From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

Dear Parents,

As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America voted the other day to change its policy to allow boys that are homosexual to join the organization.  This decision, even though it has been debated for the better part of a year continues to draw much discussion.  At the National Meetings of the BSA the resolution was passed with a 60% approval.  Earlier this year the BSA asked us to participate in a survey on this issue.  I made the choice to participate in the survey and allowed my voice to be heard.  It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.
And so it is with thoughtful consideration that I feel the need to address this issue with all of you.
Within our Troop we have discussed this issue and have various opinions ranging from full support to no support of the decision.   I have not withheld my opinion in the matter and am available to discuss where I stand in the matter, but I think this letter should serve to express how this decision should have an effect on our Troop, which ultimately is how I feel about the issue.
I think it fair to share some of the common arguments against the decision and where I think the Boy Scouts of America stand.  I can not speak on behalf of the BSA, but I feel that I am in agreement with the policy change.  You will see how and why in this letter.
First, the argument over the ability for a Scout to live up to the promise that he makes to be “Morally Straight”.  I do not see an issue here as we as Scout leaders do not define a Scouts morals.  The Boy Scouts of America have always insisted that moral instruction is the responsibility of the of the family and the religious institution of the individual Scout.  At best it is my responsibility to model moral behavior.  Behavior that I was taught as a young boy by my family and my faith group.  I think it is safe to say that my family and my faith formation have led me to being a good man that makes sound moral decisions.  I am of the belief that parents all start off with the best intentions for their children.  Parents that introduce their boy to Scouting understand the timeless values and the ideals that Scouting offers.  Parents that want their son to enjoy Scouting know and understand the shared commitment of the Scout Oath and Law that Scouts and Scouters make.  Most parents may not understand the policies of the BSA or the methods of the program, but just like the average person, they know in one way or another, that Scouting is about doing good.
The decision to allow gay boys to join Scouting does not change our values in the least.  We find the values of the BSA in the Scout Oath and Law.  Just as I remind your son during the many Scoutmaster conferences we share, we make three promises in the Scout Oath.  Those promises are our duty.  They are to serve our God and Country, to Help other people at all times, and to remember the promise we make to ourselves in keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Before we leave the Scout Oath, let me remind you that during our Scoutmaster Conference your Scout holds all of the answers that allow him to grow and advance, largely in part to how you have raised him and not because he says the Scout Oath.  The Boy Scouts do not define God and does not require a Scout to be religious.  When a Scout promises to do his duty to God and Country, we allow the Scout to decide who or what that God is.  The Scout handbook tells us that we are to respect others and their religious convictions.  When I ask your son what that means to him, I become a listener and not a judge.  I firmly believe that in that answer we learn about how the Scout is growing in his faith and watch as he fine tunes his moral compass.  When a Scout is struggling with this discussion I ask a few leading questions.  Those questions are simply this, do you believe that it is a good thing to “do to others as you would like done to you?”  They typically answer yes, which leads to question number two, “what does that mean to you?”  Then I share with your Scout that religions of every creed maintain that as a foundation of living a good life.  That simple phrase known as the “Golden Rule” is the magnetic pull that keeps our moral compass straight.  It has nothing to do with life style or sexual behavior.  It guides us in treating others with respect and dignity and is a foundation for the Scout law, the second area in which we find the values of Scouting.
It is with that in mind that we can expect our Scouts to live the Scout Law.  To be trustworthy to one another, Loyal to family, friends, God and Country.  It demands that we are helpful  as you are aware we ask our Scouts to develop a habit of being a selfless servant.  A Scout is a friend to all, so says the founder of Scouting Lord Baden-Powell.  We ask that our Scouts are courteous and kind to one another and practice that at home, school, and in their daily lives.  I can go on about how and what we expect from our boys in living the Scout law, but I will touch on just two more points that I think are relevant in this discussion.  Obedient and Reverent.
Once again, as their Scoutmaster and role model, I find that it is my position to be obedient to the BSA and it’s policies.  I do not have to agree with the gay lifestyle or the choice to be homosexual.  Once this policy change goes into effect in January of 2014, I will comply and welcome every boy who wants to be a Scout into our troop.
Reverent.  The Boy Scout Handbook tells us that a Scout is Reverent.  According to the handbook that is defined as such;  “A Scout is reverent.  A Scout is reverent toward God.  He is faithful in his religious duties.  He respects the beliefs of others.”  Please take note that the definition does not define the Boy Scouts of America’s belief, it directly instructs the Scout to do HIS duty and be faithful in HIS religious duties and HE respects the beliefs of others.  HE and HIS not OURS and THE BSA.  Now this may seem like an easy out, but to be honest with you I would not have it any other way.  Look at our Troop, we have members from many different faith groups.  We have a wide variety of Scouts with many different levels of faith formation.  We treat them all the same.  We expect them to live what you have taught them and couple that home and church formation with that of the Scout Oath and Law.
So how will this be different with a gay Scout?  It won’t be.  Again, I am going to assume that the parents of that young man want the best for him.  They want him to be in an organization that maintains a good set of values, that by and large will be consistent with those of their family, no matter what that family looks like.  Again, that is not for me as a Scoutmaster to judge.
Here is the bottom line as I see it.
Our troop is going to maintain the values of the Boy Scouts of America.  We are going to continue to focus on the mission of the BSA and never go away from the three aims of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  We will use the eight methods to achieve those aims.  We will still go camping every month.  We will not change our program in the slightest.  Just as we did not change when you brought your son to our troop, we will not change for any other boy who joins our unit.
I can assure you that our Troop understands and practices youth protection and this too will not change.  The Boy Scouts of America have sound practices when it comes to protecting our youth.  Nothing here will change.  We will maintain a safe, friendly environment for your son and all of the Scouts of our troop.  We will address all personal issues as they happen, just like we currently do for the Scouts that we currently serve.  We will observe their privacy, and respect each and everyone in our troop as we would have them respect us.
Many Scouters are already talking about leaving the Boy Scouts over this issue.  I know that we will lose some really good people, I hope none from our troop, but I do understand that some people must be true to how they feel and what they know as the direction of their moral compass.  I would hope that you all trust that we have the best interest of your Scout in mind in everything we do.
To those that feel the need to part ways with our organization, I wish you well and pray that you do not have ill feelings toward those of us that stay.  I welcome you back whenever that time is right for you and your family.  I believe in the Boy Scouts of America and regardless of this policy change and the heart ache that it seems to have caused,  is still the very best youth organization on earth.  I believe this with all of my heart, and I trust that you understand that I am sincere.
Please feel free to discuss this issue with me personally if you have the need.  I think it important that you understand that I am not and neither is the Boy Scouts of America, asking that you accept the homosexual life style.  It is expected that all people are treated with respect and dignity.  This is all I can ask of you, your Scout and our troop.
The Boy Scouts of America has made many ground breaking changes in its 103 years.  This will not be the last.  The testament of the stability of this great organization is in its timeless values that are there for everyone.
I thank you for the time and hope we have a lasting relationship in the future.
Yours in Scouting.
And as Always, Have a Great Scouting Day!

