Oh man. Have I mentioned that I love Zach Wahls?
If you don't know who Wahls is, he's the founder of Scouts for Equality, the primary group that has been pressuring the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its discriminatory ban on gay Scouts and Scouters. He himself is an Eagle Scout from Iowa who has two moms. You might remember him from this amazing video, in which he speaks about his family:
He really is quite the incredible young man, and Scouts for Equality is performing such a vitally important role in the fight to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts.
Well, Wahls was recently on CNN to "debate" Ed Whelan, a Scouting parent and the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center who wrote an op-ed for the New York Post last week with the following homophobic garbage in response to the BSA's apparent openness to reconsider its policy:
Imagine that a group of girls is going on a long camping trip, supervised by adult volunteers who are young men you barely know. Would you let your 15-year-old daughter go?I put "debate" in quotes because it was more of a smackdown session. The poor guy didn't stand a chance against Wahls. Follow me below the fold for the video and more.
Nearly every parent, I think, would recognize the folly, even though the men might well be models of good behavior. Why should our common-sense response be any different if the 15-year-old is a boy and the possible, even if not-likely-to-be-acted-on, sexual attraction of the adult supervisors is homosexual rather than heterosexual?
The "debate" really speaks for itself. There's not much to add, except that this homophobe got his ass handed to him by Wahls and walked away from the segment looking like a complete jackass. Watch and enjoy:
For those who can't watch, here's a transcript:
Host: Ed, I'd like to start with you. In that op-ed, are you implying in your argument against lifting the ban that homosexuality is synonymous with pedophilia?Yeah, Ed, time to shut up.
Whelan: Not at all. In fact, I think the example I give indicates exactly the opposite. Look, what's at issue here is that we have an organization that has long stood in defense of traditional, American, moral values, and it's attracted supporters and parents from churches precisely because it has stood in defense of those values. The Supreme Court has held that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment constitutional right to pursue their values and to exclude leaders whose presence would be inconsistent with those values. That includes, by the way, not just gays, but atheists. Now, we can respect, and we do respect, our fellow citizens who are gays or atheists. We love our relatives or friends who are gays or atheists. But we are not obligated to regard them as suitable to be Scout leaders.
Host: Hm. All right, well let me ask Zach to weigh in here. Zach?
Wahls: Yeah, I think it's interesting that Ed is going to this, you know, traditional, moral values framework. I think what he is trying to do is define this as some particular biblical, literal, fundamentalist tradition that has become popular in the U.S. over the last forty years. The reality is that there are Christians of all different denominations who are applauding the BSA for this proposed policy change, including the United Church of Christ, one of the BSA's top eight church sponsors, which on Friday issued a statement saying, "The ban is inconsistent with the values of dignity and respect which serve as the foundation of the Scouting program," and we couldn't agree more. Even though Ed may be talking about respect, respect for him is a one-way street. Nobody is calling for the exclusion of Baptists or Mormons or Catholics or, frankly, anybody who even holds Ed's point of view. What we're trying to say is that Scouts should be an inclusive program experiencing, you know, a large amount of inclusivity because we believe in the values that constitute the program.
Host: Let me ask you about this woman, Ed--Jennifer Tyrell. She was kicked out of the Scouts. She is a lesbian mom who was a den leader for her son. Is she a threat?
Whelan: Look, the question here is whether a private organization can have its own standards for for its leaders.
Host: But answer that question first, if you will. Is she a threat?
Whelan: I don't know this particular woman. How could I possibly judge whether she's a threat? The fact of the matter is that organizations have all sorts of general rules that they adopt because the rules are sensible, and we don't have to defend every single application of every particular rule. The problem here is that the Boy Scouts, if they adopt this notion that different troops can have different policies, it's completely unworkable, it's going to invite legal attacks on the troops that maintain the traditional policies, and Zach and his cohorts are not going to call a peace truce. They're going to realize that the Boy Scouts can be intimidated, and they're going to continue to intimidate them, and this is an unstable stopping point--it's just a path to further surrender.
Wahls: Speaking as an Eagle Scout and somebody who actually spent twelve years in the organization, I simply have to disagree. We're appealing to the traditional values that have been a part of the Boy Scouts from their very inception in 1903, and I feel that, moving forward, this is going to be a part of the program that is fostering inclusiveness, and applying the values and the lifelong principles of the Boy Scouts to the entire, you know, population of young American men, not just those who happen to be straight. And further, on your point of whether or not this is something that is an unworkable legal solution, on a national call with the key three of the Boy Scouts earlier this week, the president of the board said, "With the current ban in place, we don't want to find ourselves in a position in which a judge is telling us that we need to expand our policy even further than we're going here." So even though you might be, you know, looking at this in one specific way, the BSA certainly isn't taking that position at all.
Host: Ed, let me ask you, because I know you mentioned this change in policy would deprive the troops of protection. Protection from what? What do they need protection from?
Whelan: They need protection from legal challenges to their decision to exclude gay leaders. The national Supreme Court organization won that victory thirteen years ago. They're throwing it away in a way that would expose local troops and volunteer leaders to lawsuits by activists like Zach.
Host: Would you want your son to be in the Scouts if he was gay?
Whelan: [long pause] Uh, I think a question like that directed at my son is a rude question, but let me answer it this way. I would not have put my son in a troop with an openly gay leader or an openly atheist leader. And lots and lots of other parents, the most vibrant part of the Boy Scouts, feel the same. So Zach can cite, you know, one liberal denomination that is satisfied with this proposal. There are plenty of other folks who aren't, and I think the Boy Scouts--
Wahls: That's an interesting point--
Whelan: Please let me finish. This, I think, would be an epic failure in leadership if they were to cave to the financial pressure that Zach and others are putting on them. This isn't a decision being made on the merits--this is a decision that is being made in the face of financial pressure, the almighty buck, and what sort of lesson is it to Scouts that the national organization would cave because of financial pressure rather than adhere to principle?
Host: Let me let Zach jump in here with the final word.
Wahls: I mean, yeah, to be clear, it's not just the UCC that has weighed in. Currently, the Mormon Church and Catholic Church, hardly denominations known for their liberal stances, have both declined to comment. Only the Baptists--
Whelan: [angrily] They're not going to approve this! Don't you dare suggest they're going to approve this!
Host: Ed, let Zach finish.
Wahls: No, I mean, the point is simply that, while there may be some who are, you know, very opposed to this policy position, there is a vast difference between being opposed to gay marriage and opposing the enrichment and development of young men because they happen to be not straight. So while I think Ed's position is, you know, certainly one that I will respect, and we're not going to remove his son from the program, I think he should understanding that Scouts is about respecting the opinions of all the people who want to be members, not just some.
Whelan: You're not respecting it, you're trying to--
Host: Appreciate your time. Appreciate both of you discussing this this morning. Thank you.
I'll say it again: I love Zach Wahls. I think our ol' pal Ed realizes he's on the losing side of this, and he's losing a good amount of sweat over this. Even if the BSA doesn't change its policy this time around, the time is coming, and probably very soon. Be scared, Ed. Be scared.