Sometimes an event happens that clarifies a difficult, murky situation. Such an event happened today. I got an email. That in itself is not unusual. This email came from our local Boy Scouts council leadership. That is a little unusual, but not terribly. But when I received this particular email, I swear I could actually hear that other shoe hitting the floor.
My last blog post was about BSA's national anti-gay policy. That post focused on the meaning of leadership. How can BSA profess to teach young men to become effective leaders when they're saying that roughly one in every ten boys (or one in every twenty-five, depending on which experts you believe) need to be excluded?
I think BSA's policy is morally wrong, ethically wrong, and also wrong-headed. It's ass backwards from a leadership perspective, from an American perspective, and from a management perspective. Why are gays excluded? Gay does not equal pedophile. Gay equals gay. Pedophile equals pedophile. BSA's history is littered with documented cases of covered-up child molestation. The anti-gay policy didn't do any good then in protecting the boys. Only in the past few years has BSA put in place strong policies to protect boys from predators, including background checks, biannual youth protection training, no solitary one-on-one contact, etc. Had those policies been in place, policies that protect against pedophiles, then maybe that abuse could have been prevented.
But that's not my point. My point is the email I got today. You may have read about that boy in a town nearby who is a shining example of all things Boy Scouts. Oh, wait, sorry. There's this one thing. He's openly gay. And for that, he was denied his Eagle rank, for which he accomplished all the requirements. The Scoutmaster of his troop refused to sign off on the boy's excellent Eagle project. And now, in this email I've received, the Council stands behind the Scoutmaster's decision.
I've heard this argument made before. We were just following orders. People might disagree about the policy, but there's nothing we can do. Our hands our tied. It was a "good faith" effort. (Which is an odd use of the phrase here since faith (in the religious sense) is typically correlated with gay discrimination (see: reasons Prop 8 passed).)
Anyway, this email hit my inbox hard. I'd imagined the policy to be a result of BSA being headquartered in Texas. Everyone in California knows that Texas is a wacko tea party Bible Belt kind of place, right? That could never actually happen in the Bay Area. (Ooh! Ironic prejudice alert!)
Well, it did. It happened here. In my own council. And they aren't standing up for the scout. They're backing the adult leader. Which is what has happened for decades. Too bad for the 17 year old boy who did everything right and trusted the adults around him. Too bad they are kicking him to the curb. But the adults, they made a good faith effort, you know?
No more for me. I cannot wear the uniform any longer. I cannot hold an official position in the BSA organization, no matter how puny and insignificant my role as Assistant Scoutmaster of a troop of 35 boys is. When a boy as courageous and upstanding and model as that boy is (according to what I've read... I do not know the family personally) is crushed just for being who he is, it's wrong. As an organization, we should be celebrating his leadership and accomplishments. As a society, we should be congratulating him for overcoming the bullying he's experienced.
In Michigan, an unpopular girl is made fun of by her peers, and she gets a huge rally of support from her community. This boy accomplishes all he has done, and the adults around him tsk-tsk and suppress him further, rallying around the poor Scoutmaster who was put "in a difficult position."
It's all so backwards and wrong. It makes me really sad. Shame on you, BSA. Shame on you, Mount Diablo Silverado Council. I know you will grow up and change one day. But today? Today's a bad day.