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Today’s early release of the BSA’s resolution (http://scoutingmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/proposed-membership-standards-resolution.pdf) that will be voted on in May regarding the BSA’s membership policy, is much worse than the current policy.
Since 1978, the BSA has maintained that homosexuality is immoral, unclean, makes one incapable of being a good citizen, and as of last year, makes unable to do one’s “Duty to God.” Today, the BSA has gone further by redefining it as a preference and something that is changeable — at least during adolescence.
The resolution states:
“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.”
Youth who affirm that they are gay, will be allowed to remain as BSA members, but only until they reach the age of 18. At that time, they are no longer considered youth, but adults. The resolution reaffirms current policy on adult members, which is that adults:
“. . . must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. While the BSA does not proactively inquire about 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.”
Within the resolution, the BSA affirms that “youth are still developing, learning about themselves and who they are, developing their sense of right and wrong, and understanding their duty to God to live a moral life.” As the BSA views homosexuality to be a preference and immoral, they are asserting that youth are vulnerable to outside forces and that instead of expelling a Scout who states that he is gay, they should take the time to teach him how to live a moral life as a heterosexual. In effect, reparative therapy.
In essence, they have adopted the view of sexual orientation taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (http://www.mormonsandgays.org/), which is why there has been no official comment on this issue since it came to light in January.
Those who would like nothing better than to adopt criminal punishment for simply being gay, are already objecting to this resolution, as it allows openly gay Scouts to remain in the organization. Notwithstanding the conversion attempts, they just don’t like gay people. Some feel that this resolution, because of this very reason will be voted down. But, given the accompanying report (http://scoutingmagazine.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/executive-summary-of-study-findings.pdf), it seems like the LDS, Catholics, Baptists, and others, will issue marching orders to their delegates to vote in favor of the resolution.
Because of this untenable position, all efforts to cease public support of the BSA should recommence. The outcome of the vote no longer matters, as there are only two options available to be voted upon. Neither of which rejects discrimination, nor the degradation of human beings on the basis of their sexual orientation. So, contact your local United Way chapters to see if they are providing funds to your local council. Find out if your public schools are allowing the BSA access to our children during instructional time, or providing rent-free meeting space. Learn the members of the local council board and ask them how they can support discrimination — especially public officials.
Over the past few months, this blog and web site has been quiet given the BSA’s intent to repeal the current policy. Since they have decided not to do so, this blog and the web site will once again provide information on the discriminatory activities of the BSA.
The BSA has developed a process for delegates to the annual meeting of the BSA’s National Council in May, who will determine if they will repeal the 1978 policy the Executive Board created. At that time, the board implemented a national membership standard that included sexual orientation – namely, that non-heterosexuals are barred from youth or adult membership. Since 1978, there have been several court cases challenging the 1978 policy. By 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the BSA and they have since retained their 1978 policy.
It has been the position of this website, as well as all of those who have challenged the BSA in the courts since 1980, that the BSA should repeal the 1978 policy and include sexual orientation in its national and council non-discrimination policies. Given the BSA’s chartered partner concept, such non-discrimination policies would not require chartering organizations who do not wish to have openly LGBT leaders to do so, just as the current policies do not force units to accept persons who do not share their values. Units are free to refuse membership to adults who are: divorced, single, of another religious faith, practice birth control, smoke, drink alcohol, are women, or any other issue they consider important to their values. At no point in the past 35 years has anyone, who has advocated for repeal of the 1978 policy, called for a national non-discrimination policy on sexual orientation that would force chartering organizations to violate their values. Unfortunately, there have arisen some who are calling for such a policy in the past several months.
Since last year, several LGBT organizations (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign) have been increasingly vocal in opposing the BSA’s policy. GLAAD even formed Scouts for Equality to spearhead their campaign. What is most interesting is that this is the first time either organization has been this vocal about the BSA’s policy. While the HRC did participate in an amicus brief in the Dale case, it has consistently refused to include corporate donations and support to the BSA as a metric in their Corporate Equality Index. This resulted in many companies receiving 100% ratings from the HRC, yet continued to support the BSA’s discriminatory policies toward gay youth.
