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An Open Letter to Boy Scouts of America

Image courtesy of
Boy Scouts of America 
My son is 10 years old. My father was Boy Scout and service leader as a young man and my grandfather was an Eagle Scout.

When I was a child, being a wheelchair user, I was excluded from scouting. At that time most of the world wasn't very accessible and my local scout troop encouraged my parents to keep me away.

Scouting was a big part of childhood when I was growing up, and I felt slighted and excluded.

Scouting is less prominent, but more important today than ever.

Unfortunately, I chose to keep my son out of scouting for only one reason. I'm appalled that Boy Scouts of America does not allow fathers who are gay to participate.

It makes it clear to young men that being gay is not acceptable to the Boy Scouts, and it discourages kids from scouting even if they aren't sure about their own sexuality.

This exclusionary attitude should have died decades ago, and I'm glad to see that Boy Scouts are feeling pressure, albeit too late, to change policy.

Groups that exclude anyone would not be an acceptable group to get my support. Your treatment of gay men, and ultimately of children by extension, was the single reason why I've chosen not to continue the legacy of scouting in my family.

I'm not gay. I'm married with two young children. I'm a Christian, but don't let my faith disrupt the lives of other people. I recognize that not everyone supports homosexual people, but that in no way implies that we have the right to impinge on their freedoms or opportunities.

Boy Scouts should be open to all boys and young men equally. Scout leadership should be open to all fathers and men of integrity, regardless of sexuality.

I'm glad you are considering a change.

Unfortunately, I won't be encouraging my son to join scouts anytime soon. As a matter of fact, when he asked me about scouting, I used BSA as a lesson. I told my son, point blank, that scouts aren't friendly to gay men or their families and I thought that was wrong.

Scouting taught my son an important lesson. BSA taught my son how not to act. BSA taught my son to reject bigotry, rather than endorse it.

I hope you do the right thing. I wish you had done it 25 years ago. I wish you had more programming for wheelchair users and better outreach for minority children.

The tradition of scouting was important to the development of America in the 40's and 50's. It still would be had they stayed in touch with the values of today's families rather than being stuck in the value system of the 50's.

The 50's emphasized work ethic. It emphasized family. It emphasized community. We need those things today.

The 50's also endorsed segregation and bigotry. Americans abolished them, and BSA should have as well.

Please don't fall trap to "Christian values". Real Christians love others in spite of whether we agree or disagree with their decisions or actions. Christ was the best example of this in world history. So called "Christian values" today often mask bigotry and Christ would be ashamed.

Sincerely,

Jason Tweed
Son of Boy Scout, Stephen Tweed
Grandson of Eagle Scout, Glen Tweed
Father of Jason

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Today I send this email to nationalsupportcenter@scouting.org.  I'll publish their response if any.

I don't expect all my readers to agree.  Feel free to comment but please offer opinions and support your point of view.  Hateful remarks toward any individual or group will be removed.  Express agreement or disagreement with dignity.

Comments

  1. Anonymous1:10:00 AM

    So proud of my old friend to voice a passionate and tolerant point of view. I couldn't agree more.
    Dan Sandstedt

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous1:33:00 AM

    I agree with absolutely everything that you've said and I hope your letter has some impact. I'm not disabled or gay but I would be happy for my children to join a group with scouts and/or leaders that are.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sandra Petsch, Den Leader, BSA10:04:00 AM

