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I'm just back from the Boy Scouts of America national meeting.  As you probably know, the BSA membership approved a resolution to change the existing membership policy and remove a ban on openly gay youth members.  The ban on gay adult leaders remains in place.

On Wednesday, we had a voter's information meeting.  Over 30 speakers stepped up to the mikes to express their opinions for all sides of the issue.  Some were youth members, some were old volunteers, and everywhere in between.  Everyone had a passionate opinion on the membership resolution, and also a commitment to Scouting.  Regardless of what they had to say, their remarks were received respectfully and answered with polite applause, not cheers or boos.

All levels of Scouting are managed by a team of three individuals called the 'key 3'.  At the national level they are the national president representing the executive board, the national commissioner representing all the program volunteers, and the chief scout executive representing the professional staff.  All of them spoke and made it clear that regardless of the outcome, the organization would implement the result, focus on the mission of serving youth, and move on.

On Thursday morning we had an annual business meeting.  We continued the discussion of the membership resolution and heard 2 selected speakers from each of the four regional divisions.  They respresented all sides and presented both technical and emotional arguments for their position, and again they were heard with courtesy and respect.  Then we voted.  At 5pm we heard the result in a very brief meeting.  The result was 61.4% in favor of change.  There was applause but again no cheers or boos.  There was a lot of texting.

On Friday, we went back to work, with a general session, additional meetings, and a recognition dinner.  In an inspiring speech, a past national president reminded us that in any difficult decision, there should be no winners or losers, just a change and a new focus on the mission.  The message throughout the day was unite and get back to work.  I didn't see any evidence of a lot of packing up and going home.  There was no yelling or protesting or fighting.  We got back to work.

As a scout and scout volunteer for over 50 years, I understand and share the frustration many have with the long-standing hypocrisy.  Scouting has a simple and admirable code of conduct stated in the Scout oath and law that has been reinterpreted by church and political agendas to include more restrictions than it needs.  That's the way I see it, but many of my Scouting friends read the same words in the oath and law in the context of their deeply held beliefs.  For some it is challenging and for others impossible to interpret 'morally straight' in the Scout oath in any way other than as defined by their church.  

While all packs, troops, and other units serve youth with a common program, each requires a 'chartered partner' who selects or approves leaders and provides meeting space.  Scouting is in a lot of ways like a franchise, where a chartered partner agrees to use the program as part of their overall interest in youth development.  The overwhelming majority of chartered partners are churches, with the top 3 being LDS (Mormon), Catholic, and Methodist.  From bottom to top, Scouting is a volunteer led organization, and the voting members who elect the local boards are the representatives of the chartered partners.  So if you are impatient with the rate of change of policies in BSA, go change some churches and we'll come right along.  Good luck to you!

Some churches are finally coming around in recognizing that their religious beliefs about gays are inconsistent with reality (or maybe it is just costing them market share), but that doesn't mean it is easy for them to change.   For Scouting, the new BSA policy is a step in the right direction.  It is also about all the change our organization can handle at one time.  In the future there will be more steps and more progress.  For now, we all expect to need a period of healing while we help our scouting friends in the South cope with the impact of this change in their area.  They expect to lose more chartered partners, leaders, members, and probably funding than other areas.

There are many scout volunteers who agree that the resolution did not go far enough, that it was far too long in coming, and that the remaining ban on homosexual adults is offensive and contradictory.  We all know that there are gay scout leaders all over the country who keep below the radar and do a great job.  These gay adults participate because they believe in the Scouting program even if there's a chance they might get tossed out.  The parents of their youth members and their fellow leaders respect their work and dedication, just as they do every other leader.

The national board very carefully studied surveys and polling data from over 200,000 responses to questionaires.  The resolution they crafted was one that could pass.  The resulting compromise continues the ban on gay adult leaders.  However flawed this policy is, successfully making some change is progress.  This progress is very much better than the damage that could have resulted from attempting but failing to make a bigger change.  