GLAAD’s involvement is even more confusing, until one realizes that the incoming BSA president is the current CEO of AT&T. Many will remember that in 2011 GLAAD sent a letter to the FCC in favor of the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. In 2010, GLAAD had written a letter in opposition to a Net Neutrality, a position identical to AT&T on this issue. Of course, many at that time wondered why a LGBT media watchdog organization was involved in these matters. It soon came about that AT&T was a corporate sponsor of GLAAD. This scandal resulted in the resignation of six board members and its executive director. It also should be noted that AT&T is also a corporate sponsor of the HRC and has received a 100% CEI rating from the HRC for the past years, in spite of contributing thousands to the BSA.
Whether AT&T funding of these organizations have anything to do with their recent realization that the BSA discriminates against gay youth has not been proven. Notwithstanding these questions of motivation, their intrusion into this decade-long movement would be welcomed, if they knew anything about how the BSA operates. Instead of seeking out those who have been involved in this issue for years, or even educating themselves about the operations of the BSA, they have insisted on advocating that the BSA force chartered partners that do not wish to allow openly LGBT adults to be leaders to do so. Not only has the BSA not presented this as an option on the table at this time, given the chartered partner concept, it is an impossible policy for the BSA to even consider. Adopting such a policy would require the BSA to abandon its 103 year-old charter system. This is not going to happen.
While it would be great to have access to the resources of national LGBT organizations to advocate for policy repeal in the coming months, GLAAD, HRC and SFE have positioned themselves as outsiders to this important discussion. In fact, their untenable position only strengthens those who oppose the repeal of the 1978 policy, as they can point to SFE and say, “Look, if we repeal the policy, they will still want more, so why repeal the policy?” This is a powerful argument to many delegates who might otherwise be persuaded to repeal the policy. Given their position, these organizations have sadly immobilized themselves from communicating the real harm the current policy has on gay youth.
What we have all been working for during the past 35 years have been the following objectives:
1) Repeal of the 1978 policy, returning control over membership standards to each chartering organization.
2) Inclusion of sexual orientation in national and council non-discrimination policies, so all BSA members may fully participate in district, chapter, lodge, council, section, regional, and national BSA activities, regardless of sexual orientation. This would also apply to seasonal and permanent, staff and professional employment opportunities within the BSA.
If you agree with these modest and sensible objectives, then I encourage you to communicate this to your local scout council via: personal encounters, letters to the council, attendance at the upcoming meetings in your council, letters to the editor of your local paper, etc. While no one likes to support discrimination of any kind, the advocacy of a national non-discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation is not an option for the BSA’s structure.
Remember, a BSA unit is a part of the chartering organization. They are not merely uninterested sponsors. Consequently, BSA units will reflect and practice the values of the chartering organizations. For many faith-based organizations, that will be an opposition to homosexuality, while for others, acceptance and inclusion will be the value expressed in their BSA unit.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime moment. If the BSA refuses to repeal its policy in May, then the BSA will forever be a fringe religious youth organization. Demanding the BSA to do the impossible will only bring to fruit our worst fears and prevent millions of youth from experience scouting for generations to come.
Want to help repeal the BSA membership policy regarding sexual orientation? All it takes is a letter!
For almost a year, there have been on-line petitions challenging the BSA’s membership policy as well as calls for suspending corporate donations to the BSA because of its national membership policy regarding sexual orientation. While many in the media have reported on these activities, they are hardly unique or even new.
From the time the media began covering Tim Curran’s trial in 1990, corporations have been suspending donations, concerned scouts/scouters have gathered petitions, and the media have reported on these activities sporadically over the past 23 years. So, why is the BSA entertaining repealing its membership policy in 2013, when only last year it reaffirmed it? From internal reports of comments made at the last BSA national executive board meeting, the two major factors were:
1) Declining membership, as a result of parents opposed to the policy and,
2) Personal stories of the policy’s effect on youth.
Yes, Intel, UPS, Merck and others have stopped funding the BSA, hundreds of Eagle Scout have returned their award to the BSA national offices, and over a million petitions have been signed within the past year, but these actions do not seem to have been a major factor in the BSA’s decision to review the policy. Its personal narratives.
The first factor – declining membership – has been known for years. Since 1997, the BSA’s traditional membership program has experienced a decline of almost 1 million youth members (965,244). This is a precipitous 27% decline, especially as it occurred during a period which saw an increase in the total available number of scout-age youth in the country. The last time scouting membership was this low was in 1949! More telling is the steep decline in membership in the BSA’s Cub Scout program. In 2012, Cub Scouting had 1,528,421 members, a decline of 30% since 1999 and the lowest number of Cub Scouts since 1955 – when the program was only for 3rd through 5th grade boys (today’s program starts in the 1st grade and ends in 5th grade). Cub Scouting membership is critical to the success of the BSA as it provides a source of members for their Boy Scouting and Venture programs. Boys who were never Cub Scouts are much more difficult to recruit into the other two programs.