    The BSA is a very big part of my family and has been for the past 10 years. My eldest boy is an Eagle Scout, a trained counselor for Boy Scout and Cub Scout Camp. My 12 year old boy just worked very hard and earned his rank as 2nd Class Scout last night. He has also earned the Arrow of Light from the Cub Scouts. The Arrow of Light is the highest award that can be given to a Cub Scout equivalent to the Eagle in Boy Scouts. My 8 year old boy is currently a Wolf Cub Scout and looks forward to following in his brothers footsteps. I personally have been a Certified Trained Cub Scout Leader for going on 7 years. We go to trainings. We go to events. We go to Camp. We do fund raisers. My eldest boy took a 22 day trip across country to the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico when he was I believe 16 years old. In all of these years and experiences that I have personally had with the BSA I have never once been asked what my sexuality is nor have I ever been asked to ask any one what their sexual preferences are. I have also taken boys to camp that were disabled and given them experiences that they never would have had without scouting.
    I am not in anyway shape or form saying that being gay is right or wrong. I have several gay friends and we all get along great. I am a big believer in to each his own. It really does bother me though when someone uses excuses for why they can't participate.
    As for the "50's values" that you mention... seriously? I completely agree that our society is lacking in work ethic, family, and community.... all three focused heavily on in scouting, by the way, but segregation and bigotry?? Do you honestly believe that segregation and bigotry have been "abolished by Americans"? I think you get my point.
    Allow me to end my little rant with the Cub Scout Promise (each boy and parent learn this in my pack and can state it loud and proud) I promise to do my best. To do my duty to God and my Country. To help other people and to obey the Law of the Pack. The Boy Scout Oath states: On my honor I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. The Scout Law states: A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
    To the best of my knowledge these have been the backbone of Scouting for over 100 years... I don't see anything in there saying anything about sexuality or disability.
    We are all entitled to our own opinion on every subject. We have all heard yours and now you have heard mine. If young Jason wants to join Cub Scouts send him right up to me. I will register him in my pack and take him to camp in July. He will love every minute of it and not once will he be asked to identify his sexual preference. I work hard for all of my boys (as in cubs and my own children) to learn good values and have fun.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sandra,

    Thanks for your comment. Let me clarify a few things.

    First, you're right. Segregation and bigotry are certainly not gone from America. However, they are less acceptable. In the 50's segregation based on race was acceptable. That was true for people with disabilities as late as the 80's.

    I know that Boy Scouts do a lot to welcome disabled children now, but that wasn't the case when I was in school in 1976. At that time, I vividly remember a Cub Scout Leader discouraging my mom from signing me up, right in front of me. Certainly this was an individual, not BSA as a whole, but that experience gave me first hand knowledge of how it felt to be excluded.

    Boy Scouts of America, as an organization, officially banned openly gay men as scout leaders. Fear and insecurity led to that decision rather than facts.

    While only gay adult men were specifically excluded, it also created an unofficial exclusion of families with gay parents, gay teens, and others.

    BSA wanted to prevent fear based on the stereotype that gay men are a danger to young boys. BSA endorsed this irrational fear held by some parents.

    In fairness, there have been instances of abuse. However, excluding openly gay men is not an answer.

    Pedophiles aren't in the open. Cases of abuse need to be handled quickly and with the full might of law enforcement. Anyone who abuses children deserves far more punishment than the legal system permits in my mind.

    However, gay men are not pedophiles. They are fathers. They are business leaders. They are members of the community and soldiers in our armed forces.

    Today, after pressure, BSA has basically passed the buck down to local troops. Rather than backtracking and creating policies specific to permit all men equal leadership opportunities, they stated that local troops would make decisions on a case by case basis. Unfortunately, this path is just as dangerous, because it permits continued exclusion while avoiding responsibility.

    The value system in the Boy Scout Oath is strong, important and necessary. However the national organization needs to examine that oath and make decisions to practice what they preach.

    The vast majority of Scout Leaders, from Cub Scouts on up, are high integrity parental figures that instill quality in young men. I admire you personally, Sandra, for dedicating your time to help shape the lives of boys in your pack.

    My problem is not with scouts, or any of the parents who choose scouting for their child.

    My issue is simply with the organization that at one time had distinct policies to exclude people, and in my mind, have not done enough to reverse those mistakes.

    BSA is a good organization that made a bad decision. They are starting to realize that. Unfortunately, they need to take a stronger stance than they are currently. They need to become the champions of integrity, family and community... all families and the entire community.

    My goal isn't to abuse BSA publicly. My goal is to encourage them to become the organization they once were.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I received a phone call last night from a friend who commented that BSA is within its legal rights to exclude based on the organization values.

    That person is correct. If a church group wants to ban another group of people based on an interpretation of faith, I accept that. Obviously the KKK doesn't encourage black people to stop by on orientation night. Any private organization is perfectly allowed to exclude others.

    However, my son and I won't participate in any groups that are exclusionary. Today BSA is still an exclusionary group. It is improving, and I think the value they contribute to society is important. That's why I've chosen to write to them. I'd like to be part of this group, but until they make clear efforts top down to be fully inclusive, I can't in good conscious support them.

    I'm certainly not comparing BSA to the KKK. Groups like the KKK offer no value to society whatsoever and their intentions are evil. I'm not writing them an open letter, simply because they are a waste of time and energy.

    ReplyDelete

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