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Politics and Scouting?

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I always was a mixed up kid.

My Mother was a true blue Conservative. In fact after she had a stroke and was very confused she told everyone that Maggie Thatcher was in the room with her.

Dad was a member of the Labour Party.

My older brother is about as right wing as you can get.

My youngest sister has appeared on breakfast TV, in the UK with Tony Blair's wife Cherie.

While at college I was a member of the young socialist party.

I have never seen Scouting as being political.

Kids join Scouts to have fun.

Sure, when I was a Venture Scout back in England we would discuss politics, we were at an age when we were right and we were going to save the world. But we never looked upon these discussions as being part of the program.

OK, so the groups that choose to charter units are churches and VFW's, I know a lot of left wing catholics and servicemen.

Maybe I'm lucky? I am not in any way connected to any of our chartering organizations. The Troop that OJ belongs to is chartered by the local Civic Club, the Mayor of the small town is the Executive Officer, he has been Mayor for ever and is a Democrat.

No one is twisting anyone's arm to belong to a unit chartered by a church, but if we choose to accept a leadership role, we are in fact an extension of that organization's youth program.However once we accept the role our job is the delivery of the BSA program.

Maybe I'm still mixed up but I fail to see anything political about it?

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Eamonn, I see you spun this off of the British Scouting thread, but is there a particular post or a statement in a particular post that this new thread is a reaction to? I am not sure whether you are disagreeing with something that someone said, or not. I also am not sure whether you are just talking about partisan politics, or ideology in general. I'd agree that on the local level, Scouting has generally remained non-political. But I also think that BSA National has a particular ideological bent, which mostly does not affect national policies but is reflected in the "gay issue" in which a particular religious/ideological viewpoint that is prevalent in parts of the country is imposed on the rest.

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What really bothers me isn't Politics and Scouting, It is the politics that people put in scouting. When you plan an event and inadvertantly "step on someone's toes". Or when you try and improve an event and someone acts like you are reinventing the wheel. I understand that there are "old ways" but they don't have to be the only way. And just because you have been a volunteer for a while doesn't mean that you own the program/event/troop and any changes have to go through you.


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Luckily, as NJ said, politics has been more or less absent from local Scouting units, as far as I can tell. There's the occasional discussion out of earshot of the Scouts, to be sure, but that's different than having a unit take a visible political position. Really, that's not what Scouting is supposed to be about.


At the National level, tho, there's a different story. Regards the gay issue, they have taken a political stance that reflects a particular political view based on conservative religious beliefs. I think the gay issue is a particular problem for them because it's based on an interpretation of Scout writings. That's different than the atheist issue. Whether you happen to agree with the BSA policy or not, it's clearly stated that a belief in a god is required. On the other hand, there's nothing that I know of in the Scout Oath, Law, etc, that categorically forbids gays in Scouting. So, then you get into this area where different folks with different agendas try to convince everyone else what the Scout Oath, Law, etc, "really means".


Eamonn, I agree with your thoughts that it'd be great if Scouting could avoid being a political organization. I think that that's largely true at the local level (well, ok, at our Council, we have a public relations chair who refers to those who don't agree with Scouting's view of things as the "enemy", but he's sort of the exception :)). At the National level, tho, BSA has chosen to "take sides" on an issue that is currently splitting the country, and that makes them part of the political landscape whether they want to be or not.


(This message has been edited by Prairie_Scouter)

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Perhaps the link I posted on the Moral Authority thread fits here as well or better.




Here's a link to an interesting article on psychopaths in leadership positions. Some of us have expressed a concern about the Enronization of some in the professional ranks in scouting and Enron and similar executive behavior is discussed in depth in this article. Some of it may also apply to leadership at the unit level.




I just thought it was interesting and seemed to have some relevance to the title of the thread and intial discussion. I don't know that it has any relevance to the last few posts.




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I think Praire Scouter is on the right path here. But the gay issue lies a bit deeper than just aligning with a general conservative religous agenda. Didn't the LDS church threaten to abandon BSA if they adjusted the gay prohibition policy? In my district, over 50% of the units are LDS units and no I don't live in Utah. That is a pretty significant voice within BSA.

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I had read that as well, but don't know how much credence to give it. What I had read was that the LDS church leadership had demanded that BSA clarify their policy on gays in order to exclude them, under the threat that LDS would take their 400,000 Scouts, and their money, and go elsewhere. I can find the reference if anyone's interested, but I believe it came from a pro-gay Scouting site, hence my wondering about its credibility in these forums.