What the BSA finally realized is that the country is evolving in the matter regarding sexual orientation, especially parents of scout-age youth. These parents are in the current 28-40 year age cohort. This generation of parents is much less obsessed over sexual orientation than their parents’ generations. A vast majority sees no problem with LGBT persons and view discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as immoral. They have gay friends (some of these gay friends might even be parents of children who play with their children) and have serious problems with placing their children in an organization who has stated that its core belief is that homosexuality is immoral and unclean.
Not only is this generation a challenge for the BSA, but the current generation of 20-35 year old adults – who will be the parents of scout-age children in 5-10 years – are even more opposed to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. With the eventual passing of the “greatest generation” and “baby boom” generations, the vast majority of the country will view those who hold non-heterosexuals as immoral as we do of those who supported racial segregation. The BSA has finally realized that its national membership policy is driving parents away from the organization at an ever-increasing rate, which in turn is reflected in the decline in their membership.
The second factor are the personal stories BSA professionals and volunteers are finally hearing from former and current members about the negative impact the policy has had on their lives. Since the BSA expelled two 16-year-old Explorer Scouts in 1978 for being gay, many former scouts have told the media and this website of the treatment they received when others suspected (or learned) that they were gay. None of these stories have happy endings and the emotional turmoil experienced by these scouts would be classified as child abuse, even under the BSA’s Youth Protection guidelines.
Straight scouts have disclosed that they were sexually abused by older straight scouts, but felt that the BSA’s membership policy would label them as gay and find themselves expelled rather than those who molested them. Current youth protection videos that are mandated to be shown to scouts provide several vignettes of possible situations. Each concludes with an admonition that molestation “does not mean you’re gay.” Because of the repetitive nature of this, some scout leaders have reported that many scouts start laughing at this part of the video, while some are clearly uncomfortable. Because of the BSA’s policy, scout leaders can’t stop the video and inform scouts that there is nothing wrong with being gay, much less have this message presented within the video itself. What must young gay scouts feel when they hear their scout friends laughing during the video about them?
Scout leaders have reported learning that one of their scouts is gay. Do they expel him and thus potentially destroy the troop as his fellow scouts know and accept him for who he is? What message is being sent to a young man who’s been in the BSA since he was in first grade and considers scouting a part of his family?
In three short months, members of the BSA’s national council will meet to discuss and vote on a repeal of the national membership policy. Members of the national council include representatives from each council in the country. These include the council chairperson and commissioner, as well as those persons elected as national council representative(s) at the council’s annual meeting this year. What can you do to have an impact on the votes of these individuals? Simple, tell them your story.
If you’re a parent of a scout-age boy or girl (1st grade through age 21), then write a letter explaining that the BSA’s membership policy prevents your family from allowing your child(ren) from being involved in the BSA. If you have friends who feel the same way about their children, mention this in your letter and ask them to write. If you’re a former or current scout/scouter who has had a negative experience because of this policy (like mentioned above), write a letter telling your story – the more personal the better.
Who do you send these letters to? Go to your council’s website and learn the names of the council’s chairperson and commissioner. Mail your letters to them personally, if you know their address, or simply send them each a letter to their attention in care of the council’s office. See if they have held their annual meeting and selected their national council representatives. Send your letter to those persons as well. If you feel comfortable, send your letter to your local newspapers for publication. Post it on your social media sites.
The LGBT community learned years ago that the most effective tool for societal change is not political activism; rather it’s the personal one. Coming out to family and friends is intensely personal, but also political. Telling someone who has known you for years that you’re gay might be the first time that they personally knew a gay person. It is much easier to hate in the abstract and much harder when that hate is now directed toward your child, sibling, parent, cousin, co-worker, or friend. The same is true with the BSA’s policy. The members of the national council need to be confronted with the face of this policy so that when they vote, they will know that they are voting for or against their neighbors and friends.
Last week, the BSA issued a press release that stated that the BSA’s executive board would be discussing “potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation” at its meeting yesterday. After the meeting, the BSA announced that the board decided not to make a decision on their membership policy: “The Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.”
