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I loved being in Boy Scouts. Scouting gave me my first experiences with leadership, taught me important practical skills, lead to strong bonds with good friends, provided positive adult role models, and helped inspire my life's focus on environmental advocacy. It also taught me why the Boy Scouts' ban on gay members is wrong.

Despite not being so good at tying knots, my time in scouting included holding a long list of positions. The last one was Troop Guide. I was older than most of the troop, but I was so close to completing my Eagle Scout badge that I decided to stick with it. The scout handbook describes the troop guide's duties:

The troop guide is both a leader and a mentor to the members of the new-Scout patrol. He should be an older Scout who holds at least the First Class rank and can work well with younger Scouts. He helps the patrol leader of the new-Scout patrol in much the same way that a Scoutmaster works with a senior patrol leader to provide direction, coaching, and support.
There was a more specific reason for my assignment. The troop had a problem with some of the younger scouts being teased and treated badly. It was the sort of common behavior you'd expect from boys that age, but it did cause a couple of scouts to leave the troop. The Scoutmaster wanted me to help set the tone for the older scouts and stick up for the younger kids.

I don't remember teasing the younger scouts before then, but I wasn't paying much attention to them either. I hung out with the older guys. Socializing too much with the newbies wasn't cool.

I started spending more time talking with the new scouts after accepting the position and tried making them feel welcome in the troop. Once or twice I gave the older kids a hard time about their teasing. After that, everyone started rethinking their behavior and things got better. I think I did a good job.

It was a church-sponsored troop and I heard about a comment one of the younger scouts made in Sunday School class. The students were asked to name people who stand up for justice. One of them said my name. He may have been playing teacher's pet since my mom was giving the Sunday school lesson, but I was very proud to know someone thought of me that way because of how I acted as troop guide.

If there were any gay scouts in our troop they kept it a secret. Back then, I was naively unaware of how much a teenager might go through by coming out of the closet. The killing of Matthew Shepard confronted me with that reality years later.

After that, I helped the LGBT students at my college push for the bill that added sexual orientation to the Illinois Human Rights code (an act co-sponsored by State Senator Barack Obama). It wouldn't be the last time I worked to protect the civil rights of a group I didn't belong to, including my work as state director of a voter registration drive targeted at African-American and Hispanic voters in an old Jim Crow state.

There are many life experiences that influence me to stand up for the rights of everyone. But undoubtedly, an important one was my time as troop guide. I learned that you don't look the other way and ignore what's happening when a bully is picking on the little guy. You speak up. You help set things right. You set the tone for others and lead by example.

Sadly, in the case of their discrimination policy, the Boys Scouts of America organization is the bully. The policy forces people to hide who they are, and sends a message that it's acceptable to treat people badly based on their sexual orientation. By participating in discrimination, they're violating some of the most important values I learned as a Boy Scout.

What saddens me as well is that the future of scouting is jeopardized by the executive board sticking to this policy. Boy Scouts will become marginalized so that fewer and fewer young men will get to have the same positive, life-changing experiences I had.

Letting troops set their own policy will open up participation to additional churches and civic groups that stand for inclusiveness. That's the only way Boy Scouts will grow.

Receiving my Eagle Scout badge is something I still take pride in. I'm glad I stuck with it. I hope many others will be able to learn the same kind of lessons I did, regardless of their sexual orientation.

First posted at my blog.

Originally posted to Willinois on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:00 AM PST.

Also republished by LGBT Kos Community and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  That is one of the many things Scouts can do well. (20+ / 0-)

    But they need the proper adult leadership in place, and a support for getting rid of the bad actors.

    I stopped our troop from using the NRA for any training because they use these kids to pad their membership numbers and then lobby Washington. This was about 12-14 tears ago. I had my say at a meeting, and the next thing I knew they had found some other way to get training for the boys.

    Our Troop leaders were responsive and responsible and I will always be proud of that.

    Sounds like you learned some of the best lessons that Scouts have to teach. Thank you. Chicago Parade for Post 9/11 vets on Saturday, Dec 15th.

    by lexalou on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:13:40 AM PST

  •  Excellent diary. Republished to LGBT Kos Community (25+ / 0-)

    I was in Boy Scouts throughout my teens. It was a great experience for me, and I remember my time in my troop, and later in my Order of the Arrow lodge, quite fondly. That I had to leave it behind so suddenly when I came out still deeply bothers me.

    If there was one theme in my time in Boy Scouts, it was leadership. The BSA and O/A taught me leadership lessons I'll never forget, and they have shaped me into who I am today. There's something very sadly ironic about an organization that puts leadership at the forefront having to be dragged into the 21st century on the sexual orientation issue.

    Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

    by Chrislove on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:21:26 AM PST

  •  God I'm tired of hearing about how (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AdamSelene, Buckeye54

    terrific the Boy Scouts is with the exception of this one policy. The Hitler Youth took camping trips and long hikes in the great outdoors as well. If the BSA doesn't drop it's antiquated anti-gay policies immediately I hope they lose their charter.

    It very well may be the case that God created Man to be heterosexual only, and that everyone else is the work of the devil. But I doubt it.

    •  The BSA is not the Hitler Youth (21+ / 0-)

      And as somebody who benefitted greatly from the program before I had to leave because of this one policy, yes, the Boy Scouts is terrific aside from this policy...and the policy excluding agnostics/atheists, I might add. If you're into outdoors activities. Obviously, not for everybody. But Hitler Youth it is not.

      Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

      by Chrislove on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 11:27:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The Hitler Youth was the anti-Boy Scouts (18+ / 0-)

        The founder of Scouting, Lord Baden-Powell was an English general, who fought in several African campaigns as well as the Boer War.  Like many good soldiers, he evolved into an anti-war activist.  A part of BP's vision for Scouting was that he thought it would be impossible for two countries whose youth had been brought up on the ideals of Scouting to fight a war against each other.

        Scouting had just gotten started in Germany and Russia following the First World War.  When Hitler and the Bolsheviks came to power in both countries, they banned Scouting, and replaced it with similar programs that appealed to youth idealism and the outdoors.  The difference was that in place of ideals, both the Hitler Youth and the Young Pioneers inserted devotion to the "Leader" as the highest ideal.  While a few of the methods are the same between Scouting and the Hitler Youth, that single change makes all the difference.

        The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

        by DaytonMike on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:18:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Baden-Powell became an Anti-War Activist ... ???? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bluesee, JesseCW

          They certainly never shared that information with me, when I was a Scout ...

          I guess he was ... at least in the sense that Queen Victoria was, after the death of Prince Albert.  That is: they both believed that if everyone would simply become more British, (to the limited extent that they were able)  the need for War would simply cease to exist.  Everyone would share British values of Trade and Cleanliness ... and everyone's Monarch would be a close relative of the British Throne.

          As it happened, there were soldiers in WW One, some of whom may have been Scouts,  who sometimes  DID show reluctance to make war against each other. VIDE: the Christmas Truce of 1914 -- which the political and military leadership of both sides went to great effort to hide, punish and deter.   Whether credit for the truce belongs to Christianity in general, the Communist International in particular, or Boy Scouting ...  I guess it depends on who you ask.

          However, there WERE consequences, and there were NO repetitions.

          As late as 1939  (the invasion of Poland, a British ally)  Baden-Powell himself would remain a great admirer of theoretical Fascism  --  although he seems to have somewhat disapproved of Adolph Hitler, personally.  

          In fact ... back in "my day" ... "Bayden-Powellism" was a criticism of that faction in Scouting that saw the Scouts (as LBP did) as a uniformed paramilitary organization whose primary mission was to prepare boys for to be foot sloggers and NCOs in the regular Armed Forces.  At the time, that POV came along with a generous helping of Red Baiting ... an assumption of Christianic religiousity ... and a generous disregard of the cultural peculiarities of  those Troops whose sponsoring Organizations just happened to be Segregationist.

          Today, of course ... the BSA has raised it's sights,  and now hopes to prepare  its  Eagle Scouts for entry into  the Military Academies and its Explorers for Chambers of Commerce.  

          •  Baden Powell was a huge patriot. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            One of the coolest things about the Scouts for Equality Facebook page is the daily quotes they post from Baden Powell. I was thrilled to show the big redneck scoutmasters I know the quote about defending the king and supporting him against anyone who says bad things about him. They weren't real thrilled when I pointed out that would apply to President Obama.

            Since when is the party that embraces all the top tenets of Satan allowed to call the God shots?--wyvern

            by voracious on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:49:53 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Too Much Marching! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I know that in my time in the Scouts (age 11 to 18), I spent way too much time marching (military style in formation).

            Come to think of it, our troop meetings were dominated by processions of the flag and marching.

            Other troops were working on merit badges and progressing to Eagle. We marched. I never got past Star Scout.

            On the other hand, I'm really grateful for experiences camping and hiking, learning survival skills in the wild,  lifesaving in the water, reading maps, and orienting by the stars. Most of that I owe to my father.

            Join the 48ForEastAfrica Blogathon for the famine in east Africa: Donate to Oxfam America

            by JayC on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:20:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Hitler's Black Book (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, Silvia Nightshade

          During WWII, the Nazis drew up a list called the Sonderfahndungsliste G.B. (literally, the "Special Search List G.B."); a list of nearly three thousand prominent people the Nazis intended to arrest after the planned invasion of Britain. The list was compiled by the SS Einsatzgruppen and included both British subjects and expatriates living in Britain.

          Among the names on the list were prominent politicians, such as Winston Churchill and Secretary of War Anthony Eden, and outspoken anti-fascists, such as cartoonist David Lowe.  One of the people targeted was Robert Baden-Powell, apparently because the Nazis considered the Boy Scouts to be a spy organization.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 05:15:37 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Wow way to miss the point. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Read it again.  Doc2's point was NOT that the BSA is just like the Hitler Youth.  Pay attention next time.  It was that citing examples of being an outdoors group and kids going camping a lot and seeing the natural world is not enough to try to claim that the organization is at its core a nice one (which is WHAT THE DIARIST DID).  The example of the Hitler Youth was brought up to show an example of WHY those things are not good enough cause for that claim.

        •  If his point was not to compare the two (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Batya the Toon

          then maybe he shouldn't have brought up the Hitler Youth. And, for the record, I didn't say he was equating the two. Pay attention next time.

          Bringing up the Hitler Youth was asinine, no matter the intention. And judging by the rec numbers, I think it's safe to say most people reading this agree.

          Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

          by Chrislove on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:57:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Also, your interpretation of the diary is WAY off (0+ / 0-)

          Maybe before participating in the comments, you should heed your own advice and pay attention next time. It is most certainly you who is missing the point here.

          Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

          by Chrislove on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 11:59:58 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  pay attention to what doc2 was talking about. (0+ / 0-)

            it was about being sick and tired of hearing about something.  That context means it includes several diaries.  The diary he's referring to does exist.  If you want to pretend it doesn't I'll go take the time and find the link.

