The life lessons the Boy Scouts of America teach their members don’t exactly jibe with the organization’s longtime policy of discriminating against gays. A Boy Scout “seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own,” says the Scout Law members vow to obey. Scouts “are concerned about other people, and treat others as they would want to be treated.”

Scouting leaders finally seem to have recognized the lunacy of that contradiction. The group said Monday that it is considering allowing the religious and civic groups that sponsor scouting to decide for themselves whether to discriminate against gay and lesbian members and leaders. The national board will make the decision next week, but it’s hard to imagine them backing away now, after so publicly discussing it.

Who knows why the scouts changed course after affirming the gay ban just last year. Perhaps it’s because companies such as UPS and Merck withdrew financial support. Or maybe the evidence that scouting officials covered up sexual abuse by leaders pointed too bright a spotlight on the hypocrisy of the gay ban.

We’d like to think the increasing number of local troops refusing to obey the national policy helped. Or publicity around the outrageous case of Ryan Andresen of Moraga, Calif., who did all the work to earn his Eagle Scout badge but was denied it in part because he is gay.

All of this has contributed to a nearly 30 percent decline in membership since 1998.

No matter the reason, this news is welcome. Scouting always has had a lot to teach boys and young men of America about hard work and respect for the outdoors. If the scouts change this policy, troops that admit gay members will have the moral standing to teach members about how to treat others, too.

Editorial by the San Jose Mercury News

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