Faculty members debate Boy Scout donations

College of Charleston professors at opposing ends of debate

CHARLESTON — Two College of Charleston faculty members are speaking out on opposite ends of the debate over support for the Boy Scouts of America.

On Oct. 20, a letter was sent to college faculty announcing the school’s upcoming plans for a United Way fundraiser, according to The Charleston City Paper’s Press Time blog and writer Greg Hambrick.

Faculty member Herb Silverman responded to the announcement to explain his long-held opposition to the United Way because of their support of Scouting and its official anti-gay policies.

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“Many United Ways throughout the country (not ours) have a policy of not funding any organization that discriminates on the basis of religion or sexual orientation,” Silverman wrote. “As far as I can tell, earmarking contributions to some of the many fine non-discriminatory organizations in United Way will not work. The United Way then simply allocates a higher proportion of the non-restricted contributions to the others.”

But another faculty member, Robert Dillon, defensively responded to Silverman. He thinks that the Boy Scouts have a right to discriminate, as evidenced by the 2000 Supreme Court ruling in Boy Scouts v. Dale.

“There is no sex in the BSA, period,” Dillon wrote. “No heterosexuality, no homosexuality, none, end of story. There’s no blank on the form that the boys complete to join the scouts that says ‘sexual preference,’ nor is there any such blank on the form that adults must complete to volunteer. If a prospective adult leader were to write ‘I only perform sexual intercourse with women, in the missionary position’ in the margin of his volunteer form, he would be rejected immediately. This is because there is no sex in the scouts, of any sort, ever.

“Nor are there any drugs or alcohol, nor any smoking, nor gambling, nor cussing, nor spitting, nor fighting, nor any vice whatsoever. In fact, because most troops enforce bans on electronic gadgets of all sorts, including iPods, there’s no rock-and-roll. If a prospective adult volunteer (such as myself) were to write in the margin of his application, “I like beer” (which I do) he would be rejected immediately. Is this discrimination? Yes, and I thank heaven for it.”

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Dozens of Boy Scout leaders and youth members have been dismissed from the Scouting program. Most of the dismissals have been the result of anti-gay policies, although membership and leadership standards also bar atheists or agnostics.

The official Boy Scout policy, passed as a resolution from the group’s National Executive Board in February 2002, states, “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the traditional values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law and that an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the values of the Oath and Law” and “conduct of both Scouts and Scouters must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law.”

Less often discussed in news coverage of gay issues in Scouting is the fact that youth members are summarily dismissed due to their gay sexual orientation, despite years of membership or whether such action might inflict emotional or psychological harm on the youth. Where a boy who openly states he has a girlfriend will be allowed to stay in Scouting, a boy who might state he has a boyfriend will be asked to leave.

Ed. Note — This writer was dismissed from his Scouting program in Winston-Salem at age 14 in December 2000, under the Boy Scouts’ policy on homosexual members and leaders.

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Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.