phrases that sound as if you are correct.

-JohnRitchie... the people that disagree with you have 'moral values' as well.  It's all open for debate, but please stop with the "moral values" "pro life" etc... 

Your sides attempt to 'infer' that anything else is wrong, because you claim it through your words is utter nonsense.

Regards,

Peace...

PatrickReid
PatrickReid

@jeffl76 @TIME @TIMEIdeas Sorry, but you are not correct. That is your interpretation of the message. The Scout position on the ban - it is a moral issue. Whether that is right or wrong, it is their position, and unless you have the knowledge to state othewise please present..  They have the same ban on athiests and agnostics.  Is that the next attack?   

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@jeffl76 @TIME @TIMEIdeas 

@jeffl76 ---Yep, you are correct.  That is the ridiculous 'meta-message' that is being sent by the bigots.

Peace...

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@trygor 

@trygor ---You Said:  " When are we going to see the 'argument'?"

Are you kidding us??  Where have you been over the years, -trygor??

Peace...

bbsnews
bbsnews

@trygor Well, make the argument. I believe it is a given, and apparently so do many Republicans since they are falling all over themselves to now fully support gay rights. It's about time they joined with common sense and at least publicly are rejecting hatred and bigotry. The sad thing that this thread has proved is that there is still no shortage of ignorant hateful homophobes and bigots who depend on the likes of Faux News and rightwing hate radio for their worldview.

blimfark
blimfark

@do2 So... what you're really saying is that you couldn't be trusted on an overnight sleepover with girls? That's disgusting... but you shouldn't project your sickness onto responsible adults.

bbsnews
bbsnews

@do2Too late, It's already done. I just wrote a column about it. So sorry. 

"...the Executive Committee, on behalf of the National Executive Board, wrote a resolution
for consideration that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual
orientation alone."

Now in May they could vote down this resolution. And THAT would be the end of the Boy Scouts of America...

You may note that BS of A is dying on the vine because of this continued for decades discrimination, while on the other hand, the Girl Scouts are doing fantastic; they are all inclusive and do not support bigotry or homophobia and hatred inculcated into young and impressionable minds by religious bigots with narrow Taliban like religious motivations.

And do2, I am wondering do you have any qualms about the participation about the religion of Islam and scouting? I certainly do not, but I'm curious as to where you stand on the issue. I have found most homophobes also have a streak of xenophobia as well as Islamophobia so I believe it is germane to ask.

 

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@do2 

@do2 ---So, in essence, your argument comes down to:

1)Liberal bias magazine = can't be right nor have any merit.

2)99.99% of BSA members do not live in Manhattan= liberal = must be incorrect in their conclusions/assertions, etc...

3)If there is a parent out there that would allow their kid/s to go on an overnight with gay kid/s = must be something wrong with parents, 'cause not in their "right mind."...which = discount said parents, as their is something wrong with them.

4)And... the kicker - somehow if gays are allowed, it will be the end of a great organization.

Your posting appears to be based on fear, bias, and catastrophizing based on no facts.

Regards,

Peace...

atroyfoster
atroyfoster

@Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui But heterosexuals control their inclinations and passions. That's why no child in America has been born out of wedlock in.....oh let's say....the past 2 minutes.

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui 

You Said: "Homosexuals do not think straight"

What the heck are you even talking about ??

You Said: " Homosexuals...Much less strive to control their inclinations and passions"

Curious to see if you can stereotype and over generalize even more ?

Why... Black folk only love chickin' and watermelon too.

Your argument in total is pure BS.

Peace...


bbsnews
bbsnews

@Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui"Marrying another man to start a family is not "straight" thinking."

Hmmm, so it's all about procreation for you eh? So much for older folks, and those who cannot have children, and those who choose to not have children. And then that leads us right into artificial insemination. And yup, I just posted in a column the "morally straight" portion of the extremist code espoused by the BS of A. And it is indeed extremist, I also posted links to the legal issues they have as well because of their extremist and narrow world views.

