Briefly, On The Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church, and Algebra

It's The Boy Scouts!

Texas’s Rick Perry is predictably aghast that his beloved Boy Scouts of America (BSA) would even consider even the possibility of admitting gays into the organization. While addressing the Texas Scouts 64th Annual Report To The State, Perry said the following:

“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization.”

Rick Perry wrote On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, a book the New York Times described as:

It detailed his deep love for the organization and explained why it should continue to embrace traditional conservative values — including excluding openly gay members and leaders.

And speaking of those “traditional conservative values,” I think it’s only fair that we mention the following: The Boy Scouts were ordered last week to release more of the organization’s “perversion files.” In case there’s any question about what something called perversion files actually are, let’s let a journalist and a lawyer explain them:

…these files are from internal Boy Scouts of America records on adult volunteers suspected of molestation that are widely known as the “perversion files,” but they cover a later period than records made public last October by court order in Oregon, which covered from 1965 to 1985. He called the order a triumph over institutional secrecy.

Ah yes. Above, when I wrote about the release, I tried to specify that the Boy Scouts were ordered to turn over more of the them. That’s because this was a process that had already been begun last summer, when thousands of the files were ordered released by a judge presiding over a former Scout’s claim that he’d been assaulted by a Scout leader long known as a pedophile by organizational leadership. The files revealed that the Boy Scouts of America had made it company policy to coverup abusive behavior rather than face any potential consequences for such activity.

If that strategy sounds familiar, that’s because it is familiar. It is precisely the same approach championed by the Catholic Church both here and abroad and abroad and abroad and…well, suffice it to say, I could keep going. For brevity’s sake, I won’t. Well, except for these countries and also this country and then here are a whole boatload of countries but then also these countries too. But that’s it.

Which brings us back to Rick Perry. His insistence that organizations like the Boy Scouts represent traditional, conservative values is, he’d better hope, at odds with the news in the papers. The most charitable reading of that claim is that he means the BSA’s encouragement of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance but not all of the rapes*. The Catholic Church and its defenders have been playing the same game since evidence of its widespread abuse scandal came to light. In both cases though, it seems reasonable to start to wonder how exactly we’re supposed to separate an entity’s claimed moral high-ground (“Listen to what we’re teaching!”) with that entity’s same bottom-feeding behavior (“But please ignore what we’ve been doing!”).

With every admission that the BSA valued its organization more than its most vulnerable participants, it gets that much harder to believe that the BSA gives a damn about things like Youth Protection, no matter what it’s now putting on its websites. It’s unfortunate then that there’s no clearly defined point at which this hypocrisy becomes overwhelmingly clear at the societal level.

And that lack of a clearly defined point? It biases the conversation hugely in the favor of those established entities. As it is currently defined, the point at which we ought to start seriously questioning an organization’s moral authority is n+1, with n equaling the total number of cases that we currently know about. The cultural warriors defending groups like the BSA and the Catholic Church want the number defined that way. They’re not dummies. They know that as long as n+1 continues, it simply won’t matter how many children are assaulted, because we’ll forever be almost, but not quite, there.

There is the point at which these organizations are no longer venerated, protected, or even taken seriously. There is also the point at which these organizations are forced to acknowledge that a means of doing business that once worked is perhaps no longer acceptable in a more modern, more tolerant, and dare I say it, more reasonable world.

The Boy Scouts vote Tuesday on rescinding its ban on gay participants.

(*it should go without saying that the least charitable reading of Rick Perry’s words is that rape is a traditional, conservative value, and I’ll simply leave it at that.)

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335 thoughts on “Briefly, On The Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church, and Algebra

  1. A psychologist can make a really fascinating career studying why people believe in conspiracies like the truther movement or that bike paths are a secret UN plot to take over America but not in real cover-ups like the BSA, Catholic Church, Tobacco, probably Football and head injuries, etc.

    I’m not fond of the BSA in particular including this and their semi-Imperialist founding. Yet I am told the proper thing to believe is to fully support the inclusion of gays and then the organization can be wholesome for all.

    My ideal would be the death of the BSA and the creation of a co-ed and non-discriminatory camping/scouting organization without any ancient and Imperialist baggage.

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    • I have no loyalty to the BSA. I was a cub scout for one year and reached the, if i remember correctly, the level of Naked Mole Rat. Of course i did learn that only penis/vagina sex was appropriate and moral which is what 8 year olds are looking for in a club. However the advantage of trying to make an org like the BSA better is that the traditions already have value to people and the organization and effort it takes to have a thing like the BSA is a big deal. Its easy to say have a new better org without all that other crud but it is really difficult especially when there already is a BSA.

      Sort of like AA. It is a great org but far from perfect especially disliked by many is the focus on religion. There are other non-religious groups out there now doing AA type things. But AA is already there and does many things well so its harder for a new groups to build up.

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    • New Dealer, if you think that the Gypsies are poisoning the wells, you can have a pogrom, which is fun and the authorities won’t mnd.

      If you think that the authorities are poisoning the wells, best keep your mouth shut, and blame the gypsies anyway.

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  2. There’s kind of a weird phenomenon that comes from the Left side of the country that I’ve never understood. It’s the desire to take organizations that have done far more net good than bad, scrutinize and demean everything they stand for, pronounce them ‘beyond hope of redemption’ and then wage a PR war until the general public joins them in general condemnation.

    I was in the Boy Scouts for a long time and came from a Scouting family. It was probably THE defining experience of my childhood. My troop was multi-denominational and several kids didn’t go to church at all. Sexuality was never discussed once. Pretty much all of my leaders were just dads of kids in the troop. Many of the kids I was in Scouts with went on to be very good people as adults. Now i’m not saying that the organization is perfect and personally I hope the vote this week is for tolerance, however, the organization as a whole is a overwhelming success story. I hope that isn’t lost in the debate.

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    • I’m not so sure that phenomena is limited to the left. But be that as it may…

      I suspect the BSA would have largely avoided the scrutiny it still gets if it had not insisted and fought in courts to be allowed to recruit in public schools. Young Life strikes me as a far more invasive and less tolerant organization than BSA, but I think since they recruit through churches the left tends not to care so much.

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      • Actually the fact that in a lot of communities the United Way funds part of the boy scouts would have ensured the controversy would arise, but it may not have been as big. Also in some areas the government provided facilities for boy scout use.

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        • Yes, liberals sometime do a good job at making organizations shameful, something one has to apologize for being a part of. I can imagine this is infuriating to conservatives because it’s something that happens largely informally, through the culture, and it’s like suddenly one day all the cool kids have decided that xxxxxx is just not something people should be involved with.

          And yeah, there’s often a knee jerk anti-institutional or even anti-american element to that which is often willing to trash a valuable institution because it doesn’t meet this week’s standards of political correctness. I can even believe that the BSA does more good than harm even with its discriminatory policies in place.

          However, the right wing tends to be far more brutal when it attacks institutions and organizations it’s got a problem with. Which organization has been treated worse, the BSA or the IWW?

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          • Why do you think there is a knee jerk anti-American and anti-Institutional element to liberals going against the Boy Scouts and/or the United Way?

            The United Way is a homophobic institution and there plenty of charities that do what the United Way does without that baggage. Same with the Boy Scouts. It seems to me that liberals are merely choosing to support charities that do not promote bigotry. You can support the neediest without giving to the Salvation Army and their right-wing pet causes. There is nothing anti-American about this. Anti-American would be giving money to Iran and North Korea instead of at home.

            Though I find it interesting that you refer to liberals as being the “cool kids” I don’t know your politics but I think many on the right-wing (and I am not saying this is you) do think of liberals as being the cool kids. This has been a defining part of the populist right-wing for a long time. Nixon felt like that, Sarah Palin did as well. This resentment does not help the conservative movement at all.

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            • I don’t think there’s necessarily anything anti-American about attacking the BSA for being homophobic (there could be, there probably is in some quarters, I just don’t know ‘cuz I’m not close enough to it).

              I do think there tends to be a knee-jerk anti-Americanism in some quarters of the left. Trust me on this — I was raised in arguably the most liberal college town in California, I still own an Earth First! t-shirt, and my mom once made the CBS evening news during a story about our town’s opposition to Desert Storm* — and in those circles a sort of default prejudice, one many conservatives would call anti-American, is a de rigueur cultural touchstone.

              And I will maintain that this can lead to dismissing or undervaluing the positive impacts that mainstream American institutions have simply because they aren’t inclusive enough or they accept funding from xxxxxx or they’re somehow tied to some of the truly bad stuff American government/business/society has done.

              A personal example would be how my mom objected to me being in the Boy Scouts because of their pseudo-paramilitary legacy (luckily, when I laughed at her she got the point, because the last thing I needed at that point was more weekends spent with my hoodlum friends.)

              That doesn’t mean that all or even most of “the left” (as if there is such a thing as “the” left) shares those views. But I’m reasonably well traveled and I know that those attitudes are shared by many people in many places.

              As for the cool kids…it was half flippant… but it does seem those on the fulcrum of America’s culture, whether that means Hollywood, or academia, or $CULTURAL BOOGIEMAN DEJOUR… are largely liberal and that leads to some profound disconnects between parts of our society. That’s not exactly the same thing as what lead Nixon to his self-destructive obsessions about the upper class, but it’s definitely related.

              *let me just say it’s a special feeling for a 13-year-old to see his mother used by the national news for the “angry hippie protester” soundbite. If I someday become a total right-winger, I’ll have all sorts of well considered reasons, but deep down somewhere I’m sure it’ll be that memory that actually causes it :)

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          • See, this is what I don’t get. As a Liberal who started out in life as a deeply conservative Republican, I thought being a Republican was such a great thing. After all, they took principled stands on issues, as they’d done for many years. The Democrats, by contrast, were whiny pissybabies and the bigoted Dixiecrats were just dumb, awful people. A Republican wouldn’t be a bigot, he would be too high-minded.

            The Democrats had a few good points, they’d done a lot to dig the country out of the Depression, but they’d done it with a lot of help from the Republicans and the industrialists and it was the Republicans who’d kept the train on the tracks and kept us from falling into the trap of fascism or communism, the fate of several other countries we’d had to fight. FDR was pushing hard to fix things and the GOP had pushed back and hey, we’d won WW2 on the basis of a war for democracy. All together now…

            And Ike had been a good president, all thing considered. No zealot he, Ike was real hero and he could have run on any party line and won. But he was a Republican. Ike was friendly with the trade unions. He continued some of the New Deal programs but hey, he was on top of that stuff and didn’t let it get out of hand. He called himself a Progressive Republican. Sure wish we had another Ike running for office in our times.

            It wasn’t all that cool to be a Republican back then. It was more like we had history on our side. Long tradition of good thinkers, heroes too.

            If the modern Liberal turns up his nose at bigotry, so did the Republicans, back in the day. But things changed: the Democrats started exhibiting a conscience under LBJ and did something about racism and it cost them the Dixiecrats, who moved en masse to the Republican Party. The GOP should have told them to go away but they didn’t. Nixon would use them to win the presidency. And that’s where GOP conservatism stopped being cool. Ever since then, when I see these angry Republicans blathering about Liberals rejecting bigotry, I remember when it was the Conservative Republicans who were saying the same thing. Not much of that these days.

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    • There’s kind of a weird phenomenon that comes from the Left side of the country that I’ve never understood.

      Yup. So let’s talk about the right’s take on, oh, say the teacher’s unions. Or maybe the ACLU. Or the EPA. Or any government agency except the US military.

      Honestly, I cannot believe you said that, Mike, without at least pawing through the right’s dog-whistle drawer.

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      • If Mike had substituted “Right” for “Left”, he could have left the rest of the paragraph unchanged. I’m getting so tired of the Left = Everything Bad in America line on this site – it’s tedious, repetitive and contributes nothing to a dialogue.

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        • You mean there is actually such a line???? Seriously, more than half the guys here are left of center. You must have some strange selective reading to think that everything bad is due to the left is a common line around here.

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          • Did I say it was a “common” line? I said it was a line. Which means a number of commentators use it as some kind of short-form argument that is self-evidently true and which does not advance any kind of dialogue at all.

