Judging by this email sent to scout masters & sponsors this week, Alabama's state Boy Scout leadership seems a bit less than committed to full inclusion. At least that's how the scouting participant who provided the email to LeftInAlabama.com sees it & I have to agree.
It appears to offer thinly-veiled instructions on how to keep gay scouts out of the unit. Failing that, the email suggests that scout masters use their position of influence to encourage the boys to be "morally straight."
Here's the complete text of the email:
I want to thank each of you for sharing with us your feedback on the recent change in the BSA membership standard. We know from many of you that you did not want or welcome this change, but despite that you will continue to provide a Scouting unit in your neighborhood. I also appreciate that for some of you it seemed impossible for you to continue with Scouting, and I certainly respect that and greatly appreciate your courage and conviction to your beliefs.Crossposted at LeftInAlabama.com
If you or your chartered organization are thinking about leaving Scouting, I want you to consider this before the sun sets on your unit, before the last Scout stands in your entryway, before the campfire embers die away. Is there any way that you can maintain your values and continue to charter Scouting? I say yes, and here is why.
First, the resolution clearly states that sexual activity among Scout-aged youth is contrary to Scouting virtues, and that means that so long as it is uniformly and equitably applied, a unit could have in its code of conduct a statement regarding sexual abstinence as a condition of membership.
Second, the resolution only says that youth may not be denied membership solely on the basis of the youth's self-perceived sexual orientation. It does not say that a youth may not be denied membership if his behavior becomes a distraction to the program or the performance of the unit, or if his behavior casts a poor reflection on the reputation of the chartered organization.
Third, the resolution does not require that a church-chartered unit affirm the moral acceptability of same-sex attraction where that would be contrary to values and beliefs of the chartered organization.
Fourth, the resolution does not preclude the right of a church to ask adult leaders to exemplify by word and example the positive nature of traditional, heterosexual marriage as their recognized standard of what it means to be morally straight, with the goal of influencing youth in the unit to appreciate and appropriate that as part of their personal values system.
I included a link to a FAQ that we put together locally. Regardless of whether you continue with Scouting or not, I wanted you to know how much we appreciate all you have done and the lives you have touched. I am so sorry what a distraction this discussion has had on our core mission, and I am deeply saddened about the tough discussions and decisions you have had to make. But in the words of the Scoutmaster's Benediction, "May the great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with you until we meet again."
Greater Alabama Council
My thoughts on this:
- How much "courage" does it take to pull the Welcome mat out from under scout troops?
- As long as the "abstinence" clause is really "uniformly and equitably applied," I don't have a problem with that.
- Point number two, where a youth may be denied membership if his behavior "becomes a distraction to program or performance of the unit" appears to give the upper hand to the intolerant & the bullies because it allows the unit to excuse their prejudice and lay the blame on the gay kid.
- Take points three and four together and you've got a blueprint for how a church sponsor can force the troop to make scouting so unpleasant for any gay scouts that they couldn't possibly want to stay.
It gives them license to turn a scout troop into an anti-gay indoctrination camp. The church isn't required to "affirm the moral acceptability of same-sex attraction," and is free to actively preach against it. Can it require that the scout troop hear the same message as part of the church's continued sponsorship?
Probably so, since point four allows the church to have the scout leaders cheerlead for heterosexual marriage, teach that it's part of being a "morally straight" scout, and push the scouts in the unit to adopt that viewpoint.
It encourages troop leaders to not only tolerate bullying, but actively participate in it.
Compare this attitude with NAACP chairman-emeritus President Julian Bond's recent op/ed in Politico:
In response to the historic gains of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, opponents argued that their religious beliefs prohibited integration. To be true to their religious beliefs, they argued, they couldn’t serve African-Americans in their restaurants or accept interracial marriages.If only the Boy Scout leadership in Alabama pushed back and upheld the cause of equality and basic fairness. That would show real "courage and conviction." Instead, they're taking the most wishy-washy stand possible. It reflects badly on scouting in general and on the leadership in particular.
Indeed, during consideration of the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964 (and again in 1972), there were attempts to provide religious organizations with a blank check to engage in discrimination in hiring on the basis of race, sex and national origin — like the one now proposed for ENDA — and both times we said no to those efforts. We weren’t willing to compromise on equality. We weren’t willing to say that African-Americans were only mostly equal. Today’s struggles are similar in that we shouldn’t accept only partial equality for LGBT people.
Let me be clear. Religious liberty is one of our most cherished values.
It guarantees all of us the freedom to hold any belief we choose and the right to act on our religious beliefs. But it does not allow us to harm or discriminate against others. Religious liberty, contrary to what opponents of racial equality argued then and LGBT equality argue now, is not a license to use religion to discriminate.
But the worst part is how it will affect the scouts themselves - particularly gay youth.
James Robinson, Founder and Director of GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services in Huntsville, stressed this in a statement to LIA:
“As a Civil Rights activist and advocate for youth I greatly appreciate the courage of leaders and members of the Boys Scouts who publicly and privately supported the end to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the organization.A friend who's a counselor & retired minister offered this viewpoint:
The positive nature of all loving and committed relationships should be emphasized to our children. It is vital to the development of healthy youth that every child know without any doubt that they are valued and included in organizations such as the Boy Scouts.
I am greatly concerned that efforts within the leadership of the Greater Alabama Council of Boy Scouts to subvert this critical message of acceptance and inclusion will lead to bullying, exclusion, and eventually to the loss of lives of children through suicide. Leaders of Alabama’s Boy Scouts carry the responsibility of any damage caused to our children through exclusionary practices while in their care and indirectly through covert discriminatory practices.”
-James Robinson, Executive Director GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services
For me, this issue has boiled down to the impact of rejecting a young man whose involvement long predated his discovery of his sexual orientation. It seems especially cruel to pile on with explicit rejection at such a vulnerable point in his life.Nobody is asserting that a church should be forced to accept a scout troop it doesn't want - or any other group. But neither should any church expect to get a pat on the back for embracing discrimination and intolerance. And that's what the Alabama scouting leadership seems to be giving them.
I have no problems with an equitable abstinence policy because boys (and girls) sometimes have to be protected from themselves and too many kids are being prematurely sexualized. I think that's especially true in the gay community and was appalled that that 18 year old lesbian refused a plea in the statutory rape of a 14 year old.
It is precisely at the time when a scout is having to deal with these matters that he needs the type of healthy moral and social environment Scouting attempts to provide.