When 1,400 voting delegates of the Boy Scouts of America assemble in Texas in late May, they are to vote on changing a longtime ban on gays -- halfway. A proposed resolution would let gay teens be scouts, but would continue to prohibit gay adults from being scoutmasters.
This halfway change is angering everyone. Conservative churches, which sponsor hundreds of scout troops, are protesting the inclusion of gay teens. Human rights groups are protesting the ban on gay adults.
The Kansas City Star called it a "backward step forward" -- a partial reversal of prejudice, but not enough.
We wish the BSA would simply accept America's growing modern tolerance that treats gays as equal citizens, and drop all rules against them. The old BSA taboo is based on fear that gays will molest underage boy members -- but this really isn't true.
The great majority of gays are conscientious people who never harm children. Child-molesters rarely are gay -- they're inadequate souls who can't react with adults, male or female. Psychologists say pedophiles are neither gay nor straight, but simply are drawn to children.
Richard Ferraro of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination said: "What this resolution appears to be doing is reinforcing the outrageous idea that gay people somehow pose a threat to kids, which experts like the American Psychological Association have dismissed for more than a decade."
This issue is important to West Virginia because the rugged Mountain State has formed a long-term link to the BSA. The $400 million National Jamboree Center and high adventure camp in Fayette County will bring multitudes of eager youths to the hills, along with parents and leaders. It's a happy boost for the state and tourism.
West Virginia and scouting share the promise of a bright future together. So we hope the BSA resolves its gay problems in a manner that won't damage either the worldwide scouting movement or the human rights of homosexuals.
As long as bans remain in place, the BSA is suffering protests by senior scouts who return their Eagle badges -- and retaliation by musicians who refused to perform at the Fayette County camp.
Of course, leaders must continue to protect 2 million young American scouts by screening out child molesters, whatever their orientation. Pedophiles are drawn to groups of children. Lawsuits forced the BSA to reveal 2,000 pages of "perversion files" showing that some past scoutmasters molested boys, costing the BSA millions in lawsuit damages.But evidence implies that molesters are no more likely to be gay than straight.