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qwazse

Helping Scouts With Objections

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I was kinda hoping I wasn't the first to post along this line, but it has to be someone ...

 

A dear friend approached me about a scout (age 17, on track for Eagle) who now wants to leave the BSA because of the changes in membership policy. I made myself available to talk to the boy. Being of the conservative ilk, I figured I could share with him (as I have with members of my crew who asked) why I'm not making plans to leave the BSA. If the meeting actually transpires, I'll let you know.

 

In the meantime, I thought I would open a thread for anyone else who is now dealing with this. If you are now facing youth (of any age or sex) who have strong objections like this, how are you handling it?

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Tell him that if he will only associate with people who agree with him 100% he will be very lonely in life. You have to take the bad with the good in most cases. There are all kinds of immoral behavior that we don't kick people out of scouting for...love the sinner, hate the sin, and so on.

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If he's prepared to walk away from earning Eagle for his beliefs then tread lightly. Don't say anything that directly contradicts his belief system and do not, under any circumstances, call him a bigot.

 

If you or he want to be cynical; if he makes Eagle before 1/1/14 then it will be under the old membership policy.

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Tell him that if he will only associate with people who agree with him 100% he will be very lonely in life. You have to take the bad with the good in most cases. There are all kinds of immoral behavior that we don't kick people out of scouting for...love the sinner, hate the sin, and so on.

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You could tell him that BSA didn't start actively removing gay youth until the 1990s. As far as I can tell, before that, gay youth were only liable to removal if they engaged in sex acts during scouting activities. I base that on this quote from the 1972 Scoutmaster Handbook (the oldest one I have access to):

"Sex Curiosity

...You may discover or hear about incidents of sexual experimentation among troop members. How should you handle such matters?

...Incidents of sexual experimentation that may occur in the troop could run from the innocent to the scandalous. They call for a private and thorough investigation, and frank discussion with those involved. It is important to distinguish between youthful acts of innocence, and the practices of a confirmed homosexual who may be using his Scouting association to make contacts. A boy of 15 of or so cannot be assumed to be acting out of innocence, and should be separated from the troop for the protection of younger boys..." (73-75)

 

To me, that reads that even a boy who was known to be gay ("confirmed") could be a member without issue unless/until he engaged in sex acts with members of the troop. Frankly, regardless of national policy, that's pretty much the way 99.99% of troops have handled gay kids for the past 20 yrs, anyway. Your boy in question doesn't know that, so he thinks gay kids have always been outright barred regardless of whether or not they're acting inappropriately.

 

The boy should also be made to understand that only recently have the vast majority of troops been chartered to churches. Before 2002, schools, police- and fire departments, military bases, juvenile detention centers, and even the Department of Housing and Urban Development chartered troops, but in 1998 the ACLU sued Chicago Public Schools, Housing and Urban Dev., and the military because when a gov't employee/agency required a boy to say the Scout Oath, he was forcing the boy to do his "duty to God" and that amounted to a breach of the first amendment. HUD, the military, and Chicago Schools all settled, the military holding out til 2002.

At that point, rather than screw around with it anymore, BSA simply stopped issuing charters to gov't institutions, and those units were forced to move to churches, "Friends of XXXX" LLCs, civic institutions like Rotary Club or Moose Lodge, or even private businesses. Units currently meeting in schools are not chartered to those schools, they have a CO with no space, and a school that's willing to let them use its space.

 

What this has amounted to is a drastic change in the demographics of BSA, to an institution cornered into churches, and no wonder more socially conservative than it used to be. It's easy for a 17-yr-old to misunderstand BSA as a religious institution; BSA was pigeonholed into churches before he ever entered Scouting.

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The same way I would address this with a family that was thinking about walking away...

 

Pointing out that this really changes nothing, except that National is no longer forced to kick a boy out because of his orientation. That gay youth and adults have been here all along, and that they might even be friends with them, but don't know that they are gay. It sets things back to the way they were before the 1990's, when sexual orientation wasn't even part of Scouting.

 

This really has no affect on the straight youth and families whatsoever, but keeps Scouting open for all youth that need what Scouting has to offer. They are not being asked to become gay (which might be against their religious beliefs), but to allow another youth to follow THEIR own beliefs. Its a matter of fairness, and who are we to say that these youth don't deserve Scouting. They are free to follow their own conscience with regards to their own beliefs, but that Reverence goes both ways. They need to respect other people's beliefs, as they would want their own to be respected.

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If he's prepared to walk away from earning Eagle for his beliefs then tread lightly. Don't say anything that directly contradicts his belief system and do not, under any circumstances, call him a bigot.

 

If you or he want to be cynical; if he makes Eagle before 1/1/14 then it will be under the old membership policy.