            •  No, that's not what you said (0+ / 0-)

              You were talking about this diary.

              which is WHAT THE DIARIST DID
              So now you're saying that you weren't talking about this were talking about some generic "THE DIARIST." Nice try, but not gonna work.

              Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

              by Chrislove on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:36:15 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  ...and Hitler. (12+ / 0-)

      There are many ways to frame this issue, but let me give you a Guaranteed Loser: Comparing the BSA to the Hitler Youth.

      What you accomplish in advancing the argument that gay youth should be accepted into the scouting movement: ZERO.  What you lose in painting yourself as a detached, reflexive leftist with zero context or concern for an otherwise positive and unifying American institution: INFINITE.

      Much as I'd love to have a conversation about gun control without the Hitler Banned Guns refrain, let's please leave Adolf out of this debate as well.

      •  Well it's a good thing doc2 didn't do that then. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        He brought up Hitler Youth as an example of why outdoorsmanship is not sufficient cause to claim a youth group is a good one.  At no point was the claim made that Hitler You and the BSA have similar ideologies.  It was a reaction to the diarist's attempts to show how boys watching a sunset, or seeing mountains for the first time somehow means the BSA is a nice organization.  Those have absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand, and the Hitler Youth are a good example of exactly why they aren't sufficient cause to make that claim.

        •  Interesting how you chose to read this diary (5+ / 0-)

          ...considering that the words "outdoors" and "camping" weren't never used.

          The point of this diary is to point out the irony of how the Boy Scouts taught the diarist to stand up to bullies, and that they themselves are now the bully he stands up against.

          •  I didn't say THIS diarist. I said THE diarist. (0+ / 0-)

            Pay attention.  doc2's comment was talking about what he was sick and tired of hearing about.  That context means he's also talking about other diaries on this subject.

            •  LOL, wow, you're hilarious (0+ / 0-)

              Anybody reading your comments will come to the same conclusion--you were talking about THIS diarist, the author of THIS diary.

              which is WHAT THE DIARIST DID
              It was a reaction to the diarist's attempts to show how boys watching a sunset, or seeing mountains for the first time somehow means the BSA is a nice organization.
              Then you missed the part of the diary where the diarist tried to paint this image that if your organization takes boys camping this is sufficient cause to call it a good organization.
              Now do you still want to sit here and make the ridiculous claim that you were talking about some other diary and some other diarist? Do you REALLY expect any reasonable person to believe that?

              You were shown to have no idea what you are talking about, and now you're changing your story. You're embarrassing yourself.

              Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

              by Chrislove on Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 04:41:22 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  not really (15+ / 0-)

      (I actually looked these up)  Neither the young pioneers (both versions), the Hitler youth, Mussolini's equivalent, or the (unfortunately current in the USA) Young Marines place the same emphasis on helping others and socially ethical responsibility that the Scouts do.  

      The closest approach to the scouts I could find was the motto of the soviet young pioneers - "for the motherland, be prepared".  

      the oath (which most scouts say every meeting) goes
      On my honor
      I promise to do my best
      to do my duty to god and my country
      to help other people at all times
      to keep myself physically strong, morally straight and mentally awake.

      They don't promise to die for their country, don't pledge allegiance to a political leader or party, and while obedience is one point of the twelve scout laws, it's about half-way down the list - well below and outnumbered by trustworthy, loyal and helpful.

      You won't find helpful, at all, in the creed of these other organizations.  You will find lots about obedience, sacrifice and blood.

      This is why the USA scout organization's somewhat schizoid response to homosexuals and atheists is so out of character.  And why national is getting pressure from existing scouts and scout leaders.  It's out of step with the world scouting organization, which is much more inclusive and a bit of a point of friction.

      When I've talked with scouts at boards of review (part of their advancement process), I've never had one consider obedience the most important law - it's usually trustworthy, friendly or helpful and for very similar reasons.  So sometimes we get something correct.

    •  Did you really have to say this? (5+ / 0-)

      This man shared a very fond memory from his childhood and explained how beneficial he felt it was.

      And you bring up Hitler Youth.


      Since when is the party that embraces all the top tenets of Satan allowed to call the God shots?--wyvern

      by voracious on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:53:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Godwin's Law (0+ / 0-)

      plus failure to actually read the diary.

  •  Couldn't Agree More (14+ / 0-)

    Beautiful.  Many thanks.  It's important that, in discussing the BSA's official bigotry, we emphasize what we gained - and what gay Scouts stand to lose - from scouting.

    I wonder if the national leadership of the BSA has any concept of how autonomous some Boy Scout troops are in terms of notions of social justice, inclusion, tolerance, and so forth.

    I grew up in a deep red, deep south state and was nevertheless fortunate enough to become an Eagle Scout in a troop that had openly bisexual Scouts.  Bullying happened on occasion but it was summarily - and publicly - crushed.  I understand that my experience may have been the exception, but I nevertheless believe it's significant and illustrative.

    I want BSA leadership to evolve and drop this policy and meet all of here in the 21st century, but I sort of wonder if this is another example of policy following reality.

    •  While it's true that each troop is locally run (0+ / 0-)

      and thus lots of troops get to slip under the radar and do things in disagreement with the main leadership of the organization, that doesn't change the fact that they get away with it purely through lack the BSA's lack of ability to enforce the national policy rather than their unwillingness to.

