Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Boy Scout Issue

For those  who have not been following the recent history of the Boy Scouts, one likely reason for their intransigence on the issue of sexual orientation, is the influence of the Mormon Church.

As Ross Armstrong explains on The Daily Ross, the Latter-day Saints register (and pay registration fees) for all age appropriate boys to join the Boy Scouts, whether the boys are actually active or not.  The Boy Scouts is the defacto youth organization for the church.  That's a lot of money going in to the national scouting organization and into the councils in areas with a large Mormon population.  Boy Scouts has a page on it's website that explains some of that relationship, notice the large number of packs and troop registered via the Mormons.  The Boy Scouts list of chartered organizations (groups that provide meeting spaces, etc) lists the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the largest of the religious chartering organizations; note also that nearly 70% of the charting organizations are faith based. 

Boinboing has a heartbreaking post, showing letters written with deep regret by Eagle Scouts, returning their Eagle Scout medal to the national Boy Scout organization.  This is in protest of BAS's continuing discrimination of LGBT scouts and leaders.  Some of these men mention they earned the Vigil rank in the Order of the Arrow; far fewer scouts earn OA Vigil rank than Eagle Scout.  If someone has reached Vigil they are serious scouters, the elite of scouting elite.

I didn't grow up in a scouting family but as an adult one way I engage with my community is as a Boy Scout badge counselor.  In Girl Scouts the troop leader decides whether a scout has earned a badge, but in Boy Scouts an official counselor for that particular badge has to sign off on it.  I don't sign my name on the blue card unless I think the scout has completed all the requirements for the badge, and have, when needed, told a boy he needs to do or redo something before he's done.  One summer another badge counselor talked me into offering a badge class for her son's troop; she was offering a class and we alternated weeks.  The boys were polite and willing to work. 

I'm of mixed views on being a badge counselor, though.  On one hand, I disagree with the national BSA policy and don't want to be perceived as supporting it.  On the other, the Trail to Eagle provides an experience that isn't really available to boys and young men anywhere else.  It's a valuable journey and everyone I know who has earned Eagle Scout is proud to have done so, and many who didn't who wished they had.   The boys are unwitting and unwilling pawns of the national organization's discrimination.  BSA has a vague "don't ask don't tell" policy but it is awful to ask people to pretend to be something they aren't.

It's a conundrum.     

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