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Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

  1. Excellent summary! One pedantic note: you included a sentence about the choice to be a homosexual. Q: do you really believe this is a choice? Think about this question from the other perspective: did you make a conscious choice to be heterosexual?

  2. Eddie

    You stated in the beginning that “It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.” I found the detailed survey results on scouting.org’s website. Search for “respondents” to get right to the numbers. Does it really sound like the 60% approval is representative of what the 200,000 respondents believe? http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/MembershipStandards/Resolution/Summary.aspx

    • I stated that it is my belief…
      But more to the point….does it matter? Iam a Scout leader and will lead this change in a positive manner.
      thanks for tge comment

    • ScoutingManiac

      In order to fully understand the Membership Standards Study one must read the entire executive study. If you would like I would be happy to forward you a copy of that study or a link to the document I am referring to.

  3. Or we could look at it another way – should the issue be debated at all? BSA is a private organization, which upon inception, linked itself to religion by the mere mention of God. A vocal minority, like it has done throughout our country in recent history, bullied what WAS a solid organization devoted to developing the value and morals of boys to TRADITIONAL and GOD focused beliefs into yet another railroaded institution now susceptible to the “anything goes” philosophy. Our society was never built on this premises and history has a long track-record of failed civilizations (businesses and private organizations) which tried to be all things to all people. The bottom lime is that if homosexual boys wanted to be involved with a scouting-esque organization, that’s great, they then need to establish one that aligns with their beliefs. Instead, they insisted on changing an institution that was plenty fine as it was. Ask yourself if you should have the right to badger Chick-Fel-a into making your favorite hamburger, golf courses to ensure they have amble basketball courts or schools to allow students to carry firearms. If you believe it is entirely okay for public pressure to force a private institution to cave in, then surely you must support each of these changes and plenty of others without argument. Shame.

