When the news broke late last year that Rick Santorum, the most phobic of all the land’s homophobes (well, besides those morons at the church who professes that God hates homosexuals, but they’re more attention whores than anything else), would be writing for World Net Daily, I jumped for joy. That website is the central hub for all the right-wing’s most extreme and embarrassing dumbassery, conspiracy theories, and birtherism. So it would only fit that a guy who truly believes that homosexuals present some kind of threat to society would write for the online equivalent of your crazy Uncle Bob’s Facebook wall – littered with absolute inanity. And Santorum has not disappointed.
In his latest piece for the Conservative site, Santorum argues that if the Boy Scouts of America do in fact lift their ban on homosexuals, both as troop members and as troop leaders, it would “challenge to the Scouts’ very nature.” Let me be the first to congratulate Rick on finally figuring it the fuck out. Yes, of course it will change the Scouts’ very nature, Mr. Santorum. That’s the entire point. You see, the nature of the Scouts’ stance on homosexuality comes from a place that society in general doesn’t want to be in anymore. We woke up, as a country, and realized that in fact there is no vast homosexual conspiracy to ruin all things sacred in America. The gay community can now serve openly and proudly in our armed services. In last year’s elections pro-marriage equality bills, which had typically not been passed, were approved by voters in two states, with an anti-marriage equality bill getting rejected.
The times have changed, Mr. Santorum, and the Boy Scouts are just the latest American institution that is coming to grips with this fact. But let’s just be brutally honest, shall we? The fact is that the Mormon church has an out-sized influence on the Boy Scouts. The same church that flooded my state, California, with millions of dollars to pass Prop 8, California’s shameful anti-marriage equality bill, have their fingers in the Scouts’ pies already. And this sudden decision to introduce even a modicum of modernity on behalf of Scout brass isn’t the big, bold move into acceptance that Santorum is making it out to be. Essentially, if the plan goes through, the big wigs in the Boy Scouts of America will authorize local troops to make decisions for themselves as far as homosexuality goes.
This isn’t a bold, progressive plan to force equality in the culture of the Scouts; it’s a cowardly kick of the can down the road.
The bottom line is that Scout leadership at the top must surely understand the tea leaves. The rights of the LGBT community will not be subverted out in the light of day in perpetuity. As long as the Mormon church has their claws wrapped around the throats of the BSA, this is all that can be expected…platitudes and empty gestures. Yes, that’s right. Even the suggestion that they’d lift the overall ban and leave it up to the individual troops is empty, hollow of any real meaning. There’s a reason that I won’t support any fundraising efforts set forth by the Boy Scouts of America, but why I will buy a few boxes of cookies from the Girl Scouts every chance I’m given. The Girl Scouts, unlike the Boy Scouts have no policies of discrimination against anyone. much less gay and lesbian children or adults who want to participate.
A bold step by the BSA would be telling their Mormon benefactors to pound sand, and lifting the ban completely. Instead, what we’ll see in the Scouts now is a patchwork quilt of bigotry all across the nation. Sadly, what the world really needs is a fundamental change in the BSA. Groups like the Boy Scouts serve as a sort of litmus test for a society. How can we call ourselves a free society when a group whose sole stated purpose is helping kids become better adults, if we allow the notion that adults who are gay are any different from a moral standpoint as heterosexuals? Here’s a hint: We can’t.
The day the Boy Scouts of America show real courage, real compassion, and real strength of conviction, they’ll life the ban completely. Then I’ll consider letting my own children participate. Then I’d consider endorsing the Scouts. Until then, they’re simply another institution of American life that is stuck in antiquated and dangerously intolerant thinking that leads to things like bullying gay kids, and as we’ve seen more and more, suicide carried about gay kids who just feel like they belong. The Scouts could do a lot of work in that arena, to bring kids of various backgrounds together to demonstrate through simple human interaction, just how similar we all are with one another.
Then again, why do anything actually helpful to society, right?
But there was one more thing in Santorum’s column that raised an eyebrow. He used a bit of right-wing rhetoric that I’ve started to find less comical and more infuriating. In his piece, Santorum said that the effort to remove the ban on homosexuals in the Boy Scouts was, “…another example of the left attempting to remove God from all areas of public life.” Our coins still bears the phrase “In God We Trust.” When our politicians take an oath of office that they are actually swearing to we, the people, they’re looked at sideways if they don’t finish with “so help me God.” Shouldn’t they finish the oaths with “So help me, the voters who entrusted me with this sacred and important duty, to represent their best chances at happiness?”
It’s an insult to every agnostic or atheistic person in the country to insist that there’s some covert and sinister plot to remove God from our public lives. It’s not secret. It’s very real, and it’s very necessary. I’m not suggesting that we ban religion, nor that we make speaking of “God” a crime in any way. But when God is used as a wedge, when fights over whose version or vision of God have already led to so much pain, suffering, and even death, shouldn’t we be trying to put God where he belongs – in houses of worship, private homes, or religious charities – and keep God out of where our American values say there should be separation?
The bottom line is simple. There is just as much mentioning of God and religion as there ever has been in this country. But perhaps more and more, Americans are starting to put up their own walls of separation between church and state. Within religious circles there’s starting to be a shift towards tolerance and even embrace of homosexuality as truth wills out over mythology and text that is thousands upon thousands of years old. Perhaps Americans are thinking for themselves, and by-and-large finding some folks’ interpretations of the Bible lacking the basic love of mankind that Jesus Christ himself devoted his life to, and therefore want to put into their lives with or without the help of their religious leaders.
There is so much more to say on the topic of religion, God, and the influence that both have on American ideals, but it will have to wait. The simple truth is that if the Boy Scouts of America lifted their ban on homosexuality in their organization, God would be no less important than she is right now. But American principles of equality, freedom, liberty and pursuing happiness would get a major shot in the arm.
And that’s what Rick Santorum is most afraid of.