Last Friday, the Boy Scouts of America proposed maintaining its ban on adult gay leaders, while dropping the ban on gay scouts. Several faith leaders quickly expressed their disappointment in the proposed policy change.
All faith leaders continued to call for a fully inclusive scouting program that included qualified gay leaders, even while some expressed joy that gay scouts would no longer be removed.
The Rev. Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian (UUA), issued the following statement:
While long opposing the BSA’s discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will potentially be available to all boys and young men who want to participate in scouting. However, it is abhorrent to continue to discriminate against scout leaders.
As a religious community, Unitarian Universalists are called to affirm the worth and dignity of every person regardless of sexual orientation. Starting in 1985, the UUA has spoken out in opposition to the BSA’s discriminatory practices.
This resolution further illustrates how the BSA remains out of touch and inconsistent with their own values of respect and kindness, but also with the changing attitudes of the American public.
The proposed resolution from the BSA is a step in the right direction, but it falls short of ensuring equality for gay scout leaders. Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that there is still time to persuade the BSA to move from discrimination and prejudice to inclusion and respect for all Americans who wish to participate in scouting.
The United Church of Christ, which sponsors over 1,000 troops, cheered that gay scouts would be accepted by the Boy Scouts of America, but expressed bitter disappointment at the continued ban on gay adult leaders. Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer, United Church of Christ Minister for LGBT Concerns said the following:
Because youth are a primary concern, I support the proposed Boy Scouts of America (BSA) resolution to change their membership policies to allow gay youth to participate in scouting programs. I urge the delegates at the upcoming Annual Meeting to adopt the change and I encourage the scouting program to take all the necessary steps to welcome gay scouts, and provide a safe and nurturing space for their full participation.
At the same time, I’m dismayed by the decision to maintain the current “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regard to gay scout leaders. This aspect of the proposal sends a mixed message to both youth and adults. It communicates to youth that if you’re “out” about being gay you will not be allowed to one day become an adult scout leader and share the leadership and other skills you have learned; a not so subtle message that you are not as good as your fellow straight scouts. To adults, it communicates that if you want to be a scout leader you must stay in the closet about your sexual orientation, compromise your integrity and live with the stress that should someone choose to out you, or you decide to come out, you must face the scandal of being removed. This current policy of excluding gay scout leaders is inconsistent with the core values of scouting and there is no good reason for it to continue.
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Reconciling Works: Lutherans for Full Participation, noted the tension that many Lutheran congregations feel about being welcoming to all people, while sponsoring a troop that continues to practice discrimination. Currently, Lutheran churches sponsor nearly 4,000 troops across the country.
Lutherans are one of the biggest groups of Christians in the United States. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Lutheran congregations throughout the United States that host Boy Scout troops. Many of these congregations welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people not only on Sunday mornings at worship, but also LGBT people who may be part of the Boy Scout troop that uses the building at other times. When these churches say all are welcome, they really mean all. To accept gay scouts but not openly gay leaders results in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” double standard. This standard would be detrimental to gay scouts who would come to believe that in order to succeed they would have to hide who they are.
We applaud the faithful service of the many scouts and troop leaders of all sexual orientations and gender identities whose work is a witness to what Scouting is all about – helping boys develop values such as loyalty, helpfulness, kindness, thrift, bravery, and duty to God. We call upon the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America to set a policy that welcomes and includes all.
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her seven-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
Brought to you by The Seattle Lesbian
By: Wendy Rhein
As soon as he saw the little blue uniform on the boys not much older than he was selling popcorn outside the Safeway, Nate wanted to be a boy scout. The child has a thing for uniforms, and adventure, and probably most importantly a strong sense of civic duty. I take responsibility for that last one. The first two, not so much.
I was really torn about letting him join the Boy Scouts Association because of its homophobic reputation and regulations that the organization sadly reaffirmed this week. I postponed the discussion. I talked to him about the commitment, about what that would mean in relation to other activities. I spent several weeks balancing his requests to join the local troop and my own sense of not endorsing or supporting such a place. We’re boycotters! We stand up for what we believe! We demonstrate our values with our time and money! Heck, it was this same kid who asked if we could stop going to Chik-Fil-A because a it was none of their business who loved whom!
It didn’t help that my mother told him that every president in the twentieth century was at one time a boy scout. His political aspirations already confirmed, this still-to-be-verified testimony only reinforced his pleas.
Over several months Nate would tell me about scouting. He wanted to earn badges, go camping, build a pinewood car (or have ME build the car), volunteer in his community, and sing Christmas carols at the senior center. And yes, all of those things sound great to me. I could see real value in him being a part of a group where adult men spent time with their children and offered supportive leadership to other boys. I could see the value in the organized community engagement and the skills and independence he could learn while building a rocket or making a campfire. But I wanted that for ALL boys, not just the straight ones.
I walked into the local pack open house last fall with a real chip on my shoulder. I was, I admit, hoping he would hate it. I was hoping I might hate it. I sought out one of the leaders, introduced myself, pointed out that we were a family without a dad and would that be a problem? He laughed and started to point out all the single parents in the room. The gay couple and the family with not one but three moms. I calmed down a little. As one would expect, Nate loved it.
So began the first of what I am sure will be years of soul searching about what to do when my beliefs and my children’s wants or desires collide. I admit to being at a loss as to what to tell him about this group that he has come to love; the policies they hold that are ultimately counterintuitive to what I instill in my sons, and where that amorphous policy-making body fits with the more welcoming and open troop we see on weekends. I am not inclined or interested in causing a seven year old the pain of choosing my (his?) beliefs over an activity he loves. I am telling myself that if he was witnessing this in his own group, his own backyard, he would be able to tie to something real in his world and grasp it.
We are a scouting family. And I hate the national association policy to shun gay scouts and leaders. I hate it. I struggle with what action to take or not take, knowing that doing what would come naturally to me will really hurt my child and keep us away from some people we have come to call friends. He isn’t alone in this either. When I see my son standing straight and tall in his blue uniform, a little straighter and taller than normal, I am proud of him for finding something he loves and sticking with it. Our troop is welcoming but I know not all of them are, much like not all schools, churches, temples, or families are. It was much simpler to answer when it was just me to consider, but who wants to hurt her own children? Certainly not me and not those parents that have to tell their sons, the ones like mine who only want to camp, build cars from balsa wood, and sing Christmas carols at the senior center, that they are not welcome here.
Another Article on the Scouts