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Right Goes Nuts as Obama Skips Scouts Jamboree, Heads to ’The View’

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jul 29, 2010
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The president won’t be addressing the Boy Scouts of America at the Scouts’ 100th anniversary Jamboree--but he will be going on national talk show The View. Is it because the Scouts are anti-gay?

Some pundits on the right seem to think so. Actor Chuck Norris, who also serves as a columnist at right-wing site Townhall.com, said as much in a recent posting, where he wrote, "President Obama became the honorary president of the BSA in March 2009, and the White House didn’t even mention it. And ever since, any discussions or interactions with the Scouts have been ’don’t ask, don’t tell.’ And how could they, because the president would then have to acknowledge publicly that as honorary president of BSA, he affirmed the Scouts’ oath, beliefs and policies, which prohibit atheists and agnostics from membership and ’avowed’ homosexuals from leadership roles?"

Norris went on to compare Obama with Pontius Pilate, and to quote Thomas Jefferson as saying, "when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."

Readers commenting on Norris’ column seemed in agreement that the scouts’ position on gays had some bearing on the White House’s perceived distance from the group. "Americans with homosexuality were the shock troops for Barack throughout the primary process," one comment read. "Obama will need folks with homosexuality again in 2012. Those gay men hate the Boy Scouts and our President must at least act like he doesn’t like them either."

Chat participants at right-wing site FreeRepublic.com--where gay news is obsessively posted and discussed--also theorized that Obama was shunning the Boy Scouts because the organization does not allow gays to serve as troop leaders. "He doesn’t want to offend the gays out there who still despise the Boy Scouts. Playing politics trumps everything with these people," wrote one commentator.

Others promoted the idea that Obama is actually a Kenyan by birth and suggested that his missing the event was, in fact, a boon to the Scouts.

A posting at the blog RedState.com attacked Obama for choosing to appear on the talk show rather than going to the Jamboree, saying that "the White House informed the BOA that obamanation’s schedule conflicts with the king-elect’s last-minute plans to visit New Jersey and make traffic that much worse--while he samples subs (Italian sandwiches)--before he heads to NYC to tape ’The View...’ "

"We have a very thin factual background on little o, but my guess is he never was a scout and certainly couldn’t make the scout’s pledge in all seriousness," the posting added.

The organization itself did not seem to take umbrage. Spokesperson Deron Smith told Fox News that the Scouts knew for months that Obama had a scheduling conflict. "It just depends on his schedule," said Smith.

The Fox News article noted that Obama would address the Jamboree via a pre-recorded video message, and suggested a political motive for the president’s scheduling priorities.

"The talk show appearance comes as campaign season moves into full swing, but also amid efforts to cap the Gulf oil spill for good, contain the damage from an unprecedented leak of Afghanistan war documents and battle Arizona over its immigration law--set to go into effect Thursday," the article read. "Obama also has an out-of-town event planned for Friday in Detroit."

Fox News noted that while not all presidents have managed to attend the Jamboree, which takes place once every four years, the three presidents before Obama all had made appearances at the event. This year marks the 100th anniversary since the founding of the Boy Scouts. Fox News also noted that Obama has twice had groups from the Boy Scouts to the Oval Office.

The oath taken by Boy Scouts includes reference to being "morally straight," which the leadership of the organization deems also to mean heterosexual. The group does not allow open gays to serve as scout leaders, and has expelled young members for declaring themselves to be gay. The Scouts have been taken to court over the policy, with the Supreme Court eventually affirming that the Boy Scouts of America, being a private organization, has the right to deny access to gays, but the question continues to create problems for the group. Most recently, the Scouts went to court to avoid losing a sweetheart deal with the city of Philadelphia, which rents the BSA space for its national headquarters in a city-owned building for only $1 per year. The city said that the market value for rental on the space was $200,000 per year.

Moreover, late last year a youth program associated with the Los Angeles Police Department ended its affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America, due to the BSA’s policy of excluding gays, atheists, and agnostics, which clashed with the city’s non-discrimination policies.

The anti-gay policy also made headlines late last year, when a same-sex Vermont couple were told that they may no longer volunteer their services for their son’s cub scout troop. Elizabeth and Cate Wirth told the media that although their son Dylan had been a Cub Scout for several years and they had volunteered their time for the troupe on past occasions, when they disclosed their relationship to a scout leader they were summarily rejected.