While it has been mentioned many times that the BSA’s current “membership restriction regarding sexual orientation” is similar to its past ban regarding African Americans, yesterday’s tabling of this issue by the board is exactly what they did 99 years ago.
At the first meeting of the BSA’s newly established executive board in November 1910, a resolution was passed. This resolution granted local BSA councils the power to grant or withhold membership based on race and to delay the organization of “colored troops” in areas where “no such council exists,” as much as possible. This racial policy effectively banned scouting for African Americans in the former Confederacy (and many other parts of the country) for decades.
Surprisingly, the council in Jacksonville, Florida wanted the BSA to drop its ban on African Americans. To that end, the council’s commissioner and a YMCA executive from Jacksonville asked the BSA to revoke its racial policy in 1914. The BSA executive board was faced with three clear choices:
1) reaffirm its public promise and perception to be an inclusive and non-discriminatory organization,
2) renounce their earlier promise to the American people and adopt a membership policy excluding all persons of color, or
3) create a separate “colored BSA,” similar to the YMCA and later found in scouting organizations in colonial Africa.
In similar fashion to today’s executive board, the 1914 executive board decided to take no action. While the BSA’s racial policy was never presented by the board to the members of the national council at its annual meeting, one member at the 1916 annual meeting brought the issue up for discussion. In this rare and vigorous discussion, proponents and opponents of the racial policy presented their positions. Yet, even this unusual moment failed to convince the BSA to live up to its 1910 promise it made to the American public: “Every American boy shall have the opportunity to being a good scout.”
With that in mind, it is difficult to imagine that history will not continue to repeat itself this upcoming May at the BSA’s annual meeting. Like the 1916 annual meeting, the prospect of the members of the BSA’s national council repealing its membership policy regarding sexual orientation is dim.
One would hope that not only the history of the Civil Rights movement in this country, but the rapid acceptance of LGBT persons in American society, will cause the members of the national council to vote against discrimination this May. Even if the BSA repealed its “national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” packs, troops, crews, and ships will still be able to deny membership to persons on the basis of sexual orientation, if their chartering organization practices discrimination. But those chartering organizations which embrace equality will be able to allow openly LGBT youth and adult to be members in their units.
It took a lawsuit from the NAACP in 1974 for the BSA to officially revoke its 1910 racial policy – 64 years. The American public was first made known that the BSA had a “national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation” in 1978. Thirty-five years have passed and hopefully we won’t have to wait another 29 years before the BSA lives up to the principles found in the Scout Oath and Law.
Since this past Monday, I’ve experienced a range of emotions, from
confused, elated, concerned, to cautious, regarding Monday’s
announcement from the BSA.
At first, I was confused, because the press release stated that the
BSA National Executive Board would consider removing from membership
criteria sexual orientation. In the past, when the BSA announced a
policy change, it did just that. There was never advance notification
that the BSA was even considering major policy changes (like when the
BSA removed gender from a barrier to adult leadership positions)
before they issued the new policy. I thought, “Is this a trial
balloon to test the waters?” So, I was confused.
Later in the day, I learned that the news of the upcoming discussion
was leaked to the media, thus the need for the BSA to issue a press
release. That made sense and my mood changed to one of elation.
However, that changed when I started learning from other sources that
while it looked like it was a done deal, there was an effective date
of June 1, 2013 for this policy. Again, in the past, the BSA had
never provided for a period of delay when it came to non-age
membership policies. Such a long time period only provides fertile
ground for opponents of the policy repeal to challenge it at the
upcoming May BSA Annual Meeting. (A coincidence in timing?) So, I
Yesterday, I learned that the BSA seemed to be actively soliciting
public opinion and feedback on their seemingly announced policy
change. Again, another departure from the BSA of the past. Even
during the decades when the BSA battled in the courts for their right
to discriminate on the basis of gender, religious belief and sexual
orientation, the BSA never solicited input from either members or the
public regarding their policies. So, I became cautious.
After the first day or so, in looking at the number of articles
prematurely proclaiming the end of the BSA policy against LGBT
youth/adults, and the attendant pro-repeal editorials, I thought that
the BSA would be PR fools to even consider not following through with
repeal. It would be a PR nightmare. But, the BSA’s request for input
in what is a decidedly contentious issue has given me cause to
rethink my position. Could this be an elaborate ploy to energize the
conservative members in and outside the BSA, in an attempt to
generate conservative funds and members?
