• Boy Scouts of America

     

    We were a scouting family. Our son, Peder, began his journey as a Tiger Cub, graduating to Cub Scouts, and eventually joining Boy Scouts. I’ll be honest, it was an overall good experience.

    His pack was small, the leaders were skilled and well trained, we always felt as though they had each child’s best interest at heart. Without these awesome leaders, I’m sure Peder wouldn’t have made it to the rank of Eagle Scout, which has opened many doors for him in his professional career.

    So, it was with great perplexity and disappointment when I heard the Boy Scouts face big payouts over sex abuse files.

    The Boy Scouts of America face signficant legal exposure over sexual abuse claims, expert said.

    The Scouts this week released  1,200 confidential files on suspected sexual abuse from past decades.

    In fact, you can track the allegations (1200 of them so far) here.

    If you happen to not believe in any gods, you may have trouble in today’s BSA:

    he biggest exception to this shift away from bigotry and towards equal treatment has been the Boy Scouts of America. Although the Boy Scouts’ discrimination against gays appears to be most widely known, they discriminate against atheists on basically the same basis. According to the Boy Scouts, atheists cannot be morally straight or the best kinds of citizens; therefore, they have no place in the organization either as scouts or as adult leaders. People who admit to being atheists are kicked out regardless of their past accomplishments — in other words, the amount of good a person has done either in their lives or in the Boy Scouts is less important than simply not believing in any gods.

    Then we have this:

    In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America, as a private membership-based organization, had the right to discriminate against gay people by expelling them or barring them from joining. Since then, the BSA has been enforcing that policy with gusto, expelling gay and lesbian scouts and scout leaders all over the country. (They’re equally prejudiced against atheists, as atheist Eagle Scout Darrell Lambert found out when he too was kicked out as punishment for being honest about his nonbelief.)

    It got worse after that. BSA still doesn’t want gay children in their ranks.

    After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays, ruling out any changes despite relentless protest campaigns by some critics.

    An 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts,” the organization’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press.

    This all seems so incongruent with my experiences with scouting on a local level. After all, the BSA says:

    The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

    For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

    I’ll close with the Penn and Teller Boy Scout episode. Very sad indeed. I hope the BSA gets its act together.

    Finally, a young man named Ryan has been a scout since he was six years old. Today he’s earned his Eagle. BSA is denying him his hard-worked honor because he’s gay.

    Ryan joined the Boy Scouts when he was just six years old, and since then, he’s dreamed of earning his Eagle award — the highest rank in the Boy Scouts.

    Ryan is now a senior in high school, and just completed the final requirements to earn his Eagle Award. He’s an honor student with great SAT scores, who’s hoping to attend the University of San Francisco. But because he recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from our local Boy Scout troop say they won’t approve his Eagle award.

    A Boy Scout gets his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project. So Ryan decided to build a “Tolerance Wall” for his school, to show bully victims — like Ryan — that they are not alone. Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.

    You can help Ryan by joining nearly 500k supporters signing a petition asking he receive his award. Here’s the link.

    Want more info about this subject? All these blogs are writing about this important topic today:

    Category: My Opinion

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    Article by: Beth Erickson

    I'm Beth Ann Erickson, a freelance writer, publisher, and skeptic. I live in Central Minnesota with my husband, son, and two rescue pups. Life is flippin' good. :)

    4 comments

    1. I’m glad you and your son had a good time in Scouting, learned a lot, and grew as a family.

      I’m sorry that along the way Scouting didn’t teach you how to read news media reports with an enlightened skepticism, mindful of the agenda of the (usually well-monied) individuals that own the outlet. Hopefully your son learned that lesson as an Eagle, and could tell you that the L.A. Times piece was an irresponsible hatchet job. That in fact, the incidence of pedophilia in the BSA is arguably lower than in public schools, youth sports programs, churches, and hobbyist organizations. Certainly much lower than in families. Yet alone of all of those groups, the BSA tried to maintain records so as to limit the damage in cases where someone was accused, but where the local prosecutor could not obtain a conviction or the family of the boy chose not to cooperate with the police.

      They were not perfect. It was hard in the days before computers to determine out of 10 million volunteers whether Bill Smith in Kentucky was the same Bill Smith who was removed for impropriety in west Texas. Local BSA offices sometimes didn’t follow national policies in the same way that your local school district sometimes doesn’t follow state policies. Does that mean that your state was out to hurt kids?

      Even now, I’ll bet that the soccer program your son’s children sign up for will not have anywhere near the level of protection and alertness that the Boy Scouts has.

      You might disagree with them philosophically for taking a traditional Jewish/Christian/Islamic/native peoples view on some ethical issues. That should be a respectful, thoughtful, discussion. This unthinking, unresearched diatribe really is a disappointment to anyone ascribing to a rationalist position.

      1. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your thoughts. Like I said, our experiences with scouting was good. I know that to become a pack leader in Minnesota, you have to pass a background check so hopefully that will curtail future abuse charges. However, it’s too bad they would deny a potential Eagle to a young man simply because he’s gay. Sadly, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

        I suggest you click some of the links at the end of the article. They’ll take you to other blogs covering this subject. You may find some other interesting diatribes. 🙂

        1. Sadly, background checks are far from proof against abuse. Working in schools the reality is that the average pedophile in any youth service work has over a hundred victims before there is enough evidence to convict him or her of something that would flag in a background check. Whether it’s the most common form of abuse (by relatives) or the rarer abuse by others, the real protection for kids is to have many good friends and caring adults in their lives so that it is not possible for a predator to isolate them.

          In the case you mention, the BSA did not deny a potential Eagle to a young man because he was gay. The actual reason was that he told the board reviewing him that he could not honestly subscribe to the Scout Oath “duty to God”, one of the tenets of Scout Spirit required for Eagle. That was very brave and honest of the young man.

          The BSA’s position with respect to youth who are gay is far more nuanced, and is different than their position on gays in adult leader roles.

          1. Good to know. Thanks for your comments. If the BSA is anything like my son’s former troop, I know they’ll work through this issues. 🙂

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