Shame Over Boy Scouts' Anti-Gay Policy

How can we teach our children that gays have equal rights while not allowing gay youth to join the organization or gay men to be leaders?


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.

Heather Jennings September 11, 2012 at 09:44 PM
I have two boys and come from a scouting family, but until the BSA changes this discriminatory policy, I'm afraid we cannot in good conscience let them be part of this organization. It's a real shame.
Marco Luxe September 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Propose and pass an anti-discrimination resolution for your regional scout council. Other councils have taken that step without consequences so far. That'll force the executives at the national office to choose to take this discussion out of the boardroom of the LDS hierarcy to the grassroots of scouting families. The national office won't change until openly challenged.
name September 12, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Let the Scouts be true to there backgrounds. If any of you would understand that!
Susanna September 12, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Would you be a member of a private country club that excluded blacks or gays because your children gained from the swimming lessons there?
Scouting Mom 77 September 12, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Here is my $.02 . . . I understand why Scouts made the decision they did at the time they did but the problem is that I believe the reasons they made them back then no longer are valid. I fully believe that the Scouting program has the possiblity to continue to be the best young boy/girl organizations of the world, they just have to make the correct choices. They want these children to be well rounded and of good faith, a leader, to help other people at all times, be morally straight, friendly, kind, courteous, brave, etc. well that how can we teach these children to be these things if we are telling them that just because of one's sexual orientation we do not want them.
Scouting Mom 77 September 12, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Thoughts Continued: The BRAVE thing for our kids to do here is to stand up & be there for the ones that "need" the scouts. We teach our cub scouts that it is not right to tease another child for any reason, that they should accept each person for who & want they are no matter race, size, brain power, athletic ablity, etc. So, what kind of message is Scouts as a whole sending when they tell someone that they can not participate/volunteer because their sexual orientation? It is the exact opposite of the message & the foundation of the Scouts. THAT IS ONLY MY $.02. I am a Den leader and love the socuts & believe it to be an excellent program & will not stop participating but still COME ON!! The ones making this choice need to use the brains & hearts GOD gifted them with and remember what the Scout Oath, Scout Law, Venturing Oath, Cub Scout Promise, Law of the Pack all state and what is meant by them.
Private Citizen September 12, 2012 at 06:17 PM
What anti-gay policy? I've been a leader for 15 years and have had every level of BSA training and I have never been told of an "anti-gay" policy. Liberals label BSA's policy of not accepting gays as scouts or leaders "Anti-Gay" because they believe it furthers their agenda. BSA tries to instill in young men a sense of leadership, self-worth, confidence and a belief in the traditional, nuclear family. For a century they have done a good job, not a perfect job. One day BSA may change it's policy and open the program to gays. Maybe it would be for the best and maybe not.
Barry Bussewitz September 12, 2012 at 07:05 PM
During my boyhood in the boy Scouts I never knew about the anti-gay policy. I was extremely disappointed not only when learned of it as an adult but also following their intransigence over many years of folks asking them to reconsider and promote an organization that is more consistent with the American ideal. I am ashamed of them for this. The policy of exclusion is indeed true. The top web reference for this is: < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America_membership_controversies >. At this site it states the following: On June 7, 2012, a BSA press release stated: The BSA policy is: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” On July 17, 2012, after a two-year review, an 11 person committee convened by the BSA reached a "unanimous consensus" recommending retaining the current policy.
Ann Popovic September 12, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Not accepting gays is kind of the DEFINITION of an anti-gay policy. I don't think you can GET much more anti-gay than, "sorry...you're born different, we're not allowing you to participate". Liberal agenda. You mean, like equal rights? Gee. I thought that was EVERYONE'S agenda.
jmsstuff September 13, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Scouting Mom's comments illustrate another area where the Scouts are behind the curve: Increasing numbers of families do not believe in any god and so the Boy Scouts are not the place for them. I say this just to point out that between gay children and non-believing children the scouts will be increasingly irrelevant as the years go by. It will be interesting to see what happens as the prospective pool of qualifying children decreases.
cecdkc September 25, 2012 at 03:22 PM
It is very disappointing that the Boy Scouts of America is less accepting of all families than the Girl Scouts. I hated saying "no thanks" to the boys selling popcorn outside the grocery store the other day, but I won't support an organization that discriminates. If enough participating families organize and speak out publicly against this policy, then perhaps BSA will have to reconsider the perceived benefit of that policy.


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