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: http://scoutingaround.com/...)
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.