I think your "straight thinking" comment is hilarious! By definition someone who is gay is not straight; they're gay silly boi...

You might also note that gays are born gay, they do not just wake up one day and say "I think I'll be gay today..." But, if you really think that it's a choice, tell me, when did you decide to be straight?



PatrickReid
PatrickReid

@Derek.bolander @PatrickReid That is  a common complaint, but is also a slippry slope.  The argument can be made that Scouts are being discriminated because they can't have their moral belief.  That is why the Govt doesn't define what people can/can't believe. Tax code 501cs3 qualification is not based on rules to join an organizaion. Status if granted if organization does not discriminate on who charity is provided.  Something Scouts, or most charities I know don't do.  To try and define what is 'acceptable' behavior within an organization is very dangerous, and will switch with each new administration.  So is not allowing athiests discrimination? If Aryan Brotherhood and Nation of Islam open a soup kitchen for everyone are they a charity?   

Peace_2_All
Peace_2_All

@PatrickReid @TIME @TIMEIdeas 

@PatrickReid ---Actually, -jeff and -bbsnews are correct, IMHO.  If... they vote to allow gay scouts in, but... not gay adult/leaders... then... they *are* sending the 'meta-message' that says that gay adults can't be trusted... they are pedophiles, etc...

Now if you have knowledge of 'other' reasons why they would do that, I'm open to hearing and learning something new, and possibly adjusting my position.

Regards,

Peace...

DarwinAkbar
DarwinAkbar

@bbsnews @jodiegilb   I think jodiegilb got it the wrong way around! I am a donor to United Way. In fact, I have set up automatic donations taken out of my pay check through my employer (a program within my company), so I have incentive to check this out thoroughly. On searching Google and Wikipedia, I found that United Way is PRO-gay rights, and numerous United Way chapters have ceased funding Boy Scout groups until they accept gay scouts. I even saw a few Christian websites blasting United Way for this. So this is all the evidence I need: United Way are the good guys and I will keep supporting them. (I would have gone to my employer to stop automatic donations had what jodiegilb said been true)

MichaelNicholas
MichaelNicholas

@bbsnews @Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui Older folks serve roles as grandmothers/grandfathers or uncles/aunts.  Infertile couples can adopt and still have the semblance of the children being their own.  Gays can never have the semblance of being a couple.  It is the Gay lobby that has the extremist view of forcing everyone to accept their perversion.

Whether or not gays are born that way, they still have a choice in their actions.  Otherwise, why have any laws at all?  Just say criminals were born that way, pedophiles, rapists, murderers were born that way.  Oh, and I decided when I was 13 to keep myself morally straight.

bbsnews
bbsnews

@Peace_2_All @bbsnews @do2 Thanks again, I just wish some of these people would actually try and defend their comments. They seem to largely run like scalded dogs from the facts and rationality, and I just wan to know what makes these people tick.

I honestly want to know why they think it is okay for them to use religion to discriminate against others, particularly those they hate because the way they have been poorly been taught, and yet if someone used Islam to discriminate against them, they would be calling for Gitmo...

bbsnews
bbsnews

@MichaelNicholas @bbsnews @Jean-JacquesBurlamaqui And yet gay couples abound who have been together for decades. Again I submit that your comments are nothing but hate speech and bigotry because here again you are simply engaging in hate speech.

Why have any laws at all? Yes, the language of the NRA. MN, I suggest you read Lawrence v. Texas, Loving v. Virginia and learn about what makes this country great.

You are most certainly not "morally straight" you are using your narrow extremist worldview to discriminate against people based on how they were born in just the same way that (the same people) used to use against people like me prior to 1967 from being able to marry white folks.

You lost that one and you are losing this one... If there is a possibility that people like you do temporarily prevail, you'll end up destroying BS of A out of hatred, ignorance and bigotry and maybe that's a good thing. Kids should not be taught by an organization to hate.