The governor of Texas has written a new book about the Boy Scouts, but parents expecting a positive, civic-minded story about personal development will be disappointed: instead, Rick Perry has apparently taken up a defense of the youth organization’s anti-gay policy.
Perry, like the Scouts, has made banning gays and atheists the Maginot Line of what he calls the “culture war” against the “virus of secularism.” In a condensed interview with the New York Times Magazine’s Deborah Solomon, the governor lays out his explanation of why excluding gays is so important to scouting:
Let’s talk about your new book, “On My Honor,” which draws on your experience as an Eagle Scout and champions the values of the Boy Scouts of America, to whom you are donating your royalties. Yes, to their legal-defense fund.
Which has been fighting the A.C.L.U., to keep gays out of the scouts. Why do you see that as a worthy cause? I am pretty clear about this one. Scouting ought to be about building character, not about sex. Period. Precious few parents enroll their boys in the Scouts to get a crash course in sexual orientation.
Why do you think a homosexual would be more likely to bring the subject of sex into a conversation than a heterosexual? Well, the ban in scouting applies to scout leaders. When you have a clearly open homosexual scout leader, the scouts are going to talk about it. And they’re not there to learn about that. They’re there to learn about what it means to be loyal and trustworthy and thrifty.
But don’t you think that homosexuals might also be interested in being loyal and thrifty? The argument that gets made is that homosexuality is about sex. Do you agree?
No. Well, then why don’t they call it something else?
If scouting is “not about sex,” then why must the group interrogate its participants’ sexuality? If someone is gay, says the governor, then everything they do is sexual.
UPDATE (2/27/08): Boy Scouts of American spokesman Bob Bork, Jr. (son of the rejected Supreme Court nominee) praises Perry and echoes the same paradoxical logic:
“Since its inception in 1910, the Boy Scouts has believed that open homosexuality is inconsistent with the values it wants to communicate through its leaders,” Bork notes. “Scouting parents and sponsoring organizations share that belief — and the Boy Scouts of America has a constitutional right to provide a youth organization for families who share those values.”…
Scouting is about camping out and having fun, says Bork, and not the appropriate place to delve into the issue of sexuality.