  •  Great example of tolerance (8+ / 0-)

    It can be very hard to get older scouts to interact with younger ones.  Your self awareness is unusual and allowed you to grow as a scout and person.  In addition, your story is exactly why BSA needs to change it's policy regarding the gay community.  You cannot insist that scouts treat all others as equals and then give them a list of exceptions.  My understanding is that BSA would not take the lead in recognizing the gay community, but now that the military has, there is a much better chance that they will.

    I think turfing the decision to the chartered organizations is a cop out.  Yes it will allow local control over the admittance of gays into scouting and most chartered organizations have already made the decision to be inclusive.  How is that policy going to work for the paid and volunteer positions at the district and council levels?  Incremental change can lead to greater change and in this case BSA needs to remove the ban entirely.

    Thanks for the thoughtful diary which answers why BSA needs to correct a very repressive policy.

    •  You really think so? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wasatch, kyril, wader, JesseCW
      most chartered organizations have already made the decision to be inclusive
      With the high percentage of troops chartered through the Mormon and Catholic churches, as well as other denominations that have drawn the line on gay rights (or still struggle with it)?

      "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

      by Catte Nappe on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:08:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's a bit of a cop out but there still is a (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JesseCW, prfb, bartcopfan

      slight difference between a policy like this, which is what it used to be:

      "Your local troop is officially required to refuse membership to these banned types of people.  But our ability to enforce this is pretty weak so you might be able to sneak some tolerance in and we won't always notice."

      Versus the new policy which is:

      "If your local troop wants to be tolerant or intolerant thats up to you."

      It's not a big improvement, but it is some.  Troops that do buck the trend and accept gay scouts won't be just getting away with it secretly anymore.  It will be officially allowed for them to do that.

      •  Basically my take on the prospective change... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It's pusillanimous and half-hearted and merely kicks the can down the road a little.

        But it's a beginning.

        And it's a credit to all the activists and other aspects of societal pressure which started Costing the BSA enough for even the entrenched bigots to notice.

  •  Bravo - The BSA program worked as intended for you (8+ / 0-)

    I'm an active Boy Scout leader, and the father of an Eagle Scout.  By way of credentials, I'm a Wood Badge staffer three times over, a Silver Beaver, and a Vigil Honor in the Order of the Arrow.

    Scouting really isn't about camping, or uniforms, or advancement, or Christianity.  The first three are methods used to reach the real goals of Scouting.  Christianity isn't a part of Scouting either in the United States, or in the world, as Scouting encompasses all religious traditions, except for none at all.

    The goals of Scouting are to build charachter, to promote citizenship, and to develop physical, emotional and moral fitness.  Along the way, we develop leaders.

    By your example as both a Boy Scout, and in college, you learned the real message that Scouting promotes.  The Eagle Award is just a nice added benefit.

    Oh, by the way - I agree that Scouting ought to be inclusive.  I'd be happier if they banned exclusion completely, but I can understand that some church sponsors of Scouting units haven't gotten that far yet.  They will - even the Mormons.  It's jest a matter of time, and old bigots dying off.

    The Scout Law (trustworthy, loyal, helpful...) is a GREAT liberal manifesto.

    by DaytonMike on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 12:28:34 PM PST

    •  'except for none at all...' (7+ / 0-)

      Yup, that was the lesson I learned.  That my kind wasn't welcome.

      Citizenship at its finest.

    •  It was that, Dayton Mike, that finally turned (4+ / 0-)

      my SO, an Eagle, against the BSA.

      A boy was denied his Eagle for refusing to join a church.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:50:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Where is the requirement to join a church? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        worldlotus, TheDuckManCometh

        We never had that - our troop was a mixed bag of Catholic kids, Jewish kids, Methodist kids, Baptist kids,  UCC kids and kids from the neighborhood who didn't actually belong to a church.  

        We did Scout Sunday every year at our chartering org's church (UCC) and we also did the following Saturday as Scout Sabbath and went to a nearby synagogue that one of our ASM's was the Cantor for.  

        It may have been the only time some of the kids ever stepped foot in a church.  We didn't make it mandatory, although we did encourage them to at least try to do Scout Sunday, as a thank you to the church that sponsored us.  A Scout is Courteous, too.  

        The 12th Scout Law is "A Scout is Reverent."  It talks about how they are reverent toward "God" and that they have to respect the beliefs of others.  Well, not everybody calls "God" by that name.  Some don't think there's a divine being watching over us at all.  Nearly all of the major religions are recognized - and even some less major, like Wicca.  But I never saw a "requirement" to join a church or even to follow a mainstream religion.  Kind of like Desiderata - whatever you perceive Him / Her / It to be?  

        But we always did our Scout's Own on camp outs, the Sunday morning before we packed up to go home.  Sometimes, it was just quiet time, watching the dawn arrive.  

        It wasn't about God, Jesus, Jehovah, Buddah, Allah or even Wakonda ... it was about sitting in the grass as the sun came up and being awestruck by a chance encounter with a family of deer who walked into the mist covered meadow.  It was about "listening" to the sunrise and watching the dawn-pink clouds creep into the horizon and feeling like it was one of the best days of your life.  

        It was about putting out the campfire on Saturday night and then watching the stars come out and feeling like there's something out there bigger than you - we might not know what it is and we might not believe it's a divine Creator, but there's a whole beautiful world and universe out there - and my city kids, who grow up surrounded by concrete and noise and traffic, were often struck speechless on their first camp out way out in the boonies.  