From what I’ve heard, it seems the BSA will remove from its
membership criteria the issue of sexual orientation. Instead, local
units, which have always carried the sole responsibility for
selecting and training its adult leaders, will be able to consider
the sexual orientation of possible adult leaders along with other
criteria they might consider: marital status, gender, religious
belief, race, political views, ethnicity, national origin, physical
disabilities, etc. For those units who would never select an openly
LGBT adult to be a leader, nothing will change. Those units who have
no problem with selecting an openly LGBT adult will know have the
ability to do so.
When it comes to openly LGBT youth, one would imagine that those
units who decide that openly LGBT youth are not welcomed in their
unit will restrict membership in their unit to youth members of their
chartering organization. For example, if the 1st Baptist troop does
not want gay youth, then only boys whose families are members of 1st
Baptist will be allowed to be members of the troop. If a parent in
the area is interested in having their son join scouting and calls
the council office, the council will not give them the information
for the 1st Baptist troop, but others that are open to all boys.
Given the above, LDS, Catholic and Methodist units will still be able
to reject openly LGBT youth and adults under the BSA’s proposed
policy. I can’t imagine that the BSA would even contemplate changing
their policy without consulting their major national chartered
partners (LDS, Catholics and Methodists). If the BSA retains its
current policy or repeals it and allows anti-LGBT chartering
organizations to continue to discriminate, it does not seem to be a
change for the LDS, Catholic or Methodist units at all.
At this point, all we can do is wait and see what the BSA announces
after their Executive Board meeting next week in Irving. Given the
mixed signals sent from the BSA, I can only say that I am guardedly optimistic.
The 2012 elections are over and their results should be troubling for the Boy Scouts of America. Especially as both major party candidates came out against the BSA’s discrimination policies. Technically the BSA is non-partisan, but there are clear differences in both party’s platforms when it comes to sexual orientation. A cursory read of the two party platforms shows that the BSA’s membership policies are in lockstep with the Republican views of sexual orientation, rather than the Democratic platform of non-discrimination and equality. It’s not only the fact that a majority of Americans who voted rejected the GOP views on sexual orientation; it is who rejected those views.
A review of the exit polling data indicates a rocky future for a discriminatory BSA. The growth in the population of minority groups is well known to the BSA and they’ve been actively marketing to them since the 70s (with little success). Yet, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians voted overwhelming for Obama. A greater cause for concern is that 60% of the 18-29 year-olds and 55% of the 30-39 year-olds voted for Obama. These age cohorts are the current and future parents of children the BSA needs to survive.
This is not to mean that only Republicans are BSA members, but simply that a vast majority of young (and soon-to-be) parents had no problem voting for a candidate who endorsed same-sex marriage. It would be difficult to imagine these same parents considering allowing their children be a part of an organization that publicly espouses a diametrically opposite position on LGBT Americans. This is a problem for the BSA.
For the first time since 1988, the electorate voted to approve marriage equality in three states and rejected a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in a fourth. Wisconsin elected a lesbian as its US Senator, seven LGBT candidates were elected to the US House, and seven state legislatures gained their first or only openly LGBT state legislator (North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida). Federal district and appellate courts have struck down major portions of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, as well as California’s notorious Proposition 8.
Today, nine states—Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington—and the District of Columbia—have solidly approved same-sex marriage. Another 12 states permit “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions,” which provide varying degrees of rights. (The laws in New Jersey, California and Oregon give same-sex couples virtually all the state law rights opposite-sex married couples have.) That is 43% of the jurisdictions and population in the USA.
In a unanimous 2009 ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal. Two years ago, Tea Party Republicans were able to kick off the bench three of those justices. This year, another justice was up for a retention vote and contrary to the last election, Iowans voted to retain him.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue was finally repealed and none of the great calamities opponents to open service predicted have come true. Even Romney did not campaign on re-instating DADT.
Polling of Americans on the question of sexual orientation has demonstrated a consistent trend in their approval of LGBT Americans being granted equal rights. Exit polling in the four states that had marriage equality on the ballot indicated that a substantial majority of younger voters (18-39) voted in favor of marriage equality. Some have pointed out that these four states are Democratic strongholds,, thus the reason for the approval of marriage equality. If that is the case, then it is even more troubling news for the BSA.
