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With this vote, Scouting calibrates its moral compass

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  • With this vote, Scouting calibrates its moral compass


    Twenty years have passed since Scouting chose to join the culture war and began a shameful period of telling gay teenagers they were the one kind of child unworthy of being a Scout.


    In 1990, the Boy Scouts of America kicked out 19 year old James Dale (over the objections of the boys and adults in his community), and fought him all the way to the Supreme Court for the right to set their own membership standards.


    Today they have taken the first step back on a path that leads to equality, respect and honor for all kids. The organization has voted to ban discrimination against gay kids, and compel all of nearly 100,000 local Scout units to be welcoming. This progress was brought in part by a remarkable group of young, straight Eagle Scouts lead by Zach Wahls and the incredible work of Scouts for Equality, who rallied more than 7,000 other Eagle Scouts, and secured more than 1.8 million petition supporters.


    Nonetheless, this is still a contrived compromise that kicks gay kids out when they turn 18 and become an adult. Doing that sends a ridiculous message to kids that Scouting will tolerate who they are, not just the person they “might” become.


    I wrote a piece for Forbes in January when the BSA announced a possible change in policy, highlighting the terrible business decisions that Scouting had made, not just what I believed to be poor moral choices:


    “The movement of Scouting continues to be one of the great opportunities for light and goodness in the world. But in my opinion, and one shared by millions of parents with kids who could benefit from Scouting, the corporation that administers Scouting in America lost its moral compass a long time ago.” — more from me in Forbes


    The BSA released their own broad survey of current members: it was convincing that a majority of Scouting parents under the age of 50 favored non-discrimination, and revealed an even higher percentage of young parents in America that weren’t even considering Scouting for their kids. By and large, the voices to maintain the status quo were older Scout leaders hanging around the program long after their own kids had grown, and specific religious institutions using the supposedly non-sectarian Scouting as a tool (though even among churches, there was growing dissent).


    At the time I argued the only sane and right policy change would be to let each of the local parents and chartering partners (tens of thousands of churches and civic groups) decide for themselves whether to accept gay kids and adults. With such deeply held passions, many on religious grounds by local partners, I believed the “local option” was the only way Scouting could escape the self-inflicted wound tearing away at the future of the organization.


    Last month the BSA announced details of the only resolution they would allow to be put to a vote today: one that allowed gay kids to stay in Scouting across the country, but still banned gay adult leaders.


    My first, visceral reaction was that it was an even worse scenario than kicking gay kids out of the program; that Scouting had set itself up as some sort of “conversion therapy camp”, expecting kids would “grow out of the gay”.


    I saw this contrived compromise – no doubt hard fought within the organization, as further proof that the BSA was still lost in the wilderness.


    But today I see a real opportunity for the BSA to emerge with an even better solution than the “local option” that I previously argued was the best we could expect. By banning discrimination against all gay kids in every local community, the organization is doing what’s morally right.


    Following this vote by the membership, the National Executive Board should now move swiftly to allow parents and local chartering partners to choose the right adult leaders for their Scout units, gay or straight. Legally, practically and morally, this is an inevitable position the BSA will some day take, and it’s within the authority of the National Executive Board to make that decision soon.


    I’ve always believed… and for generations so did the BSA, that parents should have the right to choose adult mentors for their own kids.


    If a shrinking part of America thinks gay adults are inherently unsuitable role models, they’ll still have that right as parents. They just won’t have the right to deny the Scouting experience to any kid. And they shouldn’t have the right to deny other parents the choice of adults leaders for their own kids and communities.


    Today was an important first step, and if it is soon followed by another step that allows local communities to set their own membership standards for adults, Scouting will have found its way back onto the trail.
    Today's vote to ban discrimination against gay Boy Scouts was an important first step. If it's soon followed by another step that allows local communities to set their own membership standards for adults, Scouting will have found its way back onto the trail.

  • #2
    Well said, Terry. Thanks for 'keeping the faith'.