        Imagine driving out of Florida and into Georgia - you're headed for a summer camp in the lower Appalachians.  You've been there before.  But after stopping overnight to break the trip halfway, you get up at dawn and head out.  Kids are looking out the window, yakking and fiddling around with cards or books or something, when a voice from the back seat says "What's that?"  And your co-driver, riding shotgun, turns around and says "What's what?"  And the kid points up ahead and we're like?  Cars?  Trees?  What?  "No, that big kind of thing that looks like if we keep going on this road, we're going to hit it."  I had to pull over - because I wanted him to be able to take a picture of the mountains to show his family.  Have you ever met a kid who has never seen a real mountain before?  This was not a dumb kid or a kid who never saw a mountain on TV - but real life was something he was totally taken aback by - they're so BIG!  We told him there's lots that are bigger and I hope he gets to travel around and see them someday (Rockies! Himalayas!).  

        And to take them hiking in those mountains and rafting on those rivers and canoeing on the creeks... Nature becomes God, or God becomes Nature - or Nature IS God or something like that - nothing wrong with that.    It is Awesome and Big and Breathtaking.  It is a miracle to an 11 year old city kid.  The ugliest bird, the most beautiful insect, the scariest alligator - they're all part of it.  If they are Reverent toward Nature, I'm good with that.  We need more kids who care about the Environment.  

        They might not go to church, but they find something to believe in - even if it's just a cool looking spider web on the trail or seeing a meteor shower for the first time.  

        Your "God" is where you find Him / Her / It.  You didn't have to belong to an organized religion or believe in a Higher Power.  At least in my troop.  Have respect for each others' beliefs (or non-beliefs, as the case may be), don't try to convert anybody to your religion, be willing to talk about all kinds of things.  

        "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

        by Ricochet67 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 07:31:08 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  problem was the kid / his family (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean, JesseCW

          were not members of any church. Troop was chartered by a UMC.
          They were cool with that, as some of the boys were not members of their church. The Council was not fine with the boy not declaring a faith / religion.

          LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

          by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 07:41:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Then they overstepped (3+ / 0-)

            I was District Advancement Chair and the question never came up at any Eagle Board I ran or sat on before I was chair.  There are requirements to earn Eagle rank and not one of them is "belong to a church."  

            What a shame, that this boy was caught between hypocrites and people who did exactly what they tell us NOT to do - you can't add or subtract from the requirements written in the Handbook.  

            If the Scoutmaster has signed off that the boy lives by the scout Law, which includes A Scout is Reverent, it is not the District's or the Council's place to question that.  The requirements are spelled out - there is no alteration allowed.  

            "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

            by Ricochet67 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 08:15:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  This was several years ago (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Calamity Jean, JesseCW

              the kid is now out of college.
              And a counselor. With Camp Fire.

              LBJ, Lady Bird, Anne Richards, Barbara Jordan, Sully Sullenberger, Ike, Drew Brees, Molly Ivins --Texas is no Bush league! -7.50,-5.59

              by BlackSheep1 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 09:09:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Good for him! (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                BlackSheep1, TheDuckManCometh

                He's a valuable addition to the Camp Fire program.  

                I was going to say, if this was recent, there is an appeals process.  And it tends to lean in favor of the scout and his troop.  

                As a district, we were very serious about the entire Board of Review process and in training it was emphasized over and over again that if there is any "doubt" that the boy met all the requirements, you should weight everything toward the boy, unless it was a blatantly obvious problem (like not doing all of the required merit badges, or not being an active troop member).  

                I had one or two kids that didn't finish - they never even got to Board of Review, because even with appeals for an extension past their 18th birthday (3 months or 6 months depending on certain factors), they still couldn't get all the requirements completed.  It was our job to review appeals, too.  You could have a kid who was in the middle of completing his project who had to stop to take care of a sick parent and you had kids who just waited until the day before their 18th birthday to think of a project and submit it.  Vast difference.  Procrastination does not equal an emergency.  But there are real emergencies in real life - and that's part of what goes back to each unit knowing who its kids and leaders are.  And the troop having a big say when it comes time for the Eagle Board.  

                "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

                by Ricochet67 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:48:52 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Then why insist that the kid has to call it "god'? (5+ / 0-)

          This horseshit you're spewing is the same exact horseshit that Alchoholics Anonymous spews to try to deflect legitimate criticism about the fact that they require members to publicly pretend to believe in a god.  If you can just substitute anything you feel like for the word "God", then there'd be absolutely no reason to insist on even requiring that word.  You might as well just allow people to say "Do my duty to some sort of something that won't tell you what it is" instead.   But you'll note, they DON'T allow this do they?

          I was a boy scout once.  But then I took to heart the instruction that honesty is a virtue.  Which meant I refused to pretend to believe in God, as that would have required me to be lying.  And saying the word "God" while actually meaning something else totally different just to escape from having to admit to it is also not honest.  So I quit before the issue could come to a head.  It wasn't worth it to fight to remain part of an organization that required me to be a liar.  (All while pretending to be an organization that considers honesty a virtue).

        •  Atheists and agnostics are NOT accepted. (0+ / 0-)

          "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

          by bartcopfan on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 02:45:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  They should be (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Willinois, bartcopfan

            Baden Powell even wrote alternative Oaths that left out the whole religion thing.  There are so many countries that have a Scouting program - "God" can be called by many names or even no-name.  And there are those who don't believe in "God" (at least not the God that's in the BSA Oath).  

            Doesn't mean they can't be good scouts.  I had kids who had no religious background at all.  The Oath's "Do my Duty to God and my Country" is said by rote by many people.  I've heard kids say "to my family and my country" and the ever popular "dog and my country" if they think they can get away with it - boys can be silly, usually at the worst possible time.  

