Posts Tagged ‘Boy Scouts’

Minister to Scouts: Take a Hike

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

The Boy Scout brain trust looked fairly ridiculous last year when, faced with growing mockery about its refusal to admit gay kids, it announced a revised membership position. It still does. Gay boys? Finally, they could join.

But gay Scout leaders? Not a chance. Doesn’t matter if a gay man from the neighborhood actually knows how to build a cooking fire in the woods or can explain the differences between a bowline knot, a sheepshank, and a square knot, there would continue to be no place for him in scouting.

And now, at last, an organization that hosted a Scout troop in Seattle has told the Boy Scouts – as it is said – to take a hike. And with that, Troop 98 is history.

It seems that the national Scout organization took exception to the gay Geoffrey McGrath’s serving as a leader of Troop 98, which was based at the Rainier Beach (Wash.) United Methodist Church. The national office issued an ouster order to church officials: They could fire McGrath or they could be unceremoniously kicked out of the Scouting movement.

The church stuck with McGrath. The New York Times quoted the pastor, the Rev. Dr. Monica K. Corsaro, as saying, “We’re going to stand firm. Geoffrey attends our church and this is a way to support our youth in the neighborhood.”

She went on to describe the no-gay-leaders position as “a policy of discrimination.”

It is also a policy of dazzling hypocrisy.

When a boy joins the Scouts, he is required to memorize, understand and live by the 12 parts of the Scout Law, which declares that a Scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Each part of the law includes a brief elaboration. More on that in a moment.

When I was a member of Troop 393 in Queens many years ago, we were told that everyone connected with scouting had to know the Scout Law and live by it. But in chasing down Geoffrey McGrath the national leaders failed nine of the 12 parts of the Scout law. Here’s the law in some detail with a look at how national scout leaders fared in abiding by it in the matter of Troop 98.

Are national leaders trustworthy? “People can depend on Scouts,” the law says. And the obvious question: Can people depend on Scouting’s brass hats to allow local people to establish the rules of membership? What, after all, is it that national is afraid of?

Are the leaders loyal? The Scouts demand that a boy display his loyalty to, among others, “Scout leaders.” McGrath was a scout leader who was dissed out of the movement on dubious grounds by national leaders.   

Helpful? “A Scout is concerned about other people,” the law says.

Friendly? “A Scout is a friend to all,” Moreover, “he seeks to understand others,” and “he respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.”

Courteous? “A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position,” the law says.

Kind? “[A Scout] treats others as he wants to be treated.”

Obedient? I guess the leaders are obedient.

Cheerful? “He tries to make others happy,” the law says.

Thrifty? I guess the leaders are thrifty.

Brave? “A scout has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right.” (Compare the bravery of national scout officials with that of the Rev. Corsaro. In this, she defines bravery.)

Clean? I guess the leaders are clean.   

Reverent? “He respects the beliefs of others.”

Speaking of respecting the views of others, consider Corsaro’s response in an interview with the BBC: “I would really like them to honor their own bylaws to respect the religious beliefs of their chartering partners. Our religious beliefs include being accepting of all people.”

The Scouts Need to be Brave

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

The Boy Scout pledge requires its adherents to obey the Scout Law. The Scout Law dictates that they will be all of these: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

I tried, but one summer at Ten Mile River Scout Camp in Sullivan County I stood on the dock of Crystal Lake trying to work up the nerve to jump into water over my head. I couldn’t do it. I was a lousy swimmer and deep water terrified me. For this, I was unceremoniously booted out of a prestigious senior unit by staff and friends. It was one of the more humiliating moments of my boyhood. They said I was not brave.

I may have run afoul of the bravery law when I was 12 years old, but I did far better than the adults who control the scout show now. When it comes to the question of letting gay boys be Boy Scouts, they are not loyal, not helpful, not friendly, not kind, and, God knows, not brave. In fact, in continuing to refuse to allow gay boys to join and serve, and gay adults to lead, the Boy Scouts of America define gutlessness.

Not to mention a world view right out of the Dark Ages, one that rejects the idea that a gay kid could be interested in learning to tie a square knot, applying a bandage, going on a hike, earning a merit badge in environmental science or public speaking, and maybe becoming an Eagle Scout.

The Boy Scouts of America – chartered by the Congress that represents us all – have had 103 years to do something about their anti-gay bias but have spent the 20th century ignoring the matter. It is now the 21st century, and they can’t disregard it any longer.

Will the organization change? Or will it maintain its cruel justification for banning gay kids by referring critics to another part of the Scout Pledge, which requires a boy to swear he will be “morally straight.”

As if to suggest that sexual orientation is a moral issue, when it is no such thing.

And as if to suggest that regulations cannot be amended. Of course the scouts should maintain trustworthiness, cheerfulness and the other 10 laws, but should add such traits as generosity and fairness.

Recently, when word got out that the matter of gay members was under discussion at the executive levels of the organization, the Scouts punked out and announced that they need another three months to conclude discussions on their membership requirements. Three months more after 103 years. This is no demonstration of bravery or of friendliness. In fact it would be comical if the victims of the Scouts’ 10th century ignorance were not children.

Surely the Boy Scouts of America understand that no matter how they decide, they will be attacked. End the ban and they alienate people who believe it’s still 1953, that the earth is a happy straight world where Ike is president, where the sky is always blue, and where all is well except for those nasty Russians.

If they maintain the ban the Scouts continue to incur the enmity of people who understand that the Scout Law ought not be a means of exclusion.

Now’s the time for the Scouts to be brave.

They might even consider expanding the law so that scouts would be required to be open-minded, respectful, honest, thoughtful, compassionate, and fair in addition to trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc.