What is the Future of Scouting?
In the Scouting discussion groups on the Internet there have been very lengthy discussions regarding the future of Scouting in the USA. I thought I would give you some background as there are surprisingly many Scout leaders that do not feel that there will be a strong and healthy program in 2010, the 100th anniversary in the United States.
You can do a search on the Internet and you will be amazed at the hundreds of documents and opinions regarding the "3G" issues: gays, girls and godless in Scouting. As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America lost a major decision regarding the exclusion of a gay Eagle Scout in New Jersey. The California Supreme Court is set to rule within days regarding the Randall and Curran cases. Then there is the "Scouting for All" phenomena in Petaluma, California that has made it to national television and has been editorialized in dozens of newspapers across the country.
A Current Synopsis
Here is a synopsis of several Scout situations for you:
Steve Cozza is a 13-year-old Life Scout in a Petaluma Scout troop. He has collected about 4,000 signatures, including about 400 from his schoolmates, protesting the exclusion of gays from Scouting as Scouts or leaders. The New York Police Department Action League is bringing him to New York to present him with a "Courage Award." There was at least a two hour-long discussions about him on Sacramento talk radio, several editorials supporting him from Santa Rosa, California to Dallas, Texas and in New York City. He has had an interview for a potential 60 Minutes program.
On March 11 the City of Berkeley is holding a hearing about Sea Scout use of the marina there. The mood is to continue a demand that a letter from the Boy Scouts of America to pledge non-discrimination if the long-term base is to be continued.
The City of Chicago, Human Rights Commission has banned Scouting from all city departments and from city facilities. The same action has been taken by other cities, such as San Diego.
The New Jersey courts have demanded that Scouting stop excluding gays because there is no evidence that a gay Scout leader is detrimental to the program of Scouting.
The Randall Twins, William and Michael took the Boy Scouts of America to court again in Orange County. The court demanded that the Boy Scouts of America schedule their Eagle Board of Review by March 15 or be held in contempt. The Randall case, as you recall, started years ago in a Cub Scout pack. Their den mother told them they could not be cub Scouts because they did not have a belief in God?they were agnostics. The Boy Scouts of America backed the den mother. The Randalls have won two court cases and the Boy Scouts of America keeps appealing. The twins are members of a troop chartered by a Tustin Presbyterian Church. The other Scouts want them there, the troop leaders want them there and they have even been elected to the Order of the Arrow.
Editorial note: As a reminder, Scout leaders are not to intervene in religious beliefs of Scouts. The Scouts are to be referred to parents or religious leaders. The Scout Handbook clearly says: To do your duty to God you are to (1) follow the wisdom of the teachings of your family and religious leaders and (2) respect the beliefs of others, including those that have no beliefs. Scouting is non-sectarian and the Randall twins are clearly following their familys' belief system.
The Episcopal Church, the American Baptists, the Presbyterian USA denomination and others have spoken out against the Boy Scouts of America's stand. In fact the Episcopal bishop has requested all parishes to review their involvement with Scouting.
The Unitarian Universalist Church, which includes atheist members and has a Religious Award has alerted member churches about the Boy Scouts of America being at odds with their religious teachings.
The individuals (Dale and Curran) that had applications to be leaders declined in California and New Jersey were both Eagle Scouts and Scout Councils found out about their sexual orientation in articles published about individuals that were outstanding citizens and happened to be gay. The troops where they held membership had no objection to their participation.
There are four cases before the California Supreme Court. The four cases are called the 3 G's. Two will be decided in a few days. The Boy Scouts of America will either win and lose or lose and lose. Here's why.
The Boy Scouts of America could lose. In other words, the Boy Scouts of America will not be able to exclude anyone based on gender, sexual orientation or religious belief in California. Many groups that have strong opinions about inclusion of gays, as an example, have threatened to drop the the Boy Scouts of America program if that happens. Some parents may choose to withdraw children from Scouting.
In response, the Boy Scouts of America could drop its business involvement. That would include all Scout Shops, the Scout catalog, J. C. Penny sales, solicitation and promotion of magazines like Boys Life, rental and lease of Scout facilities such as Camp Pollock, Camp Pahatsi and Sea Scout bases. But to do so, would mean that many programs will be cut back or curtailed. In making this privatization response, however, the Boy Scouts of America would still be taking the heat from many groups and organizations that want the Boy Scouts of America to stop discriminating.
Then, on the other hand, the Boy Scouts of America could win in court. Some in Scouting would cheer and feel the battle was over. Unfortunately, however, George Davidson, the attorney for the Boy Scouts of America, is on record in court using words, such as "the Boy Scouts of America is a private religious organization." And there are already scheduled meetings of individuals that are ready to respond to a private religious organization having so many ties with our government and privileges handed out by state, federal and local government.
As a private religious organization, the Boy Scouts of America then cannot use public facilities, have government as a chartering organization, contract with government such as in the Learning for Life program, etc. There will be a fast flurry of suits against cities, schools, the US government and the military. The Boy Scouts of America would lose a substantial number of chartering partners. There will be no Scouting within the military overseas. You or I will not be able to meet at school facilities. We will not be able to recruit school children. Any partnership between police and sheriff departments for Explorer units will be gone.
There would also be continued pressure on United Way not to fund Scout projects. United Way, by the way, cannot support private or sectarian religious activities.
So, the Boy Scouts of America wins and loses big time.
What is the Solution?
Years ago, the Boy Scouts of America promoted Scouting and there were virtually no attacks on the Boy Scouts of America in the courts. Even in the activist 60's, the Boy Scouts of America did not face legal problems even with segregated Scout troops. Why? It was because the Boy Scouts of America was not in the mood to tell those institutions that sponsor Scout units who to include or who not to include. If a troop excluded an African-American kid, it was up to the unit and the sponsoring organization. The Boy Scouts of America did not have a policy. Scout troops became integrated as opinions changed on a local basis.
As you may have seen, Scout troops all across America have and do include atheist and gay individuals. Boys, parents and chartering organizations, welcome them as members and leaders. This has been true here in California in the case of the Randall twins, Tim Curran in the Mount Diablo Council and Chuck Merrano, the gay Explorer Police Post leader in San Diego. As far as girls go, my own daughter, at age 11, signed up four girls, had another six or eight kids interested, and had a church lined up as a chartering organization. She was ready to start a coed Scout troop.
Troop 75 in San Jose and some volunteer leaders in the San Francisco Council have spoken out against the Boy Scouts of America discrimination and vowed not to obey it.
It would help if the Boy Scouts of America, Inc. would, like Girl Scouts USA with the girls, give up on being the arbitrator of membership. If they would follow the words of the federal charter which demands that they serve "all" boys, there would be a new relationship with Scouting and the public. The individual troops would attract or detract individuals that generally would have a common set of values and common set of interests. If a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) troop or a United Methodist troop has a strong religious emphasis, it is doubtful that many atheists would be beating down the doors to join. On the other hand, they may be welcomed, as the church would have a "conversion" in mind.
If the atheist boy goes down the street he may find just what he wants at the Rotary troop or the Unitarian troop.
Gay Scouts (there isn't a record of one in a lawsuit) or gay leaders would find that they fit in with the other individuals in the troop or they may find that they do not have a lot in common. If not, they will tend to join troops that have a more liberal persuasion.
Girls, like in 146 out of 164 countries in Scouting, could participate in troops where there is a coed program and where there are female leaders or a family-oriented Scouting program.
What You Can Do
You have received this communication because I believe that you can assist Scouting by expressing your opinion on these issues. The Boy Scouts of America, headquartered in Texas, states that they are excluding the 3G's because individuals that are active in Scouting today want a program that excludes some individuals.
The Christian Science Monitor poll shows that more than 60% of all Americans disagree. A single Scout, Steve Cozza in Petaluma, has collected more than 4000 signatures of those that disagree. Radio talk shows have more that disagree than those that agree.
In more than 20 years in Scouting I have found Scouters of all types: conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, religious and irreligious. I agree with Steve Cozza that Scouting must be for all young people. I also strongly feel that we do not have to cut back, lose public support, shrink the program, exclude some individuals or battle in high profile court cases.
We only have to demand that local units, that belong to local clubs, schools, churches and government agencies, should have the right to determine their own membership and leadership. Scouting should belong to all. It belongs to conservatives and liberals. It is an organization that will help build character in young people of all religions, and of all political persuasions. It will help youth in religious organizations that acknowledge God in many ways or that do not even acknowledge God at all. It will help bring sanity to relationships, including how boys view girls and how girls view boys. It helps youth respect those of other political or religious viewpoints, including those, as The Scout Handbook says, without a belief.
Please let your volunteer leaders at the council, such as the Council President, know what you think. Do you agree or do you disagree? Write to the Boy Scouts of America in Texas and give them your opinion. I believe most Americans, including parents and Scout leaders, want a strong organization to develop strong character and leadership in kids while they have fun. Most want the battles to preserve the narrow views of some or the "politically correct" views of others to stop. We have a greater challenge to help youth. There are issues that need addressing. Those issues do not include gender bias, religion or sexual orientation. We need to join together on the three aims, and only the three aims of scouting:
? To build character
Will you also let me know in a reply to this urgent message how you agree or disagree with these ideas? We will be including a consensus opinion from thousands of Scouts and Scout leaders into one document, which will be relayed from council to council, and from troop to troop. When we have a consensus we can insist that the executive council demand compliance at the headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America. The national council exists to serve Scouts. "Scouts" include all scouts and every Scout, including those that do not agree with us politically or religiously.
The mail address is: Jere B. Ratcliffe, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, Texas 75038
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