Friday, July 20, 2012


A few months ago, I heard about Jennifer Tyrrell.  She was being kicked out of the Boy Scouts organization after nearly a year as a Cub Scout leader because she is gay. She objected to this treatment - and rightly so.  Her story is shocking, and if her allegations are true, then the Council in Ohio is behaving badly enough without adding a national controversy.

But despite a national outcry, and more than 300,000 signatures calling for a change to their discriminatory policy, the BSA has decided to violate their own mission statement and embrace exclusion and bigotry.

From the Boy Scouts of America website:

"The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."
Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
Scout Law
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent
This week, the Scouts' chief executive Bob Mazucca said, "The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting. We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society"...

This is a dishonest statement.  

There is no basis in claiming that a change in policy to allow gay leaders and scouts - many of whom are already quietly there in the organization - would deny the "vast majority" of parents their right to address any issue they like within their family. Scout meetings are not about sex or sexuality.  It is not in the manual; it is not on the agenda.

It is certain, though, that the subject will come up; my boys picked up the nasty habit of calling each other "gay" as an insult when they were 8 and 9 - from boys in their scout pack. Regardless of the orientation of any scout leader or scout, the appropriate way to handle that is to point out that such behavior is Unkind, Discourteous, and Unfriendly, and put a stop to it. As far as I am concerned, teaching respect for all is required in Scouting.

If you still want to teach your children to hate gays in your home, this policy would not prevent you from doing so.

In defending the BSA's discrimination, some have implied that it is in place to protect the children.  This is also a lie.  Youth Protection training and a two-deep leadership policy are in place to protect the children AND any adult leaders from being at risk from predatory behavior. Child predators are not limited to the LGBT community.

[UPDATE: In October 2012, the court-ordered release of a vast number of documents showed that BSA has done a terrible job of protecting youth from predators; and the pattern of protecting those predators by not even reporting a third of the cases to the police further demonstrates the lie behind the discriminatory anti-gay policy.]

In announcing their decision to stick with a policy of bigotry, the Boy Scouts have abandoned the fourth line of their Oath - "To help other people at all times" - and have added a twist to the already ambiguous duty to keep "morally straight" by embracing an immoral policy.  By expelling someone they invited into their fold, they have proven to be Disloyal, Unfriendly and Unkind. I suppose they feel Brave for taking a stand, unfortunately, they are standing against a group which they consider to be beneath their standards - and standing in particular against one of their own, which betrays Trust, Helps no one, and certainly reveals something Unclean beneath their Cheer.

I know from talking to parents in my boys's Troop that this policy decision is not universally popular. I know that I probably don't have to worry about it directly affecting us, because as far as I know, no one in our Troop is gay.  But it is still wrong, and it's still an injustice being done in our name, and with our consent. In the end, it will be up to my sons to decide whether they will resign or stay with the program - as I have said elsewhere, I believe in making peaceful change from within.

But what about my family?  We don't believe in God - and God is all over this program.  He is in the Oath, and if you read the materials, they do not consider my healthy appreciation for the universe to be proper "Reverence."  I skip the "Under God" garbage in the Pledge of Allegiance, and I politely stay silent during the Lord's Prayer.  Are we next to be asked to leave?

I have wrestled for years with the way Faith is laced throughout the Boy Scouts program. My first impression of the first troop we considered did not go well, but I was convinced by the Scout friends we have now to practice the tolerance that I ask of religious people, and find a way to get along.

As an atheist, I have long questioned the sensibility of an organization which insists it is not a religious organization, yet which also insists that without a religion, one cannot be moral. If this policy is based in religious views, then I don't see how religion improves morality; if it is not based in religion, then I don't see any basis for maintaining the discrimination. (Neither do many of the Faithful..)

As a mentally awake American veteran, I have found that compassion for those who are different from myself or from the accepted norms and active acceptance of their differences is usually the moral thing to do.

As a private organization, they are free to ignore the dictates of morality as I, and as an increasing number of Americans, see it.  But I hope the Boy Scouts will reconsider, and join me, as well as many disappointed Eagle Scouts in correcting their mistake.

On their honor.

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