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Being prepared, for national announcement

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I would like to be prepared for the change that might come down the pipe if national says each unit is to decide for itself what it's stance is on gay scouts and adults. I live in a swing county of a swing state and I do not see an easy road for my troop. My goal is to find a good fit for every scout in my troop so they and their families are comfortable with their troop. There are assumptions and issues and I'd like to understand what they are and have some idea of how to steer my troop through this possible change.


What I don't want to do is use this thread to change someone's opinion about what is the right thing for the BSA to do regarding gays. There are numerous (thousands?) of other threads that you can use for that. I'm just trying to do my job and play the cards I've been dealt.


So, assumptions and issues, in no particular order (I want to know if there are things I'm missing, or how you might handle this):


Assumption: Changing parents opinions. It's not going to happen. Some people are adamant about this issue. Everyone has an opinion but I'm not sure how many people are passionate about it.


Issue: Civility. The problem I see is the same problem I sometimes see on this website, namely people getting uncivil. I think any discussion needs to be preceded by talking about our common goals for the boys, why we believe in scouts, and mention that anger and trying to change people is not permitted. Let's be civil while we go through whatever change is needed.


Issue: "Everyone in the troop has the same opinion as I do." I know for a fact that my troop is spread across the spectrum. Many people I'm not sure about. Whether or not they are active in their place of worship has little to do with it. But I think there's going to be some surprise when people find out where everyone stands.


Issue: Finding out where everyone in the troop stands on the issue. Eventually we need to ask, don't we? How do we ask while keeping things civil. If we ask in a big room it could easily get ugly. Everyone believes in what scouting can do and that's what holds us together. What happens when everyone finds out where everyone stands on these issues?


Issue: Moving on. If we're going to split I want everyone to end up where they're comfortable and their boys can still get the best out of scouting. I assume it really depends on what parents want for their sons before we figure out where it might lead. It could be that the split mirrors national opinion (roughly 50/50) and we split the troop. It could be a 90/10 split and I need to find a home for the 10 (of which I might be a part).


Issue: Parents in the middle. What if parents haven't really thought about it and are happy with the way things are now, don't really mind gays, but are uncomfortable with how an openly gay person might influence their sons. Change is hard, what is a way that might help that change?


Issue: The CO's opinion and relationship with the unit. In some cases the CO runs the troop and owns the gear. So their opinion is important. In some cases, like mine, the CO only provides space. So if there were unanimous agreement within the troop but they don't agree with the CO then the troop has to find another CO.


Issue: Tenting. Scouts can't be on their own. If boys and girls can't tent together in crews, can gay scouts tent together? Can a gay and straight scout tent together? I'm sure they don't care, but what will the parents say? Do we need permission from parents for who can tent with whom? This is a nightmare.


Issue: Sexuality. I've always had the opinion that sex, at any level or type, is not appropriate in scouts. I don't care about orientation. If a parent starts bragging about his conquests I'll shut it down. There's enough crap on tv. Scouting should be free from it. Is this a reasonable approach?


The bottom line is what's a process that will help this change while keeping everyone civil and doing the best for the boys?

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Wow! Overthink much?


I suspect what we do with any particular membership application will depend on our CO. Like I said in an earlier thread, I'd like our COR to be on the lookout for gossipers and backbiters. They do the most harm to our boys.


On the last two issues. I will have to practice holding back a slap the minute a boy in my crew asks "So, does this mean I can bunk with the ladies?"


(It's gonna happen, I'm just writing it here as proof in case the scout thinks he's being original.)


On sexuality in general: It often comes up with my older venturers. In general I try to direct them to their families, but sometimes it's down to me, and we have a frank conversation, that includes a "do what your religion commands, and do it in a way that is trustworthy, loyal, helpful ..."


On sexuality in specific: Our boys don't want to hear about this issue. They are feeling the brunt of decisions made by parents on their behalf about problems that may be foreign to them. They may have friends that have called them "haters" when in fact they would be courteous and kind where their friends would jump at the chance to pummel the odd duck.


In short, we go back to the 70s.

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I've been thinking about being prepared, too - but I don't have nearly the concerns that you do.


So if I understand the immediate primary concern, it would be to determine whether or not your troop should have a policy that allows for gay leaders. That particular topic could be a divisive issue, and it's one that some parents might push for.


I understand that your CO only provides space, but they do approve your leaders, and they can decide what the policy is. You definitely want to talk with them. In my case, the CO is a church that will not have a policy of approving openly gay leaders (I know without asking) - so that's not an issue.


I think you want to have a discussion among a few of the key leaders - the ones who generally recruit all the other leaders - and see how you want to handle it. If the CO says "no gay leaders", are you fine? Or would you want to move? If the CO says they don't care and it's up to you, what do you want to do?


