By Jason and Brooke Stewart
The decision to not allow gay youth from joining Boy Scouts of America and gay adults from serving in leadership positions has left us torn between our children’s love of scouting, our commitment to serve the community and our strong disagreement with the new policies.
We are the parents of three boys who love scouting. Their love of scouting is what led us to take active leadership roles in our local scout organizations, both in our younger boy’s Cub Scout pack and with Troop 2 when our oldest son bridged over from Cubs.
Living in Petaluma, which has been the home to some of the most vocal critics of Scouting’s exclusionary policies, we were acutely aware of the controversy surrounding those policies. So we resolved to “fight from within” and do what we could to make sure that any child who needed scouts would be able to participate, and that any parent that wanted to assist their child in achieving the honors that are only available through scouting would also have that opportunity.
To date, we have not needed to act on this commitment, and quite honestly we hadn’t really given it much thought until the recent announcements.
But we also feel like our commitment to “fight from within” has been a lackluster effort, and we are ashamed. We have told our friends, some of whom are gay, that we go to great lengths to educate our children about discrimination of any shape or form. Our children know that we support the rights of gays to marry, and that while BSA has the absolute right (as a private organization) to exclude anyone from membership, that we disagree with that policy.
We are not writing this letter to resign from our positions. Our children love scouting, and they get so much from it we would never ask them to give it up because of what we believe. Scouting is an oasis of activity and public service in a desert of short attention spans and LCD screens.
If scouting was removed from their lives, then all of our lives would be poorer for it, and we feel confident in our skills as parents to infuse in them the moral codes of acceptance that Boys Scouts is missing. No matter what, as long as our kids want to be scouts then we will be there to take them to every meeting.
What we are doing is saying that if a boy in need of scouting attempted to join our Troop, or our Den, or to attend our Camp and happened to be gay, we would not turn him away. If we had a scout with a gay parent that wanted to serve in a leadership position and that had the desire, will and set of skills needed to execute that position we would not turn them away.
Instead, we would fight for them to have the same opportunities that we have, and that our children have because it is the right thing to do.
Rest assured that we are not looking for a soapbox to stand on. We are not looking to foist our beliefs on anyone, as we strongly feel that there is a time and place for discussions like this one. Standing in front of a group of other people’s children is not that place.
We believe that this is a discussion for families to have among themselves. But we do look forward to the appointment of incoming president Randall Stephenson, who has made the commitment to work towards ending this policy. And we look forward to not feeling ashamed when we talk to our friends – gay or otherwise – about our participation in an organization that does not welcome them.
Jason Stewart is the Committee Chair of Petaluma’s Troop 2 for the annual Penngrove Twilight Camp. Brooke Stewart is a Den Leader and a camp director for a Pack 84. The opinions expressed in this letter are that of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Petaluma scouting community as a whole.