Sometimes lone voices inveighing against conventional, if misguided, wisdom finally are heard. After a decade of being on the losing side in opposing a Boy Scouts of America-affiliated school character education program, Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner finally prevailed Tuesday when the board rejected state funding for the program. The vote validates Lerner's lonely crusade to demand greater tolerance from the Boy Scouts while sending a strong message to the organization that it needs to acknowledge that gay boys can be children of character, too.
The $54,838 state grant would have paid for Pinellas schools to use the program created by Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America. It promotes life skills such as respect, responsibility, honesty and citizenship — all worthy civic and human virtues. The grant would have been used at Mildred Helms and Skyview elementary schools, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Tyrone middle schools, as well as Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Education Center and the district's drop-out prevention program. Lerner, the mother of a gay son, has consistently opposed accepting the Boy Scout funding since the organization bans gays from membership.
The Boy Scouts of America is a civic institution that has provided millions of young men the chance to experience the great outdoors, the opportunity to develop leadership skills and hone other critical talents that guide them into adulthood. But it is also hypocritical for an organization to promote a school character-building program stressing respect, responsibility, honesty and citizenship while openly discriminating against children because of their sexual orientation.
In an era of increasing acceptance of gay marriage, as well as the recent abolition of the military's oppressive "don't ask, don't tell" policy, it is time for Scouting, in a character-building exercise of its own, to repeal this discriminatory code. That would be its good deed for the day.