As for keeping things civil, I don't think you want to have any big group meeting where everyone can voice their opinions. I would sound people out privately, figure out what your policy is, and make a simple straightforward policy statement.


Eventually we need to ask, don't we?


No. I don't think so. I'm not planning to.


I'm not sure whether any statement at all will be necessary in our troop.


If I were to suggest a statement, it's that it will be business as usual. All Scouting is local. The leaders of our troop are going to be chosen primarily from amongst the parents of the boys, just as they've always been. They'll be chosen based on our general impression that they are suitable leaders for the group. People are welcome to suggest changes and improvements, just as they've always been able to. People who are unhappy with the troop are always welcome to try to find other troops that are a better fit. Anyone with concerns is encouraged to find a leader to have a discussion. There are many possible hypothetical situations, but look around at the people in the troop and judge what is really likely to happen. Things will be dealt with as they actually arise.

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I don't think you are overthinking things.


I have many concerns as well, ours is a Pack primarily for boys from a particular elementary school, which happens to be chartered by a church that would be less likely to prohibit homosexual leaders. The parents are not members of the charter org.


I see any changes to policy would be a problem for many of the parents in the pack, including leadership. It could be very divisive if the charter organization does not feel comfortable prohibiting.



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No one says that because National makes this policy change your Pack/Troop/Crew needs to make any kind of statement. If you're CO makes a policy change, then fine. I'd just do what you're doing until someone pushes the issue and you need a decision.


No one says that all of a sudden all packs/troops/crews need to become either pro-gay or anti-gay.

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Some COs take it very seriously, while the majority do not. I've heard of some rejecting adults b/c they were not members of the church. I've heard of some reject leaders b/c they had a past criminal record which BSA would allow if the COR approved ( Didin't even get that far, CO said "No" when the app came through for their signature.) I've heard of a CO actually calling or talking to some of the references on the application. I've heard of a CO who did not want an adult as CM b/c they were involved in Scouting as a youth.

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My answer as CC of our pack:


"Scouting is a youth organization. Sexual behavior is an adult behavior and has no condoned place in scouting and never has. It's no different than when boys are involved in sports, other youth clubs, extracurriculars, or even school where they interact with other boys and adults who are responsible for them."

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Relax. I dont think you will need to do anything, or decide anything, probably ever. There is not a long line of gay adults who have been sitting around just waiting to queue up to volunteer to be scout leaders. Nor is there a long line of gay male high school students waiting to come out publicly to their peers and then become Boy Scouts.


Who are your scouts now? Where do your leaders come from now? Thats who you will have tomorrow and in the future.


If you are like most units your leaders are the parents of your scouts. A quick search turns up a figure that less than of one percent of kids in this country live in households headed by same-sex couples. Figure only half of them are boys and it makes the chances that your unit will ever have to worry about this as a real issue very very small.


In Troops, leaders often also include parents of scouts who have aged out and occasionally a scout who has stayed in troop past 18 and become a leader. So, very slim chance of the issue with that first group, how about the second? Something like 5% of males may be gay, drop that by percentage of boys who become scouts, and drop that again by the percentage who will want to be a leader in your troop and you are again at the point where you will have to decide almost any other issue scouting may have to offer before you get to this one.


And if at a Tiger recruiting night Joeys two moms volunteer to be den leaders, then and only then will you actually have to make a decision. Until then, dont worry, dont do anything, dont decide anything, you are much more likely to cause yourself trouble than avoid any by trying to decide some hypothetical situation that you will probably never actually encounter.


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I have been thinking about this too but not nearly to the extent of the original poster...


The first thing that needs to be done is to find out from the CO what their stance is going to be. For our troop I think only 1 or 2 families actually belong to that church and I am not one of them so I do not know there stance on this issue.


If CO stance is to stay status quo then there's nothing more I need to do.


If CO stance is to allow gay leaders and youth then we will need to look into the only issue I see us having and that is simply the tenting issue for the boys. Most leaders tent by themselves or know the rules of sharing a tent. And to be honest I will happily leave that up for the PLC and Committee to decide, but I do think that it needs decided on before we have an openly gay scout join the troop.


I already have our COR coming to the next committee meeting and I will simply mention to him that we need to know what the CO's stance is if/when this change occurs. And then I'm sure it will be taken to the church's meeting thing that they have monthly before we hear anything.

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...find out from the CO what their stance is going to be.

Good point.


Just be aware and patient that some CO's do not have autonomy on such issues. Some Catholic CO's around here are waiting direction from the diocese and the diocese is waiting the decision from the National Executive Board and the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, etc.


