A conversation about discriminatory practices in the Boy Scouts of America, and how the national policy might (or might not) be implemented locally.

  • I just wanted people to be aware that BSA has coed programs. BSA takes a lot of flak in this town, and most of it from people who haven't taken the time to understand BSA's positions and policies. They just regurgiate whatever they hear in the media. I saw your comment that seemed to imply that scouting is not "inclusive," which I believe to be false. Camp Fire group is also a good program, and I think it would serve the community well to have more options. —DavidGrundler
    • mr. Grundler, though the wonderfully open minded town of Davis might in fact be "inclusive", BSA itself is most certainly not, as my husband I can most thoroughly attest. Please promote BSA on its merits (of which it has many), and don't try to whitewash its policies, thank you.—Davidlm
      • I would be more than happy to sit down with you or anyone else in this town and discuss the policies of the BSA on both a national and local level. I do not know anything about your husband or his experiences. I do know how the local units, Yolo District, and Golden Empire Council are run. Much of what has been said locally regarding scouting is unfair and untrue. Now, I am not naive to the point where I don't recognize that scouting still has quite a way to go until they fit nicely within the values of some in this community. I'm not whitewashing any policies, and I do believe this to be a discussion that is best suited for a meeting over coffee than through the pages of the wiki. —DavidGrundler
        • Just to be clear, though — the local units do follow the national policy of not allowing gay scouts (unless the vote three weeks from now changes that policy) and of not allowing gay men to serve as troop leaders? —CovertProfessor
          • I cannot speak on behalf of each unit. Each unit is chartered by a different organization, and has different values. I can say that the way I interpret the current policy (and I believe others within my units feel the same) is as such: discussions of sexuality (gay, straight, bisexual, etc…) have no place in Scouting and that the Boy Scouts of America has no opinion (supporting or disapproving of) same sex relationships. If a scout puts on the uniform and advocates or opens a discussion on sexuality (of any kind), then that scout is not welcome. Likewise, if a scout puts on a uniform and wants to discuss heterosexuality, then they would be equally unwelcome. If a scout happens to be gay (youth or leader), and does not bring it into the discussion, then there would be no reason to prevent them from being a part of the unit. Heck, I could use more parent volunteers. —DavidGrundler
            • In other words, "Don't ask, don't tell." —cp
              • Similar but different. The differencing being, if it is known that someone is gay, they would still be welcome. —DavidGrundler

"“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.” http://www.bsalegal.org/news-releases.asp Seems pretty clear to me. Seems like it doesn't allow for a scout who "happens to be gay" if that scout's gayness happens to become public. Seems to me you're misrepresenting the official position of the Boy Scouts of America. And they also discriminate against atheists (http://web.archive.org/web/20080509074048/http://www.bsalegal.org/duty-to-god-cases-224.asp). I'm not 'regurgitating' anything except the official written position of the Boy Scouts of America, which explicitly denies membership to gay scouts and gay leaders. —DonShor

There is a difference between local reality and official stance. The official stance of the Catholic Church from the Administrative Committee of Bishops is that "the church clearly teaches the dignity of homosexual persons" and condemns "all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse." So there is no religious persecution of gays by any Catholics... according to the official stated position. I don't see it as impossible that the local Council, District or troops are run counter to the official BSA written position. Heck, I really really hope that they are. That's a good thing. If it is true. I am not at all saying that it is true; I am merely saying that the official stance does not necessarily reflect the local reality. The fact that there's a vote being called on the issue would seem to clearly indicate there's a movement within Scouts that is very serious, organized, and does not support the current official stance. Given that split, is it shocking that the local Council would tend to stand on the side of non-discrimination? —jw

But what is the local reality? We've been told, "If a scout puts on the uniform and advocates or opens a discussion on sexuality (of any kind), then that scout is not welcome. Likewise, if a scout puts on a uniform and wants to discuss heterosexuality, then they would be equally unwelcome." So, if a scout talks about a pretty girl he met, he is not welcome? If he talks about his mother and father, he is not welcome? I highly doubt it. But what about a scout who talks about a cute guy he met or his two dads (or two moms)? I suspect that the heterosexual and homosexual cases are not, in fact, treated equally, though I would be pleased to hear that they were. —cp I have no idea, I'm just advocating for listening to our scouts and leaders describe their actual experiences locally, rather than only citing news releases from Texas. I'd be boggled if the treatment was actually equal: sadly, that's not the case even in youth groups that don't have official discriminatory policies. Or adult groups, for that matter. -jw It is certainly true that having non-discriminatory policies does not guarantee non-discrimination. It would be an unusual boys' group where a boy felt comfortable discussing his homosexuality or a cute boy he'd met. Still, joining or affiliating with the BSA means associating w/a group that officially discriminates against you or those you love. I just can't see doing that, no matter how good the local is. Those who are in the local have decided they can live with that affiliation. —cp