            If a troop is sponsored by a school and the kids in it are all agnostics or atheists, they should be allowed to choose one of the alternate Oaths as a unit.  But most people don't know that they are out there.  And you have to overcome the trained BSA leaders' mentality that there is only one way - National's way.  It does NOT have to be that way.  You get everybody marching to the same drummer and losing their individuality and then you DO have those Hitler-style units.  Scouting is a brotherhood, but it's not made up of robotic boys with no heart and spirit (or it shouldn't be).  

            Change has to come from within and people need to get over their prejudices about the non-religious.  It's not catching - just like gayness isn't catching.  

            If a Mormon or Catholic troop insists on God in the Oath and has no gay people in their unit, then they have to at least allow my sponsoring organization to have a unit that does allow gay people and people who are non-believers in a Higher Power to do an alternative Oath that works for them and is still meaningful to why they are even in Scouts in the first place.  If we're all at a Jamboree, nobody is going to get contaminated by anybody who is different - whether it's ethnic background, color, sexual orientation or religious beliefs - Scouts should not be about discriminating, evangelizing or proselytizing.  

            "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

            by Ricochet67 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 07:01:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  My experience - exclusion ruled (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't think that troop-level policy decisions will work. It's certain to create more divisiveness rather than resolving the issues at hand. This shows an appalling lack of leadership from the top. It's deflection and avoidance of responsibility.

    I think these decisions need to be established and enforced from the top down. Unfortunately, the top keeps making bad decisions.

    Personally, I got a lot of benefits from my participation and leadership in scouting and civic organizations.

    There's a wide variation in the forms of leadership that individuals seem to have learned during their scouting years. Very good to very bad.

    We tend to focus on the good guys who are Eagle Scouts:

    Zach Wahls - prominent LGBT activist
    Ernest Green - Civil rights activist,
    Cleveland Sellers - Civil rights activist
    Percy Sutton - Civil rights activist, Tuskegee Airman
    Gerald Ford - US President
    Neil Armstrong - Astronaut (and a long list of other astronauts)
    Bill Bradley - Rhodes Scholar, Basketball legend, US Senator
    Sherrod Brown - US Congressman
    Rob Corddry - Comedian, actor (ref. Daily Show)
    Michael Dukakis - MA Governor
    Bill Hanna - Hanna-Barbera animator and founder
    Alfred Kinsey - the Kinsey Report
    Michael Moore - film maker
    ... a fairly long list, in fact. I cut it short.

    But then there's the others:

    Arthur Gary Bishop - Serial killer
    John Edward Robinson - Serial killer
    Charles Whitman - Texas Tower sniper
    Marion Barry - Mayor, coke head
    Jay Bybee - Bush torture memo signer
    John Ehrlichman - Watergate
    Mike Enzi - US Senator, rabid anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-gun
    Tom Foley - disgraced Speaker of the House,
    Louis Gohmert - Dumbest Congressman ever
    H. R. Haldeman - Watergate
    J. D. Hayworth - talk radio hate monger
    Mark Hofmann - forger and murderer
    L. Ron Hubbard - Scientology con artist
    Rick Perry - so-called Governor of Texas
    Fred Phelps - Westboro Baptist "Church" - God hates gays
    Mark Sanford - Appalachian Trail of Brazil
    Rick Scott - so-called Governor of Florida
    Scott Walker - so-called Governor of Wisconsin
    Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, US Senator, jerk
    Bart Stupak - obstructionist, anti-choice
    Manti Te'o - imaginary girlfriend, forgot that scout honesty thing
    Sam Walton - Walmart
    Joe "You Lie" Wilson - SC
    RUMSFELD!!! - yes, RUMSFELD!!!

    There are many more good guys than bad guys, for sure. But then....

    It seems to depend on what values those local troop leaders are teaching these scouts. Local decisions about values? Bad idea, imo.

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 01:12:58 PM PST

    •  Well (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GrumpyOldGeek, kyril

      A majority of scouts troops are sponsored by Mormon, Baptist and Catholic churches. If BSA did what you suggest then those troops would all leave. There would be no BSA within a week.
      I can't defend that as a good thing. I don't like it. But, I also don't expect BSA to commit organizational suicide.

      •  Yes, it's all about quality of leadership (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I didn't mean to assert that they change their policy from anti-gay to an official policy demanding inclusion. Indeed, that would cause the organization to self-destruct.

        I seem to have implied this approach. I will say that official policies, in general, are much more effective if they're top-down. The fundamental problem here is that they established an official policy that put them between a rock and a hard place.

        It would have been best to not have made any policy at all. But they did. Now they can't weasel their way out of this mess. This is a symptom of poor leadership. They made a decision when no decision was the better way to go.

        There are troops that are anti-gay. Others aren't. The public was doing a pretty good job of exposing the bigotry. But the top leaders apparently wanted the problem to go away. So they made a decision. The wrong decision, of course, but it's probably the majority opinion. As you point out, the other decision would have caused self-destruction.

        Now they seem to be saying that it's ok for local troops to decide whether to ban gays or not. The top leaders apparently want to wash their hands of this problem and push it down to the troops.

        What's missing is any thought about why they think a decision needs to be made or whether this will resolve anything.

        Either way, they seem to be heading toward organizational suicide. The public pressure has already increased. It isn't going to go away.

        I'm reminded of the chaos about the YMCA/YWCA policies - Christians-only. In earlier years, they were WASP-only. Now they've turned this history around and morphed into The Y. It took decades.

