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This may shock you.  I have decided to oppose the BSA's proposed changes regarding our national membership policy.  I have to applaud the BSA's shrewd move in utilizing the Friday News Dump to the fullest extent last week.  Not only was it Friday, but it was this Friday and at the height of the lockdown when this all came out.  The Nation had riveted it's attention on my backyard, so this was easy to overlook.

In case you missed it, the BSA is proposing thus:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to:

(a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and
(c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

But here's the thing, and the root of why I'm opposing this.  It doesn't go far enough.  It really is that simple.

Imagine a boy joining the troop, progressing through the ranks, finishing his service project, and then in what should be the proudest day of his young life, getting his Eagle award presented.

The trouble with that idyllic bit of Americana is the harsh reality behind it.  In my experience, most scouts earn their Eagle within a year or so of their 18th birthday.  Some are closer than that, and we believe that my old home unit still holds the national record, as one of our scouts had his application turned in to council ten minutes before closing on the day of his 18th birthday, but I digress.  Many Eagles are awarded sometime after the recipient turns 18.

Like all awards, there is an elaborate ceremony that includes the following passage:  

"Your conduct along the trail has been excellent. You have rededicated yourself to the principles of Scouting, but one more thing is important: Your future.  As an Eagle Scout, you become a guide to other Scouts of lower rank. You become an example in your community. Remember that your actions are now a little more conspicuous and people will expect more of you. To falter in your responsibility would not only reflect upon you, but on your fellow Eagles and all Scouting. The torch you carry is not only yours, but is ours also."

This is part of the ceremony known as the "Eagle Challenge".  

(Read the entire thing here:  

You've read the words...and Eagle Scout is almost required to give something back.  Here's the problem with the BSA's proposed changes.  They can't.  The way the policy is worded, immediately upon their 18th birthday, all identified homosexual youth are immediately assumed to be dangerous paedophiles due to their sexual orientation and are summarily dismissed from the program.

This doesn't even begin to address the issue of same-sex married couples that are looking to enroll their children in the program, and do what is right by becoming involved.  In fact, you can't BE a Cub Scout without parental involvement.  Many units, mine included, have a policy of requiring one adult to be present at all times, whether in meetings, on events, camping, or elsewhere.  So do we turn away the same-sex parents, and doom their children to non-involvement?

IN my opinion, further balkanizing the policy into different rules for youth and adults is going to be far more damaging to the organization in the long-term.  As gay scouts, this just paints a giant target on their backs for ostracism, bullying, and who knows what else, without any adult role models to inspire, or indeed even protect them.  This is not what Scouting is supposed to be about.  Again, this doesn't even begin to address the concerns of the adult volunteers who will now essentially be told that their sons are welcome, but we think you're icky and you need to stay away.

Looking at my own history….my father was my Den Leader, my Cubmaster, was Unit Commissioner before I took over the role when he went to Council, and he was the District Training Chairman, a role I now hold within my Council.  ALL of the important moments in my Scouting career are things that I have been able to share with my equally-dedicated father.   In turn, I have been my own son's Den Leader and Cubmaster too.  This is yet another slice of Americana that simply is not possible for gay youth and their parents under the BSA's scenario.

It would almost be better for the BSA to continue under the current policy.  Like the military, with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", a crafty scout or adult could still "fit in" among his peers, but would by necessity keep his true nature hidden.  Of course this doesn't wash with various elements of both the Scout Oath and Scout Law.  The BSA's initial proposal to release the decision to the individual units was widely denounced, but the BSA actually has made that look good by actually coming up with a WORSE policy change.  At this point, I'd almost rather see the decision come at the local level.  Units chartered by public schools, police, fire, VFWs, liberal churches, and the like can hoist their rainbow flag and be welcoming and open to all youth as Baden-Powell intended.  Those that would espouse discrimination and homophobia can go their own way with their own doctrine intact, come what may.

So there you have it.  I've been at this for a very long time; I recall joining some equality organizations over a decade ago now.  Progress has been glacial at best, and I daresay not progress at all.    In all honesty, this was never an issue until National Leadership MADE it an issue.  We're far beyond the point of common sense.  No matter what National decides to do now, a huge amount of damage is going to be done to the organization.  

