A Scout is…

Nothing like a little controversy to get me writing again…

As I have discussed occasionally in this blog, I have been involved as a dedicated Cub/Boy Scout leader for about six years. My son and I started at the earliest levels of Cub Scouts and have progressed through the program, joining the Boy Scout Troop this past November. I chose to continue on as a leader as I believe in the program and the benefits, the personal development, and the leadership skills it provides to young men as well as the volunteer adult leadership. Plus, it’s just plain FUN! It has been an amazing experience that has had a profound and lasting effect on both of us.

Today I read a disquieting article about a female Cub Scout Leader in Ohio, who was recently removed from her position for being Lesbian. This woman did nothing other than volunteer as a Den Leader for a Cub Scout Pack that her son wanted to be involved in. She did nothing other than choose to sacrifice her own personal time, something the majority of parents would have been too lazy or disinterested to commit to.  Of course, as most people are probably aware, the B.S.A. has held a longstanding policy excluding gays from participating in their program. This storyline has been replayed over and over again through the years as this topic continues to resurface and plague an otherwise wonderful and valuable program.

I won’t rehash all the details, you can read it here.

Although I disagree with this stance, I won’t give up on the Boy Scout program. I believe the benefits it provides far outweighs the downsides of this one ignorant policy. I believe myself and my fellow leaders have, and will continue to, provide a positive and influential program for the youth in our local Pack and Troop. Perhaps naively, I believe that in many cases this policy would not be… and is not… supported on a local level, it is only forced down from the National organization.  But I did feel the need to speak up, if only in the limited capacity that I am able to through this blog and through social media. I believe this is a policy that should be reevaluated and ultimately changed, especially during a period in the B.S.A.’s proud history when membership is declining and gaining financial support for the programs is challenging.

In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld the B.S.A.’s right to exclude gays from their ranks, as it is a private organization and has the right to establish its own rules.  I’m not denying the B.S.A. the right to carry on a ridiculous, archaic policy like this, but I am questioning the judgment of an organization that declares to teach young men to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

Perhaps they need to add Discriminatory to that list.


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15 responses to “A Scout is…

  1. Steve, I agree with you 100%. My son is an Eagle scout and scouting was a tremendous experience for him. There were some bad apples (as in any organization) – adults with attitudes that could hardly be labeled helpful, courteous or kind – but most were wonderful people. I wouldn’t care nor would it be my business if any one of the leaders were gay or straight. Sadly, homophobia is alive and well, as further evidenced by the “marriage amendment” to the NC constitution that is on the upcoming ballot (bet you can guess what it says).

    • Thanks Lisa, you and your son should be proud of that accomplishment (as I’m sure you are!). Stats suggest only about 5% of registered scouts make it to Eagle Scout, but of those that do, the benefits on college applications, job skills, and life experience is immeasurable. I do believe strongly in the program and wish they would re-evaluate this stance.

  2. *steps on soapbox*

    It is this policy that made me decide NOT to enroll my son in the organization in the first place. How can I, as a Jew, condone that kind of overt discrimination? And frankly, it’s all the bystanders in the organization who continue to turn their heads who should be ashamed. Why don’t you splinter off and do your own thing? Why does your kid need to be a Cub Scout? If you really don’t believe in the B.S.A ideology, your actions would speak louder than your words. That would be a much more inspired life lesson. So maybe you don’t mind going along with archaic policies after all.

    *steps off soapbox and falls on face*

    • Hi Renee, sorry you fell on your face 🙂

      To answer your question… because I believe in the program 99% of the time, because not only has it been a positive experience for my son and I, but more importantly, because it has put me in a situation where I have been able to make a significant difference in the lives of several boys who really needed the structure and support that this program has provided… because they don’t have it at home. As I said in the post, I honestly believe that at a local level there is clearly not the “strict interpretation of the rules” that there is at a national level. Does that make a discriminatory national policy right? No, absolutely not and you are correct in pointing out that many of us, as local representatives of this organization, are turning our heads. With that in mind, is it better for someone with moderate opinions like myself to walk away from a program that is for the most part, a very positive influence on our boys, or to stick with these kids and give them the benefit of NOT having leadership that is bigoted and discriminatory? This is a tough question and I struggle with the answer. I look forward to others thoughts.