The Boy Scouts just made an historic change.  Scouting is truly a big tent that includes people from every corner of the country, every part of the political spectrum, and every kind of belief.  For each individual, the choice of voting yes or no may have been easy, but for the organization it was hard.  The message I want to leave you with is this:  In the end we changed Scouting by making a very hard decision while maintaining courtesy and respect for each other.  Those of us involved in working toward this decision reflected many times that we wished in our political process we could discuss difficult issues with as much respect and courtesy, then make hard decisions, even if flawed and compromised, and agree to move forward in support of our common interests.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I made a comment / joke in another diary , (5+ / 0-)

    didn't go over well at all . I think that the "progress" is funny , they will now let a person who does great up until the end , gets all sorts of badges , awards and leadership etc ... , will be told that they don't have what it takes to stay on , they will be shown the door . I think that's a cruel thing to do .
    To tell someone after everything they have done , they are not good enough because of one thing that really has nothing to do with scouting .

    Drop the name-calling MB 2/4/11 + Please try to use ratings properly! Kos 9/9/11 + Trusted Users have a responsibility to police the general tenor... Hunter 5/26/06

    by indycam on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:36:29 PM PDT

  •  Damage (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You voted for something to make some people who announced they were already on their way out when the vote didn't go their way happy? You were played.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce)

    by Dave in Northridge on Sat May 25, 2013 at 10:53:02 PM PDT

    •  Plenty of people on both sides were on their (4+ / 0-)

      way out. I was asked to vounteer for a district position and said that until this vote I wouldn't help or donate funds because it might be to continue discriminating against gay scouts.

      This change happened because people on the inside made it happen. Baby steps. What i believe will happen is most districts will just ignore the ban on gay leaders and the religious troops will continue discriminating which they do on many things anyway. The key to scouts is find a troop that has your beliefs. We have gay scout leaders and have for years. Our troop welcomes anyone who wants to help.

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

      by voracious on Sun May 26, 2013 at 12:20:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The change happened because corporate funds (0+ / 0-)


        You can either go along with the appologists for discrimination and bigotry and let them keep discriminating for another generation while the corporate spigot opens back up, or you can keep on demanding that these hate mongers stop kicking out den mothers because they're lesbians.

        That's your choice.  

        Right now, you're effectively saying "We welcome light skinned African Americans who are willing to Pass when it comes to the National Council".

        "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

        by JesseCW on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:10:45 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Outside pressure made this happen, (0+ / 0-)

        and the pressure needs to continue.

        I won't donate while the leader ban is still in place.

  •  Curious (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    exterris, DaytonMike

    Did you get the feeling that those who were vehemently opposed would disassociate?  I have heard that there could be a mass exodus of up to 20%.  I wasn't there, so my info comes from a few people associated with the scouts.  I've also heard that they are suspecting this to hurt their fundraising.  

    •  I would be happier than happy for such an exodus. (3+ / 0-)

      It would make it that much easier to make further progress.

      It's the same (but inverted) with the Democrats. There are people here who just can't help but celebrate when some right-wing doofus switches from the Republicans to the Democrats -- as if the person were adopting Democratic principles, rather than diluting them.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:40:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the arc of justice . . . (5+ / 0-)

    i am an ELCA church member - liberal lutherans.  4 years ago, we changed to have gay pastors.  or, openly gay pastors.  it was a long time coming, not necessarily enough change, and we lost some membership of individuals and congregations.

    some of the congregations that left were none too happy about having women pastors either.  

    Ted Kennedy: “The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die…”

    by jlms qkw on Sun May 26, 2013 at 12:00:08 AM PDT

  •  thanks for posting this (5+ / 0-)

    I am very active in our local scouts and was happy to read this first-hand account of the vote.

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

    by voracious on Sun May 26, 2013 at 12:18:11 AM PDT

  •  Was there any discussion of the fact that a number (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of regional scout councils now have full non-discrimination policies in effect, and have stated that they won't follow the ban on gay leaders?