It would be unfortunate if a gay youth were to read this and think 'cool, it's ok for me to join scouts in Davis' when, in fact, that would contravene explicit Boy Scout policy. It would be unfortunate if the child of a gay couple were to read this and think 'cool, I can join scouts, maybe my dad wants to get involved as a volunteer' (since Mr. Grundler has said 'heck, I could use more parent volunteers') — since that would directly contravene explicit Boy Scout policy. So David Grundler is implying that Davis scouts ignore or flout national policy. But we have no evidence that is the case, nor would it be reasonable to assume gay scouts or volunteers would be welcome in local troops. —DS

Do you have evidence that local units are discriminatory? —DG

You seem to be missing my point. The Boy Scouts of America is an organization that explicitly, specifically discriminates against particular individuals: gay youth and gay parent volunteers, and atheists and agnostics. They do so in their written policies, which they have repeatedly affirmed and have defended in court. They have reviewed those policies and, to date, chosen to retain them. Any youth or adult leader who joins locally or anywhere can be subject to this policy. I have no idea if the local troops turn a blind eye to it, flout it, or actively oppose it. But you tell me: what would happen if a gay parent became a volunteer, and then another parent had a problem with that? —DS (by the way, I'd be happy to see this whole discussion taken to a separate, linked page — I think scouting can be a great program for some boys, and these issues aren't central to the page IMO).

Heh good example, JW. From yesterday's news: Church ousts Brazilian priest over liberal views: The Catholic Church has excommunicated a Brazilian priest after he defended homosexuality, open marriage and other practices counter to church teaching in online videos. The rare punishment follows what Father Roberto Francisco Daniel’s bishop and the priest himself said were repeated rebukes about his public challenges of church doctrine. (link) —TomGarberson

All I can offer is my opinion about the way things are run locally. Surely one can see that there may be differences in the way a unit chartered by a fundamentalist christian church perceives policy as opposed to a unit chartered by a service organization, such as rotary. The policy uses the terms "open or avowed." From my knowledge, local units basically read that to mean activists that would detract from scouting's mission. Whether people here choose to believe I am speaking the truth, or that I am just making crap up, I have no control over. Obviously people have strong opinions which are unlikely to change based on what is on these pages. CP, you took what I said to an extreme. I seriously doubt a scout would be dismissed over talking about his girlfriend or his boyfriend to his friends. I may be wrong. As far as I am aware, no scout has been dismissed in Yolo District for being gay. -DG

With regard to discrimination against atheists, that is true. Scouting has three primary tenets which all scouts must live by: Duty to Self, Duty to Others, and Duty to God and Country. To be a member of a scouting unit, one must commit to these tenets. Scouting doesn't care in what manner that you perform your "Duty to God," only that you agree to perform your Duty to God in the manner in which you feel comfortable. Atheists, by nature, do not believe in a higher power, and therefore cannot do their Duty to God. Subsequently, they are free to explore other programs outside of scouting. -DG

  • David I appreciate your openness and politeness in discussing local scouting policies but I'm also linguistically intrigued by your usage of the word "god". How do the scouts define god? Does it have to be an all powereful-sorcerer like being or are Aristotelian views on god also acceptable? I'm really not trying to be a smart ass here I just recently had a very thought provoking discussion on the subject that made me question whether I'm an atheist or not (the outcome was that it depends on how you define god, which it turned out was very difficult word for anyone involved to do). Best and thanks again for your contributions. - mikeycrews
    • Mikey, BSA doesn't define God per se, but leaves it up to each scout to define as he or she sees fit. Basically, they require one to have a spiritual component. There are Catholic Scouts, Jewish Scouts, Buddhist Scouts, Hindu Scouts, Muslim Scouts, etc. In recent years, there has been an increase of scouts practicing pantheistic faiths, such as nature itself is divine. It really includes everyone except those who say there is nothing else beyond my physical being. -DG
  • That's great. The similarities between peoples' definitions of nature and god were actually what I was referencing so I'm surprised and delighted you brought that up. It sounds to me like the BSA excludes nihilists instead of atheists, but that is just quibbling over semantics. Thanks again for being courteous as all too often disagreements and misunderstandings are interpreted as attacks. - mikey