    Comment


    • BadenP
      BadenP commented
      Editing a comment
      Terry, There are times when throwing yourself on your sword is warranted but not in this case. As you state in your post the BSA has been making poor business decisions for years now and the continuing drop in membership validates that the BSA has and will continue on their downward spiral until they start dealing with the reality of what they have done to scouting. The fact, you quote in your post that the majority of young parents will not even consider scouting for their boys speaks volumes. If the BSA does not come to grips with their issues quickly and take action to correct them then I am afraid what ever is left of scouting will be an insignificant and miniscule version of what it once was. I still believe that the BSA can be saved with a complete restructuring of National and a return to the basic roots of scouting.

    • Faith
      Faith commented
      Editing a comment
      Great way of putting it Terry and I agree BadenP. I'm 25 and didn't bat an eye when my son wanted to join last year. However, a lot of my 'mom friends' thought I was crazy. I didn't realize the stigma it had among some of the people I've known all my life (the school I went to growing up didn't offer it so I never knew much about it during those years.) I'd like to think since A joined some of them have changed their tune on how they view it (at least our local pack) and will consider letting their boys in if they want to be when they get older. A few have tagged along to events with us (B&G, cubmobile race) and loved it. Right now my son is the oldest in the group sans one other boy who flat out refused, he said it would make him look stupid and his mom didn't push it. Hopefully this will make it more 'considerable' for those who wouldn't have considered it otherwise.

  • #3

    "Twenty years have passed since Scouting chose to join the culture war and began a shameful period of telling gay teenagers they were the one kind of child unworthy of being a Scout."

    That statement isn't entirely true; Atheists (and probably Agnostics) still aren't allowed in Scouts. Neither are Pagans.
    Just because today there was a vote to allow gay scouts doesn’t mean that anything will change in practice. Truth be told, there are already gay scouts and have been for decades. The units that have been allowing gay scouts and gay leaders will continue to do so; the units that prohibit gay scouts will continue to do so. Nothing will change unless there are consequences for the units that choose to continue to exclude gay members.

    Comment


    • Trevorum
      Trevorum commented
      Editing a comment
      There is absolutely NO restriction on Pagans. All faith traditions are welcome in BSA, including minority faiths and those not in the mainstream.

    • Merlyn_LeRoy
      Merlyn_LeRoy commented
      Editing a comment
      Trevorum, did you read Khaliela's post in the nonsectarian thread? The difference between theory and actual practice.

    • Trevorum
      Trevorum commented
      Editing a comment
      Merlyn, yes. I commented there. While there is certainly much ignorance and prejudice on the local level regarding pagans and other naturalistic ways of believing, there is absolutely no membership exclusion policy. In Khaliela's case, he was harassed but no one tried to revoke his membership

  • #4
    Well said Terry.

    Comment


    • #5
      I agree, very well reasoned Terry.

      All said & done I think this will have very little impact on the program for the boys. For the cubbies a non-event. This is why we are here as scouters - for the boys & the future of our nation! It may tick a few reactionaries off who will take their ball and go home --- they are on the wrong side of history. In fact, I should be so lucky that some of the most vocally annoying people (that don't help or volunteer at all with the program) in my pack may leave now.

      Comment


      • #6
        Honestly the boys don't care....They are color blind and now they are blind to sexuality.

        Comment


        • Spiney Norman
          Spiney Norman commented
          Editing a comment
          Very True BD. We discussed this whole issue with our PLC (all of HS age and aware of the controversy)) and were told that it didn't matter to them if a scout or leader was gay or hetero. We were told, "that's something adults argue about, to us it's a non-issue.

        • blw2
          blw2 commented
          Editing a comment
          ... and this is what I see as the potential save to all of this non-sense grown up drama.....

      • #7
        What excites me about this whole thing more than the outcome of the vote is that the BSA handled this in a transparent manner. First they got an independent agency to poll the membership and provided said membership with the outcome of the polls. Then they made sure each council got to vote their conscience. This is a huge change in the way the BSA has operated for maybe decades. May this trend continue into the future.