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            • Except unless my understanding of english is seriously skewed, saying that you are tired of the X line on this site implies that X is a common line. Suppose someone went into a libertarian site, looked at one or two of the socialist commenters and said: “I’m sick of this socialist line on this site. They completely lack both nuance and economic literacy” That socialist line right or wrong would not be “a line on that site” simply because it is just one or two commenters. That’s it. It does not have the League’s Stamp of Official Ideological Correctness on it.

              Because seriously, in a site with a variety of views in it, it would be completely surprising that some people would express views that you find offensive. Crazy right?

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        • DRS – Not that it will change your complaint, but allow me to elaborate: In this case what I mean is targeting certain organizations like the Catholic church or the Boy Scouts, which are extremely de-centralized, and attempting to paint the whole organization with a broad brush. The fact that both are fairly conservative in nature is not lost on me. At the very least it represents an intentional misrepresentation of how these organizations work and at the worst it tarnishes the many, many good works they have done. You don’t like generalizations about the Left but something tells me you would be more than happy to make equivelant generalizations about the Boy Scouts. Am I correct?

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          • Mike,

            What does “extremely de-centralized” mean in this case? Are you actually alleging that both of these de-centralized organizations just happened to repeatedly use the exact same tactic in the exact same scenario? That each of them just happened to decide that the best course of action was protecting pedophiles while encouraging the abuse of children?

            Surely you don’t mean that the way you wrote it.

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            • Sam,

              Were you in Scouts or are you familiar with the way the organization works? Scout troops operate with a great deal of autonomy. There aren’t memos coming down from the national organization on a regular basis. Each troop is generally pretty unique in the way it is run. In much the same way, Catholic parishes can differ greatly from one to another.

              I suspect there were cover-ups in ancient Egypt. Look at Penn State. It mirrors the Catholic church scandal in many ways. Look at Enron. Look at Watergate. These aren’t people using the same evil playbook. This is human nature.

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              • Mike,

                Do you really see incredible coincidence when you look at the organization response to substantiated claims of sexual abuse? What these groups did – groups that claim the moral high ground at every opportunity – was systemically decide that protecting child molesters was more important than protecting children. In my mind, that entirely undermines whatever moral high ground they once thought theirs.

                As for the idea that these are autonomous organizations: we fundamentally disagree. I’m not sure how much sense it makes to battle it out given how great the cleavage between us.

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                • Sam – if you honestly think every Scout troop is operating on orders from the national headquarters then you are simply uninformed. Look at the comment left by LWA. He and I are far apart politically, live on opposite sides of the country and yet what he wrote mirrors my own experience almost exactly.

                  And if the two groups were using the same playboook, are you claiming some kind of coordinated effort?

                  And sure, you can point to mistakes made in organizations at a high level and say, “That is morally wrong,” but when you say that negates everything good they have done…well that is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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                  • Do you believe the Catholic Church was operating with a “coordinated effort” or did they just happen to move abusive priests from parish to parish throughout the United States, Europe, and beyond?

                    And if the molestation of children isn’t enough to at least make you reconsider the group’s good works, what would it take? That’s another part of this for me. Dan Savage put it better than I did once, saying that if as many children got raped at Denny’s as get raped in churches, we’d shut Denny’s down. So what’s it gonna take for at least a serious reconsideration of behavior manifested by both the BSA and the Catholic Church?

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                    • I think that in both cases there were a limited number of people making mistakes compared to the size of the entire organization. I’m much more interested in proescuting individuals instead of entire organizations. If we use your logic, America is a failed experiment because some people in the government have done terrible things. I know that Scouting was a very positive part of my upbringing and there are millions of men who had the same experience. You trying to tarnish that is frankly offensive.

                      Also, while Dan Savage is witty, he’s simply wrong about the statistical impact. The abuse in the church was not anymore frequent than society at large.

                      http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/04/07/mean-men.html

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                    • If the church can manage no better a percentage than society at large, I want the church dropping all of its claims to moral superiority.

                      And I’m sorry that pointing out a plain truth about the BSA in some way tarnishes your own personal experiences; it’s the organization though that failed to uphold its own professed standards of acceptable behavior, not me.

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                    • I think the Catholic Church/ BSA linkage is a bit flawed here. There are significant differences in how they operate.

                      On the larger point- the behavior by both organizations is pretty typical; not excusable by any shot, but circling the wagons and defending the organization is the norm for any organization, from the Pentagon to corporations to institutions.

                      Good organizations find ways to fight that and allow outside influence; poor organizations don’t.

                      As to Dan Savage’s quip- no, we wouldn’t “shut Denny’s down”; we would arrest the managers responsible, impose punitive fines and sanctions on the organization, and they would clean house and rebuild. Pretty much what reasonable people are arguing should happen in this case.

                      Look, if you don’t like the institution for other reasons, fine- but just say so. I have a raft of things I don’t like about the Church myself, separate and apart from the pedophilia scandal.

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                    • If that was done at Denny’s, then it represent far more than was ever done to either the Catholic Church or the BSA.

                      Meanwhile, this isn’t about “hating” either organization. It’s about hoping for a scenario in which criminal activity is treated as such, not in which its simply ignored, or worse, forgiven, because a group has become ensconced in the American psyche.

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                    • Sam,
                      ”Meanwhile, this isn’t about “hating” either organization. It’s about hoping for a scenario in which criminal activity is treated as such, not in which its simply ignored, or worse, forgiven, because a group has become ensconced in the American psyche.”

                      If you aren’t willing to forgive an organization with millions of alumni because a certain number of leaders did wrong, then you are moving from legitimate concern to holding a grudge. You’ve already stated that all of the good works by the BSA have been negated by this alleged crime. That sounds like someone who has an axe to grind. So I will ask again, did you have an experience with the BSA yourself? What was your attitude towards them at say, the age of 18, before you knew about any of this?

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                    • Look, Mike, it stands to reason there will be a certain percentage of child molesters in any given population. They’re in every religion, every place of work, every social situation. In a good organisation, when they’re detected, they’re dealt with appropriately.

                      In the case of BSA, a good many were detected. They went on the Perversion List. Why weren’t any of these molesters prosecuted? Because BSA wanted to preserve its own good name, that’s why, a good name earned through the efforts of many thousands of good Scoutmasters.

                      My old Scoutmaster, John Robb, was a wonderful man, a hero to me if you must know. I learned a lot about leadership from him and much of what I would later become in the military was guided by his example. Where other NCOs were as abusive as they’d been treated in their turn, John Robb taught me how to manage boys of many sorts, build unit cohesion through a kind word, to view a shortcoming as an opportunity to teach and not to berate, how to pair up teams, how to move silently — when I arrived in the US Army, for godsakes, I knew dismounted drill, fire making, orienteering, weapons safety, canoeing. My ashes are to be put in the headwaters of Pine Creek, where I did my first Fifty Miler. That’s how much I loved John Robb and Scouting.

                      My problem has nothing to do with the John Robbs or anyone like him. My problem is with BSA itself and its response to the paedophilia in its ranks. A Boy Scout is Trustworthy. First attribute of a Scout in the Oath itself. BSA itself could not be trusted to do the right thing, confronted with this issue, BSA was Not Trustworthy and all the John Robbs in the world will not change that fact.

                      To think, this far along in my life, that BSA was covering up molesters. It’s appalling.

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                    • Okay, Mike. Let’s break this shit down.
                      If it’s not okay to shut down the organization for systemic, unendorsed rape…

                      What is it okay to shut an organization down for?

                      Assassination do you? Targeted Assassination of people not in the faith? We’re talking paid assassins on the payroll here…

                      Is that not enough? What does it take before you’re willing to shut down an organization?

                      Systemic monitoring and brainwashing of participants? Spying on kids in the shower rooms?

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                    • Mike,

                      I continue to be baffled by the idea that “a certain number of leaders” did wrong. Are you alleging that there were leaders who didn’t know about the Perversion Files? That there were leaders who didn’t understand what those files represented? That there were leaders that this abusive behavior was hidden from?

                      As for your claim that I’ve stated that the entirety of the BSA’s good works have been “undone” – where have I made that claim? I’ve certainly argued that those good works should be reconsidered within the context of what was really happening, and that’s an argument I’ll continue to make in good faith.

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                  • And if the two groups were using the same playboook, are you claiming some kind of coordinated effort?

                    You don’t need a co-ordinated effort to see that some people, when confronted with extremely unpleasant information about an organization that is important to them, will cast around for something – anything – that might mitigate the situation or allow them to assume that the information is inaccurate or faulty in some way. When these same people are actually in charge of the organization, the result is obfuscation, resistance and outright denial. This is a common, almost kneejerk, reaction and it means that the cycle of accusation, denial, verification, more denial and finally confirmation takes place over years and eventually grinds down an organization’s good standing more effectively than an open, timely confrontation would ever have.

                    The answer, to me, should be that an organization is an impersonal entity that does neither good nor bad on its own: it is simply a vehicle for those people who do good and bad things on their own while involved with it.

                    Those who abused children in the BSA or Catholic Church or at Penn State would love to be able to hide behind the good work of those people who helped and benefited children at those same organizations. And I think that the first people who should be calling for the abusers to be investigated and punished are precisely the good people – not because of the organization they served but because of the organization’s mission which has been badly soiled and compromised.

                    I’m amused by the idea that the Catholic Church is de-centralized. I think the hierarchy would be deeply miffed to hear that.

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              • Mike,
                yeah, I’m looking at Penn State. But, unlike you, I’m also looking at half a dozen other organizations — some with conduct WORSE than Penn State, who haven’t been brought before the national audience and excoriated.

                Would you like me to write a piece on why conservative religions are more likely to lead to abuse?

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              • Further, while the scouts may be mostly decentralized, they are absolutely centralized in respect to the policies that they’re drawing the most criticism for: excluding atheists and gays. In fact, the vote to “rescind the ban on gays” referenced above, and hailed by liberals as an important step in the right direction, is actually simply an effort to decentralize the policy and allow individual troops to make the decision on their own.

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          • You don’t like generalizations about the Left but something tells me you would be more than happy to make equivelant generalizations about the Boy Scouts. Am I correct?

            No, you’re not correct, Mike. I’m a conservative – not a right-winger, true, but a conservative. But I do not like the kind of substitute-for-actual-argument that consists of “anti-Left” whinging. It insults my intelligence and frankly it insults yours too. I do not come to this site for generalizations. I thought that was the whole point of LoOG: that it promotes articulate discussion and debate.

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      • Teachers’ unions aren’t organizations that have done far more good than bad. Unless you cheat and count teaching as the good that they do, which you can’t because we’d still have teachers if the unions disbanded. The unions themselves are just cartels.

        By the way, “dog whistle” is itself a dog whistle. When someone says it, I hear “I want to make an accusation for which I have no evidence whatsoever.”

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    • I think it is in the eye of the beholder whether an organization does more bad than good. I still think that religion overall is decent or neutral in the world despite what the Dawkinite’s say. However, I grew up in very liberal reform Judaism and in a congregation.

      Some of my friends grew up in circumstances that resemble the documentary Jesus Freak. I can only imagine what it would do to a kid to hear about eternal hellfire and how most people are going to burn in hell for things that are not bad, not sinful. This goes especially so if the kid is bisexual, homosexual, or otherwise an outsider.

      Most or many troops are probably just like you describe. Just like most or many Catholic churches in the states might be good and decent as well. However, a cover-up by a paternal group on this magnitude is damning and unfortunately (but naturally) brings up the problem of taint. Plus things are more common than reported. So you can probably multiply the number of instances of sexual abuse in the files that Sam talks about.

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    • What’s the conversion rate that establishes “net good.” Is it one molested kid for every ten kids who had a good experience? For every thousand? The Catholic Church uses the same argument, incidentally, without ever explaining the way in which its net good can be calculated against the pain it has caused.

      Or, to make that point more clearly: given the number of “perversion files” that seem to exist, and given that the Boy Scouts have maintained these from a very early point in their organization’s existence, I’ll take immediate issue with the idea that they’ve done net good.

      The fact that the pain caused by the BSA has largely been hidden from view hardly means that the pain itself doesn’t exist.

