Bigot of the Week Award: July 20, Boy Scouts of America

20 Jul

Bigot of the Week

Thank you to my friend and LGBT ally Jennifer Carey for inspiring me to write this article. This week the Boy Scouts of American burrowed all the way back to the 1950s to embrace a false America and ignore the rights of an entire segment of the U.S. population. The organization, aptly founded in the waning of the Victorian Era, opted to maintain their restriction against LGBT Scouts and Scout leaders. The Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron (I’m afraid of the gays) Smith, told The Associated Press that an 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy “is absolutely the best policy.” REALLY? Best for whom?

The decision was unanimous and was announced by the group’s media wing. It cited parent concerns and tradition as key factors in upholding bias.

The committee included a diversity of perspectives and opinions. The review included forthright and candid conversation and extensive research and evaluations – both from within Scouting and from outside the organization. The committee’s work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.

I don’t think the Scouts know what most of those words mean. Diversity? Candid? Research? Service? If having a hate-the-gays tea with Tony Perkins and Maggie Gallagher fits those words, maybe. How else could they have come to such an odious conclusion a decade into the 21st Century? The review was shrouded in secrecy. None of the panelists were named publicly, the meetings were secret, and the process was never disclosed. The lack of transparency reinforces the image of a secretive group uninterested in the nation which it hypothetically serves. For a group that purports to create tomorrow’s leaders, hiding behind “beliefs and perspectives of … members” is cowardly at best. Exactly what type of leaders are they hoping to foster?

Some adult Scouts had put pressure on leadership. Eagle Scout and journalist Naka Nathaniel renounced his rank in a public statement last month. Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, the Iowa college student with two lesbian mothers who famously testified for marriage equality, collected tens of thousands of signatures in support of a policy change. He delivered them to the Scouts’ annual meeting to no avail.

Given the improvements for LGBT rights in the past decade, many were hopeful that the Scouts would recognize their error. Protections against sexual orientation discrimination have increased significantly. Marriage equality exists in six states and the District of Columbia; many more have civil union laws. President Obama’s recent support of marriage equality has helped shift the national conversation, and recent polls show all-time high support for gay rights across the country. While the Scouts re-endorsed discrimination, the Episcopal Church adopted a liturgy for same-sex unions and approved ordination of transgender priests. Overall support for transgender rights has increased, and the fully inclusive Girl Scouts accept lesbian and transgender members and leaders.  Even the founding branch of the Boy Scouts, Britain’s Scout Association, refuses to discriminate on sexual orientation. The Scouts have turned a deaf ear and a bigoted blind eye to the conversation.

More importantly, the Boy Scouts have sent a dangerous message to America’s youth. By maintaining the ban they reinforce two horrific stereotypes: that gay kids are somehow of lesser value and that LGBT adults are somehow worse stewards of youth. Study upon study shows that the sexual orientation of an adult is not a factor in abuse of children — just ask Penn State or the Catholic Church. More significantly, in the wake of the worst year for LGBT-based bullying (and consequent suicides) on record, the Scouts have told bullies that they are justified and kids who differ from “acceptable” norms that they deserve what they get. The Scouting oath includes

To help other people at all times

It’s a shame the Boy Scouts of America have chosen to return to their Victorian roots rather than live up to their principles. Is there a merit badge for hypocrisy?

4 Responses to “Bigot of the Week Award: July 20, Boy Scouts of America”

  1. Christine Noble July 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    I cannot believe the utterly different approach to the LGBTQ community the BSA has from the GSA. It speaks volumes of the sexism, which promotes heterosexism and cissexism, rampant in straight, male “culture.” I wish I could say the Scouts were the only example, but really, they are just the most obvious. You can see it still in how so many straight men, even liberal ones, feel the need to clarify their orientation around their gay “friends.”

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 21, 2012 at 6:35 am #

      You make wonderful points here. How sad that we don’t use the model of celebration that the GSA uses.

  2. Martin Black July 24, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    Dear Michael — Many thanks for your posting. I couldn’t agree more with Christine’s comments about the differences between the GSA and the BSA. I am a 54 year-old SWM, former Eagle Scout, and am sickened by the BSA’s inability to see the light. Below is a note I sent the director of the National Eagle Scout Association today, C. William Steele.

    Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Re: Proudly show you are part of Eagle Scout history!

    Dear Director Steele:
    Last Wednesday, with a letter from your pen, the National Eagle Scout Association commissioned Harris Connect to invite me and the national Eagle Scout alumni to “Proudly Show” our association with “Eagle Scout history” by purchasing an Eagle Scout Award Patch commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Award. On the previous day, July 17, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) made public its decision to continue its exclusion of gays from the ranks of scouting.

    Proudly you say? It hurts to say that I can send you only my regrets. Painfully, I find I cannot be proud of the BSA or my own Eagle Award. I have unsubscribed from the NESA listserve, and withdraw my name from NESA membership. I am contemplating writing the BSA to renounce my Eagle Award.

    How can the BSA profess to teach citizenship when it blatantly discriminates?

    Although I am an Eagle Scout (1976), a past member of the Order of the Arrow, a holder of the God and Country Award (1972), former Senior Patrol Leader of my troop, son of a Scoutmaster with 25+ years of leadership service and now myself father of two sons of scouting age, I cannot conscience association with an organization, however private, that discriminates, that withholds scouting’s great gifts from one of the most vulnerable segments of the adolescent and young adult population — those who know they are gay and have the backbone to profess it during their scouting years, between the ages of 11 and 18.

    Have you and the BSA considered what moral fiber that requires? This is the essence of citizenship, of acknowledging identity and standing up for one’s rights and beliefs, especially in the face of ostracism, hatred and the threat of physical harm. Here are your standard bearers, your future citizens, your leaders of tomorrow! How can the BSA not embrace these youth for their moral courage?

    And yes, Bill, I’m also referring to YOU, who through your work and volunteerism are associating yourself with these corrupting, exclusionary values. Corrupting and exclusionary! Are you aware how you tarnish yourself and Eagle alumni by your efforts?

    Please give a glance to history! The shining exemplars of democracy, youth development and civil society have always sided with diversity and inclusion. The BSA and you as a person are on the wrong side of history on this issue. Why does the BSA prefer to follow rather than lead by example? The Girl Scouts, 4-H, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, City Year, FFA, Interact, Big Brothers Big Sisters … the BSA trails them all.

    Are you aware the respect accorded the GIRL SCOUTS for their leadership in areas of gender empowerment, international education, diversity and inclusivity? Now THAT is an organization whose work I can embrace and will support. The stronger, better educated and more successful our American WOMEN, the straighter their backs, the more enlightened their minds, the more cosmopolitan their values, the more likely they will reject the homophobes nurturing and nurtured in today’s BSA.

    With Regret,

    Martin Black

    (husband, father, educator)

    Eagle Scout, Troop 514 (1976)
    Baker Memorial United Methodist Church
    East Aurora, New York
    Greater Niagara Frontier Council

    Martin Black
    Assistant Dean for Career Development
    The Heller School for Social Policy and Management
    Phone: 781.736.3362 | Cell: 412.726.1820 | Skype: martin.blackhz
    Fax: 781.736.8366 | Email:
    415 South Street, MS 035 | Waltham, MA 02454

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 24, 2012 at 6:47 am #

      Dear Martin,
      I am truly honored that you commented on this thread here. You are certainly proof of the amazing potential the BSA holds. Your letter to Steele shows that you really did integrate the values the BSA tries to instill, but you went even farther by demonstrating your integrity! Thank you for modeling such strength of character and for being such a strong ally to the LGBTQ community. You give me great hope!

      Best regards,

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