I feel really angry at the Boy Scouts of America. I’ve been aggravated with them in the past but today they had an opportunity to become a leader in change. They were given the opportunity to teach the millions of scouts in their groups that not only are we to love and accept our gay brothers but their gay parents too. Instead with a 60% vote they voted only to allow gay scouts membership but will continue their ban on gay scoutmasters. A message that is a far cry from the one we need to be sending.
I have four boys. Some of whom would love to be a scout. We decided against scouts when we learned that not only have they been excluding homosexuals but they also exclude the non-religious. Agnostics, secular humanists, and atheists are not permitted membership. I can’t imagine one of my sons growing up with a group of peers that are taught to exclude what he may choose to believe or what sexual orientation he may discover he is. That type of environment teaches boys who are different to feel shame and to hide. Truth or disclosure would mean non-acceptance and judgement. That is not an environment which I want to subject any of my boys to. Straight or gay. Religious or non. And I had to explain that to my boys over the summer when all of their neighborhood friends (in the midwest) belonged to scout groups. I had to explain why I would not spend any of my money buying popcorn from their buddies to support an organization who would decline our admission. Oh, but knocking door to door and showing off badges sure makes scouting look like so much innocent fun.
Which it is. Fun. Not innocent.
What boy doesn’t want to camp, tie knots, adventure seek, earn badges and enjoy the camaraderie of other boys? What parent doesn’t want their child involved in activities that help them become whole people? Kind, considerate, motivated, and able-bodied? But BSA is not the place for such things. When thousands (tens of thousands?) of people are threatening to end their ties with BSA because they are allowing openly gay boys to become members, it is clear that many of the people involved are wanting something exclusive. Much like religion. And based on the decision to continue the exclusion of gay men and women as leaders, it is clear that BSA also wants something that is not for every boy. They haven’t even touched the topic of including non-religious families. If young gay boys are allowed to join why should they not be afforded the gift of having strong, loving, like-minded male mentors with whom they can relate? Where does the fear (I’m not going to use the word hate. I’m making the assumption that the actions of hate stem from fear) come from? What are people afraid that these gay boys and/or gay leaders are going to teach their children? Are they afraid that gay men are going to be sexually inappropriate with their boys? What about gay women? Well, how many “straight, celibate” priests have piddled with your boys inside church walls? Did you ban priests from leading altar boys? Did you fight the catholic church? Why are churches dissociating themselves from BSA because of this decision? What are they afraid of? Seeming too progressive?
What message are we still sending if we choose to applaud BSA on this decision? I think the message BSA is sending is a message of conformity but not conviction. A message that says we are doing the bare minimum because we are pressured to do so but we are still keeping our doors closed for things as nonsensical as gay leaders. Who is going to put their gay (or straight but may soon discover he is gay) child in an organization like this that shuns them once they are adults? An organization that won’t allow him to grow up and be a scoutmaster for his own children? An organization that won’t allow the gay parents of a straight child be active volunteers? BSA is not an example of change. It’s not an example of progress. It’s not an example of conviction and doing what’s right. It’s just BS.
So as I read the praises for BSA and the progress they are making I can’t celebrate. It’s not enough. It’s NOT enough! The message is still pretty clear. And until there is a complete overhaul of more inclusion than exclusion, more acceptance than prejudice, we will choose to grow our moral values without the help of BSA.
If you are like our family and are looking for places where acceptance and inclusion are part of the mission statement please know that BSA has alternatives: Camp Fire or Navigators USA. If you know of any other organizations please share in the comments.
*My feelings about BSA does not mean that I dislike or am angry with every boy or family involved with the organization. I know plenty of great people who have graduated from scouts or who are currently members. I just think we need to ask the questions and if we are comfortable with the answers, then so be it. I am simply not comfortable with the answers and therefore cannot support the organization.