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      • This whole “net good” argument is based on a specious premise. Individuals can do good in the name of an organisation, sure. But an organisation can, as you say, cover up evils done under its auspices. Sure, within every organisation there will be a certain fraction of evildoers. The question is: how does the organisation respond?

        When appearances take precedence over fundamentals, the organisation is rotten. All the good deeds in the world won’t change that fact.

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      • Sam,

        A simple reading of statistical data would show that gay scouts and scoutmasters would represent a very small % of the total number of people involved with Scouts. Assuming every one of those who were unfairly treated had a negative experience and that every person who wasn’t gay had a good experience = net good.

        And let’s be honest here: Any gay scouts who were in the organization prior to the last 10 years or so would have had a tough time regardless of the national organization’s policies. Maybe things were different where you grew up but when I was growing up in the 1980s anyone who seemed remotely gay was generally shunned. Sad, but a fact.

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        • This has nothing to do with all the good scoutmasters. How many items have to be in BSA’s Perversion Files before we take the organization to task? A Boy Scout is trustworthy. Why has it taken multiple court orders to get BSA to turn loose of these records.

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        • Teaching people to distrust, fear and disapprove of gay people is bad.

          Both of the organizations did that. Please remember to include the suffering of all the people affected by this trained homophobia when calculating your netgood.

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        • I’m sure that shunning has absolutely nothing to do with discriminatory policies like those of the Boy Scouts. I’m also sure that the discriminatory policies of the organization have absolutely no negative effect on kids that do not participate in scouts.

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    • My experiences in Scouts were similar to Mike’s.
      I was never in the Scouts as a youth, but joined with my son when he was 6 and stayed on until he reached Eagle at 18. I was a Cubmaster and Scoutmaster for nearly all this time.

      I was also at the time, a Catholic, and can testify to the similarities differences in the organizations.

      Both organizations are similar in that they are very localized- your particular unit/ diocese is a very self-contained world, and what happens in other groups across the country or world is pretty much irrelevant to your experience.

      In the Southern California BSA organization that I personally interacted with, Youth Protection was observed rigorously, and everyone from the Council to the very last adult volunteer was instructed to take it seriously, and we did. It was openly acknowledged that youth organizations were magnets for pedophiles, ad we were warned to be alert.

      During my term as Scoutmaster I actually had occasion to invoke the Youth Protection system. We had an adult who was verging on abuse of the boys- not sexual abuse, but verbal- engaging in personal feuds with some of the boys, berating them, and physically intimidating them.
      I called the parents council, and the local Council head, and got carte blanche permission to drum him out effective immediately. No foot dragging, no coverup, just swift discipline and excommunication.

      We also (my Troop) were pretty gay-friendly, and we embraced warmly our lesbian parents who joined. No one made a deal about it.

      The Church was a bit different. There were always rumors, wisps of rumors, sly allegations, and the constant Soviet style secrecy and impenetrable decisionmaking.

      Like Mike, I am not willing to use the organization’s hypocrisy as a blanket damnation of everything they do, or their mission in general.

      Sex scandals are the tooth decay of any organization- they exist always and everywhere because sex is the common denominator of all people.

      Its just that organizations that try to pretend that they have somehow outwitted and defeated sex scandals, that are the ones most unable to deal with them.
      The BSA (in my experience) has learned from its past mistakes and is capable now of dealing honestly with any present or future pedophiles.
      The Church, not so much. They still seem unwilling to confront and acknowledge what has happened, and to punish those responsible.

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      • I haven’t used the organization’s hypocrisy as a “blanket condemnation” but I have asked why we’re simply meant to ignore these crimes as if they’re a piffle when compared to all of the allegedly great things that the BSA has achieved. How many kids would have had to have been hurt within the BSA for it start to matter?

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        • No disagreement from me.

          I think we can and should understand that organizations are often useful and accomplish a great mission, even while being correctly condemned for their sins.

          I personally knew at least a couple of the figures in the Church scandals. One of them I had the deepest admiration and respect for, and when I learned of the crimes, I was heartbroken, but was able to acknowledge both his successes and failures as being a part of the same person.

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          • there’s got to be some sexual component (plenty of people on powertrips who don’t sexually abuse children). But the abuse part? That’s a whole different ballgame from “I’m going to fantasize about this”

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          • I’d adjust that to “the sexual abuse of children is not about either homosexuality or heterosexuality.”

            There clearly is a sexual component to sexual abuse of children, since it provides sexual gratification, but it is not correlated or related to homosexuality or heterosexuality. Pedophiles are attracted to pre-pubescence rather than to gender per se.

            To say a male adult sexually abusing a male child is a homosexual act is to misunderstand the motivating factors.

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            • Let’s be honest here. Pedophilic homosexual males molest boys. Ephebophilic homosexual males molest teenage boys. That’s not to say that all of either group are molesters, and it’s not to say that no other group molests. But if you’re running an organization of males, you’ve got to be very careful about homosexuality if you want to keep the sexuality to a minimum.

              I’m a straight male. There’s no way I’d sign up to take a group of teenage girls into the woods for a week. Not that I’d be worried about me losing control, or that I’d even be into females of that age group, but it’d be weird. I wouldn’t expect parents to be okay with a middle-aged male stranger volunteering to take their daughter for an unsupervised camping trip. We violate our inborn gut-level sense of weirdness at our peril.

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              • Wrong, Pinky. The mere fact that the adult and the male are of the same sex does not make mean that homosexuality is what’s at play. Some child molesters are attracted to the same sex, some to the opposite sex, and some to both sexes. Many males who molest boys are heterosexual in their adult sexual attractions. The key characteristic is the attraction to the age group, not to the gender.

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                • It depends if you’re talking about preference or opportunity offenders. Preference offenders have a specific type. Opportunity offenders will molest or rape without regard to type. My bet, the kind of molester who insinuates himself into a Boy Scout troup has a specific type.

                  As for the age group being more important than the gender, that’s more often the case with the youngest victims. By the time a child is pre-adolescent, the molester is more likely to make a distinction.

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              • “you’ve got to be very careful about homosexuality”
                … actually, you have to be careful about sexuality in GENERAL.
                Taking the girlies away mean that some hetero guys will turn to other guys.
                Happens a lot in prisons, ya know?

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  3. Dunno if any of you were in Scouts or not. I was for a couple of years.

    The Scouts have bigger problems than letting gays into their ranks. “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”.

    This has been a problem for Scouting for far longer than this little kerfuffle over letting gay boys into their ranks. They’ve never let atheists in.

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      • Really, you never once had an issue with saying “reverent” in the Scout Law, or “my duty to God” in the Scout Oath. Granted, Scouting was never all that overtly religious but if you were an Eagle Scout, you had to have a religious reference letter. I never made it to Eagle Scout but my brother did and that letter was a requirement then and I believe it’s still a requirement now.

        There’s something very odd about all this story.

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        • Blaise – I can’t speak for everyone but in my troop ‘God’ was referenced as a very generic higher power and there was no theology. We closed all of our troop meetings the same way (which I still love to this day) by saying “May the Great Scoutmaster of All Scouts Be With You Until We Meet Again”. That was about as religious as we got.

          Oh – and sometimes at district-wide camporees they offered Catholic Mass and non-denominational services for kids that wanted to go, attendance being 100% optional.

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          • Eagle Scout requirements are somewhat different. This, from the Eagle Rank requirements page:

            Demonstrate that you live by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life. List the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf, including parents/guardians, religious, educational, and employer references.

            The religious requirement is still there and it’s been a serious obstacle for the atheist to overcome.

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              • You’ve said you’re an Eagle Scout. That rank is granted, not by a council, but by BSA itself, as was your Boy Scout ID card, which came from National. The council only convenes the board of review. Here’s the application.

                Now just how did you manage to get a signature from a religious leader on your application? It’s an absolute necessity for Eagle Scout, and they check.

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                • Beats me. Sorry to say, but I don’t remember the details of all of the paperwork that I filled out when I was 17. My guess would be that the name of a minister from the Methodist church that I attended on Christmas and Easter was on the form. Either nobody checked up on the name, or the guy said something other than “I see this kid twice a year.” Either way, my lack of religious commitment wasn’t an issue. It also wasn’t an issue for my brother, who made eagle, or my friend, who was asked at his board of review whether he favored allowing gays to join the BSA and answered honestly.

                  Again, the BSA is in practice highly decentralized, to the extent that the troglodytic views of the national organization have a pretty limited effect upon the way most actual people interact with the BSA.

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                  • You’ve gone from saying there was no such requirement (there always was, right from the founding of Scouting itself ) to now saying you attended Methodist services — and somehow, all through your long path through Scouting, just shined on every reference to God.

                    Some atheist. Saying something doesn’t make it so, and you might not have truly believed the Scout Oath. That’s okay. Lots of people mouthe pious platitudes about God, believing none of them. But this isn’t funny, Zeko, you say you were secretly an atheist, in which case you’re off the hook. Scouting has taken this issue to court many times: if you had told anyone you were an atheist, you would never have been allowed into Boy Scouts at all.

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                    • I suppose I should be happy that you’ve gotten around to calling me a liar to my face. And if you think that occasionally attending religious services is atypical for a teenaged non-believer, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. The fact is that the Boy Scouts are, nominally, an organization that forbids atheists from joining, but the emphasis there should be on “nominally.” Nobody asked, or even demonstrated that they cared in a significant way. And insofar as I was a “closeted” atheist at the time, that “closeting” simply consisted of not volunteering my beliefs in a public way and going along with the assorted rote, meaningless religious rituals that pervade public and private life.

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                    • I’m not calling you a liar. The fact is, you must have repeated the Scout Oath a thousand times on your way to Eagle Scout. You would have been required to say grace at meals to become a Scout First Class. Your memory is somewhat foggy and you’ve contradicted yourself on the subject of what Scouting requires. I’ve furnished links, saying Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.

                      Now I was a Scout and my brother was a Scout and my son was a Scout and my brother’s son was a Scout and we’ve maintained friends from Scouting all our lives. My old Scout troop from Houghton NY is to put my ashes in Pine Creek. My brother went farther along in Scouting than I did: we moved often enough to where I took up other interests. He almost died at Philmont.

                      Your story, however true, is curious enough to give me pause. I am not calling you a liar. Yet your story is practically unique: BSA expelled two Eagle Scouts for their atheism, as I have shown by citing Randall v. Orange County. You might cut me some slack here: if your troop and council had known you were an atheist, you would have been expelled, as were Michael and William Randall.

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                    • And insofar as I was a “closeted” atheist at the time, that “closeting” simply consisted of not volunteering my beliefs in a public way and going along with the assorted rote, meaningless religious rituals that pervade public and private life.

                      Nobody ever asked about your religious beliefs and you just went along for the ride, closeted within your own private belief structures. That’s okay, Zeko. Let’s not put too fine a point on it, many if not most religious people are doing the same, just going through the motions.

                      I once had a Hindu friend who said “You Christians are very odd about what you believe, all this theology. For us, it’s much simpler, it’s just a matter of doing this stuff.” So you just went through the motions. That really is okay.

                      You would have gone through Boy Scouts hiding your atheism. That’s all good, too. I have a special place in my heart for atheists: they’re the canary in the coal mine of a secular, civil society. As it goes with the Atheist today, so shall it go with the Heretic tomorrow.

                      But you were asked. I know you were. You were asked to say the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which if you remember, concludes with the word Reverent. You were asked to say grace, you had to have been asked, it’s a big deal making Scout First Class. I remember. And you were asked for a religious reference on your Eagle Scout application and you would have had to ask someone to sign it.

                      I can believe your Scoutmaster would have shined on your atheism with a wink and a nod, he was probably a great guy, as was John Robb. But he would have had to cover for you. As for that Great Scoutmaster in the Sky prayer he prayed, I don’t think he changed the Scout Oath. That’s swearing duty to God.

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                    • Did you make Eagle, Chris? When my brother made Order of the Arrow, then Eagle Scout, I was incredibly proud of him. When we left Houghton, he transferred to an absolutely horrible troop in Carmel, NY which is when I decided Scouting wasn’t for me. I went down the route to art and music and bookishness, he continued on his Wild Man trek through life, always an outdoorsman.