As for me, I'm finding it increasingly difficult and burdensome to keep fighting this battle. I'm only a volunteer.  I'm tired of constantly making excuses for national policy.  I'm tired of explaining this to everyone.  And yes, I'm even tired of telling people that MY council is different; we don't discriminate, etc. and so on.  It's starting to reach the point of insanity; we keep doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result that never comes.  I have slowly begun to accept the fact that my Scouting career may come to an end over this.

“A Scout is Loyal”, but I’m finding that loyalty to an organization that increasingly doesn’t believe in the same things that I do to be irreconcilable.

Originally posted to Scouts and Scouters on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 04:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Shrug. Tactical differences. (13+ / 0-)

    The goal - full integration is the same.  The tactics differ - 'all or nothing' vs. 'two-step process, first step to start immediately'.

    Allowing in gay scouts is opening the floodgates.  As long as the door was completely locked, it was easy to resist the pressure.  But once you've built up a flood of openly gay scouts, it will be far harder to fight against that second step of allowing them into the leadership.

    I understand your position, I just think that we actually get to the goal sooner by taking the first step now.

    •  Good shrug. (9+ / 0-)

      The single most powerful antidote to prejudice is to meet and like somebody.

      The Great Emancipator himself, Abraham Lincoln, considered blacks to be human, but some lesser form of human than whites.

      Until he met Frederick Douglass, who made many an abolitionist question similar beliefs.

      The Boy Scout change may not be great, but it does allow for the fact that lots of boys join before they have an inkling of what sexual identity is, let alone what theirs might be. It removes an onus to identify and remove gay scouts. It lets other scouts meet them and like them.

      I see the double standard as a way to mollify parents so that the boys can meet and understand each other.  Don't really know if parents need mollifying now, pretty sure they won't need mollifying down the road.

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 08:03:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's a good point though (0+ / 0-)

      What happens if a Scout is in the middle of Eagle qualification when they turn 18? Could be that many local BSA districts (especially those in more liberal parts of the country) will just quietly ignore the rulings, but what if you get a hardliner? All that work goes for naught?

      I can see this as being a small stepping stone -- next being full inclusion for adults who wish to be Scout leaders -- but there has to be protections for gay Scouts who might turn 18 while still in Scouting.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 01:21:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The reason to accept gay scouts (0+ / 0-)

      is to "reform" them.  

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 02:06:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  IMO, gay Eagle Scouts should join NESA, (0+ / 0-)

      support their councils, be active as adult Eagles and THEN see if anyone dares to act against them.

      There are many, many adult Eagles working to change BSA from within. They've been mailing in their medals and leaving (which also means withdrawing financial support). I believe this has been more influential than public input.

      Having gay adult Eagles is something they haven't thought through. Or maybe they have. Maybe they're trying to avoid alienating all the Fundie parents all at once.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 05:29:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this. (5+ / 0-)

    I have a Bear and a Tiger, both of whom are very involved and love the Scout culture. They know nothing of the national controversy. They don't know which of their friends is gay yet. They don't even know yet if they are gay. They're little kids!

    When I filled out my survey to BSA this spring I mentioned this in the feedback. What kind of organization brings in boys when they are 6 years old and lets them progress through the organization until the day they realize that they don't like girls?  
    I did the survey before the new idea of removing gay adult leaders, which is even more odious. "We welcome gays.... but leave when you're 18 because pedophiles"

    I let my kids join scouting because I remember the fun I had with them as a kid. As a parent I figured I'd get a chance at changing the organization from within. But that plan seems almost futile as I see how entrenched the national leadership is in their archaic ideas.

  •  Jeez. (0+ / 0-)

    No steps in the right direction unless it goes 100% of the way. That is an excellent plan if you want no change whatsoever (which is why you are in good company with millions of homophobes in being against this proposal).

  •  I want to say even a baby step is good if it's in (4+ / 0-)

    the right direction, but I feel like it reinforces the heinously bigoted view that gay = pedaphile.  It smacks of cowardice, and I think they'll be embarrassed by it sooner than later.

    All they've really done is solidify DADT. "You can be in our group as long as you don't seem gay, or act gay, or in any way make your conservative leader uncomfortable."

