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!