Are BSA membership policies about to change? No doubt you’ve heard about or read the following statement from the Boy Scouts of America:
Monday, Jan. 28, 2013
Attributable to: Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations
“For more than 100 years, Scouting’s focus has been on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
We have two points in our history as an organization that are similar; one was racial integration and one was the change in policy that permitted women to become adult leaders in Webelos dens and troops. Both of these changes had a common denominator – they responded to the changing status of racial groups or women in society. The proposed change is in response to the changing status of sexual orientation.
All three changes recognize the difference between chosen behavior and things that are part of the human condition. People don’t choose their racial characteristics, they don’t choose their gender, and they don’t choose their sexual orientation. When we understand that these are not choices people make it becomes unfair to judge that they are incapable of upholding the Scout Oath and Law or being an appropriate example to our Scouts.
Individual Scouters, families and units will differ on the issue of sexual orientation, just as they did when the other changes were implemented.
We understand it is a family’s choice to participate in Scouting. Many have chosen not to have their boys in Scouting because of the ban, some will leave when it is lifted. There’s nothing you and I can do to change that.
Deciding whether or not a unit will welcome people regardless of their sexual orientation is the decision of the organization that charters the unit. Families will then decide if they want to be associated with that unit. We will decide, unit by unit, Scouter by Scouter is whether we can all work together in Scouting after things change.
Some are decrying the plan to devolve this decision to the sponsoring institutions as the B.S.A. abandoning its chartering organizations. I would respond that this is the way it’s always been. At the time of the other changes some units chose not to integrate racially, some chose not to have women as adult leaders. Some units have chosen to turn a blind eye to the sexual orientation of their members and leaders for years, some have chosen to enforce the ban pretty vociferously.
All three changes are going to cause the same reactions; those in favor see them as overdue and welcome, those against see them as this as a loss of standards and the demise of the organization.
All three changes challenge us. I think that’s good. We all ought to be challenged to clarify the way we see the greater issues of equality and ethics from time to time.
I will say that I am deeply disturbed at the characterizations of gay men some cite in opposition to the change. Gay men are not pedophiles, they are not interested in recruiting others to a ” homosexual lifestyle”, they are not trying to take over the organization and did not choose their sexual orientation.
I have worked with many gay people in and outside of Scouting, some of my Scouts have come out as gay, and some of them earned the rank of Eagle.
I can tell you, in one word, the difference between a gay Scout or Scouter and a heterosexual Scout or Scouter; nothing.
Many of the objections that I have read cite religious belief. I will point out that the B.S.A. is, and always has been, strictly non-sectarian and does not specifically define the meaning of ‘Duty to God’. I won’t try to argue theology because Scouting doesn’t.
Each of the changes in membership policy have also resulted in some people deciding they can no longer support or maintain membership in the B.S.A. Naturally I find this upsetting, but each of us decides these things for ourselves.
Our organizational understanding of the oath and law has changed and evolved over the last century and these changes have strengthened and broadened Scouting.
There’s a way of looking at Scouting as a club that we ought to guard from interlopers and the unworthy.
I don’t see Scouting that way.
I see Scouting a an open door for anyone willing to understand and live by the Scout oath and law, to strive with others to create a better world. I hope we open that door wider next week.
1/29 I closed the comments on this post, things were going a bit far afield and the tone was heating up.
1/31 Opened comments again. Thank you in advance for a couple of things:
- You are a guest in my house. Be civil to and respectful of others. Discuss issues, do not attack individuals or groups.
- Don’t monopolize the conversation.
- Stay on topic, at least within reason. And don’t over post.
- I moderate all comments, this is not “censorship”, it’s moderation.
- My house, my rules, my prerogative – the internet is a big place with plenty of opportunities to express your opinion.