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Everyday Ethicist Column by Randy Cohen of the New York Times Magazine.
Question: My son has been a Cub Scout for three years, and Iíve been a den leader for one, a wonderful experience for us both. But I was appalled by the Supreme Courtís decision upholding the Scoutsí right to exclude gay people. I cannot feel proud to see my son wearing a uniform that represents bigotry, and se we are withdrawing from the Scouts. Many of my friends also oppose this discrimination but plan to continue in Scouting anyway. Arenít they wrong to do so?
Answer: Resigning as you did is the ethical thing to do. Just as one is honor bound to quit an organization that excludes African-Americans, so you should withdraw from Scouting as long as it rejects homosexuals. That Scouting has a legal right to free association does not clear you of this obligation. The right to shun Jews is no less anti-Semitic for all its legality.
For those who remain in the Scouts are on shaky ground even if they sincerely seek reform from within. That is a reasonable strategy while the issues is unsettled, but once the Supreme Court handed down its decision, the debate ended. To stay now is to accept - if not endorse Ė its policy. You need not agree with an organizationís every principle, of course, but the matter in this case is too fundamental and cruel to tolerate.
Resigning need not mean giving up the struggle. Ex-Scouts can write letters, rally support and seek to reform Scouting, then rejoin one day.
In the meantime, there are other, more tolerant, youth groups. The Girl Scouts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of American have no similar homophobic policies; neither do many foreign scouting organizations. Scouts Canada, for instance, is particularly humane, not only rejecting sexual orientation as a criterion for membership but also authorizing specialized troops, including ones for Mormons, Cantonese-speakers and gay Scouts; Any chance of your becoming the first Long Island outpost for Canadian Scouting?
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