Cate Wirth described herself as "taken aback" at the response that she and her life partner Elizabeth received from the group’s district director, Erik Tanney. The women have long been in a civil union. "I was speechless," Cate Wirth told a local newspaper. The troupe had been looking for parents to volunteer, but despite the Wirth’s past involvement Tanney turned them down as soon as they informed him of their family status.

The particular facts of the situation brought criticism even from some Democrats. Fox News noted that Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, dismissed "The View" by comparing it to "The Jerry Springer Show."

"I think the president should be accessible, should answer questions that aren’t pre-screened, but I think there should be a little bit of dignity to the presidency," said Rendell, in comments during an MSNBC appearance.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2010-07-29 22:33:43

    --side note: the national headquaters for BSA is in Irving, TX not Philidelphia-- As a former Boy Scout and Eagle Scout, I am deeply saddened that any president might choose a self image boost (fundraising) over something as historic as the Boy scout centennial celebration. Politics aside, scouting has produced millions of hard-working, respectable individuals over the last 100 years, not to mention the honor of 2 million Eagle scouts so far. As president (and honorary pres of scouting) he should know that reputable character goes beyond partisan ideas and he should have come. End of story -and to the comments about the BSA being bigoted, not once do scouts get told to accept homosexuals or atheists or to look down upon them. These individuals do not fit with the original values of the program, yet inside the heart of the troops kids are taught to be open-minded about all individuals (with no side note or qualifications). Boys end up as men who can then decide how they stand on their own beliefs, which in my opinion is an admiral quality.


  • cowboyneok, 2010-07-29 23:42:27

    Anonymous write - "End of story -and to the comments about the BSA being bigoted, not once do scouts get told to accept homosexuals or atheists or to look down upon them." Read the article again, and come back with your ridiculous assertion scouts are taught to be open minded. That article is a LITANY of closed minded actions taken to punish and discriminate against LGBT Americans and their families. The BSA should be ashamed.


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-30 09:36:54

    IF you were to tally up all the service projects that eagle scouts, not to mention service projects in general, it would add up millions of hours... and while a price tag might be placed on this by some, the scouts serve for the love of service. But... Enjoy your TV show, O. They will be gone, and the scouts will endure.


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-30 10:50:35

    Obama did not even provide a video taped message to the scouts as promised. But he did send Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, an Eagle Scout, to speak to the scouts. I actually think that Robbert Gates is a mutch better choice, as he lives scouting values. I can not say the same for Obama. Scouts taht I spoke with are cool with Obama’s absence.


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-30 15:33:07

    the scouts most certainly are a discriminatory organization and do not deserve public subsidy or the active participation of the President in their private (since as they say they are a private group) gathering.


  • Dennis Smith, 2010-07-30 21:03:44

    This bigoted group does not deserve to be in the company of President Obama. He made the correct choice.


  • West_Coast Will, 2010-07-31 07:27:30

    I was a boy scout myself when I was younger and though BSA teaches individuals to be respectful and tolerate of others, the actions of the organization itself speaks otherwise. It makes me very sad to know that this once proud organization has lost its way and discriminates. I learned valuable life lessons while I was a boy scout that I still use today, but to know that if I had come out earlier in my life while in BSA I may never have received those lessons. It’s time BSA learn to respect and embrace all, every boy deserves to learn and enjoy being a boy scout no matter their sexuality.


  • Anonymous, 2010-07-31 08:58:35

    My son is at the Jamboree, personally it is sad to miss an opportunity to see the Prez in person, like or dislike. But all in all, he does not make or break the Jamboree, a majority of the US disapproves of him as Prez so really, is it a big deal he did not attend an event where he is not cared for anyway?


  • texpat78, 2010-07-31 10:42:57

    To all of those who think the BSA holds the keys to the birth of scouting: remember that Baden- Powell was British and the Scouts were born on this side of the Pond! Over here we let the gays, the lesbians, the transgendered, and even those who reject Christianity into the organisation and to hold leadership roles. Looks like it might be time for the BSA to grow up and join the rest of western civilisation. But then again, isn’t that the case for most of the land I was born in but will never again call home. Equality now. Equality tomorrow.


  • Anonymous, 2010-08-04 17:13:39

    I think that the view interview could have waited a day or so later. This is a once in a life time experience. The Boy Scouts 100th Birthday...Come on already....Much dissapointed in the President of the United States..It would not have taken but 10 minutes of his time. Land his plane in the field be there on stage support the boys and take off. Truely dissapointed....I don’t even really like the president "views" anyway but to a lot of those boy scouts again he really missed out on this event...