For all of its history, the BSA’s membership base has been the Northeast, Midwest and West. Scouting in the former Confederacy faced many problems. One of them was racial equality, which the BSA decided to tackle in November 1910 by allowing local councils the option of banning African Americans. By 1921, the proportion of boys (white only) in the BSA in the South was only 28% of that in the Northeast. Only when the BSA allowed African Americans to join did membership in the South rise, but even by 1981 Southern boys were only 64% as likely to be scouts as those in the Northeast.
As of 2009, only 30% of BSA membership is in the South. In comparing the 2012 Electoral College map with the map of the US before the Civil War, one notes that Romney won those former slave states and states in former territories were slavery was permitted. Obama won those states which banned the practice of slavery. The Republican base is in those solid red states, yet the BSA’s base is NOT there. The BSA’s membership is primarily in the Northwest, Midwest and West. The same states whose residents have rejected discrimination and many have approved marriage equality.
The growing public rejection of discrimination against persons on the basis of sexual orientation has been unprecedented in the history of civil rights. If the BSA reviews the information available from this election and continues to embrace discrimination as a core principle of the organization, it will soon find itself confined to those states that embraced slavery in the 19th century.
As you probably know by now, records from the BSA’s Ineligible Volunteer or Confidential Files have been released. What is not readily apparent is that these records are not complete and many seem to be missing.
It has been reported that the BSA created the Confidential File system in 1919 as a national database to provide a method of not allowing those persons expelled from the BSA in one council to register in another. At the time, it was an innovative approach to dealing with adults the BSA identified as being harmful. In reviewing many of the files, it seems that the system was meant to prevent harm to the public image of the Boy Scouts of America, not the young people it was supposed to be serving and protecting.
The first time the BSA’s Confidential Files were brought to the attention of the American public was in May 1991, when a reporter (Patrick Boyle) for the Washington Times newspaper was given access to the BSA’s files on several convicted child molesters.
In December 1988, a child abuse lawsuit in Reston, VA forced the BSA to turn over 231 confidential files on Scout leaders who were banned for alleged child molesting from 1975 through 1984. This was the first time these files were seen outside of the BSA’s national offices. Boyle was given access to these files, and searched for more abuse cases involving the BSA that were not in the 231 files, to write a series of articles on this issue in May 1991. Boyle’s research revealed 185 additional child abuse cases and his articles covered these 416 cases. Surprisingly, the national news media declined to pick up the story.
Later that year, in another child abuse case in California, the judge was given the list of cases compiled by Boyle. Upon reviewing the list, the judge ordered the BSA to release ALL of its files on “child-molesting leaders” from 1971 to 1991. The BSA delivered to the court 1,871 files. The plaintiff’s attorney asked Boyle if he’d like to see the files. Boyle did and eventually left the Washington Times to work on a book about sexual abuse inside the BSA – “Scouts Honor.”
In the past several months, the files released in 1992 by the BSA were indexed by attorney Tim Kosnoff of Kosnoff Fasy and made available to the public (referred here as the Kosnoff dataset, http://kosnoff.com/pdfs/2.pdf). Another child abuse case in Oregon, which resulted in a $19.9 million verdict against the BSA in 2010, was able to get the BSA to deliver 1,200 files that covered the time period of 1965-1985. A June 2012 ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court, upheld a lower court ruling that these files were to be made public (referred here as the Clark dataset, http://www.kellyclarkattorney.com/files/?sort=lasts&dir=asc&page=0). In an unrelated event, the Los Angeles Times was able to receive from the BSA summary data on about 3,100 files from 1947 to January 2005. The Times compiled their information, along with the 1992 and 2010 cases into an on-line database (referred here as the Times dataset, http://spreadsheets.latimes.com/boyscouts-cases/).
It needs to be pointed out that the BSA has no standardized procedure in regard to the addition or disposition of these files. There is no sequential numbering system for identifying each file, only a name and year. Thus, we don’t know how many files were added during this time period, or how many were destroyed (the BSA has admitted that they did destroy files). In talking with the law firms that handled the 2010 case (O’Donnell Clark and Crew LLP and Paul Mones), they stated that they “requested the “Perversion” subset of the IV [Ineligible Volunteer] files, which includes persons banned from Scouting for being gay as well as for being child abusers.” The 1992 case was supposed to contain only the BSA files on “child-molesting leaders,” while the LA Times stated that the BSA provided summary data only from its “morals” subset of the BSA’s Ineligible Volunteer files, which probably includes persons expelled for being LGBT.