                      But Scouting served me well enough in life. Trouble is, life in the Army beat three things out of me I once loved: camping, running and hunting. My idea of a trip to the great outdoors now features a bed and breakfast.

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                    • Blaise, I did, and OA. Oddly, the Eagle part I wasn’t proud of, myself. I saw it as a formality, more for college applications than for a sense of personal achievement. For me, scouts wasn’t about merit badges and ranks, but the camping and the camaraderie, and the lesssons that came with both, as well as the leadership experience. I felt very weird at my Eagle ceremony. Plus, by that time, I too considered myself an agnostic approaching atheism.

                      I don’t get to camp much anymore, unfortunately. When my son was younger, I tried to get him out into the woods, if not camping then at least for a hike to a fishing hole, as much as I could, but now he’s not that interested in anything but the fishing part (which he loves). But when I was an undergrad, between scouts and grad school, I went camping about every other weekend. I miss that.

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                    • Blaise, from what I understand, Don Zeko’s story makes more sense since he mentioned he was scouting in 2004, which is a very different time than when I was growing up and hearing friends talk about applying to be Eagle Scout.

                      Given the demographic rise in atheists and the general acceptability, on the micro level, current scoutmasters probably are more willing to bend rules in some regions from articles I’ve read, as well as gay scouts who have talked to newspapers about how their local troop was much more supportive. This seems to be a regional thing however.
                      The change is slow, but if they’re willing to let local chapters allow gays, some more ground level pressure might force them to change more for the atheists as well.

                      Don Zeko, I find it morally objectionable for an organization that teaches morals to tell their scouts to lie about their atheism if they want to be Eagle scouts. I know you don’t find it high on the scale like I do, but I find that it teaches the wrong lessons about honor and what should be a crowning achievement in the life of a scout becomes stained with the lie.

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                    • Bob2:
                      I agree! It would have been nice if the BSA didn’t require at least nominal religious belief from its members. But considering that a) the policy is barely enforced at all and b)’passing’ in this manner is common for atheists and less psychologically harmful than it is for, say, gays, this particular injustice strikes me as pretty damn far down the metaphysical priorities list.

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            • I don’t consider homosexuality and atheism to be comparable. Excluding people based on their genetic disposition is shameful, but excluding people because of their freely chosen belief is what any organization does to define its boundaries.

              BSA holds that all religions are morally equal, but character is built on having reverence for something larger than the self; that something is sacred, apart from us.

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              • I get the feeling that if the Scouts explicitly banned Jews or Hindus while allowing any Christian to join, they wouldn’t have the kind of feel-good, wholesome Americana image that they do. Atheism is just as valid as any religion–to say “We’ll allow anyone to join, as long as they practice some sort of religion” is discriminatory and wrong.

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                  • Why should we take atheism less seriously than Hinduism or Judaism? Different people care more or less about their religious beliefs, but the type of those beliefs–Christian or Jewish or atheist–shouldn’t matter at all.

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                    • “Why should we take atheism less seriously than Hinduism or Judaism? ”

                      It depends on how one wants to define atheism. There are plenty who assert that atheism is simply the lack of faith in a deity, but not an absence of spiritual or transcendant thought.
                      For them, they could probably fit within the framework of Scouting with enough work.

                      But if one asserts that there is no higher transcendant ethos, nothing guiding human action beyond our choosing, that is near-impossible to fit within Scouting.

                      Scouting asserts a system of the sacred, things are are defined beyond our choosing. Family, nation, group- these things are sacred, and our bonds to them are obligatory.

                      I guess my question for atheists of that stripe, why would you want to be a part of an organization whose very DNA is contrary to your principles?

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                  • I would argue that discriminating against Jews or Hindus is much, much more harmful to the descriminated agaisnt parties than discriminating against atheists in this manner.

                    Say Huh?
                    Can you, perhaps, elaborate?
                    Do you also believe that the right to free speech doesn’t include the right to not speak when you so choose?
                    Do you also believe that the right of assembly doesn’t include the right to forego assembly?

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                    • In practice, most but not all atheists that I know come from families that are at least nominally religious. I certainly did. Most, but not all, atheist kids say the pledge of allegiance “under god” daily in school. Given this background, I would argue that asking non-believers to mouth a few platitudes from a faith tradition that they’ve been raised in is far less offensive than it would be to require, say, a Muslim to mouth some platitude that affirmed Jesus’s divinity.

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                    • Even though, and let me be extremely clear on this point, I agree that requiring non-believers to do so is wrong and that the BSA should let atheists be open members. I just don’t think that this ranks very high at all in the annals of religious discrimination.

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                    • Just because discrimination is common doesn’t make it less harmful or less egregious. After all, discrimination against Jews or other religious minorities was once widespread. There is no principled reason to value the beliefs of atheists less highly than those of anyone else.

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                    • That’s the wacky thing about privilege. It’s always something that consists of programming that will never allow its agent to understand how fundamentally wrong various trains of thought are.

                      It’s never something that provides perspective that those without just cannot comprehend.

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                    • It seems to me that requiring an atheist teen to go through the motions of a faith tradition they have been indoctrinated into and consciously rejected would be more painful than someone who had no prior experience with that faith tradition.

                      YMMV, of course, but I honestly can’t understand your antipathy to atheists who find that “going through the motions” is a form of dishonesty and that requiring them to be dishonest in that manner to keep social harmony or participate fully in the body politic is intolerable.

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                    • As you said, YMMV, but my gloss is this: if you’re a believer, then affirming the tenants of another religion is kind of a big deal. if you’re not, then they’re just words. And while lying is morally objectionable, nobody says that dishonesty is always and everywhere wrong. I don’t see huge difference between saying “amen” after your relatives say grace at Thanksgiving and telling your mother-in-law that you love that shirt she gave you for Christmas.

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                    • “I don’t see huge difference between saying “amen” after your relatives say grace at Thanksgiving and telling your mother-in-law that you love that shirt she gave you for Christmas.”

                      The difference is the lack of reciprocity. Atheists are expected to mouth the words; but religious folks never are (if the pledge of allegiance read, “one nation, under no god or gods, indivisible…”, I guarantee you it would be seen as offensive). My hypothetical mother-in-law, on the other hand, is also expected to like my crappy gifts.

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              • I think the issue with Scouting and atheists is more “So why are they getting to use public lands free? Recruit in schools?”

                Which led to a lawsuit wherein the Scouts, quite clearly and I think to their credit, said “We believe in discrimination more than we want free goodies”.

                That might upset people who liked the interwoven nature of the scouts and a number of public institutions, but that’s life. Private institutions get to discriminate to a large degree, public ones don’t. And when the two meet, the private have to give way to the public.

                If they don’t like it, they stay totally private. What’s the old saw? Government money, government strings.

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            • List the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf, including parents/guardians, religious, educational, and employer references.

              I’m not saying you’re wrong but that looks to me more like a list of types of reference that are accepted that a requirement for a reference from each category.

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          • That’s pretty much how my experience went. There was a lot in the way of token references to religiosity, but nobody was actually checking up on whether or not you went to church or actually believed in any of the stuff. And if there still is a god and country badge, it sure isn’t required to make Eagle.

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        • Religious reference letter? When I got my Eagle in 2004, they didn’t require anything of the sort. And I suppose other atheists’s mileage may vary, but if you can’t handle occasionally being a part of vaguely religious ceremonies, you’re making your life much harder than it needs to be.

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          • This sounds superficially reasonable, but isn’t. The point is that atheists should be treated equally–not forced into the closet, not forced to mumble some vague platitudes every week, but actual equality complete with the ability to be honest about their beliefs. Saying “You can be an atheist, just don’t be too outspoken about it, and fake like you’re not once a week” is similar to the gay rights situation in the ’80s and ’90s. If you can’t introduce your partner to your family; if you can’t get married; if you can’t participate in the normal activities of life without concealing who you are, even if only in a token fashion; then you’re not truly equal, even if you’re not getting fired or beaten. This kind of subtle social control is insidious. We wouldn’t accept it against any other group. Imagine if a Muslim traveler decided to pray towards Mecca in an airport terminal, and was questioned by the TSA. Your argument could say that this is partially his fault. After all, he could have skipped that session, or driven instead of flying. But we would all (I hope) recognize that this is racism. Our hypothetical Muslim shouldn’t have to lie about who he is to be treated decently by society. Atheists deserve the same consideration.

            tl;dr Having to lie about who you are is discriminatory and harmful, even if applied only through a loose sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” strategy

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            • In the legal sense, the BSA is allowed to do this, but the problem is they still want their hand in the government cookie jar and preferential treatment despite violating government policy regarding discrimination, and then have a good cry about all the good they’ve done for their tribe while denying others.

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            • I’m not saying that it’s a good thing that Atheists are nominally barred from membership. As with homosexuality, I think it would be better if the BSA didn’t restrict membership in this way. But unlike the situation that gay scouts find themselves in, I don’t see closeting as particularly harmful or difficult for an atheist in the BSA, so I don’t see this policy as a particularly big deal. And it’s certainly not a big deal when compared to, say, banning gay scouts from the organization, or compared to all of the benefit that boys and young men across the country get out of the BSA. I, for one, certainly preferred staying “closeted” and going on backpacking trips to coming out as an atheist in a dramatic enough way to get kicked out.

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              • I was in the Boy Scouts up until I was about 15 (never made it past first class, but the camping trips were fun), and my experience was roughly comparable to yours–there was little emphasis on the religious aspect. But I have to ask you, what makes you think it would be harder to be a closeted gay scout than a closeted atheist one? I suspect it would vary significantly depending on the troop and the local community, but I’d say that depending on the scout, either could be concealed with some effort.

                And to be clear, I think the Scouts have a legal right to ban atheists, barring complications about using government property etc. But that doesn’t make it acceptable, any more than a country club not allowing Jewish members. In our everyday lives, of course everyone compromises and makes decisions based on what they feel is best for them. But as a moral matter, what the scouts are doing is both wrong and a reasonably big deal.

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                • Sigh. If you’d read my posts, you’d see that I flipping agree that the BSA should admit atheist scouts. I just think that ‘passing’ for atheists is much less of a big deal than ‘passing’ is for gays, and is also much less of a big deal than it would be for, say, a Jew to pass as a Christian to maintain membership in an organization. I’d also submit that lots and lots of people who would identify as atheists or agnostics if you were to ask them are currently members of the BSA, and most, but not all of them, don’t suffer any consequences for it. And again, as Mike has said, I think it’s a mistake to think that the antics of the politicized, conservative central organization is an accurate reflection of how the BSA actually operates on a micro level.

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                • As a formerly closeted gay (well, homoflexible), atheist scout, my experience was that remaining closeted about both were equally damaging. YMMV, of course, and given the rest of your convictions, I suspect you found the part about being closeted as an atheist significantly less painful than I did. That does not simply mean that I was responsible or culpable for the pain: I can no more adopt your version of atheism than I can become a Catholic.

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                  • James: Insofar as I implied that such damage was your fault, that was not my intent and I apologize. Let me try to refine what I’m saying. In my experience, with my particular scout troop, fellow scouts, and family environment, the religiosity requirement was so vague and rote as to be meaningless. It was no more binding than the recognition of religiosity that I encountered in school when we would recite the Pledge.

                    So while I didn’t like that this was a part of scouting, and I certainly didn’t like the implicit notion that religiosity was a requirement to be a morally complete person, it didn’t strike me as very important. Certainly not as important as going on backpacking trips was to me at the time. Perhaps my experience is coloring my take on this issue, and the BSA’s stance is causing more emotional harm than I realize for other people in other situations. Maybe there are troops out there that place a much greater emphasis on the religion aspect than mine did, and insofar as there are, that’s a serious problem. But from what I experienced and what I saw of my friend’s and twin brothers experiences (who were also nonbelievers), Blaise’s initial characterization just didn’t make any sense.

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          • Participation in religious ceremonies is a statement of religious belief, or at least it is to some. Avowing religious belief when you do not believe it is dishonest. I appreciate your take on the matter, and it probably does make your life easier than mine is. But the “Dawkinsite” take on the matter, as you derisively put it earlier, is not an attempt at rabble rousing, rebellion for its own sake, or disagree ability. It’s a matter of not apologizing for your beliefs, and of living up to your ethical standards.

