“The Boy Scouts of America provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.”
That’s how the Boy Scouts describe themselves at scouting.org. I support that mission wholeheartedly; it’s why I’ve encouraged both of my sons to participate in Scouts for years. Both boys joined Cub Scouts as Tiger Cubs, my oldest is just a few requirements shy of advancing to a Second Class scout as a Boy Scout. My younger son earned his Webelos badge earlier this year, and plans to bridge to Boy Scouts this winter to join his brother in his troop.
Today, the Boy Scouts completed a two year program reviewing their exclusion of homosexuals, and affirmed it. Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts national spokesperson, said that the committee that reviewed the policy “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.”
They’re wrong. Excluding committed, engaged individuals who want to help my sons grow is the antithesis of building my sons’ character. What this decision tells me is that the Boy Scouts of America are more interested in pursuing their own exclusionary morality ahead of my sons’ personal growth. Last month, the Boy Scouts clarified their policy in a post on their blog:
The BSA policy is: “While the BSA 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 BSA.”
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.
I’m a parent whom the BSA is supposed to be serving. My opinion was never sought, nor am I aware of any effort to solicit input from any of the parents in the packs/troops we’ve been involved in.
That said, whether we continue with the Boy Scouts is a decision for my sons to make, not a unilateral conclusion to be handed to them. A hallmark of strong character is choosing the company you keep. My wife and I will be sharing this information with both of them, and giving them an opportunity to decide what to do about it. Because they are already strong, moral children, they know that we don’t exclude others simply because they’re different than we are. It’s possible that they’ll decide that they want to work within the organization to change it. If so, they will have my support. If they can’t support the decision and wish to leave Scouting, I’ll support that too.
But what I won’t do is let this decision go unnoticed, or let my sons ignore the implications of what it means for the organization they (currently) belong to. That is how you build character.