        Comment


        • #8
          This is NOT about saying it's okay. It's about saying BSA won't ask you to leave. Charter Orgs and units do NOT have to accept you as a member. It's their choice still and there is no filter saying only churches and groups that say homosexuality is okay.

          Ya know ... this changes very little really other than the public visible perception and the final BSA decision if things escalate to the highest level. Generally though, charter orgs and units that didn't care before will still not care. Charter orgs and units that find it opposite of their beliefs wills still not approve of it and if you preach something opposite, they can ask you to leave.

          Comment


          • Khaliela
            Khaliela commented
            Editing a comment
            That exactly what I said above.

            We have one unit in our area that is Chartered by the Knights of Columbus. They only admit Catholic Scouts, and worse than that, they only admit Catholic Scouts who attend the Catholic School. It is a sad day when white, middle class, catholic boys are not allowed to play with other white, middle class, catholic boys because one group "isn't catholic enough."

            Our Troop has taken on several of these "unwanted" boys and they have proven to be great members.

        • #9
          With this vote, Scouting calibrates its moral compass



          Yes it does...but away from true North unfortunately.


          Farewell BSA. You redefined yourself the moment you sought public opinion on a moral issue that we have no business making. Even before we consider the issue at hand we now see that current leadership is willing to capitulate when pressured by culture. This is the message that is being sent....exactly what we have been teaching our sons to NOT do for decades.

          I realize I am the silent majority trying to speak up....or sadly, probably the silent minority at this point. And that I will change no one's position. I accept that, though with more disappointment that I can convey.

          Time will tell just how wrong this decision was.

          Comment


          • Hal_Crawford
            Hal_Crawford commented
            Editing a comment
            The "silent majority" is neither.

          • King Ding Dong
            King Ding Dong commented
            Editing a comment
            Farewell Eaglex3

          • ghjim
            ghjim commented
            Editing a comment
            If I could do one thing in this whole debacle it would be to shoot down the tired argument that the BSA capitulated to public pressure. Organizations and individuals outside the BSA have been criticizing the membership policy for decades with no effect. Even as the membership declined the BSA executives held their ground on the basis of their religious convictions. Only when a large group of councils rebelled did all of this start to happen. Only when the councils voted independently did we find what the majority of the membership wanted. And this significant majority exists after decades of driving like-minded people out.

            I'll repeat what I said earlier that I hope the BSA continues this policy of consulting with the membership before making sweeping edicts concerning morality.

        • #10
          Welcome to the forums Eaglex3. Am I interpreting your message correctly that you are leaving BSA as a result of this decision? Would you consider hanging around this campfire anyway?

          Comment


          • #11
            Fred, clearly you never had anyone on the phone bring up the percieved sexual preferences of one of your youths as a reason for dismissal. This policy keeps bad days like that a little further off, and all those leaders out there fielding calls like that can now divert their time to hiking and camping and finding a decent campfire where they can hash out these issues with their youth.

            Comment


            • EmberMike
              EmberMike commented
              Editing a comment
              If those are the kinds of parents who are now leaving Scouting because of this vote, then good riddance. Wanting to see a kid thrown out because they perceive him to possibly be gay, that's horrendous.

            • packsaddle
              packsaddle commented
              Editing a comment
              EmberMike, I'd rather they stayed in and continued to fight for that in which they believe. They are merely in the same position now (sort of reversed) that I was in for a very long time. So I would extend to them the same opportunity to express themselves and change my mind if their ideas have sufficient merit. Having them leave does no one any good. I remember all too well the numerous invitations for me to leave and start my own organization. I considered those comments not to be in the spirit of scouting and so it is in that spirit that I continue to welcome the expression of their ideas.

