I am a former Assistant Scoutmaster, Senior Patrol Leader, Order of the Arrow Chapter Chief, Life Scout, Vigil Honor Member, and Scout Camp Staffer. I love the Boy Scouts, and I always will. The Boy Scouts have made me who I am today, but I am not able to say that with the pride I once did.
There was a time when I defended the Boy Scouts policy banning homosexuals. It didn’t matter, I contended, because there were plenty of homosexuals in the Boy Scouts and no one cared. One of my closest friends was gay, and no one cared.
My friend, whom I lost touch with, changed my mind. Go, read, then come back.
I cried when I read that. Not because I was wrong, but because something that was so near and dear to me had done such evil. The Boy Scouts need to change. Kenny points out some reasons why they haven’t – particularly the relationship with the Mormon Church – but Kenny also has hope.
He’s right, all is not lost. Below is a letter written by an very active adult scouter. He is also a very important member of the Atlanta business community. He has given me permission to reprint his letter to the Atlanta Area Council. Here is hoping that more letters like this and groups like this can make some progress.
Tracy TechauScout ExecutiveAtlanta Area Council, BSAAtlanta, GeorgiaDear Mr. Techau -
I am writing as a longtime Scouter and proud father to two Eagle Scouts to express my profound disappointment with the BSA National Executive Board’s decision to reaffirm its policy on the exclusion of openly gay individuals from Scouting, either as Scouts or leaders. I believe that this policy is unjustified, inconsistent with the values of Scouting and jeopardizes the future of the Scouting movement in the U.S.Last week’s announcement by the BSA Executive Board has prompted me to reevaluate my involvement with the Boy Scouts, which has been an important part of my life for many years. The Scouting movement belongs to its members, both youth and adults, not to a small cadre of national leaders, and I am convinced that the majority of those members do not endorse a policy that excludes otherwise qualified individuals from the organization simply because of their sexual orientation. I reluctantly considered resigning from my leadership position and ending my association with the Scouts altogether over this issue. On reflection, however, I have concluded that even though I strongly disapprove of the exclusion policy as a matter of principle as well as for practical reasons, for me and others opposed to the policy to simply walk away would be to surrender the movement to those seeking to use Scouting to advance a political agenda.An individual’s sexual orientation should be irrelevant to their participation in Scouting. In our troop, we do not proselytize in favor of a particular lifestyle or sexual orientation any more than we advocate a particular position on abortion, capital punishment, tax reform or any other issue about which our Scouts or their parents may have strongly-held personal or religious beliefs. Instead, we try to imbue our Scouts with the values embodied in the Scout Law, including respect for the differing beliefs and world-views of others. It appears that the BSA’s national leadership have lost sight of those very values that make Scouting such an important institution.As you well know, participation in Scouting at all levels has been in decline for decades. There are many reasons for this decline, most of which are beyond the control of the BSA. But for the national leadership of the BSA to gratuitously reiterate a policy that puts it so completely out of step with the values of Americans across the political spectrum seems almost calculated to further marginalize an institution that once played an important role in the life of the nation. What parent will want to get their child involved in an organization that explicitly endorses intolerance?As angry as I am about this matter, for me Scouting is just too valuable an institution for me to turn my back on it. While I plan to continue my association with Scouting at the local unit level, I regretfully have moved to discontinue my financial support for the Area Council and national organization as a tangible means of registering my disapproval. I will redirect my designated United Way contributions and will not participate in the Friends of Scouting campaign as long as this policy remains in place. Instead, I will give to organizations that conduct themselves in a manner more consistent with my values, including to individual Scout units. I will encourage my fellow Scouters to do the same.While I recognize that this policy action was taken by the BSA’s national leadership, not by the Area Council, the Council represents a rank and file Scouter’s only link to the BSA and is the conduit by which financial support is transmitted to the national organization. The Area Council is the local embodiment of the BSA and practically speaking is the only body to which I can express my disapproval of this policy in a meaningful way.I ask that you share this message with the senior leadership of the Area Council as well as the national BSA leadership. I would welcome an opportunity to engage in dialog on this issue if such an interest exists.Yours in Scouting,John EhrenspergerDecatur, Georgia