2013-05-01 23:01:27   What I meant by inclusive: Camp Fire seems to reach out to autistic kids (though my son is not, we have friends who are). Plus, we are nonbelievers, and Camp Fire doesn't have a religious requirement. —NoelBruening

2013-05-02 09:26:35   I didn't want this to turn into a pile on debate, but bottom line: BSA is not an " inclusive" organization any way you masage it. You can't just act as if the written policies don't exist. —Davidlm

  • I don't think anybody is saying the written policies don't exist. The only question is how do the local groups interpret and act on the official line. As Don points out, "David Grundler is implying that Davis scouts ignore or flout national policy", which is pretty noteworthy (and hopeful) in my view. Ignoring people trying to do the right thing is as bad as ignoring the national written policies. It is the same as omitting Gavin Newsom's support of gay marriage because the state laws overruled him. I just don't see the purpose in ignoring efforts to change the system. By that metric, everybody in California lobbying for gay marriage or living as if they were married should be utterly ignored because the official stance of the state they are citizens of is anti-gay marriage. Discounting people in a group who are ignoring or actively voting against a policy seems very disingenuous. David: are you against gay marriage? Your official state laws are against it, and you are part of that group. It sucks. But let's be realistic about the fact that not all members of a group support an official, written policy. Just like there are people working against that policy at the California state level, there are people actively working against the policy withing Scouting (they just brought it to vote!). Acknowledging them seems like a really good idea, especially if you support their efforts. -jw (And one more time: I am ignorant as to if that is going on here. All I am advocating is that this entry should include those real world details and perspectives from people who are active locally in Scouting at the current time, whatever it actually is like.)
    • My being for or against gay marriage is completely irrelivant to the topic of is California an "inclusive" state when it comes to marriage equality, because at the moment it is not no matter how you measure it. In that vane, I'm perfectly comfortable saying the local troops are inclusive (assuming you can show me proof they are) because the discussion is is BSA inclusive, which they are most assuredly not. I don't see how it can be any clearer.-DM
      • Okay, yep. I agree with that. It had sounded like you and Don were dismissing the possibility of local variance from the national position and saying that any such claims should be removed. I'm fully in support of acknowledging the BSA official stance (and very much not in support *of* that stance). -jw
    • I don't think the choice to live in a particular state (to the extent that it is a choice, which varies) can be compared with the choice to affiliate oneself with a social group. I agree that we should recognize "fellow travelers" who are fighting the same good fight that we are. So, I would be very pleased to hear, for example, that our local groups officially came out in favor of the upcoming vote, perhaps with a letter to the editor. (Even with the imperfection of the upcoming vote, which still excludes gay leaders). Without an official statement from the local groups, it's all a little too unclear. I mean, we can include the statements of individuals on these issues, but I would be hesitant to state as fact that local scout troops welcome (accept? tolerate?) gay scouts and leaders unless something a little more official were to come out. So to speak. —cp
      • I agree with pretty much all of that. I don't, however, think that first graders in Cub Scouts are choosing to affiliate themselves with an organization with any kind of understanding of the social ramifications. Even 11 year olds entering Boy Scouts may well not understand the statement of their affiliation. There is an "to the extent that it is a choice" involved in Scouting, as many members only become fully aware of the scope of the issues after they have been members for years and formed their teenage identity there. Their parents might have a choice, but I'm very hesitant to say that the actual kids had a choice. And I think it is reasonable for them to grow up, enter their teens, comprehend the issues involved, and say, "Hey! No! This is not what I support in my organization." It was "theirs" before they could choose. -jw
        • Fair enough — the kids might not even be aware of the policy. But the leaders sure are, and without leaders, you'd have no scouts. And I wouldn't rule out kids of 10-11ish making autonomous decisions. I left scouting around that age because I objected to the local troop's policies (although it was not this particular policy). —cp

This video suggests that "Don't ask, don't tell" is not a special Davis scout policy, but rather the general scouting policy. I also thought the point that this policy asks scouts to violate their vow to be "trustworthy" was well taken. —CovertProfessor

The BSA membership policy resolution passed. Baby steps, baby steps... —DavidGrundler


Agreed. Good news! — JT

Effective the first of January 2014. From the NYT: "More than 1,400 volunteer leaders from across the country voted, with more than 60 percent approving a measure that said no youth may be denied membership 'on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.'"