The response of the conservative right to the announcement by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that they intend to continue their policy of excluding gay boys and LGBT adults from being scouts or scoutmasters drives home an important lesson: For many of the leading figures and organizations in the modern conservative movement, hating us is more important than protecting children.
I'm not really thinking about GBT (the BSA excludes girls) children either. After all, conservatives have amply demonstrated already, through initiatives like "don't say gay" bills, that their agenda of discrimination and hatred doesn't have a lower age limit.
Rather, I'm talking about their insistence on promoting a spurious and thoroughly debunked narrative that portrays members of the LGBT community, and gay men in particular, as pedophiles and child sex abusers.
As was widely reported in the LGBT media last week, Christian conservative and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wasted no time in making that connection on his radio show soon after the Boy Scouts' announcement. Likewise the SPLC-designated hate group Liberty Counsel had this to say on their Facebook page:
Congratulations! Boy Scouts affirm natural family! They will continue to protect young boys from homosexual pressures and predators.
I'm confident that none of our regular readers need me to explain why this sort of rhetoric poses a danger to the LGBT community. These beliefs can threaten our livelihoods, our parental rights, and our standing in society. But frankly, the harm this brings to our community is not the focus this post.
We can't know the reasons the BSA elected to continue their policy but if they were motivated by the belief that gays are a threat to children, they have made Boy Scouts across America less safe, not more.
People who buy into into the idea that most child molesters are gay may very well ignore potential threats because the person posing that threat doesn't fit the image of 'child predator' that they've been taught to look for.
For the record, according to the American Psychological Association:
Heterosexual and gay men are equally likely to sexually abuse children. A perception that most perpetrators are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype.
Maybe I'm just having an uncharitable day, but I firmly believe that many of the people and organizations perpetuating this myth know it isn't accurate. There are two likely scenarios that come to mind for why people like Huckabee and the Liberty Counsel continue to propagate it:
Perhaps their hatred towards queer/LGBT people, and what we've come to represent for them about the changing face of the American sociopolitical landscape, is so all-consuming that any measure to hurt us both as individuals and as a community striving for equality, is acceptable. After all, elements of the radical religious right are, as 'Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters' pointed out a few weeks ago:
...so obsessed with the so-called sin of homosexuality that they are willing to overlook the sin of bearing false witness.
That idea scares the hell out of me, because it means that there may literally be nothing that folks like the Liberty Counsel, or the American Family Association wouldn't endorse or say as long as it thwarts our struggles for equality.
But while that very well may be true for some, I believe that there is another motivation that drives many of our most entrenched foes: money.
There exists a whole host of politicians, media personalities, lawyers, and pastors, who have funded their empires in no small part using our community as one of the key boogeymen driving their fundraising engines. For example, according to Wikipedia, The American Family Association in 2004 had an operating budget of $14 million and owned 180 radio stations. If you're keeping score at home it's worth noting that the AFA is another one of the radically anti-GLBT organizations whose rampant use of misinformation and deceit earned them the dubious honor of being branded a 'hate-group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I can't honestly say which idea is more disturbing to me, that these conservative groups are relentlessly dedicated to our downfall out of a belief that theirs is the 'one-true-way,' or that like so many other morally corrupt individuals and organizations lately, they simply don't care who has to suffer as long as their cash flow continues. That there may be those who fall into neither category, but rather are simply unable to accept the mountain of evidence that contradicts the truthiness of their bigoted beliefs, is scant comfort.
Regardless of intent, by cravenly perpetuating a long debunked 'Boys Beware' era mentality about the risks LGBT people pose to children, these conservatives put innocent people, queer and non-queer alike in harm's way in the pursuit of their own dogmatic ends.