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but if we choose to accept a leadership role, we are in fact an extension of that organization's youth program. However once we accept the role our job is the delivery of the BSA program. Maybe I'm still mixed up but I fail to see anything political about it?


I dont know what most charters expect of their adult leaders. However, the BSA is one of two partners overseeing the troop. That is to say, it is reasonable for a church to expect the troop leadership to emphasize their values and to make accommodations for their youth goals. That does not mean that such efforts can or should be to the exclusion of BSA values and goals. For example, is it not perfectly reasonable for an LDS chartered troop to adopt a policy, which prohibits camping trips on Sunday? Or, for a VFW chartered troop to expect its adult leaders to promote participation in patriotic events such as Memorial Day ceremonies or July 4th parades? In short, one can deliver the program and still remain faithful to the chartering organization.


Sometimes, membership in a troop is restricted to a particular group, as is the case for LDS troops. In these cases, delivering the program and meeting the goals of the CO are even easier to accommodate. That is to say, by having the membership restricted to a targeted group, one does not have to worry about hindering someone else with the goals or restrictions of that CO. Again, using the LDS troop as example - a ban on Sunday camping would not bother non-Mormons, because only Mormons are allowed to join that troop. Likewise, Jewish troops could ban camping on Saturdays or if they so choose, could make special accommodation for worship for Saturday events. Or, a troop chartered by the PTA, if they so desired could direct their leaders to emphasize and encourage American history.


While I believe in and enjoy the diversity that other troops offer I think the aforementioned troops make good sense. They meet the goals of the BSA, but at the same time they accommodate their own goals and values.


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Tj, I was thinking the same thing. (Rooster, in case you are wondering, it is you that Tj and I are referring to. Congratulations, you just made a great argument for "local option.")


In response to earlier posts:


Cajuncody, what you are talking about there is what is generally called "Office Politics." It exists in volunteer organizations just as in "offices" unfortunately. I suspect most of us have experienced some degree of this kind of "politics" within our unit, district, council, etc. Fortunately for me those experiences have been relatively "mild" in my son's pack and then troop. To the extent there are rivalries within the troop leadership, I have managed to stay on good terms with everybody. However, in my brief brushes with the district level of Scouting I have become convinced that as dedicated as the volunteers generally are at that level, there is way too much office politics. Regardless of the level, I don't think it's ever going to go away, there will always be people who think they are being made to do too much, or aren't being allowed to do enough, and in some cases they will be right, there will often be factions, cliques, etc. It is just a fact of human interaction and hopefully enough people stay focused on the boys so that the program does not suffer from it. However, I think this thread is about "partisan politics" or "ideological politics" rather than "office politics."


Gern, I had also read about the LDS "threat" to leave the BSA in a number of different sources. I believe the statement was made in specific reference to the "Dale case" where is was possible that the courts might require the BSA to admit openly gay leaders. Of course, that did not happen (by one vote.) What I would like to know is whether the LDS has ever made a definitive statement about what they would do if "local option" were permitted. My guess is they would grumble about it, but stay put. As long as they don't have to allow gays, why would they care? I also think that, just as the BSA does depend to a degree on LDS because of their large numbers, it wouldn't be very easy for the LDS to simply leave the BSA due to the interwoven nature of the relationship, and the fact that so many LDS members and leaders (all, in theory, unless they grew up before the BSA was the LDS's official youth program) were members of the BSA. I doubt that "local option" would drive them (or many other people) out of the BSA.

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The idea of having diverse troops in BSA is exciting and positive. My point is that perhaps LDS is influencing national policy just from their shear numbers. It may well be not a concerted effort, but how can an organization like BSA ignore the voices of a large segment of its membership?

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Hi NJCubScouter,

In answer to your question:

"... but is there a particular post or a statement in a particular post that this new thread is a reaction to?

I was reacting to the post by Prairie_Scouter

(I don't mean to be a smart Alec, but I think you knew that!!)

To be honest I felt that the thread British Scouting changes oath was a dead horse, being as the Brits hadn't changed the Scout promise.

While Prairie_Scouter made some valid and to my mind good points. However such phrases as:


"So, those of us who don't agree with the apparent tendencies of BSA to lean toward the conservative right, are here not because we're trying to invade someone else's turf, but because we think that BSA should be open to us as well as the conservative right"


"There are many who would make the case that it's the conservative right that's trying co-opt BSA for their purposes"


"Baden-Powell, to my knowledge, never said that the Scouting movement was created to be the bastion of religious conservatives"

Do make it seem that we as an organization have a left and a right wing. Which of course we don't.

