Monday, October 25, 2010

Atheism, Jon Langbert, and the Boy Scouts

It's funny. I was just on Godless Girl's blog reading a post about having Christian friends, and it struck a chord with me. I think we, especially in the US and especially during an election year, willingly fall into arbitrary tribes. "I am a Republican," or "I am a Democrat," can become slogans that possess more than just a tinge of fanaticism. Can you be a Republican and still listen to NPR regularly? Is it possible to be a Democrat and still care deeply about the deficit? Sure it is, but you often end up feeling like the odd man (or woman) out when the rest of your tribe looks at you funny for not following the party line. However, any group of people take risks when differing opinions are automatically repressed (the implosion of Martha Coakley's senate campaign in MA is an example).

Keeping that in mind, I go out of my way to access a wide variety of opinions and information sources. I do not want to be someone driven by ideology. If anything, godlessness should foster a sort of ruthless pragmatism by relying on data and testable conclusions from such data. In that spirit...

at times I listen to talk radio.

Didn't see that coming, eh?

It's true. When in the car I will hit scan and see what comes up. Last Saturday I wasn't disappointed. The host, a woman name Mel Robbins, was talking about the United States' favorite bigoted organization - the Boy Scouts. As many of you know the Boy Scouts were given a seal of approval from the Supreme Court in 2000 to legally discriminate against gays. No one who is gay is allowed to serve as a leadership role in the Scouts. I have written in the past about the Scouts discriminating against atheists, too. It seems that we are not moral enough for them.

Why were the Boy Scouts being discussed on the radio? It seems that Jon Langbert works the popcorn fundraiser for the gray-shirts for the pack his son belongs to in Texas. It sounds like a thankless job. At no point in any rational person's life do they say, "If I play my cards right, I'll be Lord of the Popcorn Fundraiser for Pack 70." This isn't just a one shot for Mr. Langbert either. He has been doing this volunteer position for the last two years. The man should be given a medal, but remember no good deed goes unpunished.

Someone complained that Mr. Langbert is gay and that he wears a Scout leadership shirt when engaging in the popcorn fundraiser. Being an enlightened organization the Scouts are allowing him to continue to head the fundraiser. However, he will not be able to wear the leadership shirt. Here is a statement from the organization that oversees Pack 70.

"Our policy is not meant to serve as social commentary outside the Scout program," said Pat Currie of the Circle 10 Council, the umbrella organization that oversees Pack 70. "We respect people who have a different opinion from us. We just hope those same people will respect our right to have a different opinion."
Wow, a social commentary? Was being against Jim Crow a social commentary too? How about Apartheid? Maybe I'm just missing something. I have to tell you I don't respect anyone's superstitious belief system. Do you have a right to be a jerk? Sure you do, but you are not in some privileged group where your actions can't be criticized and protested.

Some may say that the Boy Scouts are a private organization and they can do what they want. OK, have them give back all the federal money they have gotten over the years. Here is just one of the subsidies the Scouts get from the government.

In early 2005, Congress passed a resolution expressing a sense of the Congress that the Department of Defense should support BSA activities through the use of military personnel, federal land use, and other assistance for their massive Jamborees. The 2005 Jamboree cost taxpayers approximately $8 million.
Wait! Here is another.

In 2008, Congress voted to pass the "Boy Scouts of America Centennial Commemorative Coin Act" (H.R. 5872). The bill mandated that the U.S. Mint create and sell as many as 350,000 one dollar coins commemorating the Scouts' centennial in the year 2010. A ten dollar surcharge on each coin goes directly to the Boy Scouts of America, who will net as much as $3.5 million in the deal.
My tax dollars and yours are subsidizing the Scouts. This is clearly against the Establishment Clause and anti-Constitutional. People can't hide behind the Supreme Court decision either. The court has been wrong many times in the past (Dred Scott case anybody? How about the government's expanded ability to seize your property?).

Are you surprised? Probably not. Many of these Sky Fairy organizations want it both ways. We'll take federal money, but just don't make us behave like we live in a fair and open society. Don't forget that we can't be criticized because we're such dandy do-gooders.

Though Mr Langbert is still going to sell popcorn for Pack 70 it seems that he is not going to let this issue go away either. Oh, the radio host was arguing against the Boy Scouts and doing a good job countering the homophobic callers. I did call in and was placed on hold. Unfortunately, time ran out and I didn't get to speak. What would I have said?

I'm an American. I believe in liberty. I wish Jon Langbert the best.


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