          • #12
            One of the UK scout laws is A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts. It may surpise you just how much attention this issue is getting around the world. Most major media sources across Europe are reporting it and the editorial opinion is very favourable. I don't know if that matters to you, but if it was the US media reporting on something in the UK in this way I would certainly feel very pleased. It is also something that scouts here, including many of mine, are taking a big interest in. The fact is though that you'll find it will make very little difference to how things run. You are not going to suddenly get a troop full of gay scouts. You'll just get a small percentage of boys who, probably around the age 12-15 figure out that they are gay. They may chose to come out, they may not. But if they do the troop will just carry on running as normal and 6 weeks later no one will even remember. I suspect that a large proportion of those who say they will leave actually won't. They'll wake up on 1 January and realise that actually nothing in their world is different. They might have a PL or SPL who suddenyl turns around and says "Hey Skip, that's a relief, I can be open about this now, I'm gay. And could you remind me what date summer camp is? And here's our route plans for next week's hike, see you on Tuesday". It will be exactly the same as when girls were admited to scouting here. Many people said "Ooh! How terrible, what if a girl has a period on camp? I'll quit if this goes through". Two years later they were still there and just remembering to pack the sanitary towels for camp. The difference will be very large and for the better for the small percentage of scouts who previously would have had to hide who they were. It will be very small for everyone else. You have done the right thing, for your scouts and for America.

            Comment


            • Huzzar
              Huzzar commented
              Editing a comment
              I wouldn't be so sanguine, Skip. The USA isn't the UK and the decision to admit was taken in different ways. USA Scouting is more tightly associated with religious organizations than UK Scouting and UK Scouting had its rules changed by governmental edict, not internally.

              I have a hard time coming to grips with an internal survey that showed 61% of current parents and adult leaders againts the policy change then being parlayed into a 60-40 vote in favor of change in Texas.

              People will be leaving Scouting over here, the question is how many and how soon.

              And no, I'm not whining about it. The rules have changed and I either live with them or move on. Probably the latter.

            • Khaliela
              Khaliela commented
              Editing a comment
              It's not just the UK--Scouts Canada was very pleased as well. (They are open to everyone: boys & girls; religious & atheists; regardless of sexual orientation.)
              I know Scouts Canada had a list of units from the US who wanted to leave BSA and join Scouts Canada because they were tolerant and accepting of everyone. They were trying to figure out what to do with a list of non-residents who wanted to join their program; maybe now part of that Headache will go away.

          • #13
            Kudos to the BSA members for making the right decision and living the Scout Law. This resolution was the result of a democratic process instead of a small executive committee which has been making these decisions in a vacuum for years.

            Comment


            • #14
              The compass may have been calibrated for variation..... but calibration against deviation has been lost.
              There's a certain morally straight component that is now bent.

              There will always be some club, some group, some organization where some folks don't belong..... not because they are hated or shunned, but because the carry with them a certain property, position, or value that is simply not in line with the organization.
              Kind of silly to think that a woman should be able to join the men's group at church, for example.

              Regardless, it shouldn't have a bearing at all on the program, but I fear that it will.

              For parents and the more mature, this is a black mark against the BSA similar to the negative stigmatism the GSA has brought onto themselves with their connections to Planned Parenthood.

              For the boys.....You think boys have a hard time now with being an openly proud scout, being teased that they are nerds or whatever?..... Now there's something far more serious for non-scouting kids to tease our boys about. I can hear it now..... "You're a scout? You must be gay! Hey everybody, he's gay!" What do you really think his reaction to that is going to be? Do you really for a minute think that this is going to encourage our boys to continue in scouts?

              They don't even have a morally straight argument to stand on now.


              Comment


            • #15
              Originally posted by fred johnson View Post
              Ya know ... this changes very little really other than the public visible perception and the final BSA decision if things escalate to the highest level.
              I would say that last bit is HUGE. No longer can a youth be kicked completely out of BSA because he is gay. Hopefully someday the same will apply to adults.

              Comment


              • fred johnson
                fred johnson commented
                Editing a comment
                Agreed. It is huge. Youth can now stay in BSA and find a unit that reflects their same values. I also agree the same should be extended to adults. It is hypocritical to ask charter orgs to charter units and then preach to them a set of values different than the charter orgs.
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