Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Inclusive Scouting Needs More Help

It's May!  Later this month, the  Boy Scouts of America will have a national meeting in which a proposed membership policy will be put to a vote.  Following the feedback received during the Voice of the Scout survey, the proposed change has been changed.

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. 
I am disappointed that the new revision doesn't allow for homosexual leaders.  But I am grateful that it permits homosexual youth.  When looking over the results of the Voice of the Scout survey, there really wasn't much option for what to do.  Let's take a look at some of the results1

No support for middle of the road policy
I've previously expressed support for the earlier policy proposal that would allow chartered organizations to made their own decisions about membership policies.  This would allow every organization to include members consistent with the beliefs of that organization.  Unfortunately, "Parents, teens, and the Scouting community do not favor a local chartered organization option."  I was pretty disappointed in this finding.  It appears that no one on either side of the issue understands the idea of compromise.  I would also wager that very few are interested in considering the cognitive dissonance associated with revising the membership policy to people in conservative religions.  Clearly, there needs to be more discussion between parties and less villification.

The majority of youth favor a change in policy
The youth don't care if homosexuals are included in scouting.  More impressively, they do think the current membership policy is "does not represent a core value of Scouting."

Feelings are more evenly split among adults
Forty-five percent of parents oppose the current policy, while only forty-two percent support it.  Opposition to exclusion has been growing over the past three years and is expected to continue to do so.

Organizations don't believe youth should be excluded, but don't want leaders
The clear result was that almost everyone thinks it is unacceptable to deny a scout their Eagle Scout award based on sexual orientation.  The chartered organizations also reported "A change in the membership policy specific to youth only would be consistent with the religious beliefs of the BSA's major chartered organizations."

The BSA's only choice right now is the proposal described above
I know that some will say that isn't true.  Some will say that if the BSA wanted to take a stand for what is right, they would either stand firm on the current policy or change it (depending on what you think is right).  But let's be realistic for a moment.  Through this survey, the BSA estimated that a complete change of membership policy to full inclusion would result in a loss of between 100,000 and 300,000 youth.  That may not seem like a lot compared to the 3,516,817 youth the BSA claims to serve, but keep in mind that even in an active troop such as mine, we have nearly twice as many boys on our roster as actually attend (we tend to retain some of them in hopes that we can make it easier for them to come back).  To put it into perspective, the National Jamboree this year--which is expected to be a huge event--only anticipates 40,000 participants and volunteers.  So changing the membership policy could result in an exodus of youth equal to 7.5 times the size of the National Jamboree.

On the other hand, the BSA estimates a gain of 10,000 to 20,000 youth if it changes its policy.

Say what you want about doing the right thing, but there's very little value in doing the right thing if it is going to leave the organization crippled or dead.2

What will it take to get this policy changed?
It's really quite simple.  We need more people to commit to enrolling their sons and daughters into scouting programs the very second this policy changes.  We need more people to commit to donate to scouting the very second this policy changes.  The side that favors excluding homosexual leaders has made their willingness to walk away clear.  If the side that favors inclusion can't convince the BSA that they will make up the difference, then this policy will continue to stand.

So here is my commitment.  My contributions to scouting won't change from the levels I've given historically for now.  But as soon as the BSA changes it's membership policy to at least allow chartering organizations to decide whether to include homosexual youth and leaders, I will double my contributions.  Depending on my financial situation, I may even give more.

Until then, the BSA only gets from me what it's already getting.

1 If anyone knows where to find a summary that includes detailed information, I'd appreciate it. I hate that there is no detail in the linked summary.
2 This might be a low ball estimate since surveys weren't sent to many people who were on the outside of scouting.

1 comment:

  1. We wrote the BSA and told them our kids will only go into scouting if it adopts the more inclusive policy. That may not mean a lot since we don't have kids yet but I really do mean it.