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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.

    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."

    Sincerely,

    J.T.Dabbs, III
    Scout Executive
    Greater Alabama Council

Crossposted at LeftInAlabama.com

My thoughts on this:

  1. How much "courage" does it take to pull the Welcome mat out from under scout troops?
  2. As long as the "abstinence" clause is really "uniformly and equitably applied," I don't have a problem with that.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

    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.

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.

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.

    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

A friend who's a counselor & retired minister offered this viewpoint:

   

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.

    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.

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.

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    Yes. There ARE progressive Democrats in Alabama. Visit with us at Left in Alabama

    by countrycat on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 10:25:17 AM PDT

  •  question.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass

    Is this sort of crap happening in other states too?

    Yes. There ARE progressive Democrats in Alabama. Visit with us at Left in Alabama

    by countrycat on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 10:26:46 AM PDT

  •  Really? (0+ / 0-)
    Nobody is asserting that a church should be forced to accept a scout troop it doesn't want
    I think a lot of people are indeed asserting that all scout units should be open to troops who are gay. A church, or any other scouting sponsor, should be forced to accept a troop it doesn't want, if the reason is that the troop is gay.
    •  A troop _is_ a unit (0+ / 0-)

      You seem to have interpreted "scout troop" as meaning "scout."

      Some churches are refusing to sponsor or host scouting troops because they disagree with the new policy -- regardless of whether any scouts in the troop even are gay, never mind anything else.

      Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

      by HudsonValleyMark on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 11:31:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't see how you can do that. (0+ / 0-)

      If a church doesn't want to sponsor a scout troop for whatever reason, you can't force them to.  If they think the kids will make a mess.... or they're noisy....  or the scout master is a jerk & they don'' want to deal with him anymore....  There are a lot of reasons besides gay scouts that any organization might not want to sponsor a troop.

      In this case, it's prejudice against gay scouts.  So it's not inconvenience, but intolerance.  and that sucks.

      Still, if they don't want the scout troop there, they can make it very unpleasant & difficult for the kids and that's a bad situation.  And I really know of no way to force them to accept a troop.

      They seem immune to public shaming and just about any other tactic.

      However, the Boy Scout leadership should be showing, well... LEADERSHIP and drop any sponsoring organization that demands to be able to do stuff like require the scout leader to "demonstrate heterosexual values."

      Instead of cozying up to them and offering a "wink, wink, nod, nod" instruction email to let them get away with discrimination, the scouts should tell them they "aren't welcome as sponsors" because scouting is committed in inclusion, not exclusion.

      But the Alabama council has decided to against that, sadly.

      Yes. There ARE progressive Democrats in Alabama. Visit with us at Left in Alabama

      by countrycat on Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 11:34:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pffft on Alabama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    countrycat

    It's just certain kinds of churches.  They're certainly not being kind, friendly, helpful or courteous.  

    United Church of Christ sponsors scout troops and they are happy to welcome all scouts, gay or straight.  There are other churches and other organizations that sponsor troops and packs - not every scouting unit is tied to a church.  

    Now, any kid, gay or straight, who wants to be a scout / stay in scouting can look for a unit where he will be happy and treated as a brother scout. Obviously, that search in Alabama might take a little longer than it might in a state like California or New York. You don't have to make your boy join a troop full of bigoted adults or one that is sponsored by a church that is not in line with your own, or your son's beliefs.  

    As a Cub Scout, your parents are the ones searching, but as a Boy Scout aged boy, you have more input.  You can even change units if you find out you don't like the one you're in - people, both leaders and scouts, transfer between units all the time.  

    The SE who wrote this letter seems to be trying to keep his volunteer base from deserting.  If he was smart, he would reach out to other organizations close to the places that seem to have told him "we're leaving" and seek to have them start up packs and troops that fit their internal philosophy.  Give kids more of a choice about which unit's program to participate in.  Then his current base of volunteers wouldn't have to "walk away" because there would be less chance they would have to deal with any "icky" stuff brought about by the change that the majority voted for (insert eye roll here).  

    No church or other organization is required to sponsor / charter a scouting unit.  It's a tough job recruiting volunteers to run it, so I can see why he doesn't want to lose anybody - a lot of places have a lot invested in terms of training and equipment (contrary to popular belief, the scout troop itself owns nothing - all of their camping gear and whatnot belongs to its sponsor - when our troop dissolved, we left everything to the church and they used it for a different youth group, sold some of it, donated scout specific stuff to other troops in the area.  Only thing we still have is our troop flag and our Eagle plaque with all the names on it of boys who earned Eagle in our 52 years).  

    I'm sure the UCC churches (and others like them) that shut down their units after the Dale decision will be working toward starting up again - some of them have been operating under the radar for years.  My own church dissolved its troop when the national office refused to renew our charter because we wouldn't accept the "no gays" rule.  It affected too many of our families and we were very upset about the SCOTUS decision that gave the BSA national authority over the membership decisions by local units.  

    That being said, I'm not sure what these people in Alabama are thinking - especially at the council level.  Sounds like the Council is trying to have it's cake and eat it, too.  They have to comply with the vote, but they are located in a southern state, with a southern state mentality, so they are doing their best to placate their volunteers.  

    "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 Sat Jun 15, 2013 at 12:57:58 PM PDT

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