        The BSA's survival is at stake. They're still heading downhill.

        It will take a major cultural change and fresh leadership to turn this around. I'm not encouraged by their behavior right now.

        Over 50 years ago, when I was first exposed to scouting, it was blatant discrimination. No Blacks, Jews, or Catholics. That's improved, but it's not enough.

        I don't know how to fix this mess. But I really think it's important to maintain vibrant and inclusive scouting programs worldwide.

        "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

        by GrumpyOldGeek on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:18:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There would still be a BSA. About half the size. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy." Michel de Montaigne

        by JesseCW on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 01:06:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You left off (7+ / 0-)

      James Dale, Eagle Scout, who was kicked out of his troop as a young adult Assistant Scoutmaster - not by the troop, but by the Council office after he joined the Gay / Straight Alliance at college.  He's the one who went all the way to the Supreme Court - won in the lower courts and SCOTUS overturned it on the "private association" thing.  He never knew (as many of us didn't) that gay people were not allowed in Scouting - it was not written anywhere until after the court case.  They could produce no policy memos on it at all, during all of the lower court proceedings.  

      And Russell Henderson, Eagle Scout, currently serving two life terms for killing Matthew Shepherd.  

      My own son never tells anybody he's an Eagle Scout anymore.  He doesn't want anybody to think he's a bigoted hate monger.  Our troop folded because our church filed a friend of the court brief with the rest of the UCC on behalf of James Dale.  Most of our units were not allowed to recharter after that.  We had 52 years of community service in our neighborhood, took hundreds of kids camping and had 50 boys make Eagle during those 52 years.  And we knew gay scouts and we had family members of our scouts who were gay and lesbian.  Never was an issue with us, our troop or our UCC church.  

      He hates that what used to be a meaningful thing for a boy to do while he was growing up, and all the hard work he put into earning his Eagle rank has been taken over by hypocrites and liars.  He does NOT want to be classified with Phelps, Henderson, Perry, Sanford or any of those other idiots who promote hatred in the name of Scouting (and sometimes in the name of God, too).  

      "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

      by Ricochet67 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 07:44:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  No one is talking about the other ban (16+ / 0-)

    which is atheists. My employer tried to get us to donate to a Mega group which gave a large portion of its money to local boy scout troops. Not only did I refuse to donate but I'd post reasona why I was giving my money to individual groups and not their Mega group because Boy Scouts discriminated against both gays and atheists.

    Eventually, they quit asking me to donate. I think my name might have been removed from the "time to donate" emails so I would not "reply all" with my comments.

    For the record, I was a boy scout and loved the experience. But there were no "purity" tests in our troop. Ironically, I recently learned that one of our "top" scouts is gay and has been living with his partner for over 3 decades.

    I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

    by SocioSam on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 02:28:43 PM PST

  •  I wasn't gay, but I also didn't believe in God. (9+ / 0-)

    Which is why I never made it past Cub Scouts, when I started to understand just what they were asking me to swear to all the time.

    It's great that they're willing to finally get over their sexual preference bigotry, but it'd be nice if they'd drop the religious bigotry too.

  •  My experience was somewhat different (6+ / 0-)

    My son's troop, including him, was rife with severely troubled kids. Autistic, Asbergers, ADHD, bullied kids, almost every one was messed up.  The first meetings were hellish messes.

    But every parent leaned on every other parent to participate and supervise, and years later, almost the entire original troop was still together.  Several, including my kid, made Eagle.

    Somewhere along the line the Scouting structure and all those involved somehow changed the emotional tides and all of the kids calmed down, some more than others, but I was truly amazed at the benefits, whatever the causes.

    What a shame that bullied openly gay kids, who need that kind of support  could not be part of it.

    Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

    by 6412093 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 03:51:25 PM PST

  •  I am (3+ / 0-)

    also an Eagle, and one who is continually disappointed by the bigoted policies of the current BSA. Not only the LGBT issue, but also the issue of agnostics/atheists, which rarely gets any media play. We could also start on the gender policy. It is these issues which mean that I no longer participate in the organization at all, despite the fact that I think it can be a very positive and powerful experience for young adults.  

    Part of me is glad at the news of at least an incremental change in the BSA policy. However, the more cynical side of me just sees this as lip-service, and sitting on the fence. When they say that the decision to remain bigoted will rest with local units (troops), it just means that the troops who want to stay exclusionary can do so. This new announcement is just a way for the BSA to have it both ways.

    In my estimation, it will change very little. My troop graduated at least one gay Eagle that I know about, and it was never an issue. I am sure there are many troops out there with leadership who already are saying to hell with the BSA's LGBT stand, and do what they want to do anyway.

  •  I'm not sure how deep the BSA's pockets are (0+ / 1-)
    Recommended by:
    Hidden by:

    but I doubt they rival the Catholic Church.  After all of the law suits wind their way through the courts filed by former scouts who claim to have been molested by Gay Scout Masters, there will be no BSA left, and any debate over its inclusiveness will be moot.

    After the BSA is squeezed dry, who's next?

    Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

    by Keith930 on Mon Feb 04, 2013 at 04:57:43 PM PST

    •  "All of the law suits..." is a stretch. (0+ / 0-)

      We have no idea how many pedophiles will take advantage of BSA to get at young boys.

      We can make a sensible guess that it won't be zero.

      Shxt happens.

      We can make an educated, experienced guess that the first one will go off front-page, lead story, blonde-missing-in-Aruba GIANT coverage.

