Friday, February 8, 2013

The Knotty Issue of Boy Scouts

Full disclosure: My son is a Boy Scout.

It wasn't an easy decision to make. I had to get comfortable with allowing him to belong to an organization that wouldn't allow his uncles or many of my close friends to lead a troop. I say I got comfortable, but maybe I should just say I rationalized it.

We talked about my objections over the dinner table where my concerns were mistranslated to my children, in the way things so often are, as an objection based on the Boy Scout policy to only allow gay men and women to lead troops.

From there, they extrapolated Boy Scouts was primarily an organization for gay men and boys and my concerns about Child #2's membership were based on our inability to predict which way he would swing.

But back to my rationalization process. It was based on the leadership of Child #2's troop.

It's a co-op of men who, while not gay, share the same beliefs and value systems I do. Still, knowing that the boys with two moms aren't part of the troop saddens me. I understand and support their decision, but I've long wished the Boy Scouts would change their policies so they resemble something drafted in this century.

Which is why I've kept a watchful eye on the Boy Scout's decision to re-examine their policy regarding sexual orientation. It's interesting, if not surprising, to note the reconsideration of policy was preceded by a sharp drop-off in corporate sponsorship.

Sponsors who've recently denied funding to the group are IBM, Levi Strauss and Company, J.P. Morgan, American Airlines, Medtronic, Portland General Gas and Electric, Hewlett Packard, Textron, Fleet Bank, CVS/Pharmacy Stores and Carrier Corp. In 2010 UPS gave the Boy Scouts $167,000, but in light of pressure from homosexual-rights groups they've since pulled the plug on their donations.

The Boy Scout's decision to re-examine their long-standing policies doesn't speak to a sudden change of heart as much as it proves they, like every other nonprofit, rely heavily on corporate donations. I do believe the policy will eventually be changed, whether next week or next year, it's just the way we're headed.

Once it's changed, the analysis of Boy Scout leadership, at a corporate level, becomes more interesting. Will a change in policy based on financial reasons pave the way for true change based on belief? That's my hope and not just because it meshes so nicely with my view of the world. 

Instead of making my son's participation in Boy Scouts feel like a dirty little secret, wouldn't it be nice if it was something he could announce with pride. "I'm a Boy Scout. I can tie knots, pitch tents and I know the true measure of a human being isn't determined by their sexual orientation."


Connie J Jasperson said...

I'm glad I don't have to make any decisions like that nowadays. My husband was not a scout, but he was in 4-H, and his father was gay. Back in those days, it was not only not discussed, it was hidden even from the closest family members.

I have to say that when my father-in-law came out in the early 1980s it was quite a shock to his children. They were all young adults, and had no idea, but they accepted what he had to tell them in regard to his life, and wanted him to be happy.

Ron was good and loving father, and was active in his children's 4-H groups, and he made them successful in their eneavors by encouraging them to do their own projects, but by giving them all the help he could short of doing it for them. Raising sheep for show, and all the other things that went along with 4-H was a real committment as a parent and Ron was right there helping them cope when things didn't go as well as they should have.

He was often a 4-H leader, and was well liked by everyone who knew him. He would have been a great Scout-master, hadthe family been inclined to Scouting instead of 4-H.

Ron is gone now, but there are many, many Rons out there who have a lot to offer and who are less of a danger to our children than many straight people who are qualified to lead solely because they are NOT GAY!

It boggles the mind.

Alison DeLuca said...

It really does boggle the mind. Like you, Johanna, I let my daughter join scouting simply because it was a great outlet for girls to be together as girls. That was the theory, and it proved to be correct - at a meeting, 15 girls spend the time doing crafts, chatting, laughing, chasing each other... It all happens without any electronic devices in the mix.

If I had let my own political leanings interfere, she would have been denied all that. I had to ignore the larger picture and focus on the small one - that little scene of laughing girls, just being girls.

I certainly hope that the Scouts and ALL organizations stop such idiotic decrees, whether the cause be financial or a realization that everyone in this world deserves equality. I'm beginning to see that it might just happen, but of course I see things with very rosy lenses.

In the meantime, I'll make certain that my kid knows that having two moms or two dads is just as cool as any other type of family.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I was a girl scout for years. My son had no interest in the Scouts. Being a Scout should be a matter of pride.

The kid is tolerant of gays because he has highly respected uncles who are gay. He doesn't make it a big deal and it shouldn't be. I'm a person who preaches tolerance and acceptance to the kids. Different isn't wrong, it's just a different place than your own mental or physical leanings.

I do understand caution when it comes to our children's safety. Truth is pedophiles are a danger to children. As a result anything that is kid oriented must be governed and caution taken.

Normal people (male or female, straight or gay) don't equate sex with children, or consider it as acceptable.


jaybird said...

Ironically, my two gay besties were both Eagle Scouts. Of course, that was long ago, and way before they came out. In any event, either one of them, would make outstanding Boy Scout leaders. Which has absolutely nothing to do with their sexuality, but everything to do with the fact that they were outstanding Scouts and are incredible human beings. Any young man would be lucky to learn from them. It's just sad that neither of them can even offer to help the way things currently stand. My hope is that one day, the future will bring the changes necessary to allow them to lead.

Julie Flanders said...

My brother was an Eagle Scout and he has been so disillusioned by the Boy Scouts in recent times. I hope your son will be able to make that announcement soon!

Mark Koopmans said...

I remember being a Cub Scout many decades ago and I had a blast... I don't remember why I didn't move on to the "real" scouts... but I'm looking forward to my three boys giving scouting a chance.

Straight or gay leaders is unimportant - but I would have an issue if I heard the troop leader(s) were putting down the other orientation - for whatever reason.