    •  No particular discussion (0+ / 0-)

      But the reality is that the enforcement of the membership policies is up to the local council.  My council has no other policy in effect other than the national policy, but as far as I recall we have never used the national policy to remove a scout or leader because they were gay.  We have removed leaders because of overtly heterosexual behavior, such as repeatedly suggesting inappropriate behavior to Scouts.  For most of the adults who are not stuck on some religious definition of morality that excludes gays, the only concern is behavior and advocacy, and we don't see any difference between homosexual or heterosexual behavior and advocacy.  Neither has any place in scouting programs.

      I know specifically of some cases where concerned parents have been worried that some wonderful person their children look up to as an adult role model will be thrown out because everyone knows that adult is gay.  The universal and consistent response has been to reassure those parents that we don't really care as long as the leader is not introducing their sexual orientation into the program.

  •  The age out thing bugs me, too (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alma, DaytonMike, Cassandra Waites

    A lot of 18 year old scouts are also in the OA.  The OA is Scouting's "honor society."  But in the OA you are considered a youth member until 21.  Same goes for Venture Crew members.  

    Considering that OA requires membership in a scouting unit to maintain OA membership, indeed, scouts are encouraged to register as adults and "give back" to the units they came from, is there a plan to enable 18 year old gay scouts to stay in the OA?

    I know several gay scouts who are now adults - my son is 32 and stayed active in Scouting, OA and APhiO all through college and vet school.  Several of his brothers came out in college (but not at the council level back home) and it didn't matter to him.  He kept their secrets - they were, and are, his brothers (this was in 2001-02 after the Dale case). FWIW, APhiO is both co-Ed and does not discriminate based on sexual orientation.  Nor are you required to have been in BSA or GSUSA to pledge, but APhiO is mentioned in the OA handbook and is heavily service oriented - they have "clans" for Eagle Scouts in their chapters.  

    Will OA encourage chartering organizations to start up Venture Crews or Explorer Posts to be able to have the 21 year age out limit?  All scouts who turn 18 would be eligible to switch from the Troop to the Crew or Post as youth members?  Even if they are gay?  

    Since a gay scout can't register as an adult (yet), this could be a bridge to avoid getting "kicked out" of scouting all together.  I can think of nothing harder for a new Eagle Scout than to think he's good enough to be Eagle and all that goes with it EXCEPT being able to stay and give back to his unit in a leadership position. After all, the Trail to Eagle is all about Leadership. Offering to transfer as an eligible youth to Venture or Exploring, stay active in OA until 21, would ease out all scouts - it's always been kind of weird that you had to serve as an adult one level while still being considered a youth at other levels.  

    I know that Venturing and Exploring are typically both co-Ed and some churches still don't allow those types of units, nor do they have women in leadership positions.  But there are others who do.  Units might be able to offer MORE scouting to their youth members - all of them - if they would consider running troops (BSA and GSUSA) as well as crews for all older youth to transition to once they have attained Eagle (or GS Gold).  

    By 18 a lot of kids are going off to college, but some stay in the area and want to continue participating.  BSA might be well served to consider promoting transitional memberships through their other programs - it avoids kicking out good scouts who are valuable "assets" but can't register as adults because they are gay (or lesbian).  I add that in because my sister in law is a lesbian and was a 19 year old merit badge counselor for my son's troop, and was in our Venture Crew, up until both of units were dissolved after the Dale decision.  Not our choice, but National office wouldn't let our UCC church recharter because of our stance in the Dale case.  

    "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 Sun May 26, 2013 at 05:01:04 AM PDT

  •  Treating avowed bigots with courtesy and respect (0+ / 0-)

    is not admirable.

    "The thing about smart motherfuckers is that they sound like crazy motherfuckers to dumb motherfuckers." Robert Kirkman

    by JesseCW on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:07:37 AM PDT

    •  There is an art to war. (0+ / 0-)

      I'm not going to criticize the folks who are fighting this one -- they have won a decisive battle, which will eventually lead to winning the war. They would likely have lost, had they refused to treat the avowed bigots with courtesy and respect. There is a time for grenades, and a time for careful negotiation. Courtesy and respect are among the essential tools of careful negotiation.