    • First, thanks for speaking up, Steve. Ironically, the Scouts call a much greater attention to sexual orientation through their discrimination than any Scout leader probably ever did. Maybe someday they’ll realize that and shut up. It’s a naive hope.

      Renée’s right. Your dues and your volunteer time show public support for the organization, not your children. You don’t need a uniform to spend parent-child time. You only need the uniform to spend anti-gay parent-child time.

      Maybe you should introduce a Gay Rights Merit Badge… 🙂

  3. Wow. Being an active member of the broadway theatre community, this news hits home. I was unaware of this policy and may think twice about getting my children involved in girl scouts or boy scouts. Perhaps, we can hope that by the time they reach that age, this is no longer an issue. If you dont mind, I am reposting your blog on my site, and linking to fb. It should get attention. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Emily, yes this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but please don’t discount the organization as it can have a significant positive influence on boys, without this “issue” ever really coming into play. I have numerous Dad’s I have come to know who have praised the opportunity to be able to spend time with their sons. As I implied in my reply to Renee, I would rather see leaders and families with “moderate” voices get involved in the program than have people avoid it altogether. Besides SPORTS there are not a lot of opportunities for fathers (especially) to be active participants in their sons lives.. this is one organization that provides that environment.

  4. Pingback: Did you know this? | Motherfog

  5. Kip Young

    As a fellow Scout leader with Steve,he is 100% right on the money. NO organization and their policies are perfect. Scouting is an organization that has a positive impact on thousands if not millions of youth. More important than focusing on the BSA’s hot button gay policy issue, people should be focusing on the youth that benefit from the scouting program. The benefits far outweigh the negatives.

    As Steve said, there are way more parents that fail to step up than there are issues around gay leadership. The impact I have seen him and many other leaders make in the lives of those kids is substantial. Whether or not the BSA policy is right in today’s world can be argued and will be for the foreseeable future. What is right is the dedication the organization has toward making a difference in the lives of kids.

    • Kip thanks for the comment, and you raise a great point. It’s unfortunate that the “hot button” issues make the news while the positive stories rarely do. I guess, that’s the nature of the news business.

  6. Have you considered writing the powers that be? Or have you considered taking up a poll of your locality? While these may be harder to undertake (and I SERIOUSLY doubt will have immediate effect), they may help your son and others’ sons locally. It may also wreak havoc on your lives. I stood up for gays on my own as a kid and got beaten up more times than I can count. I don’t regret it but I was doing it for myself as well as for the kids. Sometimes it’s worth a blog post and sometimes it’s worth the broken bones.

    I live in BACKWARDS-ARSED Missouri–my mother is from Michigan (the UP), so I know backwards from backwards…it can be hard and it can be the right or wrong thing for you. If I feel strongly, I tend to take action. Perhaps I’m stupid but it feels good to know that I know I made a difference in the lives right in front of me.

  7. You know, just like choosing to have a religion or not, no social organization is without flaws, and different scout troops vary almost as much as churches do, depending on the quality of their local leaders. When I was a kid I was a Cub Scout, and made friends there and had good experiences and learned a lot. So, I began the BSA program, but in our area the Boy Scouts were almost an ROTC recruitment program for the war in Vietnam. They didn’t like my Jewish pals from Cub Scouts, and they didn’t like me because I was small and nerdy, therefore a “sissy”. I went back to my usual tribe of punks and outcasts. One can learn as much from being excluded as from being included. You learn to examine why it happens.

    Over the years, BSA at the national level has grown more right-wing and intolerant even than it was in my youth. They have explicit positions to exclude not only LGBT people but also anyone acknowledging they are agnostic or atheist. They call themselves a private organization, yet they take huge chunks of United Way funds and use public buildings to promote discriminatory policies. Morally, that’s just wrong.

    However, on a local level, individual troops can provide mentoring experiences and teach useful skills (not that any modern person except a Survivalist needs to know how to make fire from sticks, but you know). Boys can learn about working as a team, and serving their local community which is important. There’s probably a lot of teachable moments available for you, Steve. I guess I can trust you to choose what is best for you and yours.

  8. Margie

    I agree with your decision to stay with the Scouts Program. You are a much more effective change agent when you are working from within. If you do nothing else, you will make sure that this discrimination doesn’t happen on your turf and on your watch.

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