Is the gay thing political? Surely there has to be Republican and Right wing homosexuals?

I admit to not knowing very much about how deep feelings run in other parts of the USA.

I did catch POV on PBS late last night, the show titled:The Education of Shelby Knox, which deals with feisty teenager Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas. Although her county's high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the nation. Shelby, a devout Christian who has pledged abstinence until marriage herself, becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex education, profoundly changing her political and spiritual views along the way.

Later in the show; Shelby now allies herself with a group of gay students who have been denied the right to form a gay-straight alliance in school.

Near the end of the show Shelby is committed to working with the gay teens, who have decided to sue the Lubbock School Board. She has also declared herself to be a liberal Democrat, a turn that shocks her Republican parents. But when an organization whose slogan is "God Hates Fags" comes to Lubbock to protest the gay kids' lawsuit, Shelby, along with her mother, joins a counter protest, carrying a sign that reads "God Loves Everybody," and affirming a belief that will guide her into adulthood: "I think that God wants you to question," Shelby says, "to do more than just blindly be a follower, because he can't use blind followers. He can use people like me who realize there's more in the world that can be done."

I am guilty of having an "I'm alright Jack" attitude about homosexuals and Gay rights.

Up until about a year ago I had never ever met a gay teenager. I honestly did not believe that there were any. But my son has a friend that claims to be gay. He was at a few parties that OJ was at and has been over to watch football games at our house (We have the big telly) The Lad is a nice Lad and is a bit of a clown.

OJ, seems happy to have different groups of friends, he has his school friends, Soccer friends, Scouting and OA friends.

He is happy to compartmentalize these groups and many if not most of his friends do the same thing.

When Danny the Gay Lad comes to watch a game, I don't look at him as being anything other than one of my son's friends.

Danny is a cheerleader and is as athletic as any of the Soccer players. I don't think he has ever expressed any desire to be a member of the BSA.

While I think we have raised OJ not to be prejudiced or homophobic and while I haven't asked him I don't think he would be very happy to have Danny join in with his Boy Scout friends. This is also true of some of his soccer friends he doesn't want them to cross the line.

If we accept that the BSA is a private club and are willing to suffer whatever the consequences that brings. Each of us adults and children old enough to be able to decide? Have to make the choice do I want to belong to this club or not?

I belong to a club that has a fairly high membership fee and charges me $120 a month in fees.While the club does not discriminate against black or other ethnic minorities, I am the only non American member!! I only joined because I didn't want to build a swimming pool.

I suppose that the club could offer lower fees or offer free membership to try and be more diverse. I can't see it happening, but when I joined I never gave it a thought.






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Eamonn, with that clarification, here is what I think: I think you are mixing up "partisan poltics" with "ideological politics." Partisan politics is Dem. v. Rep. or where you come from Conservative (with a capital C) vs. Labour vs. Liberal (capital L) or Social Democrat or whatever that middle group is calling itself these days. Ideological politics overlaps partisan politics but not completely. There are conservative (small c) Democrats (have you met Ed Mori? Or Senator Lieberman) and liberal Republicans, in fact as recently as the mid-70s liberals were a major force within the Republican party. Then the conservatives became dominant and almost all the leading liberals either died out, lost re-election (Jacob Javitz of NY, Clifford Case of NJ, Lowell Weicker of CT who lost to Lieberman), left the party or have taken to calling themselves "moderates" (e.g. Senator Specter from Pennsylvania.) There is, however, a group called Log Cabin Republicans -- a group of gay Republicans who lobby the party to be more favorable to the issues of gay rights. It may be 10 people at this point, but they are there.


I cannot speak for Prairie (though we seem to agree on most things), but I don't think he was talking about any of that. He was talking about what has sometimes been called the "Religious Right," a term I use solely as a shorthand and not to start and argument. It is a stereotype to some degree, but as stereotypes go it is a fairly accurate one.


While I am sure more of that group are Republicans than Democrats, I think some find the Republican not to be conservative enough either. In any event THAT is the kind of "politics" Prairie was talking about. I think it is generally recognized that one of the religious/political tenets of the "Religious Right" is opposition to gay rights and a belief that it is ok to exclude gays from, for example, the BSA. Not that everybody who favors the BSA policy is a member of the "Religious Right" but I would say the percentage is pretty high.


And incidentally, the three statements by Prairie that you quoted and said you disagreed with... I agree with all three of them. But I don't suppose that should come as too much of a shock to those who have been reading my posts.

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