  • Anonymous, 2010-08-05 00:22:23

    I agree totally with textpat78. I grew up in England and both my brother and I spent well over a decade in the Scouting movement. Never once did any leader nor child impose any ’moral’ principal against Homosexuals, Agnostics or Atheists. We were taught to be educated, strong, independent and sensitive human beings towards those around us. As a dual citizen living in America I would love to give my children the experiences and guidance that I was so fortunate to experience under the Scouting movement but I simply cannot condone, nor abide by this warped interpretation of this wonderful global organization.


  • Anonymous, 2010-08-05 15:18:29

    To everyone with any idea of what Scouting is- Politics should not be apart of Scouting, at least not the way it is now, but since politics is apart of the lives of the parents and adult leaders in the organization it has become deeply intertwined with it. Scouting has evolved over the years because for it to survive it has to remain relevant. But the thing with Scouting is that it is not well represented by it’s adult leaders because they are not the organization. They may think they are and may work to make it seem like they are but they are not. It is the boys that make it up. A famous saying is tossed around in Scouts and it only reafirms that the boys make up the organization and that is that "It’s a boy run troop" meaning that the troops and subsequently the organization are what the boys make them to be. This is misconstrued by the adult leaders though because they infuse the public image of the Boy Scouts with their ideas and not with the boys. Some of the ideas are outdated such as everyone must believe in a religion and homosexuality is wrong and that has made it seem like Scouting itself is outdated but Scouting is not. A lot of people nowadays are worried about the youth of America becuase they see a sedentary lifestyle habbit developing. Violince now is measured differently becuase it is so commonplace. And for with all that America some aruge is falling behind the rest of the world. Scouts used to offer young boys the oppertunity to escape from these things but now they are knocking at its front door. Why you may ask, because we let ourselves think that young boys really care about sexuality, we let ourselves think that a ten year old child actually thinks that "hey he doesn’t belive in any religion I shouldn’t hang out with him." People who have severe dislike of the Scouts as a whole use blanket statements saying Scouts reject homosexuals and atheist but really do these young boys care? I am a Boy Scout, now 17, and while I am just one among many I really could not care if one of the guys in my troop was gay or if one of the leaders was atheist. The idea that Scouting is bad because of the way it has been projected by the adults who think they lead it is ludicrous. But if America really does not wnat an organization of young boys who help out the community and work to make life better then fine break up the Boy Scouts. I am not going to dismiss the fact that officially the Boy Scouts of America does discriminate but unoficially in the hearts and minds of the boys of America, where it counts, they do not. And that is because the youth do not run the adult side of the program which portrays the Scouts and decides on legal issues and other things which have been deemed tasks that only adults can handle but they do however run the program at its core and decide for themsleves what is right and what is wrong. To all the nay sayers I have one last thing work to change the adult leadership of scouting because if all you are going to do is complain then you might as well be a baby.


  • Anonymous, 2010-08-06 14:13:18

    I am a Boy Scout that was at this Jamboree, and everyone was excited for Obama to come and speak at this event. Of course, you could tell through the conversations that everyone was a little skeptical about whether or not Obama was coming. I’m an indoctrinated Republican, but seeing and being addressed in a speech by the president would have been incredible. Even the patch of the day for when he was supposed to speak was a picture of Obama with the red and blue that you see on T-shirts. And we even had two occasions for him to come! And he showed up to neither (sure, he recorded a 45 second video for the second event). Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia is barely a 30 minute flight from Washington, so I fail to see how even a fundraiser like that could have kept him. And about all the homosexual and atheist principles, I really fail to see how that would be a major issue in the president appearing before the Boy Scouts. The BSA is not an organization whose sole purpose is to create a heterosexual, Christian world. The BSA is about boys learning to become men, maturing into leaders and servants to our country. I find it utterly ridiculous that Obama did not show because of the affiliations the Boy Scouts have with anti-gay and -atheist movements. Whatever the arguments may be among courts and adults about the affiliations of Boy Scouts, what all those involved in the program really care about is the way the BSA can affect our lives to becoming just what the oath and law suggest for us - physically strong, mentally awake, morally straight, and a boatload of other positive traits. I know I was very disappointed that Obama did not show in either occasion - we even had "Hail to the Chief" ready for his arrival! - and would be especially upset if it was because of the BSA’s anti-gay and -atheist affiliations. Because that’s not what the Boy Scouts is about. It’s about maturity.


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