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Penn & Teller on the Boy Scouts on Monday

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I wouldn't characterize Penn and Teller as ultra-liberal. More like ultra-libertarian.


And the point of their series on Showtime, with an unprintable name that starts with "Bull", is to point out things that are not as they seem. They delight in blowing the whistle on charlatans of all stripes.


Some of their previous targets include John Edwards (the guy who talks to the dead on TV), feng shui practioners, PETA, and Gandhi, who held some pretty obnoxious racist views. Hardly a list of topics that ultra-liberals would take on.


They're not just cracking jokes, although they love to use humor to make a point (like when they served people "bottled water" from a garden hose for $5 a shot). Expect some valid points to be raised.


My unit has a membership that is about 25% East Indian. If I tried to run my unit with the religious content many of the posters here think are part and parcel of Scouting, I would have a mutiny on my hands.(This message has been edited by Greg Nelson)

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If I tried to run my unit with the religious content many of the posters here think are part and parcel of Scouting, I would have a mutiny on my hands.


I'm a little lost as to what you think "many of the posters" are saying. Can you give an example of the "religious content" that these posters are promoting that would cause such a mutiny? My guess is, you have painted a picture which only exists in your mind.

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I've seen more than one poster claim that Scouting is a Christian activity, and it's no secret that many of the posters here are strong Christians. (As are the large majority of Scouts.)


Even without the Christian angle, most of my parents signed their kids up in Cub Scouts for outdoor activities, not religious activities. All attempts to plug religious medals fall on deaf ears, except for those who can get it "for free" as part of the Sunday School curriculum at our local Catholic Church and our local UMC.


And I've had two parents ask me to not renew their sons' Boys' Life subscriptions, specifically because of the Bible Stories cartoon. (One of those two was Jewish.)

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Well, that show was disappointing. Not because it was a hatchet job on the Boy Scouts - I expected that - but because it was so poorly done. As a former debater, I thought they did a terrible job of making their point.


The main point of the show was to attack the BSA positions on athiest and homosexual members. To do so, they mostly relied on ad hominem attacks, instead of rebutting the arguments put forth by BSA defenders on the show. Calling someone a f..... or a...... doesn't really refute what he is saying, does it?


For the most part, the people supporting Penn and Teller's points were pretty weak. The assertion that the BSA is responsible for gay teen suicide rates was particularly incredible. The only person I was at all impressed with was the gay ex-Scoutmaster they used as a prop during their "gay vs. straight" Scouting Skills contest. He quietly and calmly stated his regret that he was no longer able to share his knowledge of Scouting due to National's policies. No grandstanding, no distortions.


The LDS-BSA connection was featured prominently. At one point, they asserted that the BSA was likely to target Jews for exclusion in the future. I'm guessing this was supposed to be humor, although it went over my head. And it's a classic dirty debate trick. Put words in your opponent's mouth, then rebut them.


They sent out fake letters to unit leaders across the country, asking for information on enrolling their athiest son in Scouting. I'm not sure what they proved with that, other than that some units declined the boy, and others welcomed him. Go figure. There was some other pointless stuff, including what appeared to be a topless model in a Girl Scout uniform.


The most interesting quote was one they put in that, to me, showed the opposite of what they intended. Fred Berlin, MD stated that "A man who is homosexual is at no more risk of abusing a boy than a man who is heterosexual at risk of abusing a girl." Read that, then think about it.


Overall, a pretty poor program, and not anything for the BSA to get too worried about.

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Be glad. P&T actually made BSA look better than it is. The membership quoted was "almost 5 million" when even BSA is stating "4.1 million youth served" - including Learning for Life.


They went easy overall. It would have been far more damaging to bring up the abuse issue - which BSA is still having serious problems with.


If they really wanted to make clear BSA's problems addressing homosexuality, the Smith vs. St. Jean contrast would have been brutal.... Kiddie porn distributor firing respected closeted gay staffer.


All in all, it was a lightweight "investigation" but it wasn't intended to do more than highlight the inherent hypocrisy in BSA right now. Same approach used on other groups. Their piece on "life counselors" made that bunch look more absurd.


If anyone was to do a REAL investigation of BSA, you'd have serious cause for concern. After all, there was no mention of enrollment scandals, Camp Sales, excessive compensation for executives and cases like "Red Dog Maynard" - which would have really pointed out the hypocrisy.