      To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

      by UntimelyRippd on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:44:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And who will speak for my atheist son, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    who will, some time in the next 5 years or so, meet all of the requirements for Eagle Scout, and then have to tell his review board that he doesn't share their cosmology -- and that will be the end of that. As for me -- my multiple university degrees; extensive knowledge and experience across a wide spectrum of science, engineering, humanities, social science, and fine arts; knowledge and experience of getting along in the great outdoors; and interest in working with youth; all of these resources are largely unavailable to his troop (or any other scouts, for that matter), because I cannot force myself to sign the odious and self-denying statement of principles on the Adult Leadership Application.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Sun May 26, 2013 at 07:37:36 AM PDT

    •  Or maybe not (0+ / 0-)

      I've served on a lot of Eagle boards.  There are no requirements on what is discussed.  Sometimes the question of religious beliefs comes up, sometimes it doesn't.  If it does, unless your son declares absolutely there is no god, he'll get through it.   Possibly even if he does so declare.   I don't suggest he lie.  I do suggest there is a lot of verbal room between lying and telling the absolute truth.

      I recommend for your consideration "On The Decay Of The Art Of Lying" by Mark Twain.  

      As for you, the 'declaration of religious principles' is not going away soon if ever.  But in my experience really nobody cares as long as you aren't wearing an 'ask me why I'm proud to be an atheist' t-shirt.  If you are working in support of the program and not looking for converts, you could be a pastafarian, a Jedi, belong to the church of Elvis, or just be vague about it and that would be fine.  I've been an adult leader for 20+ years in lots of positions.  I've maybe been asked about my religious beliefs once or twice.  I'm not going to state my beliefs one way or another here - I prefer privacy to confrontation.  I will go to a church service in support of a troop on Scout Sunday, or to go to the funeral of a scouting friend at his church.  I'll stand quietly while someone says grace before a meal.  I will even, if asked, give a generic invocation at a meeting.  If you would have to refuse on principle to do those kind of things, then you would find being an adult leader, at least outside of your son's troop, to be awkward.  But if you can handle that, just squint a bit, sign the application, and join in the fun.  There are a very large number of people involved in Scouting who don't like everything about it, but they like more than they dislike and think the compromise is worth it.  Some get a chance eventually to improve it, as happened last week.

  •  Facebook comments can give us some hope. (0+ / 0-)

    By way of credentials, Life Scout, twenty-year Scouting volunteer, Vigil Honor and Founder's Award in the Order of the Arrow, three-time staffer for Wood Badge, District Award of Merit and Silver Beaver.  My son is an Eagle Scout, Assistant Scoutmaster in his troop, and both he and one of my daughters are active with a new Venturing crew.  Both have earned their Wood Badge beads.  For those of you in Scouting, you know what these credentials are.  For those of you not involved, these are reasonably heavyheight credentials as a volunteer.

    As might be expected, Facebook exploded when the announcement was made, both on the semi-official Scouting Magazine page, on local council pages and on personal pages.  Opinion was split, based simply on the posts made.  However, as time went on, the number of "likes" on the pro-decision responses vastly outnumbered the ones on the anti-decision posts.  Any time someone said they would leave the BSA, or go to another group, the replies said, in essence "Good riddance - you haven't learned what the ideals of Scouting are all about, and we are well rid of you."

    I'll echo the response that the ban on gay leaders is still wrong, and can't last forever, but if the bigots are bailing out now, we'll have an easier time changing that ban in the future.  There will also be those leaders who might oppose the concept of gay Scout leaders in general, but when they're faced with Johnny from their troop at an Eagle Board of Review thanking Scouting for letting him stay in, and when they wish that Johnny could stay on as a leader, they;ll change their mind.  After all, it's easier to oppose gay Scout leaders in general, and harder when it;s a real person that they know and have worked with.

    My son will not be working at a Scout summer camp for the first time in a decade.  It has nothing to do with any of the politics and everything to do with having graduated from college and having a real, full time job.  Since he's not representing the Council anymore, he decided that he wants one of the "Inclusive Scouting" square knot devices, one for each of his uniforms.  I went ahead and ordered them, as well as ones for my daughter's and my uniforms too.

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

    by DaytonMike on Sun May 26, 2013 at 09:54:40 AM PDT

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