  4. Jerry, If I lived in your area, I would have no hesitation putting my boy in your troop. I’ve seen your blog and, being a Scoutmaster myself, I believe you would measure up to any Scoutmaster in America! But I would never say “we don’t define a Scout’s morals”. 100% of us put behaviors in either the “moral” column, or the “immoral” column. In this country, we condemn immorality and we associate with folks that come close to putting things in the same column as we do. The Supreme Court affirms we have a constitutional right to do that. We absolutely define a Scout’s morals by association. We define our morals all the time by choosing the groups we join. “Here’s what we stand for, if you agree, please join the BSA”. If you don’t, you are free to join other organizations. Whether you condone homosexuality or not, this is a huge departure from normal. Huge!!! The BSAs own stats say a mass exodus is expected. This is not a minor little change like where to sew the badge on. Because of their beliefs and conscience, this policy will force thousands to disassociate. It’s a major change of the rules! Major!!! And why did we do this? It has the exact same impact on Christians as the homosexual lobby says was done to them. “If you guys don’t agree with us, you can hit the road”! So one injustice justifies another? That’s not the lesson we want to teach our boys. So the BSA flipped the bird at the values of thousands upon thousands for the sake of a small, small minority? Seriously? Is this is what’s best for the kids of America? Are we putting kids first by reneging on a long standing policy? I want to stay in the BSA to keep it great, but I’ve got too many parents in my troop that won’t stay. We’re gonna collapse. And we don’t even have homosexuals trying to get in. Where’s the justice in that? Where’s the injustice we corrected by this new policy that we’re willing to kiss off thousands upon thousands of boys? Is it really a good trade? Now people are afraid to say “I think something is immoral and I have joined a group that believes the way I do.” Yep, we’re so deathly afraid to be called intolerant, or bigoted that we’re willing to change our core values because of opinion polls. You yourself have said Scouting’s not for everybody. I agree. So we stick with what has worked for over 100 years and stay true to our core values. Decreasing membership is no different that declining participation in churches. So what? You don’t believe in what this church says, go to one you’re comfortable with and leave me alone!
    You guys that say it won’t change the way we operate in Scouting
    won’t have to listen to guys like me. I’m being put out of business. The number of people leaving and the lack of people joining will decimate the BSA. And, if you think religion isn’t the next target, think again. Along with every other combination of sexual configuration imaginable. Ask Canada, the UK, and the Girl Scouts. You think we’re immune to that just because we’re great Americans? The Oath will change, tenting assignments will change, shower requirements will change, the youth protection policy will change. Venturing requires both male and female advisors so what new combination will we need to comply in the future? Boy Scouts will become just Scouts. Why shouldn’t we offer membership in the Boy Scouts to little girls? How about little LGBT girls? My gosh, we can’t deny them the benefits of Scouting can we? So we embrace everything until we eventually stand for nothing. It won’t happen this year, or maybe not next but it will happen. Because good guys like you didn’t see that we were identified for conquest not improvement. I could be wrong and I hope I am, but history would say I’m not.

    • ScoutingManiac

      Scouting in the UK or TSA is growing at staggering numbers, they have thousands of members on waiting lists because they don’t have enough trained leaders to accommodate the number of kids they have. The GSUSA also reports growth in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Finally in regards to Scouts Canada, many believe that it is the membership policy change that allowed homosexuals to participate in the organization but the truth of the matter is that while that plays a role it is also because of the bureaucracy the National organization created. Finally one thing to remember is that in Canada there are two WOSM (World Organization of the Scouting Movement) recognized National Scout Organizations (NSO), so only including one of these two would be an unfair comparison.

      However, I will admit that the BSA and Scouting in Canada membership has declined but it isn’t just this or that, it’s much more complicated than that. The mass exodus of people leaving the BSA occurred in the late 70’s to early 80’s after the “New Scouting Model” was introduced.

      The world is changing and so with it the BSA has to change as well. We have gone through several major membership policy changes including the bannig of african americans in the BSA, the forced segregation of white and black Scouts, the lingering segregation that the BSA is still facing due to the lasting racism that still exists in this country today, and finally the whole homosexual change. We will loose members there is no doubt about it but I do not think this is going to be the breaking point.

      • Well Jerry, keep up the good work. If you could, I’d love to see your sources on Canada, UK and the GSUSA. I still think this thing will get worse before it gets better. There’s just too many people that feel railroaded. The most mature thing we can do is keep the boys out of the debate and focus on delivering the promise.