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  4. With regards to the accusations of cover ups I’d suggest a wait and see approach but of course releasing their files certainly is necessary.
    As to them admitting gays, that’d be nice. If they approach it by saying that individual troops are allowed to decide on their own I think that’d be ideal. That said, an enormous amount of their funding and support comes from Mormons and other conservative organizations so I would be quite surprised if the Scouts went for it.

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    • We’ve waited rather long enough. BSA have compiled their Perversion Files for a century and it’s taken separate court orders from Oregon, Texas and Minnesota to get even a fraction of them out in the open. God alone knows how much more is out there: this seems to be a state-by-state fight. BSA have fought this issue in the courts for years.

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  5. Blaise,

    If the charges are true I fully support prosecuting everyone involved. If there were organizational flaws I support fixing them. What I don’t support is the habit of some people, IMO more liberals than conservatives, of pointing at the whole organization and suggesting that it is Bad and that all its good works have been rendered meaningless because certain individuals made mistakes. That is the kind of stuff that I am complaining about here and it’s all too common in today’s society. Instead of condemning individuals for poor behavior we want to prosecute an entire group and dismiss everything they have ever done. I’m sure you and I could trade historical analogies all day long about groups, governments, etc that would be destroyed if we applied the same logic to all.

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    • I don’t think you’re engaging with the counterarguments here.
      You’re just making a assertion (spot the logical fallacy) that the left does it more, and that’s what has people’s hackles raised. People have brought up numerous more egregious counterpoints where an organization like ACORN was destroyed based on false accusations, and you’re still asserting that the left does it more with no proof of your claim. It’s not particularly productive to make the claim unless you have real evidence or you really just end up trolling people.

      Go upstream in the thread. Someone just accused gays of being more likely to be pedophiles. Want to know how common that trope really is? Inhabit a few ultra right wing sites for a bit. It’s not acceptable to say in public, but go to a few churches and see how often it gets said. Growing up, it was certainly very common for me to hear. Using your same form of argument, I can now claim the right does it more because I saw it growing up and just up in the thread. It’s not very productive, nor does it get at truth.

      Also, it’s incongruous here for you to continually repeat that “individuals” are responsible when it was a clear organizational directive from the Catholic Church to move pedophile priests to other parishes. Lots of lefties grew up in Catholic churches and are aware of how each parish manages its own community, but given that one of my college friends was assigned to be a priest of his own church by the Vatican, trained in Italy and learned from the same place as other priests, that the organization is decentralized.

      It’s been proven numerous times in public records that it was organizational, and not individual, but you keep reverting back to talking about individuals. Address the organizational issue please. It is most emphatically not about individuals.
      Strawmanning by saying others wants to dismiss all the good they have ever done does not address the issue.

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    • A couple things:

      1) The Catholic Church and BSA are very different in their organization, their purposes, and the way they represent themselves. Contrary to what you say earlier in the thread, the Catholic Church is not heavily decentralized, but instead very hierarchical with each level exerting a fair amount of control on the level beneath it. The BSA, on the other hand, is highly decentralized, as you said. The Catholic Church also bills itself as a moral authority and moral arbiter. It makes sense, then, to question its status based on its actions with respect to child molesting priests, even if the Church has done a lot of good. The BSA does have an image, which its national organization certainly cultivates, as a very wholesome, moral organization, and this image can and should be challenged, not just because of a child abuse scandal but because it doesn’t really fit with the way things work at the local level, but this scandal should only be a blight on the local, and perhaps the regional levels of the organization. The local troops have little to do with these on a day to day basis, and this is where the really good things happen.
      2) If you think this sort of thing is a more common practice on the left than the right, you haven’t been paying attention.

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    • Individuals make mistakes. Sometimes organizations CREATE problems. Sometimes, it’s a structural deficiency.

      Kazzy would tell you that any school that had quasi-mandatory “teacher spends unsupervised time with every young child” has created a disaster waiting to happen.

      To what extent do we create this?
      To what extent do we enable this?
      To what extent is/was child abuse necessary for a functional society?
      (zic, Blaise, I’m really sorry to have even written this question. It’s that fucking horrible of a question. But humans are horrible things, and so I have to ask it.)

      Tough questions. Not ragging on anyone in particular.

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      • I’ve said every organisation contains a certain fraction of criminals. It’s a simple conclusion based on statistics: the Law of Large Numbers brings them out of the probabilistic fog into focus. Beyond a certain life pool size, you’ll find criminals.

        Child molesters have always been among us. In point of fact, you’d have to conclude, again based on simple statistics — if an organisation didn’t detect and prosecute a few criminals, they were either failing to detect them or covering up their crimes once detected.

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          • I would echo what Blaise said, and add one more thing: While protecting children from molesters is crucial, it, in and of itself, will never end childhood sexual abuse. It’s critical for any organization that deals with children to be alert for the signs of potential molestation, and to be prepared to act in defense of children.

            But this leaves us hanging in the wind, because acting in defense is always after the fact; the abuse has already happened; at least in one instance, a child has already been abused or has been groomed for abuse enough that the grooming itself is abusive.

            I don’t have any answers, but I do recognize the need for pedophiles to have an honorable way to leave their closet of shame and harm, to seek help before they do harm. But as far as I know, there is no help, there’s no honorable way to unmake yourself from a pedophile.

            And that breaks my heart, for the child so abused and for the abuser who has no recourse from the monster within.

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            • Plenty of people become artists (some are quite good).

              If you can manage being the person in the “free candy” store who drools over everything, but never eats a bite, it actually is possible to be a functional human being with really warped sexuality.

              One porn artists a friend of mine knows, started to draw p0rn as a part of therapy… (she was impregnated by her younger brother). She eventually had to stop because her fans were reminding her too much of what had happened.

              I feel like it’s really, really important that we allow people with abnormal sexuality as many outlets as ethically permissible.

              [[ooh, now we’ve done it. Is it ethically permissible for an adult to have surgery so as to look like a pre-teen, in order to attract clients who are pedophiles? Dammit, where do I get these questions!! ]]

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    • It’s a bit late for prosecutions in many of these cases for the statutes of limitations have expired, though I suppose civil cases could be brought. When BSA could and should have acted, it did not. This rot goes right to the core of BSA: they’ve fought to hide these Perversion Lists and they continue to fight.

      An organisation is given life in its leadership. I am not pointing my finger at any one leader: BSA has been compiling its Perversion Lists for a century. The Perversion Lists were BSA policy for generations. Of course I’m pointing a finger at BSA as an organisation and I can only hope you can understand why. I’m not damning every Scoutmaster, certainly not John Robb. And let’s not have any of this blurring the lines here: BSA failed to act as an organisation and strenuously attempted to cover up these crimes as an organisation. And they’ve been prosecuted as an organisation.

      Rest in peace, John Robb. You were ever my hero, as good and kindly a man as I’ve ever known, your wife also. But Mike, I will not have you say I am condemning everything the Scouts have ever done. That’s just unfair. Confronted with evil in its ranks, the BSA organisation flinched and covered up crimes against little boys.

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  6. So why not just eliminate the organization? At the very least, instead of having a Boy and Girl scouts, just merge the two organizations into one and make it open to all. This would seem to be the most appropriate answer to the final paragraph as it eliminates any form of discrimination whether it is due to gender/race/orientation/etc.

    Given the recent discussions over the integration of the military, it occurs to me that the best way to move forward in “a more modern, more tolerant, and dare I say it, more reasonable world” would be to eliminate the old and embrace the new.

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  7. Sam,

    “I continue to be baffled by the idea that “a certain number of leaders” did wrong. Are you alleging that there were leaders who didn’t know about the Perversion Files? That there were leaders who didn’t understand what those files represented? That there were leaders that this abusive behavior was hidden from?”

    I’m not ‘alleging’. I think it’s probably fact. 4,000 executive employees with BSA. 493,000 adult leaders. 40,000 troops. Is it likely most of the nearly half-million adult leaders were unaware of this issue? Absolutely.

    http://www.troop97.net/bsainfo.htm

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    • Mike,

      If these files existed in three districts and had been maintained since the 1920s, it seems almost certain that they exist in every other district. If you want me to say that every single person ever involved with the BSA knew about their existence, then that’s unreasonable. But I’m not budging from the idea that the organization’s most important leaders and practically every level knew about them.

      But let’s suppose for a moment that what you’re saying is true – that the organization had a small cabal of people powerful enough to maintain but not expose the files. How is that any more tolerable than what I’m claiming? How is it any better that those files could exist without being made available to everybody (and in fact, made available to the police)?

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      • Sam – those files could be maintained at the district level by a very small number of people, but regardless, when I am talking about ‘leadership’ I am talking about the millions of adult leaders at the troop level that were much more interested in helping kids like me learn how to build fires and swing an axe than they were about ‘perversion files’. THAT is the backbone of the BSA and ultimately their legacy, not the small number of people involved with these files.

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        • I have to ask: how many perversion files and how many with knowledge of them would it take before you’d rethink the organization? My tolerance for the systemic sexual abuse of children is quite low; working with the victims of that violence has perhaps tainted me in that regard. I am quick to dismiss entire organizations wherein this sort of behavior has not only occurred, but been actively encouraged by negligent leadership.

          So I want you to ground me in a reality not shaded by my own experiences with victims – at what point should these policies begin to color my understanding of the organization? If we want to stay specific to the BSA, fine. If we want to expand to the Catholic Church, so be it.

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          • There could be a million files and it wouldn’t change my opinion because again, that isn’t the issue. It’s the scope of who was aware of them and participating in cover-ups. You haven’t come anywhere close to convincing me that there was widespread knowledge of these. As stated by several people here, troops are largely autonomous. I refuse to believe that most troop leaders were participating in this process, especially considering most of them were fathers of Scouts in those same troops. It just doesn’t pass the bullshit test.

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            • Knowledge of a million children abused within the Boy Scouts wouldn’t change your opinion of the organization as a whole? Then why are we even having this conversation? Why are you even in this thread? What you seem to be saying is that no amount of evidence, no matter how overwhelming, will change your opinion of the BSA. (Is the same true of the Catholic Church?)

              I suppose your position as I understand it right now is what I’m criticizing: the idea that these groups are simply beyond reproach, no matter how many children are raped.

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              • Knowledge of a million children abused within the Boy Scouts wouldn’t change your opinion of the organization as a whole?

                This is an unfair reading of what Mike said. It’s not really even unfair, it just changes what he said entirely.

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                • He said a million files could exist and it wouldn’t change his opinion. Either way you understand the existence of those million files – that either the entire organization knew about them or that a small cabal within the organization was able to successfully coverup the existence of a million instances of sexual abuse – Mike seems to be saying that it simply doesn’t matter, that nothing would ever change his mind about the organization itself.

                  But, again in the interest of fairness, please tell me of a fairer reading of what Mike argued.

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                  • Mike said, It’s the scope of who was aware of them and participating in cover-ups. .

                    And you say, Either way you understand the existence of those million files – that either the entire organization knew about them or that a small cabal within the organization was able to successfully coverup the existence of a million instances of sexual abuse – Mike seems to be saying that it simply doesn’t matter,

                    In fact Mike is saying that this point is precisely what matters to him.

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                  • Sam, who makes up an organization? In this case, who makes up the Boy Scouts? Is it the local leadership, who does the bulk of the work, with little input, feedback, or control from even the regional level of the organization, or is in the regional and national level organization, which is largely in charge of maintaining the stuff that belongs to the BSA, standardizing stuff like the rank requirements, and as these cases make obvious, damage control? Or is it the regional level, which helps to organize inter-troop events (like summer camps), and where people clearly knew about what was going on?

                    Mike’s decided to focus on the local stuff, and I think that’s a reasonable decision. There’s no evidence that the local folks, which includes most scouts, scoutmasters, assistant scoutmasters, and parents, had any idea of the scope of the problem or what the regional and national levels knew or were doing about it (or not doing about it). You’ve decided that the national and regional levels are the Boy Scouts. Mike’s saying, it seems to me, that no amount of misbehavior at those levels will affect his opinion about the organization’s local level, and you seem to be saying that the local level is irrelevant, because of what the national and regional levels did.