Be glad the focus was on gays and athiests. It's easier for people to ignore criticism that way. Most have already made their mind up one way or another - though P&T did point out that many are NOT in lock-step with National. I wonder if BSA is going to start testing Units now for ideological conformity now..... can they afford the losses that would result?


But like it or not, P&T are saying what many are now thinking -


BSA HAS been hijacked by religious conservatives. The current focus was NOT there 25 years ago.


BSA DOES pander to the LDS contingent.


BSA IS hypocritical in seeking as much governmental aid and funding - and preferential treatment as it can get - while then claiming it is a "Private" organization. You CAN'T have it both ways.


Homosexuality is NOT a concern to many - despite BSA's position.


A focus on formal belief in God - instead of ethical and moral behavior - is "questionable."


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"I've seen more than one poster claim that Scouting is a Christian activity,"


Now, to be honest, whenever you see someone claim that Scouting is a Christian activity, don't you typically see a scouter rebutt that with a list of all the non-Christian religious medals that exist?


PS Did anyone see the movie "The Aristocrats" and what was the point?

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But like it or not, P&T are saying what many are now thinking


Is this the proverbial "many" or do you actually know of "many" who feel this way?


And from what I understand, P&T didn't actually say much! Big surprise!


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Well, here in not necessarily "liberal" but far from "conservative" NY, at least half the registered leaders think BSA's changed and is pandering to religious conservatives....


"Gay or athiest" is a topic avoided simply because few agree with BSA's policies. It's not a matter of concern to anyone I know - except for those that end up quitting on a point of principle. I lost two good Cub Scout Leaders that way. Contrast them with the parent fooling around on his wife, the divorced father who seems to have a nice abuse problem (shacked up with someone he's not married to) and a few other appalling examples of ethical and moral behavior.


The older boys in Scouting themselves think it's a joke. Most know kids who are gay and athiest.... it's simply not a big thing to THEM.


Even the seriously religious - those that are involved in religious medal instruction are pretty tolerant around here.


And the attorneys that are involved peripherally - most lacking the time to be more active - are firmly of the opinion that BSA has been trying to have its cake and eat it too when it comes to "private/public".


The few "BSA all the way" types are viewed a bit suspiciously by other leaders as they are rather "black or white" people - overly simplistic in their view of the world - frankly, they are NOT great leaders of youth and one had their own behavior called into question at camp. A bit too autocratic and harsh themselves in their treatment of boys and others.....


And even some of them think our SE is something akin to Satan - destroying our Council. They can't figure why National lets guys like him stay.....

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I watched P & T and agree it would have very little influence on anybody trying to decide if the BSA was a good or a bad thing. They are satirical comedians and a lot of what they said and showed (the comment about Jews and the topless GS for instance) was purely that. I also agree they didn't make any real argument in a debunking sense. They just pointed out some truths - we do have a greater slant toward the Christian Right than 30 years ago, no one can deny the influence of the LDS Church on the BSA, and we do exclude gays for reasons that many don't understand - and made their jokes.


I didn't think it was particularly funny, but I've never been a big fan of Penn & Teller. I did think the gay vs straight competition was kind of funny and certainly the revelation of the gay veteran ex-Scouter at the end was a bit of a surprise.

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I'm with Kahuna.


The only thing I'd add is that it's very easy to help others make you look foolish -- especially for large organizations that achieve ICON status >> BSA, MLB, NFL, RNC, Fortune 100 companies, etc.. BSA did just that. It's not helpful when the only BSA participation in the program was a written "no comment" that had a vocabulary error (mistaking "respectively" for "respectfully") and charging $150 for the use of a BSA photo of Mr. Shields (assuming P/T are telling the truth about the fee.)


On the whole, a serious non-event with more cursing than you'd hear in the Varsity Football Team's locker room.



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I've seen Penn & Teller a time or two but I missed that show. It sounds like I didn't miss much. Probably would have been more entertaining if they had a tiger or two, or maybe smashed some watermelons...


Packsaddle asks an intriguing question about LDS theology. I am not LDS but, from the outside, it seems to me that LDS are Christians to the same extent that Sikhs are Hindus or Baha'is are Muslims. That is to say, they trace their origins to Christianity but have significant theological differences to the extent that most (traditional) Christians might not recognize the theology. Of course, this is only my own observation (and is not meant to offend either LDS or Christians).



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