The Times and the Boy Scouts
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There are some topics that are so culturally foreign to the Times newsroom that the paper is almost bound to err in covering them.
Such is the case with the Boy Scouts of America. The Times started this round with a page one article by Kirk Johnson published January 29 describing a new policy by which, "Local chapters would be able to decide whether to admit gay scouts."
The problem with this formulation is that the Red Cross has chapters. Books have chapters. The Boy Scouts have councils, units (such as Scout Troops, or Cub Scout Packs), and chartered organizations, but the Boy Scouts do not have chapters.
A follow-up article, also by Mr. Johnson, in January 30 editions of the Times, repeats the error, referring to a troop leader who "wrote to Boy Scout headquarters and to his local scouting chapter."
The follow-up article is similarly confused about the new policy and how it would be implemented. At one point, it suggests that the policy will be set by councils, which are regional groups that could include hundreds of troops and packs sponsored by hundreds of different churches and synagogues. At another point, the article suggests that the policies on gays will be set by individual troops or by the individual chartered organizations, often churches, that sponsor troops or packs.
A Times editorial condemns the new policy for stopping short of what the Times wants the scouts to do, which is not merely to give councils or troops or chartered organizations the option of accepting gay leaders or scouts, but forcing them to accept them. The editorial also repeats the bizarre and unclear reference to "the idea of allowing local chapters to continue to exclude gay scouts and troop leaders." Since there are no "chapters" in Boy Scouts, what does the Times editorial mean by "chapters"? Is it talking about councils? Or about individual troops, packs, and their chartering organizations?
Neither the two news articles nor the editorial get into some closely related issues. If the Boy Scouts are to accept gays as a matter of nondiscriminatory principle, shouldn't they also have to accept girls, who are not now allowed into either Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts as youth participants? Or how about atheists, whose participation and promotion within scouting is barred by the Scout Oath (On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country… ) and the Scout Law (A Scout is…reverent.)?
I spent a lot of time in scouting, eventually earning the Eagle rank, and I enjoyed it greatly and learned a lot. It's a great program, which in my view means both that the more people who can benefit from it, the better, and that the people who run it should beware screwing it up in an effort to please a bunch of New York Times reporters and editors (and others of similarly left-wing views) who are so far removed from the institution that they can't even bother themselves to get the terminology right.
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