(The same way I'd be angry if the baseball or swimming coach was trying to influence the team members.)

Joanne Noragon said...

I wonder if the Scout's decision to re-examine their re-examinatin was funded by the well known 47%.

Chuck said...

Oh so long ago I was a Boy Scout. There was none of this that anyone I knew was aware of. May or may not have even been happening. But I can tell you I had a great time. Made some good friends. Learned some skills and personal traits that served me well over the years. It is quite sad to think of all the parents who won't let their kids go to camp or join scouting because of a witch-hunt mentality. I am pretty sure there is not a sign-up stand where all gay men who want to supervise young boys can enlist. This whole thing is really disheartening.

Carol Kilgore said...

I haven't kept up with all the recent Scout news, but I seem to remember several reported incidents of child sexual abuse. I think part of the public may be confusing pedophilia with homosexuality, and everyone is jumping on that bandwagon. I don't know this, it's only the connection my brain is making after a long day. If this is the case, it's even scarier than homophobic behavior.

Tonja said...

I accidentally bought the popcorn.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I hope that eventually the Boy Scouts will eventually change their policy about gay people; I think it's unfair that gay people should have to fight for rights that they're entitled to. But it's good that you let your son participate, because there are other good aspects to the Boy Scouts. I remember being a Brownie when I was a little girl, though I never made it to the Girl Scouts. I didn't earn enough badges, and I didn't like selling cookies. :)

dolorah said...

This post is disturbing. I'm not homosexual; so I honestly don't keep up on all the issues. I apologize if that is offensive. But . .

I always thought the boy scouts was about teaching children values such as honesty, community service, and a sense of purpose and responsibility. I didn't know there were all these political/equal rights issues. I also thought the Boy Scouts and Campfire Girls had merged to Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

I guess I am really behind the times. I've heard about people who protest gays as youth leaders, and I'm not one to buy into the concept homosexuality and pedophilia are the same mind set, but I can see where the concerns can surface. My opinion of heterosexuals who lump all gays/lesbians as sexual preditors haven't taken the time to get to know "people" as people, and only believe what they read in media hype. Kinda like believing all cops spend all their time eating donuts and all pool cleaners are gods that sleep with the housewives.
(Strike that last one; I seriously hope it is true and I get one when I own a built in pool, lol)

This post is disturbing because I don't like to think the political and moral debates of adults could so adversely affect the social growth of our children. Very sad.

Its good you have brought this issue to light Johanna. I do not mind having to explore my own moral assumptions.


Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I can see where it was a difficult decision. My daughter is a girl scout, and I imagine my son will want to be a boy scout next year as well, but I certainly don't agree with their policy on this issue as it stands.
Jaybird, one of my best friends from HS, who is gay, was also an Eagle Scout! (He came out in HS, but I guess I don't remember when exactly, or when he earned the Eagle Scout.) He would make a great leader, too. :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Johanna, yep I can understand your difficulty in making any decision. It can be quite a balancing act where such sensitive issues are concerned.

Scarlett said...

Boy Scouts of America 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."

This subject has been a topic of conversation in our home for roughly 15 years. Our oldest child, a boy now 19, asked to join the scouts in the third grade with his friends. After much heart-wrenching discussion leading to debates in our own household and with our extended family, we decided against it.

My answer to my child, and his other two siblings as they grew older, and to anyone who challenged our reasoning, was this: "I will not, in good conscience, support any organization that denies entry to another human being based on their religious affiliations, their race, or their sexual orientation."

Like you, Johanna, our decision came down to our local troop leaders, and regretfully to the attitudes of many in our small community.

We weighed the pros and cons of our child's influence on others vs. their influence on him, and decided this organization and those followers who are firmly entrenched in this homophobic mantra were just too big for us to take the chance that our family's convictions could be swept away with the winds of intolerance and homophobic attitudes.

There have been other stories in the news over the years contributing to our decision. News of BSA supported protests around the country, preaching hate, not "honor" or the values our family holds dear.

It is my belief, and my prayer, that communities around our blessed country and this planet will keep themselves informed, as much as is humanly possible, on topics such as these which affect us all. You don't have to be a boy, a man, or a homosexual to feel the pain they feel.

Deny ONE. You deny ALL.

Love! and Honor and Respect To All!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

The Boy Scouts is a bigoted organization that is funded by groups that continue to promote discrimination (the Mormon Church is one). Until that changes, I refer to such groups as discriminatory. It's just calling it like I see it.

Unknown said...

Fortunately we don't have this issue in Canada.

It's too bad they confused gay men with sexual deviants who abuse boys. They are not the same thing. I don't know why they think they are.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I'm constantly amazed that organisations and individual people are so focuses on people's sexual orientation, I really have never considered anyone's sexuality my business. In Australia we have constant friction over allowing gay marriage (so far it's a no from government). When did we allow government to rule over marriages? Although I support all gay residents in their right to marry, I'm starting to think we should reverse that and take all marriage away from government. I have no need for the government to recognise my marriage, that's between my husband, myself and our children. I don't really give a flip that they approve.

PK HREZO said...

This is a very tough subject. My son is a scout as well. I was a girl scout back in the day. I do support the organization, altho I don't agree with discriminating. Even if Scouts are based on Christian values, those same values include loving thy neighbor. Even if those values say homosexuality is a sin, so are a lot of things. Say if an unmarried hetero couple who lives together want to lead their kids troop, would the scouts deny them cuz of their personal home situation? I doubt they'd make such a big deal. It's that crusty old mindset they cant let go of, and I do believe, like you, they will change soon enough.

BTW I'm emailing you about Gone Girl!