That's sort of what I was thinking. If it's a big deal to him that he only participate in the organization under the current policy, he still has until the end of the year to finish up. Tell him to just bang out the rest of his requirements and he can proudly say that he got his Eagle rank under the discrimination-era BSA.

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The first thing I would do is validate his feelings and his right to those feelings and emotions. He's not a bad kid just because his belief system isn't in line with popular culture. I would address that fact that the membership rules aren't changing until 1/1/14 so there's no need to make a rash decision at this point. I'd point out the value of the Eagle award and how by completing what he started he can be a guide for other like-valued youth. FWIW, I'll be having this discussion next weekend with parents of a couple of my Jamboree youth.

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I agree with dcsimmons, don't put him on the defensive. Listen to him. Ask him about his scout history. Is he proud of what he's done? Do the younger scouts look up to him? Is he a role model? Is he proud of his Eagle project? Read him an Eagle charge and ask him if that resembles him. When he gets to "yeah, but ..." have him read the first line of the Scout Oath. Ask him if he's doing his best to God and his country. All you can do is your best. There will always be people you disagree with. There will also always be people you agree with. You'll likely marry someone that you don't agree with all of the time, but you'll love her anyway. You do your best and focus on that.

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He's probably a pretty smart kid. He'll be able to tell pretty quickly that his Duty to God does not include turning away from people who need his leadership. He should know that the best way to show that his faith makes him strong is to be the best example of an Eagle Scout that he can be. He can see the inclusion of homosexual Scouts as something that undermines his explicit example of morality, or as something that makes his great implicit example of faith and leadership as more necessary. There is a need for Scouts that set great examples. and I can already guarantee that no Scout that makes sexuality central to their life can set as well of an example as a Scout that chooses not to be distracted by those things at that point in their life.

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qwazse, I deleted your duplicate thread for you.
Thanks sr540b! I had no clue this one took and was humming away. You are a super moderator!

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Tell him that if he will only associate with people who agree with him 100% he will be very lonely in life. You have to take the bad with the good in most cases. There are all kinds of immoral behavior that we don't kick people out of scouting for...love the sinner, hate the sin, and so on.
Being gay is not a sin. Being gay is at worst a birth defect, and at least a intermittent mutation among many animals as a response to stress during pregnancy or overcrowding. I mean mutation in the scientific sense, not the "gross! a mutation!" sense. Instead of continuing to teach children that gay people are bad people, why not just teach them the truth: Bigotry is a stupid, old-fashioned, outdated, foolish mindset that smacks of the uneducated rural folk missing teeth who fly confederate flags in their yards.

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If he's prepared to walk away from earning Eagle for his beliefs then tread lightly. Don't say anything that directly contradicts his belief system and do not, under any circumstances, call him a bigot.

 

If you or he want to be cynical; if he makes Eagle before 1/1/14 then it will be under the old membership policy.

Really?!? Are we going to say it is politically incorrect to tell someone they are acting like a jerk if they cloak it in faith. My personal faith in God teaches me to steal small electronics. Don't call me out on it. You are disrespecting my faith.

 

Tip-toeing around what is wrong is not leadership.

 

Let's also be clear that there is nothing faith-based about resentment of homosexuals. The same people citing obscure old testament verses for their beliefs are skipping over the ones that also condemn wearing of cotton, women serving as teachers, eating pork and other unclean animals (deer, anyone?) and a host of other things such as being required to stone your wife to death when she backtalks you.

 

If the bigots in our society were some sort of retro-militant amish faction, I could see the faith-based argument if they tried to embrace the entire bible literally. But they don't. They ignore huge, huge swaths of it, and only adopt the parts they like. Then run around screaming, "The Bible says!" But you point out what else the Bible says, and they suddenly shake their heads and then say on those particular verses, you need master interpretation by a guru.

 

In 1000 years there will be no religion among humans. I firmly believe we will one day outgrow superstition.

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I am glad folks are offering advice. I am stunned one or two are making this scout's belief systems out to be irrelevant. I have two scouts that have approached me. One was leaving based on religious beliefs, the other on a more prejudice belief. For the former I merely listened to him, discussed that the policy does not go in to effect until next year and noted that he does not have to agree with the policy to still be part of scouts. He responded as I expected and I respected that. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, I did not mock what he believes. I accepted his point of view and asked him to look at both sides. I told him if he walks away it should be a decision he takes time to think about because (due to his age) walking away will be permanent. For the latter scout, we discussed discrimination and how that affects society. We discussed the dangers of discrimination and how that drove WWII and the 60+ years of current problems in the Middle East. Unfortunately, this scout is getting his hatred from home so there is not much that we as scouters can do about that. @Qwazse, I'd be interested to find out what the scout says/said (if you feel you can share) when you talk to him.

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