According to the BSA, these files contain those persons the BSA has determined are “potentially dangerous individuals, as well as inappropriate role models.” At the present time, only files on child molesters and gay/bisexual youth/men have been released. Consequently, it is impossible to know what other factors warrant placing a person in the BSA’s files. However, we do know a few. For example, Dave Rice – a 50 year Scouter – was expelled simply because he publicly opposed the BSA’s policy on sexual orientation and testified to that fact. The BSA felt that Rice was an “inappropriate role model” because of his opposition to discrimination.
An analysis of the files contained in the Clark data-set and the summary index in Kosnoff’s data-set, reveal that 41 persons are included not for child abuse, but for being gay/bi-sexual. Yet, in spite of the overlap in time periods, only one man is contained in both data-sets. Also, none of the high-profile expulsions of gay men are included in the two data-sets, or the summary provided to the LA Times (These include: Scott Ford, Scott Vance, Tim Curran, James Dale, Chuck Merino, Roland Pool, Michael Geller, Keith Richardson, Kevin Poloncarz, or Mark Noel.).
Since the BSA included files of men who were not “child-molesting leaders,” but simply gay, then why did the BSA not release to the courts their files on these other gay men? Why were not the files of gay men in Clark’s data-set not included in Kosnoff’s? The absence of these files begs the question: “Are there other files of “child-molesting leaders” that the BSA did NOT turn over in accordance with the court order?
In the next month or so, we’ll be looking at some of the individual gay/bisexual persons listed in these files for simply being gay/bisexual, which will be posted on this blog. In the meantime, a quick review of the research on these datasets is provided below. Of the three datasets, Clark’s dataset provides much more information:
Total Men: 32
Date Range: 1960-1983
Married/Divorced: 10 or 31.3%
Single: 22 or 68.8%
Average Age: 31.2
Police Arrest: 12 or 37.5%
DOD Discharge: 10 or 31.3%
The bulk of these men were added during the 60s. A majority was added because various branches of the military discharged them for homosexuality or was arrested by police when the men sought consensual and non-commercial sex with another man. Both the DOD and the police departments in most of these cases notified the BSA of such action. Not all arrests led to a conviction, some were dismissed. And as you can tell, a number of these men were married/divorced at the time. Of these ten married/divorced men, seven were either arrested (60% of married/divorced men) or discharged by the military (10% of married/divorced men). Nine of the single men (41% of single men) were discharged by the DOD, only six were arrested by the police (27% of single men). Six of the men were employed by the BSA.
When it comes to Kosnoff’s data-set, there is much less information to review. There is no mention of arrests or military discharges as a reason for inclusion in the Ineligible File. (A possible sign of changing views toward sexual orientation.) With the exception of one file, all of Kosnoff’s persons were included during the 80s/90s. Two were youth members at the time.
The dataset given to the LA Times from the BSA provides no information, other than the year, state, and city. However, it does confirm that this dataset does not include any of the high-profile expulsions of gay youth/men from the 70s to 2000.
Since Boyle’s article in 1991, the BSA has been asked to provide the information they gathered in their Confidential Files to see if anything can be done to make scouting a safer place. The BSA’s response has always been: “there is nothing in the files that would further the research field or help develop a profile to prevent abuse.”
I invite you to read the some of the pages in the Clark data-set yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion. Personally, I noticed many instances where the abuse occurred when the molester slept in a tent with a scout, the youth went to the molester’s home, or the molester was the only adult on an overnight activity. These were documented in the 60s. A simple policy that the BSA could have instituted at that time was that adults were never to be alone with a scout. A policy that the BSA did not make mandatory until 2010!
For 50 years the BSA possessed documents that clearly demonstrated how and where molesters abused scouts, yet the BSA refused to take any action to prevent future abuse. The culture within the BSA’s professional staff has led to the BSA hiding child molesters and refusing to take action to protect children. In one of the files, a council scout executive in 1970 states the “Yesterday’s offender is today’s ‘liberal.’” A view that was is probably still shared by many professional scouters today.
Instead of taking action to prevent any harm to children in their program, they would rather kick out an openly gay boy and deny him his Eagle Scout Award to placate religious conservatives. These past few months have shown the American public the real priorities of the BSA.