The hard part will be integration, i.e., inclusive and non-inclusive units participating at summer camp and other district activities. Will some units book separate, exclusive weeks like LDS or will councils say no to that.


Back in the 60's, the most popular camp counselor at my camp was outed when his coal black sister arrived at the Friday night campfire. Who knew Mel was black? Saturday morning, he was not at the mess hall. He had been fired by those that could not stand that Mel was black. No deja vu please.


My $0.02

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First, talk to the CO - you don't have to wait for the "decision" by National - it's coming down the pike so go ahead and get in front of it. Get the answers from your CO now, before the parents start to ask.


I suspect that if the CO says they would prefer not to have gay scouts and gay leaders, you aren't going to see much change in your Troop now. Your issue will become future recruiting as folks coming in start to ask the "is your Troop welcoming" question as they start looking for a fit for their sons and family. Know upfront that whatever your answer is, you're going to win some and lose some - don't take it personally.


If the CO says yes, then you may or may not have an issue with current Scout families. For those that decide to leave, just be friendly and helpful and let them kow you'll be glad to give them a great reference to their new Scoutmaster and will quickly transfer any advancement records on. Take the attitude on your side that you will part friends. If they want to be uncivil about it, don't take it personally, remain civil, and know that it's all about them.


I don't think you need to have a big meeting to find out how people think. Those that care are going to let you know - those that don't care aren't going to say anything because it just doesn't matter to them either way. I suspect that the vast majority of Scouting families just don't care either way - and they certainly don't care about what folks in other units think. It's been 40 years since Stonewall - it's taken 40 years for society to get to this point. It's gotten to this point because more and more people know more and more gay and lesbian people as people, not as a distant concept. When push comes to shove, people care about people, they care about the people they know. When the Council tossed out the lesbian mother from her den leadership position, the folks in her Pack were devestated because they knew that woman, her partner, and their son, and they liked them. They didn't care about "National Policy", they cared about people.


Tenting: Stop making an issue of it - this is an adult hang-up. You've already said, quite rightly, that as far as the boys, there is no sexuality. Let the boys handle it if it ever comes up - no need for some pre-emptive policy. On this issue, trust me, the boys will be far more mature about it than the parents will be.


Integration? Oh for heaven's sake - didn't we already go through that when black units and Jewish units were integrated into summer camps and camporees? Haven't we already learned that it doesn't actually change anything? Honestly, if a unit starts to complain that they don't want to camp next to a unit with a gay leader, tell the unit to stay home - why let them infect the rest of the camp with their idiocy?

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I see danger in forcing units to confront an issue which has, until now, been off the table. Rather like the social upheval in eastern Europe when Soviet control ended.


We've all been fat, dumb and happy not having to deal with the issue. We've joined units with little regard to what the CO or unit leadership believes about gay membership, because it mattered only to a very few. All of a sudden it does.


I don't see much good coming from having this discussion in our unit. Few of our families are members of our CO, a church, but the church has always been very welcoming of community members, that is non-members of the church. I know our COR has fairly conservative views on the matter. Not a member of the church myself, I don't know exactly what their policies are. but I'm fairly sure they trend toward the conservative side. I've got a meeting with the IH and COR nex week to discuss it.


I know the families in our unit are all over the board on this. We are in a fairly affluent area and our families tend to be successful and well educated. While many folks are conservative in all matters, many also tend to be more libertarian on social issues. If our CO comes out with a fairly hard-line policy, I can see many folks being very upset.


Sure, they can go down the street to a unit more in keeping with their values, but really? Even if we just trade members -- reshuffling registration based on your opinion on sexual orientations -- how much turmoil will the units and programs go through on account of that? How many members will leave and not bother to go to another unit? How many volunteers will we loose? How many friendships will be broken?


As a general principle I'm as great an advocate of free-markets as anyone. In the long-term I think it will be healthy for families to have a real choice in selecting troops and programs which match their values. But history and economics tell us that free markets create losers -- the proverbial buggy whip manufactures.


I have no doubt there will be units torn apart by this. Look at the contentiousness here in our virtural community. I also fear it will also be a waste. Units go through all this hell and then never have a homosexual seek membership? We destroy programs over a hypothetical?


If we know anything about BSA it is their ability to rollout and implement program changes is one of the worst things they do. I have very little hope this massive sea change will be done in any sort of orderly fashion. I predict national will simply throw up its hands and tell the COs "you decide." No guidance, no process, no commissioner help, no suggested unit policy drafts. I have the image from Blazing Saddles of Rev. Johnson, having the Bible shot out of his hand then leaning to Sheriff Bart and saying, "Son, you're on your own."

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