                    But Mike is clearly not just dismissing the scope of the problem, as you seem to be implying he is, nor is he suggesting that if it were vastly larger he’d dismiss it, as you also seem to be implying he is.

                    Honestly, you’re coming off much worse in this discussion than anyone else here, and as Mike can tell you, I’m not saying this from any personal affinity for him.

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                    • Chris,

                      Every level of the BSA “makes up the organization.” Separating them from one another for the sake of defending the whole seems at best convenient and at worst malicious. I suppose this comes back to in our fundamental understanding of what the Boy Scouts of America is. I would argue that an organization with standardized rules, expectations, goals, policies, leadership, structures, and methodologies is a unified whole, regardless of slight local variations that might exist; obviously, another opinion is out there based upon the existence of those slight local variations.

                      But even if I agree that the BSA is a disorganized mess, where were these children being molested? At the regional level? The national level? Or were these crimes occurring at the local level before being shunted upward through the organization? How was it that the regional and national levels learned of the molesters operating within the organization? And how was it that groups at the local level, where the molestations were almost certainly occurring, simply gave the cases to their superiors and then moved immediately on?

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                    • It seems pretty self-evident that if there was enough national structure to cover-up large amounts of child-molestation that there’s enough national structure to blame.

                      The mere existance of these files, spanning every state, and the coverups the organization performed is pretty much proof positive that the national organization is running the show.

                      They might let the locals handle all the tiny decisions, but they sure as heck were capable of stepping in and taking over when they wanted.

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                    • Every level of the BSA “makes up the organization.” Separating them from one another for the sake of defending the whole seems at best convenient and at worst malicious.

                      Institutional analysis teaches us that we need to see different levels of an organization as discrete but inter-related entities. The crucial question here is the what the specific functional linkages between the levels are.

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                    • If institutional analysis encourages us to disconnect parts of organizations when trying to understand their function, I’d argue that institutional analysis is (at a minimum) doing the victims of those organizations a tremendous disservice.

                      But again, even if we’re using your proposed framework, I ask: where did these sexual assaults take place? It was almost certainly wasn’t at the regional or national level; it was at the local level. Which then gave the cases to the institution’s hierarchy at the regional level, which then almost certainly followed the policies established by the national level. That, to me, suggests the involvement of all of the BSA’s three levels.

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                    • Sam, of course they took place at the local level. No one is disputing that. However, I fail to see how that’s an indictment on Boy Scouts at the local level. Unless, that is, you want to set things up so there are no circumstances under which boys are ever alone with adult males for any reason, ever, this is inevitable. That the BSA higher ups then covered it up is inexcusable. I wouldn’t even doubt if some scoutmasters participated in the cover up, to cover their own asses. But since the files, and the scope of the problem, wasn’t available to the local people, indicting them as a group makes no sense.

                      Look, I think the BSA needs to make some serious changes, not just on the issue of abuse but also on gay people and non-religious people, and I doubt many of us here would disagree, and I am pretty sure Mike agrees with the first part of that at least, but what you’re doing here seems to have no aim or direction except condemnation, and condemnation without discrimination.

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                    • Chris,

                      You are correct in my condemnation. I do condemn groups which encourage the sexual assault of children through silence. I’m really not certain what else I’m meant to do, and I say this as someone with both friends and family involved in the BSA, both as group leaders and as Eagle Scouts.

                      If you’d like me to be more discriminate in my condemnation, I suppose I will say that I aggressively condemn anybody involved with the BSA who had any knowledge of these files and said nothing. Is that fairer of me?

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                    • If institutional analysis encourages us to disconnect parts of organizations when trying to understand their function,

                      Sam, I wrote about understanding that the levels are discrete but interrelated, and that we need to understand just what the linkages between levels are.

                      And from that you get “disconnect” that parts. At this point it appears that you are on a set path of misreading what everyone writes. Meaningful debate on such terms is impossible. I regret having joined in.

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                    • James,

                      Sam, I wrote about understanding that the levels are discrete but interrelated, and that we need to understand just what the linkages between levels are.

                      The “linkages” are quite clear: abuse happened at the local level before being shunted to a regional level which followed the national policy of creating perversion files without bothering to alert local authorities. This went on for decades. What more would you like to understand? Here, in case you’re wondering, are some of the files themselves and a write-up of what exactly it took to pry the files loose. The organization preferred its secrecy over doing anything that any of us might describe as being right.

                      The organizational theory you seem to be proposing suggests that we find a way to take a scalpel to the BSA, so that we might cut out all of the organization that is rotten while leaving the whole intact. I don’t understand the problem in that manner. I understand the problem as being one that exists throughout the entire organization (just as I understand the Catholic Church to have a systemic problem).

                      Or, to put that another way: I am not bound to see the world as you see it. I don’t begrudge you your disagreement with me – just as I don’t begrudge Mike Dwyer his opinions about the situation – but I am not beholden to your organization theories about how I should understand the BSA and its crimes.

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                    • Sam,
                      I haven’t even stated a position on that, so you don’t even know if you and I disagree about the substantive issue. But you mis-represented what Mike said, and then you mis-represented what I said. I object to that, vigorously.

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                    • Respectfully James, I don’t believe I did either. I responded to what I saw written on the page.

                      In Mike’s case, I saw what seemed to be a set standard in which it simply would not matter how many incidents of abuse that occurred; through further conversation, I think that we have come to a mutual understanding of disagreement about the BSA and its structure.

                      In your case, I saw you discussing an understanding of the linkages between the organization’s hierarchical levels in an attempt to better understand the organizational response to the abuse. That, to me, looks like an attempt to surgically remove all of the offending elements while leaving the organization intact. Perhaps that’s not what you meant? If I misread you, I apologize, but I think when you write:

                      Institutional analysis teaches us that we need to see different levels of an organization as discrete but inter-related entities. The crucial question here is the what the specific functional linkages between the levels are.

                      I see what appears to be an attempt to protect the organization from its failings. I’m don’t find that strategy persuasive. (And we don’t have to discuss this, but I have repeatedly made clear what I believe the “specific functional linkages” to be.)

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                    • James,

                      I’m not sure how/if I’m meant to respond to that comment. All I can do is read the words on the screen and do my best to respond. This isn’t the first time you and I have had difficulties communicating with one another. Whether that’s entirely my fault is unknown to me. Sufficed to say, I will ask in good faith what troubles you about my response.

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              • Sam,

                The point of my participation is two-fold: 1) Pointing out that there is a big difference between the national and regional leadership and the local leadership and 2) Perspective on the abuse claims. With regards to the first, I’ve already said my piece and LWA did a much better job than me of making the same point. As for the abuse itself, that is more complicated…

                Current estimates are that in the history of the BSA there have been 83,486,000 Scouts. If there were 1 million perversion files, each one representing one instance of abuse, that would be an abuse rate of 1.2% which is far under the current national average of around 8%. So even if BSA did absolutely nothing with these files other than observe and report we’re talking about a problem that is statistically much smaller than society at large.

                To circle back around to reality though, the truth is that the number of those files is probably much smaller than 1 million. Additionally, unless I have read your citations wrong, no one really knows what is in these files or how many of those documented cases were dealt with properly or how many dropped because they simply had no concrete proof. So you are engaging in a lot of speculation at this point. I’m sure mistakes were made and as I’ve already noted, by all means go after those people.

                Looking forward, as LWA noted in his comments, BSA’s structure has greatly improved with regards to protecting kids from abuse. When I was involved during the 80s there was a fair amount of physical hazing that went on between older kids and younger kids. My nephews are in now and I can tell you with certainty that there is a zero tolerance policy for that stuff now. Furthermore there are safeguards in place to protect kids from adults. We know that child abuse rates go down every year through better education, more public awareness and changing social standards. What went on back in the 50s, 60s and 70s with much greater frequency is not tolerated today. So my inclination is also to not beat up an organization because certain people made mistakes decades ago and it is certainly not to ignore the millions of kids that turned out better due to the BSA. Those good works should not be a free pass for the BSA but they should protect its mission. Some in this thread have called for the BSA disbanding. That’s the kind of stuff that unfocused witch hunts can lead to.

                * This comment was posted before complete and has been edited.

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                • Here’s the deal, Mike. Let’s stipulate to all that, just push it all unchallenged.

                  Here’s the real issue: putting aside the damage to those kids, if BSA had done the right thing, operated in its own self-interest, BSA would have gotten law enforcement involved because it needed to insulate itself and its reputation from the child molesters. Whether it’s a million or a thousand or even one, the problem isn’t the numerator of that fraction. It’s the fact that BSA covered up that numerator. It’s the fact that BSA, for whatever reason — fear, prudery, the reasons don’t matter — BSA’s policy was to compile a Perversion List and not involve law enforcement.

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                • The BSA didn’t “observe and report.” The BSA observed and covered up. That is a huge part of the problem. These offenders weren’t turned over to local authorities; they were protected, in much the same way that the Catholic Church chose to protect its priests despite credible and repeated claims of heinous abuse.

                  Your affinity for the BSA comes through in your eloquent defense of the organization, and we simply disagree about the rottenness of its core; perhaps there is no finding a middle ground between us. But what of the Catholic Church? It’s abuse is thoroughly documented at every imaginable level. Would you agree that its moral standing is in question? Or does it also remain in your good graces?

                  (As a sidenote, I’d argue we are much earlier in the process of discovering what went on within the BSA as we are with understanding what went on within the Catholic Church. The worst, as they say, may be yet to come.)

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                  • Sam,

                    I shouldn’t have brought up the Catholic church because that muddies the water on this discussion, so I will refrain from offering any additional opinions there.

                    I would ask though if you could answer the question I posed several times which is whether or not you have any personal experience with the BSA yourself?

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                    • Direct experience? No.

                      I have friends and family who are both Eagle Scouts and local director/coordinators. These are people who simultaneously speak highly of the organization while remaining extremely critical of its exclusionary policies and its handling of sexual assault.

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                    • That’s why I asked. It feels like you aren’t appreciating the difference between national, regional and local leadership with your assesment of the organization as a whole. To make a clumsy analogy, it’s like blaming the head of your local post office because the President and his Cabinet did something shady. Yes, they are all part of the federal government but the connection doesn’t go very far beyond that.

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                    • Mike,

                      I will continue to disagree with you about your assessment. If abuse occurs on a local level, is reported to a regional level, and is then handled in a method mandated by the national level, I believe that all three groups are to blame. Perhaps it is that the regional and national levels should have been MORE responsible, but to my mind, there is more than enough blame to go around.

                      And let’s not forget that the leaders at the local level, the ones who initially blew the whistles, never went to prosecutors or media outlets of their own accord. They remained silent while living in communities populated by both the abused and the abusers.

                      I suppose, perhaps, that I should make exclusions for troops where no abuse occurred and where no knowledge existed. That is a fair request. But the negligent behavior of the organization colors its participants. And what of those troops that remain voluntarily associated with a national organization whose response to the sexual abuse of children was obfuscation?

                      Which is why I come back to the same conclusion: that the number of abusive incidents when this will start to genuinely matter will forever be n+1. We will always be almost but not quite to the point where we start to question everything about the organization and its voluntary participants.

                      You and I can (and do!) disagree about this, obviously, but I’m with BlaiseP on this: what matters is that the response to abuse was to protect the organization and sacrifice the victim. I simply cannot ignore that.

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                    • Sam,

                      The files also reveal, “…information on about 5,000 people, mostly men, who were kicked out of the Boy Scouts because of suspected sexual abuse from the late 1940s through the mid-2000s.”

                      So it seems like there was an effort to remove these people, even if it was not 100% effective. Again, much of this was different times. The BSA just adopted a policy of directly reporting the police in 2010. Before that it was kicked up the chain of command. What that means is that someone at the local level could report a suspicion and when nothing happens legally they could easily assume that not evidence was found.

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                    • BSA fought the release of the Perversion Files tooth and nail and only released what they’ve been forced to and then under seal. We know BSA have destroyed some of those files, we don’t know the full extent of that except to say records have been destroyed. At trial, it’s come to light BSA hid evidence from parents and lied to kids.