     I don't imagine the religious right will be all warm and fuzzy about the compromise, either. I would love to be wrong about that, but I hear them saying crap like, "we should discriminate against homosexuals just like we discriminate against shoplifters," and I don't hold out much hope. Of course, it could be worse.  You could be gay and not christian. Gasp!

    Seems like all they've done is piss off people on both sides. What would be an appropriate aphorism? It's hard to keep your balance with a foot in both camps?

    "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

    by citylights on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 08:40:58 AM PDT

  •  It also does nothing about pedophiles hidden among (0+ / 0-)

    the rank-and-file of troop leadership (talk about your "false flags"!).  My glancing encounter with them at age 11 (my first week-long camp EVER, and I started out thrilled) was very disturbing for me, instilled in me a DEEP distrust in authority, and wedged me OUT of scouting LONG before I had any ideas about sex or sexual orientation - my own or anyone else's.

    I am a leaf on the wind - i hover, twirl, float,
    Weightless, frictionless, I fly

    by chmood on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 08:58:50 AM PDT

  •  Progress comes in steps. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    yashko, JerryNA

    This is opening the door. Eventually, they'll have to rescind the ban on gay scout masters as well. It would be untenable to have gay scouts coming through the ranks and then have them denied the ability to serve as adults.

    This is a case where an all-or-nothing approach really wouldn't work or be helpful. This is a way of easing the qualms of many of the resistors.

  •  But if they let in the gays, next they'll have to (6+ / 0-)

    let in them godless atheists too!  Then everythang'll go to Hell!  

    It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. G. K. Chesterton

    by redbaron on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 09:17:52 AM PDT

    •  as an Eagle, I am in favor of Godless Atheists (6+ / 0-)

      and I am a religious person.

      Maybe I missed something along the way, I did get my Eagle at a Court of Honor and "the whole nine yards" of the time (1968) but I don't get recall some quasi-religious Eagle induction ceremony.

      And though I have the Catholic religious medal for scouts (given by Richard Cardinal Cushing in Boston's Holy Cross Cathedral in 1967)  I don't recall this statement of religious principle.

      Get rid of the baloney and get back to going camping and hiking.

      "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she (Christina Taylor-Greene) imagined it." President Obama

      by guavaboy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 10:31:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I may have not made it to Eagle but I'm with you (0+ / 0-)

        I was a Scout for only about four years--I joined when I was 12 1/2 and left not long after I turned 16. I didn't know I was gay at the time; nobody even talked about such things back then. But more to the point I'm quite certain that more than half of the members of my troop would, if you'd pressed them on it, admitted that they really didn't believe in any sort of Supreme Being. It was lip-service to most of them; it was something you said because it was expected of you and (for all but I few) very little other than that. Nobody cared; really nobody did. On campouts or during summer camp, nobody cared if you attended one of the religious services (I came from an area that was rather heavily Jewish) or stayed in your bunk/lean-to/cabin/tent when they were being held. Nobody. And that's precisely the way it should be.

    •  If I had had boys (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I never would have let them go into scouting primarily because of the ban on atheists, considering I am one. So, yeah, it's lip service to gays, but only until they turn 18, and only if they still buy into the God Scam. Not nearly enough.

      Luckily, I had girls, and, although neither of them showed much interest in scouting, they could have, since the Girl Scouts doesn't traffic in the Only Godly Heteros Need Apply bullshit.

      "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

      by ChurchofBruce on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 03:57:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I also had daughters (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and in each case, (there were two) I had the thought that I was off the hook about being a future Boy Scout leader. I was relieved.

        I made sure that each of them learned all the skills and we did a lot of camping. my younger one through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2010 ( and no, she did not see hide not hair of Governor whatshisname..). I think by the time they were in high school they were Eagle qualified.

        I truly agree that the religious requirement also has to go.

        "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she (Christina Taylor-Greene) imagined it." President Obama

        by guavaboy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 07:47:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  If sexual orientation is a predictor of crime... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in Northridge, LeftyAce, sfbob

    Then you'd think the sheer number and scope of crimes committed by people who self identify as heterosexuals would be a real warning flag.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 09:22:50 AM PDT

  •  Baden Powell was a pervert. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, corvo

    Which makes the organization he created such a interesting anachronism.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 11:15:20 AM PDT

  •  The ban must end but... (0+ / 0-)

    First of all it sounds like you have made and are making a very positive impact on a number boys in scouting beyond your own son.  You have probably had discussions about gays and equality with Life scouts as they prepared for their Eagle board of review.  It gets very difficult to defend scouting when our country's culture has finally started to accept openly gay people.  The scout oath and law seem to be contradicted by current BSA policies.  

