I was pleased by a recent Post and Courier headline that the national president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, called for change in the organization’s longstanding ban on openly gay adults.

On further reading, my brief satisfaction turned to disappointment. Gates said he wants the BSA to proactively establish policy because courts might otherwise pass anti-discrimination legislation that would radically modify BSA positions. He also said he would like local scout organizations to decide whether to allow gay leaders.

Sounds a lot like states’ rights, where local organizations can maintain whatever bigoted standards they choose. Gates further said he was worried a court order might overturn the BSA’s policy of banning atheists. He says churches sponsor about 70 percent of scout units and churches should have the right to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith. In other words, the BSA has the right to be religious bigots.

A number of courageous and honest atheists have been kicked out of the scouts for rejecting supernatural beliefs. Apparently, the BSA does not consider honesty a core value and would rather boys pretend to believe in what they consider superstitions. This certainly would teach boys a lesson on how best to prepare for political careers, since open atheists currently have little chance of being elected.

Gates believes that if the BSA doesn’t drop all restrictions on gay and atheist leaders, then “it will be the end of us as a national movement.” Yes, it would be the end of a movement that promotes religious intolerance and inequality.

Maybe the Boy Scouts of America would then learn to be as tolerant as the Girl Scouts of America, who refuse to discriminate against any girl for any reason because they regard lesbian and atheist girls as equals. I wonder if Robert Gates is willing to say that the Girl Scouts are not as morally straight as the Boy Scouts.

Herb Silverman

George Street