                      And we know the Perversion Lists didn’t work. We know of at least 125 repeat offenders. BSA became a magnet for child predators. It’s all so skeevy and disgusting. Using your analogy, if the President and his cabinet had evidence the postmaster was a child molester and stamped it Top Secret and hid it for decades, what would we say about that sort of thing?

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                    • Yes, I did, in point of fact. I got CID involved right from the start of one incident where a supply sergeant was selling parts. I didn’t even bother with my chain of command because I wasn’t sure but what they weren’t involved, too. CID got the local Polizei involved and they got warrants and found a cache of parts out in Civilian World. It got back to my chain of command.

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                    • This was your question When you were in the military, if you kicked a problem up the chain of command and nothing happened, did you call the police?

                      Were you ever in the military? You don’t kick something up the chain of command. First lesson of NCO school, you keep the fart in the sack and deal with it yourself. If you need authority, you get it.

                      But every serviceman has an Emergency Brake Cord he can pull at any time. It’s called Summoning the Chain of Command. If I’ve been given an unlawful order, or one of my men has been given an unlawful order, it is my duty to stop everything and get sufficient authority to override it. Doesn’t happen often and usually the Summoner gets in a whole lot of trouble because most orders are in fact lawful.

                      Why can’t you see the obvious here, that BSA is not the military, that even in a strictly hierarchical system, where servicemen are given lawful orders and they must obey them, that those who tolerate unpunished crimes become accessories to them?

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  8. I feel like there’s two arguments here that don’t really connect that well for me, even though I agree with both of them as opinions: 1. The BSA leadership covering up child abuse is reprehensible, 2. They should let gays into scouting. I just don’t see what the one has to do with the other. The argument seems to be that the BSA lost any moral authority they had by protecting child abusers, so they shouldn’t use that as a reason to block gays. But surely there’s a better positive argument for letting gays join scouting than that they already let child molesters join.

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    • I’m certainly not trying to make that argument. I’m trying to argue (perhaps poorly, especially if you ask some of the other people in this thread) that is that BSA defenders aghast at the idea of gay scouts have bigger things to worry about and that, in fact, their moral standing to do any defending at all is considerably undermined by the people they’re willing to go to bat for.

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    • But surely there’s a better positive argument for letting gays join scouting than that they already let child molesters join.

      Most of the time I’ve heard scouting leaders talk about keeping gays out, they make it out to be about “keeping molesters out.”

      Their entire argument is that Gay == Molester. I think it’s pretty clear that this was, is, and always shall be nonsense.

      What they have meanwhile done is create a culture in the BSA that makes it OK for boys to tease each other if they sense a young boy might be gay or bisexual; that allows scout adult leaders to cause harm to young boys by characterizing homosexuality or homosexual attraction as immoral or unnatural; and that allows for the scouting organization to take fine, upstanding youths and tell them that they are “not good enough” to participate, or to attain the rank of Eagle, not for the content of their character or their dedication to American values but instead on the basis that they were born different.

      It makes the BSA entirely unamerican in a way the GSA are not.

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  9. Sam,

    I never lead a troop but if I was today the steps are clearly laid out by BSA: Alert the authorities and then the BSA itself. If I caught someone in the act there would probably be a beatdown involved.

    If it happend in 1985? I don’t know. As I have noted repeatedly, those were different times.

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          • Sam,

            Is it possible that those who alerted the BSA hierarchy assumed that in doing so law enforcement would become involved and, perhaps, was involved in ways unbeknownst to them?

            When I was in college, I worked in a day care as a work study student. I was never given any training or instruction on “mandated reporting”. I don’t even know if I would have qualified as one given the nature of my position. I did work at the center for a number of years (eventually becoming a full-time employee) and had good professional relationships with the full-time staff and took on an unofficial leadership role amongst other work study students. During one summer, we had a high school student working with us as a camp counselor. She had a good relationship with one of the children who said something to her about his father hitting him. She told me about it. I relayed the news to my director. From there, I never heard anything about it, but I trusted that the proper steps were taken. I did not seek out law enforcement or any other authorities. I do not know what else happened.

            I realize this story is not a perfect analogue to what went on with the BSA (and I’ll confess to not knowing very many details of what went on). I only offer it as an example of an individual who genuinely had the best interests of children in his heart and mind falling short of alerting the authorities. And this was in 2003… much closer to now than 1985.

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            • This.

              I’ve seen the same thing for the last 13 years I have spent in corporate America. You suspect wrongdoing, you kick it up the ladder, you assume the proper steps are taken. If nothing happens to the person you assume there wasn’t enough proof or that maybe you were wrong.

              As noted several times, many of the files so far revealed are accusations based on second-hand statements, suspicions, etc. Even so, 5,000 people were removed from troops. It would be very easy for someone to assume the BSA investigated and didn’t find enough evidence to warrant legal involvement but kicked them out as a precaution. That’s trusting the process and maybe putting too much faith in the folks higher up the ladder, but since troops are probably not talking to each other about this, how would anyone get the idea that this was a larger problem of cover-ups?

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              • We know it was a coverup because BSA used its Perversion Files in a feeble attempt to keep out the predators it had already detected. We know it was a coverup because once the outside world became aware of those Perversion Files, BSA fought to keep them secret. When you go to court to prevent the release of documents and only release them under seal, that’s a coverup, by definition.

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              • But let’s just say lots of these files were based on specious accusations, though many clearly were not and furthermore BSA did find at least 125 re-offenders. But let’s just stipulate to any number of problems with the evidence —

                When someone is accused of a crime, any crime, there’s a presumption of innocence. The accused has his day in court, a good defence attorney will point to the problems with the evidence, even granting that many of these accusations are specious, BSA is not the justice system. If BSA kicked out someone based on a false accusation — putting aside the horror of all these abused children — what about the rights of the accused?

                BSA did not go willingly to the justice system. That’s why BSA kept their Perversion Files secret.

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              • Even in cases where the BSA had very strong evidence, they just let the culprits go and abuse boys elsewhere. And the statute of limitations on criminal proceedings (civil still good) has passed and these abused boys have limited recourse now.
                And they hid the allegations not just from the police, they hid them from the parents as well. The blacklist wasn’t strong enough and repeat abusers jumped from troop to troop after being banned.
                And evidence they destroyed files to cover up more? Good god.
                The more I read about how this was handled up until the newspapers and courts got involved, the worse the coverup gets.

                http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/10/boy-scouts-perversion-files-released-the-secrets-are-out.html
                http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/20/opinion/the-perversion-files-of-the-boy-scouts-come-to-light.html?_r=0
                http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/irving/headlines/20121018-boy-scout-perversion-files-set-for-unprecedented-public-release-on-the-internet.ece
                http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/boy-scouts-perversion-files-locals-cover-up-child-sex-abuse_n_1981596.html

                This is sounding more and more like the Abu Ghraib defense where the administration claimed it was a few bad apples, despite the evidence to the contrary. The claim that was it was a different time are really really starting to ring false here, and the claim that they’ve beefed up their internal policies really only happened in response to an 18.5 million dollar lawsuit in 2010 and suing to get access to the files. Oh and in terms of policy, they went after gays and pedophiles on the same level. Their policy was to track suspected gay men as pedophiles.

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              • Actually, reading the reports of what happened further, you’re making a lot of speculative possibilities when there’s actually large amounts of detail available, including mayors and courts who were convinced to not prosecute or release information…and are now culpable because they wanted to avoid hurting the reputation of the BSA.

                Also, to even get a position as an adult, the BSA registrars ran names through the perversion files as a filter. That’s a lot of people working registration over 20+ years and that many people to screen.

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    • Mike,

      Though this may come off as snarky, I assure it is not. I was 2 in 1985, so I ask genuinely: Was 1985 such a different time that pedophilia/child molestation was not immediately and commonly recognized by the average individual as both wrong and illegal?

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      • Kazzy,

        It’s not about recognizing the problem, it’s more about trust in the system. Today people are encouraged to go straight to the police. Back then you handled things ‘in house’. Perfect example, a guy that I knew from Scouting went on to become Scoutmaster of our old troop. After I left, he was caught in 1994 embezzling funds from the troop’s account. This was straight-up theft and I’m quite sure he could have gone to jail over it. Instead of reporting him to the police he was referred to the BSA for disciplinary action. The BSA wrote a check to the troop for the missing funds. We never heard what happened to him other than he was removed as troop leader. Maybe he was prosecuted or maybe they worked something out. I did hear they banned him from Scouting for life. The parents of the troop trusted the system and that was in the 90s. Imagine how people felt in the 80s, 70s, 60s?

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        • That is not a system you trust, that’s exactly the in-house handling that the Catholic Church did. It’s what so many families do, too, when the discover someone in the house is molesting little girl in the family; maybe little boy. This isn’t about maintaining the troop leader’s honor for theft, it’s about maintaining the tribe’s honor by hiding the thief in their midst from outsider’s eyes.

          And this tribal self-protection is the cause of a whole lot of misery and grief that could easily be stopped.

          Yeah, those parents trusted the system. And what you describe is a betrayal of that trust; protecting the system over the individual children the system exists to serve.

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          • Zic,

            I have never disputed that the trust of people in the chain of command wasn’t violated. I’m also willing to admit there was probably an organized effort made at the regional and national level and those people involved should be prosecuted if a crime was committed. What I do not believe is that there was a conspiracy at the troop level. Knowing the way these troops work, seeing the utter lack of communication even between troops less than a mile apart, knowing that the people reporting these accusations usually had sons in the troops themselves, I won’t believe that until serious evidence proves otherwise.

            If there were mistakes made at the troop level it may have been in trusting the system, but again in the context of probably less than one incident per troop and the troops not talking to each other, I don’t think they had any reason to NOT trust the system.

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            • Knowing the way these troops work, seeing the utter lack of communication even between troops less than a mile apart, knowing that the people reporting these accusations usually had sons in the troops themselves, I won’t believe that until serious evidence proves otherwise.

              It is precisely explanations like this that give me pause when considering the entirety of the organization. Why wouldn’t neighboring troops warn one another of nearby, predatory offenders? Why weren’t the national and regional level alerting nearby organizations of potential threats? The case that kicked off the release of the Perversion Files involved a known offender once again gaining access to children.

              Then there’s this article, which describes coordinated efforts on local, regional, and the national level to protect abusers and hide the abuse.

              Because these cases happened at the local level, it becomes very difficult to stomach the notion that the local level had nothing to do with the subsequent coverups.

              And then there’s this: the BSA trades heavily on the honor of its participants, just as the Catholic Church trades heavily on the morality of its leaders. Those reputations became a cudgel against those who recognized that there was a problem; that alone is reason for me to be so suspicious of the entire organization.

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              • “Why wouldn’t neighboring troops warn one another of nearby, predatory offenders?”

                Because they trusted that the council or national BSA would do that ‘officially’ if there was cause. And there may have been some casual communication between troops about problem individuals but back then people would have worried about slandering someone before a formal conclusion was reached.

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                    • 18 USC § 3 – Accessory after the fact

                      Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact.

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                    • Mike,

                      I don’t define “told the guy above me in the chain of command” as doing something. I don’t define that as doing something even if that’s specifically what the policy called for.

                      Even if I was going to define that as doing something, I would expect of anybody aware of abuse to continue to track the organizational response to the abuse and, if the response was insufficient (as it was necessitated by the BSA’s policies) to then take allegations outside of the organization to the proper authorities.

                      Risking your own position and involvement in an organization when crimes have been committed is what “character” is all about, right?

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                • And there may have been some casual communication between troops about problem individuals but back then people would have worried about slandering someone before a formal conclusion was reached.

                  And how does a ‘formal conclusion’ get reached in your trusting world? To me, victim of the trust of ‘he’s a great guy’ world, it sounds like a failure on the part of adults to recognize predators without formal conclusion, and no means to come to formal conclusion because they trust the organization. It’s a catch 22 that leaves children victim of ‘great guys,’ guys like Jerry Sandusky.