        Joe

      • ScoutingManiac

        Joe
        I agree it is going to get worse before it gets better. I have no doubt about this. However, IMHO this would’ve happen even if the membership resolution failed to pass.

      • Joe,
        It is only going to get worse before it gets better if we keep beating this dead horse.
        The decision has been made and I for one have no problem with it… as stated over and over and over and over…
        I have no sources.. I did not bring up the Girl Scouts or Scouts Canada.
        I live in Oregon where this is not really a big deal. It’s not even head line news. Further I live outside of the biggest metro area in Oregon where they have elected a gay mayor and the gay “Agenda” is in full swing. the fact of the matter is that it really does not effect those that do not embrace the gay life style in the least. It does not change the morals of the population, it does not make me nervous to take a shower at the gym. It simply.. and yes.. I said simply.. does not matter.
        You all believe what you have been taught to believe. You all hold true to your values and convictions. YOU make the difference, not anyone else.
        I do not see this decision making a difference in the way that we do Scouting… On the contrary.. I think now we have an opportunity to SERVE more young men.
        So here is the last thing I will say about this.
        IF you are Joe or anyone else is going to leave Scouting over this.. leave and know that you are welcome back anytime.
        If you or anyone else in Scouting can’t remember why we are here.. then maybe it is time to leave.
        VALUES are not the issue. VALUES will not change unless you change them. I have said this repeatedly. I AM NOT CHANGING and the BSA is not asking me to change. They are telling me that I can not discriminate based on sexual orientation… something I would not do anyway… because of my VALUES.
        Why does this not make sense to everyone.
        If you sit in your church and listen to lessons on love and charity and then not get your but out of the pew and live it.. you are wrong and you just wasted your time listening to the preacher.
        Well.. I have pissed off enough people and have official said enough on this.
        Leave if you want. I’m staying.
        I’m tired of this issue and it’s not going to go away no matter how much we debate it.
        Final word.
        For us Wood Badgers out there and those that really love the organization. Remember we are driven by Mission and Vision. We derive that Mission and Vision in part from our Values.
        Let me remind you all what the Vision and Mission of the Boy Scouts of America are:
        VISION:
        The Boy Scouts of America will prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law.
        MISSION:
        The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

        The Scout Oath and Law are NOT changing to meet the membership.. the membership change to meet the Oath and Law.
        Thanks for all the comments and I hope you all stick around. You are great Scouters and the Boys need you.
        Jerry

      • Jerry, as Scoutmaster, I’ve pissed off my share of parents doing what I believe in too. So, no thin skin here. I can take as good as I can give. You’re a guy that follows what’s in your heart. You do what you do because of the boys. Just like me. I tryto follow what’s in my heart even when it’s like swimming against the current. Keep it up. I think I got mixed up on where to reply. I replied to you when I should have replied to ScoutingManiac . I apologize and amen to beating the dead horse. God has a plan and I’m sure it’s a good one. It’s time to move forward. However, I’m still interested in the sources ScoutingManiac quoted for the Canadian Scouts, UK, and the GSUSA. Hey, if we can learn from other programs, I’m all over it! I’ve seen this program do too much for too many boys to just give up. I’m also willing to change my point of view where the truth supports it. I’m just saying it looks like my troop is going away because of this. I’m trying to hold it together but by now, my experience is that minds are solidly made up on both sides. Also, I really appreciate your blog for this discussion. It has helped me gather my own thoughts on this and see both sides even more clearly. I know it can be exasperating with all the back and forth. So far, all these folks are for the most part civil and interested in the boys. Hopefully, others have found value in the discusion as well. Take care!

      • Thanks Joe! Hang in there.. this too shall pass.

      • ScoutingManiac

        Jerry
        I apologize for the combativeness and hope I’m not causing too many problems on your blog. It is most definitely a case of mistaken identity.

        Joe
        If you would like the sources I will be happy to provide them to you but please email me at westybsa@gmail.com so we can continue this conversation in a more private method of communication.

  5. ScoutingManiac

    Jerry

    I think this is one of the best letters I have seen that have come out as a result of the membership policy resolution. Also I am glad to hear that you will be staying involved in Scouting as well. Therefore thank you for your continuing service to Scouting in this period of change.

    For those of you that are leaving, I am saddened to hear that you must leave the organization based upon your beliefs and at any point in the future welcome you back into Scouting. Thank you for your service to Scouting and may the great Scoutmaster of all the Scoutmasters be with you until we meet again.

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