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03.13.13

A New Hope? Nah, the Boy Scouts of America Strikes Back

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images ()

A new twist has been added to the circus that is the Boy Scouts of America’s position on gay scouts and leaders. After backtracking on a semi-promise to overturn the ban last month, the BSA has now sent out a questionnaire to 1.1 million scout families asking about their feelings towards the ban.

Instead of asking families a simple yes/no question on the matter, the survey consists of 13 questions that range from personal beliefs to how families would feel about hypothetical situations. Here are some examples:

Bob is 15 years old, and the only openly gay Scout in a Boy Scout troop. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for the troop leader to allow Bob to tent with a heterosexual boy on an overnight camping trip?

A troop is charted by an organization that does not believe homosexuality is wrong and allows gays to be ministers. The youth minister traditionally serves as Scoutmaster for the troop. The congregation hires a youth minister who is gay. Is it acceptable or unacceptable for this youth minister to serve as Scoutmaster?

A question directly asking about ban, as a whole, is given twice: once before the hypothetical situations, and then again after the hypothetical situations.

The current Boy Scouts of America requirements prohibit open homosexuals from being Scouts or adult Scout leaders. To what extent to you support or oppose the requirement? (Scale: Strongly support, Somewhat support, Neutral, Somewhat oppose, Strongly oppose).

After reaffirming the ban last year, the BSA found itself in the midst of a PR nightmare, which has led to major sponsors, such as IBM, pulling their funding. If that weren’t bad enough, a seemingly noncontroversial nondiscrimination clause on a Maryland chapter’s website became a national scandal, as the BSA very publicly ordered them to remove the clause.

Even though the questionnaire is theoretically a very good idea, as many chapters exist through religious organizations, it’s just adding salt to the wound. If the BSA continues to be this willfully dumb on how to handle this situation, the least they could do is hire a better communications department. At this point, they’ve set themselves up to fail no matter what their ultimate decision is.