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                  • Zic,

                    Perhaps you are the kind of person who when they see a wrong they report it directly to the police and then follow-up until justice has been served. A lot of other people will often pursue things through different channels. Maybe through their workplace or through the hierarchy of an organization. In the latter step you are delegating the follow-up responsibility to that organization. What you and Sam and Blaise are essentially saying is that the delegating that responsibility is never okay. I simply disagree. Maybe that’s the difference between liberals and conservatives.

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                    • I can’t imagine that, if you know a child is being abused or molested, you would not want to follow up to make sure the abuser is no longer hurting that child or any other. We now live in a world in which people want the perpetrator of even the most minor sexual offenses to be labeled for life, with their names in registries and little leaflets sent to us in the mail when they move into our neighborhood. It seems very odd to me that in this atmosphere, people might be tempted to simply report sexual abuse to their boss or the guy who runs the club or whoever, and then forget about it. Maybe reporting it up the chain of command, when there’s not a strict command structure (as in the military), is an invitation to bystander apathy? Whatever it is, it’s just weird to me, and I doubt that weirdness has anything to do with political orientation.

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                    • I want to understand: you’re saying conservatives can’t be bothered to go to the proper authorities when a child is being sexually assaulted but liberals can be trusted to take their concerns to the police, and that as a result of that, this puts liberals in a poor light?

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                    • ” What you and Sam and Blaise are essentially saying is that the delegating that responsibility is never okay. I simply disagree. ”

                      That’s the exact quote. I’m sorry, but yes, delegating the responsibility of sexual abuse of any kind to your boss or bishop is never okay. This isn’t exactly a case of Jerry stealing some staplers from the supply closet.

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                    • Chris,

                      I responded to EXACTLY what he just said. He argued that it is acceptable to assume that the people above you in the chain of command are doing something. He also argued that liberals go to the police instead of trusting the chain of command. He clearly implied that there is something wrong with that.

                      And yet we know that the conservative option accomplishes nothing. We have evidence of it plainly failing in both the BSA and the Catholic Church. What would you have me do? Ignore what he said to read something more favorable into the argument?

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                    • Sam, you didn’t respond to exactly what he said, you just reworded it to make it sound absurd, and not quite, perhaps not at all what Mike was saying. Jesse then responded to exactly what he said. If you don’t see the difference between what Jesse did and what you did, I can’t help you.

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                    • Sam,

                      What I am saying is that not just in cases of child abuse but in a lot of different situations, people don’t go straight to the authorities and often delegate the next stage of the process to some chain of command, whatever that may be. I think these days, yes, child molestors are going to get reported to the police more often than trusted to a civillian organization, however even then, it depends on who is doing the reporting. Kazzy outlines a story above that is probably pretty common.

                      Where I think there is a difference here that might be part of a belief system is that conservatives in general tend to trust process and institutions more. So it’s not surprising that I am more understanding that people trusted the BSA to do the right thing back then, whereas you sound very indignant that everyone in the BSA wasn’t going to the police as soon as they had suspicions, despite the fact that this was 20 years ago or more.

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                    • Chris,

                      Mike argued for the idea that conservatives do things one way (trusting the hierarchy) and that liberals do things another (going to the proper authorities). He then simultaneously defended the first of those approaches while criticizing the second of them.

                      I wanted to better understand that, so I reworded in such a way as to make the meaning clearer and less mistakable. I also wrote “I want to understand:” because I do want to understand if what I read (and what I continue to read, no matter how many times I revisit the comment) is what Mike meant to write.

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                    • I think, Mike, that the cases of the BSA and the Catholic Church (and here is where the comparison between the two is apt) show pretty clearly that the conservative trust in “process” and “institutions” is misplaced, to tragic ends. Institutions, hierarchies, and the “processes” they generate, aren’t designed or motivated to result in the best outcome for all involved, but the best outcome for the institutions/hierarchies/existing power structures, usually in the short term.

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                    • Probably, because liberalism is made up partly, if not a majority, of people who quite frankly, were ignored, discriminated, or even oppressed by powerful non-governmental institutions.

                      To be blunt, Mike, me or you have never had a complaint about sexual harassment laughed off because after all, “we’re just overreacting to a little flirting” or had racial discrimination in a workplace shunt off to the side as the white management team all went out for drinks.

                      So yeah, it makes sense a lot of left-leaning people wouldn’t trust the information to their boss or the person further on up the chain, especially with something as serious as sexual abuse.

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                    • Mike,

                      Do you know what a mandated reporter is?

                      In almost every instance, anyone who’s paid to deal with children is required to go directly to the police if they suspect child abuse. Now I don’t know if that also applies to BS troop leaders, but if it doesn’t, perhaps it should.

                      Your whole notion of ‘some other way’ does not have the force of law. If someone doesn’t eventually go to the police, they leave a child predator at large in the community working with children.

                      Now I’ve been one of those children. I LIVED THROUGH your other way. And I’m here to tell you, as lovingly as I can, I does not work to keep pedophiles from preying on children.

                      I get what you’re saying. And it might work with someone who took the money from the troop funds so that he could fix his car and could keep going to work. It might work with somebody who lost his temper because some kids were really unruly and maybe yelled a bit too loud, maybe cussed a bit, maybe flipped a canoe. But pedophiles depend on that other way of handling stuff. They actively seek out situations where that’s how business is done.

                      It does not work. It gives sexual abusers license to continue to abuse while all the grown ups look the other way; even when the grown ups don’t think they are looking the other way.

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                    • Mike, it doesn’t matter.

                      They’re protecting files of people suspected of sexually abusing children. Some of that abuse is likely older teen/adult; and that is definitely a gray area. But children are a real problem. One pedophile usually seems to have many, many victims. And they abuse throughout their lives. So yes, while they may not have known better then, they know better now. And the people they suspected then may still be a problem now, still harming other children in other places.

                      But here’s what I really don’t get: the conservative view that such gross injustices as rape, incest, physical abuse, and sexual abuse shouldn’t be actively pursued, they should be dealt with in private. You sure as hell aren’t private about your thoughts on abortion. Yet here, where there’s real, serious, and life-changing harm being inflicted on children, want privacy. Another way. What gives?

                      A few months ago, a 16 year-old girl in India committed suicide after she was forced to marry her rapist. Forced to marry him to protect her father and brother’s honor.

                      I’d like to think we have the courage to real honor, which isn’t forcing our children’s shame into the closet, it’s the courage to help them when they’ve been violated, to keep others from being violated, and to admit that many of us walking have been violated, and it’s our abuser’s shame, not ours.

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                    • Things ar getting a little tense here, let me try to cool things a bit

                      In a way, Zic is right. As things turned out, what the leaders did was wrong. It was wrong for them to report it up the chain of command and not report it to the police to be carefully investigated. They may have sincerely thought that they were doing the right thing in trusting their superiors to handle it appropriately, but they were wrong. But that is okay, in a way. That doesn’t mean that they were evil or something, only that at least at the local level, they made an honest mistake. If tomorrow they were to still fail to report suspected sexual abuse, then things would be different. But we now know that what they should have done was to report it to the police. Doing things you sincerely believe to be right but which turn out to be wrong is something that humans do.


                      The scoutmasters who reported it to their higher ups are not blameworthy. Why? because attitudes in those days were different. Even if what they did is wrong, I don’t think that they are blameworthy, and this is what Mike is getting at. He doesn’t like the way they are being blamed. I think Mike acknowledges that they were wrong, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily should be blamed for it.

                      There is a bit of a tragedy at work here. I really do understand the psychological need to be part of a close-knit group, where you are treated as more than merely a fellow citizen.

                      The bonds of citizenship in a liberal polity are often thin. And this is as they should be. Thicker kinds of commitments between citizens as we would expect to see in close-knit communities would in pluralistic societies be oppressive. However, not everyone deals very well with this thin connection. Some people join gangs, others join more socially approved fraternal organisations. A long time ago, before the nuclear family was common, people’s clans and extended kin would play this role. But that is mostly gone now, and people rarely have those kinds of thick connections with anyone outside of their immediate family, if they have that in the first place. Some people sublimate this desire for a thick connection by making demands on their fellow citizens those that they could only make on those whose connections to them are much thicker. In many ways certain versions of civic republicanism which posit that political life is a unique and higher human good are unreasonable for this very reason. As the demands for citizenship chip away at the fraternal bonds between people, it is not completely unreasonable to think that something that is basic to human nature is bwing lost.

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                    • Real briefly why I find a lot of League threads to be useless is that you guys often don’t engage with the material that’s actually out there and engage in discussion over hypotheticals.

                      This is one of those threads. There are tons and tons of files publicly available and people are still engaging over theoreticals instead of dealing with whether the facts fit those theoreticals.

                      There was absolute gross negligence and it was abetted by authorities on multiple levels with a perversion file system that was easily circumvented, and even when the BSA found out it had been circumvented, they went out of their way to avoid prosecutions of child molesters to protect their reputation.
                      This is not a hypothetical. It’s in the BSA files and court decisions.

                      The Abu Ghraib defense is basically what Mike has been using, that it was a few bad apples, even though the evidence so far been contrary to that. Every single person who ran adults through screens in the perversion files knew they existed. Every person who destroyed older files. Every person at the highest levels knew this was organizational policy. This is NOT a small amount of people over 30+ years.

                      It took a shit ton of lawsuits over the last 30 years from abused children for the BSA to change their policy and not because they came to a decision on their own. They’re still fighting release of perversion files and historically have fought every court decision change tooth and nail until they couldn’t anymore. Read the Oregon case they lost. Read about constant coverups to protect their reputation on local levels to prevent scandal. Read about how repeat molesters got in, admitted they molested and were let off scot-free with no reporting to the parents or authorities that their child had been molested. Even in another time, this was wrong.

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                  • I’m coming late to this thread but there is a reason we have Mandatory Reporter laws. For many , many people you absolutely have to report any suspected abuse to the authorities. Not up your chain of command in the BSA but to CPS. It is to avoid cover ups like in BSA and CC that Mandatory Reporter laws were put in place.

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        • See, all those stipulations — “back then you handled things in house” and “we never heard what happened to him” and “maybe he was prosecuted” — I’ve been brushing up on my ancient English, what with this Beowulf topic around here. The Saxons had a concept in law called mægþ, literally the clan-and-its-laws. If a member of your clan committed a crime and the clan was aware of it, the clan was also culpable. For in those days, when, as you say, things were handled in house, the house acted because its own honour was at stake. The clan would deal with other clans on this basis. They had the frithborh, a sort of warrant system, a promise to produce a criminal before a court, a promise not to hide an accused criminal. Literally, frithborh means a peace promise, thus the old phrase “the peace of the realm”.

          Societies can’t hide crimes and expect much peace. The rumours about what did and didn’t happen must be dispelled. BSA was too concerned about appearances and not enough about justice. And for what it’s worth, corporations which do the same are equally troubled, equally unjust.

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        • Hey Mike,

          This conversation got away fast and I’m probably not going to read all the replies and replies-to-replies, but thanks for taking the time to respond to my query.

          If we accept that the BSA and its members were “trusting in the system”, is it fair to say that that system no longer deserves such trust? If we can’t trust the BSA system to appropriately handle things such as child molestation, what trust can we reasonably put in it?

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          • Kazzy,

            No – I think the system works now. The Youth Protection Program was considered one of the best in the country after it was implemented. Leaders are encouraged to report abuse claims directly to the authorities. And that is why I have been so vocal here because the critics are taking past wrongs and applying them to the current organization. That kind of retroactive condemnation is what I do not like.

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            • Can you elaborate on the YPP? Is that what you mean by the “current system”? How long has that been in place?

              I agree that it would be wrong to condemn the local Scoutmaster who had nothing to do with and knew nothing of the abuse and only took over a leadership role last year. However, I also think it is fair for folks to say, “They have to do a whole hell of a lot more before I ever trust them again.”

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                  • I would say they have every right to not only abandon the organization but even to be vocal about it (of course that also means they have to tolerate counter-arguments from supporters). Lack of trust is something I get. There are commenters here that I don’t interact with anymore because I don’t trust their behavior. I may even be vocal about that at time. That distrust may be an over-reaction, or completely justified or 100% mutual with the other person and I might even be open to reassessing things in the future. But it’s really a subjective thing and nearly impossible for someone else to change.

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