      They'll pull up the video of Obama backing gays in BSA and replay it 87,934 times.

      That's the first week.

      Of course there are risks to this change.

      "Have you left no sense of decency, sir, at long last?" Army Attorney to Sen. McCarthy, 1954. "We have done nothing to be ashamed of. We have nothing to apologize for." NRA 12/14/2012.

      by bontemps2012 on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 04:26:53 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Change probable (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Based on several sources I consider reliable, I'm expecting the BSA national board will change the membership policy this week.  I wish this were a bold leadership decision, but in reality things have changed enough that the legal basis secured by the BSA vs. Dale case has eroded.  The current policy is no longer legally defensible, and financial and public support for the BSA, while still strong, is getting shaky enough that confronting the Mormons, Catholics, and Methodists over this issue is less risky than losing good will and financial support elsewhere.  I've heard the changing attitudes toward homosexuals described by high level volunteers as 'the fastest moving social issue ever', and have also heard church leaders pretty quickly moderating their previously rigid positions.  Some of the churches who charter Scout units may surprise us in a good way - we'll see.

    There are some people whose religious and other beliefs will make them oppose this change and may quit, but there are a whole lot of us who will be glad to get this fixed and get on with Scouting.  

    I expect the next battle will be over the very, very general requirement of 'belief in a power higher than oneself'.  In practice the requirement means we generally say a very generic grace at group meals.  I've been on many Eagle Scout boards of review where a discussion of the Scout's religious practices doesn't come up unless the Scout brings it up.  The religious requirement may change, but will probably take 20 years and another major social upheaval.

  •  Didn't bigots use to say the same about blacks? (0+ / 0-)

    Same bulsshit, different era, different issue. Conservatives always coming up with some boogeyman ready to eat your kids' brains.

    If fear and paranoia didn't exist, these people would literally have nothing to do. They'd have a clear mind, void of any thoughts.

  •  The greatest irony in the BSA gay ban... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fishtroller01 that it is in scouts that a number of boys have their first  inkling that they are gay.

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 06:09:25 AM PST

  •  The fact that most BSA troops are housed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Silvia Nightshade

    in churches and the fact that they exclude atheists/agnostics lends credence to the totally erroneous idea that morality and good citizenship are firmly linked to a belief in a god.

    I won't endorse or give money to that organization until it disassociates itself with religious belief, and I certainly find it ironic that the organization alligned itself with the Catholic church so strongly in light of the total immorality of that institution.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation has just sent the President a letter on the anti-atheist discrimination of the BSA and I believe they are also running a petition on this.

    •  I'm a religious person (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and I agree with you completely that religious faith and morality have next to nothing to do with each other.

    •  Do you have stats on that "most" claim? (0+ / 0-)

      I would agree that most are funded by churches but that doesn't mean necessarily mean they're housed in the church that is sponsoring them.  Lots of church-funded troops hold their meetings in places like gymnasiums and civic meeting halls even though they may be sponsored by a church.  I don't know the exact numbers, but any claim like "most" needs some scrutiny.

      I have no problem with the BSA refusing entry to atheists provided they also accept that they are then not allowed to receive any government help or get cushy special access to government institutions that would be closed to others.  It's when they get to have recruiting drives in public schools, and go have campouts on national guard bases, and sometimes even meet in the public schools that they need to be non-discriminatory to do that.  If they want to be a religious organization then fine, they get to act like one and that means the government support has to stop.

      They can have:
      (A) government support
      (B) religious exclusion

      But they cannot have both.

  •  But... (0+ / 0-)

    I don't know that any of the scout leaders of my son's scout troop were LGBT, but they evidently either did not NOTICE or didn't CARE that the older scouts badgered, teased, harassed, bullied, and made sexual overtures to the younger boys. I didn't know about this until now, some 30 years later, when my son and I noticed the list of scout leaders that was published. We looked to see if any of his scout leaders was on the list. They weren't. But, he said, so-and-so (an older boy in the troop) acted in sexual ways toward younger boys and no one seemed to notice or care. So, scout leaders should be aware that things go on out of their sight and hearing that may not be healthy for all. If I had had ANY knowledge of such behavior on the part of the older scouts, I would certainly have made a complaint. But kids don't want to "tell on" anyone, especially someone they are in a group with, who could make it a much worse situation if they wanted to. My son completed all the badges he needed or wanted, and then announced one day that he was not going to go for Eagle rank. That was the end of his scouting activity, and he seemed relieved. Now I know why!

  •  My two cousins and myself, are Eagle Scouts... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and remember those days of Boy Scouting with fond memories, ones that taught us all about life, scouting, and personal responsibilities.  Our Scoutmaster was a role model and one we looked up to and respected.  Our parents trusted him as well as he grew up in the neighborhood.  He was one incredible human being who gave of himself and volunteered and not only served to be this role model to me and my cousins, but to all of the neighborhood kids who were in our troop:  It was a very large troop.  We all went to Scout camp in the summer, and spent most of our time camping and raising monies to go traveling to various places with our Scoutmaster and the rest of the Senior staffing who were other parents (Washington DC, Gettysburg, etc.).  We learned about Scouting and how to be young adults within the scouting framework, values that I still maintain to the day.

    Our Scoutmaster was Gay, but it didn't make any difference to any of us who knew, parents and kids alike, as he was the Scoutmaster that we respected, trusted, and considered "family".  

    There should be more role models like him these days.

    “The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” — Marcus Aurelius

    by LamontCranston on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 03:59:35 PM PST

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