    Putting everything on the chartered organizations would not solve the problem since it still would not allow gay people to serve at either the district or council levels.  Apparently the Mormons have agreed to the proposed change of allowing gay scouts through Venturing which goes until age 21.  Of course that opens a can of worms since Boy Scout troops would kick out gay individuals once they turn 18 but allow them to interact with their scouts if they were in a Venture crew. However, this is a start and when there are still Boy Scouts next year we can begin to push to lift the ban on gay adults too.  

  •  I oppose the policy change (0+ / 0-)

    because I oppose the BSA, period.

    Just as I oppose Catholic Church "reform" and all other pig-lipstickings.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 02:05:21 PM PDT

    •  mybe I have missed something you past posts (0+ / 0-)

      but would you please recap for us your reasoning? apologies in advance if this triggers something for you....

      "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she (Christina Taylor-Greene) imagined it." President Obama

      by guavaboy on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 07:49:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  my son is a cub (0+ / 0-)

    , he just was awarded The Arrow of Light. He and I had a good time and really enjoyed the cubs. He is greatly looking forward to Scouts. I simply can not join in as I am unable to sign the paperwork, so I  just trundle along as a parent helper and quietly point out that discrimination is never all right. The BSA leadership that I have encountered all agree that the BSA is on the wrong side of this argument, though they have agreed that discrimination against agnostics / atheists will be a harder sell they do agree that the end to gay discrimination is already written on the wall. I stick around not because I agree with them, but because my son likes Scouting and to leave will leave the bigots alone then nothing will change. They won't change from without, all of the external pressure will simply have them dig deeper.  Scouting, when all is said and done, is a good thing, it is a shame that kids are being excluded. Even bigger shame is when people scream at my son about bigotry when he is  raising donations for the food bank or selling popcorn subscriptions to send to our troops on active duty. Screaming at cubs and scouts isn't helping.

  •  I loved being an adult Scout leader. (0+ / 0-)

    Except for that one thing.  While I was Director of Handicrafts at one of the larger Arizona summer camps, my assistant was a young man who had started camping there at age 11, as soon as he was old enough, and became a counselor at 14. He'd been a fixture there for all those years. He was also gay and, though he never specifically said so, it was rather well known. He fled after being increasingly harassed, after only 4 weeks, and took his Cher CDs (and his solid skills) with him. I missed him; being new to that camp, his help was invaluable, and I really liked him personally. Here's to you, my dear friend, and perhaps I'll run into you again someday. Hopefully you'll be living a good life, one of your own choosing, where you don't have to hide your choices.

    Not coincidentally, I burned out within the next year; those local leaders in the small town where my family lived found ways to make me every bit as uncomfortable as my young friend.

    Courtesy is owed. Respect is earned. Love is given. (Unknown author, found in Guide to Texas Etiquette by Kinky Friedman)

    by marykmusic on Sat Apr 27, 2013 at 05:17:43 PM PDT

  •  I really am with you on this (0+ / 0-)

    Yes there is more than one way to look at things but not only do you make some pretty telling arguments, there is more than that going on.

    It is quite by intention that no out gay adults will be accepted because that means a troop member who is beginning to question whether he's totally heterosexual will have nobody in authority to look to as a role model and quite possibly nobody he can turn to with a guarantee of being understood and with a guarantee that his confidence will be kept.

    And while this certainly won't be the case in all troops, there is the decided possibility that those scouts who begin to come out will be shamed on religious grounds with the intention of "converting" them. Again, it is not a certainty that this sort of thing will happen everywhere, even where it is most probable, because all it takes is one person with an enlightened perspective, willing to speak out, to defeat that. But it isn't something that can be guaranteed either. So while it may not be an actual intention of the new rule, it is a failing so obvious that not to address it essentially constitutes creating a potentially unsafe environment for a certain proportion of the membership.

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