Here’s my take on the Boy Scouts drama here, at TIME.com:
After months of delay, Boys Scouts of America (BSA) is finally voting today to overturn its ban on “openly gay” scouts (though not scout leaders—those are still verboten.) The BSA has defended its discriminatory policy on the grounds that homosexuality is incompatible with the Scout Law, especially with the values expressed in its commitment to ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean’ living. But instead of twisting themselves into moral knots that encourage bigotry, the Boy Scouts would have saved themselves a lot of angst and controversy (and also done better by American boys) if they were more like…the Girl Scouts.
In their statement of purpose called “What we stand for,” the Girl Scouts explicitly reject discrimination of any kind and consider sexual orientation, “a private matter for girls and their families to address.” Noting their affirmation of freedom of religion, a founding principle of American life, the Girl Scouts “do not attempt to dictate the form or style of a member’s worship” and urge “flexibility” in reciting the Girl Scout Promise. (They are encouraged to substitute the word “God” for something that’s more in line with their own spiritual practice.) It’s an arresting contrast to the Boy Scouts of America, who in addition to excluding gays also refuse to hire non-believers. While the BSA employment application states unequivocally that atheists, agnostics and “known or avowed homosexuals” are in all cases barred from becoming Scout leaders, convicted criminals can rest easy that their record “is not an automatic bar to employment.”
But there’s more than discrimination at stake. The BSA’s clannish practices may harm heterosexual boys too. That’s because a body of research suggests that excluding people from groups who are different impairs creative problem-solving and critical thinking. The studies, ranging from financial trading and management practices to jury deliberations, have confirmed what most of us know intuitively: our decision-making is enhanced by a wide variety of perspectives, even from those with whom we may disagree…