Rarely does a national issue come along that moves me to change my behavior, but today I’m seriously contemplating it.
The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their ban on gay members following a two-year review of the matter.
(pause for thought)
I don’t know what to do. I love scouting. I was a Girl Scout, and have spent the last two years deeply involved in my son’s Cub Scout pack here in Bakersfield. But this exclusion of an entire group of people because of their sexual orientation is a problem for me. It’s crossed my moral and ethical 38th parallel.
I don’t lie, cheat, or steal because those things are wrong. Not because I don’t want to suffer the consequences if I get caught, but because I wouldn’t like who I see in the mirror if I did. And I don’t exclude people from my circle of friends based on their gender, religion, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. It’s just not right.
Now an organization that I belong to, believe in, and otherwise support has said they won’t allow members who are gay.
This latest bigotry aside, scouting is so wonderful for kids and families. Cub Scouting — which is what I’ve been involved in with my 8-year-old — focuses on family. All meetings, campouts and activities are for families. Scouts have to have family discussions and complete projects with a family member to complete their Achievements.
Beginning in the sixth grade, Boy Scouts stresses a bit more independence, but is still focused on Scouts completing projects with the help of or in consultation with a family member.
Scouting offers my son a chance to learn skills he wouldn’t be exposed to by his dad or I. In two years of scouting he’s had the chance to make camp, cook a meal outdoors, build with tools, learn about specific trees and how we each impact the environment, and so much more.
In an effort to earn belt loops, he’s taken it upon himself to learn about sports, games, and subjects he would otherwise not have an interest in.
I believe in scouting so much, that I stepped in to lead my son’s den for the past two years when there was no other leader. I stepped down at the end of last year for personal reasons not associated with this decision.
We tell the Scouts that they can make a difference, that they can change their lives, their community, and their world. We collected Christmas gifts for children of needy families, we volunteered to pick up trash in our community, and most took an active role in recycling within their homes.
We teach and stress “Leave no trace” — that it’s our duty to leave nature, and the world, in a better state than when we found it.
Scouting is about camping and hiking, but it is also about giving kids the skills they need to succeed in life, and building within themselves the passion to always “do your best”.
Scouting stresses that not only are skills important, but that people are important. I can recall Achievements in which we discussed the harm in gossiping, how and why to help the elderly, why friendships are important, how to treat a new student in school, how to listen and be respectful, and why the disabled aren’t different … just to name a few.
Now the Boy Scouts of America has said that homosexuals aren’t good enough to be in their organization.
Excluding youth who identify themselves as gay is hard to reconcile with the scout oath to “help other people at all times.”
I want my son to be a Scout. I want him to learn things I can’t teach him, I want him to have the experiences I had as a Scout. But I also want him to be accepting of everyone regardless of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.
Here’s where things get murky in my heart and mind: Is this really even an issue at the Cub Scout level? Should I let him continue with scouting given that sexual orientation isn’t even on their radar yet?
Our local Pack leaders have never brought this up, and I’d be shocked if I ever heard it discussed. But as he gets older, will he think it’s OK to exclude people who are gay?
I’m not sure I can bring myself to support or participate in an organization that would deny membership to so many of my friends.
The BSA marketing campaign is “Prepared. For life.”
But shunning an entire segment of the population isn’t preparing them for life. Homosexuality isn’t going away. There will always be gay and lesbian people in this world. They will be our friends and our neighbors, our classmates, teachers, coaches, co-workers and employers. They are people. They are real. And they aren’t going away.
Seems to me that if the Boy Scouts really wanted to prepare members for life, they would preach inclusion and accepting each other’s differences. Wait, scratch that … not just accepting our differences, but embracing them as what make us unique individuals.
Write that into your policy.
Speaking of policy, the current policy reads: “While the B.S.A. does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the B.S.A.”
A distraction? What’s the bigger distraction here?
I’m so saddened by this because, for the first time, I feel like I can’t allow my son to be a part of an organization that allows the manifestation of these ideals.
It’s time for supporters of the real mission of the Scouts — to teach kids about cooperation, teamwork, self-sufficiency and inclusion — to claim our group back.
The national leadership may not miss our dues money, or the money earned from my sons’ popcorn sales, but it’s a few dollars that WON’T go toward supporting discrimination. And for that, I feel like I can keep my head held high.