While those who stand against discrimination wish the BSA to adopt the underlying Scouting principles of equality and fairness, the increasing intransigence of the BSA’s leadership is causing some to consider a metaphorical “nuclear option.”
The response from many BSA supporters, when commenting on the BSA’s membership policies is usually: “Why don’t they start their own Gay Scouts of America!,” or something of that vein. Readily apparent in these statements is a severe ignorance of the BSA’s history. The simple answer to that question is, “Because it would be illegal,” however, upon reflection, maybe not.
The BSA was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1910 by W.D. Boyce. Later that same year, he turned the organization over to a group of men to lead the new organization, with the caveat that “that the organization must include all boys, regardless of race or creed.” As we all know, the BSA failed to comply with Boyce’s request as at their first meeting in November 1910,when the board granted local councils the power to deny scouting to black youth. Today, the ban is on non-heterosexuals youth.
Six years later, the BSA was able to convince the US Congress to grant them a Congressional Charter. James E. West (the BSA’s first chief scout executive) said that the acceptance of the charter “imposed upon us [BSA] a moral responsibility to extend the Scout program to all boys.” Nothing within the Congressional Charter limits who can be a member:
“The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods that were in common use by boy scouts on June 15, 1916.”
The Congressional Charter also gave the BSA a monopoly on the use of the scouting program (developed by Baden-Powell) within the United States. With this charter in hand, the BSA threatened legal action against many existing scouting organizations in the 1910s and caused them to either merge or disband. Within the last 40 years, the BSA has used the charter to deny miniscule organizations that wanted to operate inclusive scouting programs. Given the BSA’s monopolistic powers – granted by the US Congress – there can never be a “Gay Boy Scouts of America.” But there could be something better!
Until 1971, the BSA did not permit girls from being members. That year, it allowed girls to join its older youth program; Exploring (ages 14-21). The Girl Scouts’ (GSUSA) Senior Division was hit hard by this action. In 1976, the BSA changed its name (except it’s legal name) to “Scouting, USA.” This new brand lasted for only 5 years, but at the time, it upset the GSUSA. The GSUSA felt Americans would get confused and might think that the two organizations had merged. Given the BSA’s animosity towards the GSUSA from its inception, there is little chance of that ever occurring.
Since then, the GSUSA has continued operating as it has since 1912, permitting only girls to be members. It even received a similar Congressional Charter in 1950. But, since the BSA has allowed girls into its programs, there are no legal reasons why the GSUSA could not permit boys to join..
Like the BSA, the GSUSA could re-brand itself – Scouting, USA or a similar non-gendered name – and offer an inclusive scouting program for boys and girls. (A similar process occurred with Camp Fire Girls, when they became simply Camp Fire, when they allowed boys to be members.) In a vast majority of Western countries, scouting organizations are co-educational. In these organizations, local groups have the option of being either co-educational or single-gendered. The same could be offered in the USA.
There are of course some changes that would have to be made in the GSUSA’s current programs, but with the history of many other co-educational scouting organizations to reach out to, it should be relatively easy. Unlike the BSA, which has seen membership decline every year since 1997 (a decline of 25%), the GSUSA has seen a membership increase in recent years (the overall membership has declined since 1997 by 14.5%). Allowing boys to be members in a new Scouting organization could see membership increases for the organization, surpassing the BSA.
The GSUSA has a more expansive policy than the BSA when it comes to religious belief – “The word ‘God’ can be interpreted in a number of ways, depending on one’s spiritual beliefs. When reciting the Girl Scout Promise, it is acceptable to replace the word ‘God’ with whatever word your spiritual beliefs dictate.” As to sexual orientation, there is no national non-discrimination policy that all councils have to follow. Each council is able to handle this on their own. Hopefully, the GSUSA will rectify this oversight.
So, if the BSA wishes to become an exclusive religious youth organization, than those who support inclusive scouting could seek to petition the GSUSA to become a shining beacon of inclusive scouting in the United States. The BSA’s history with GSUSA has been one of acrimony and even the possibility that a sizable portion of eligible boys that could be BSA members would be snatched up by the GSUSA could encourage the BSA to rethink its membership policies. If that is not a “nuclear option,” I’m not sure what is!
This week, Ryan Andresen was expelled from the BSA for being gay. This seems to be heartbreaking for Ryan, yet, as details emerge, it is just the final stroke in a tragic tale over years. This is a tale that illustrates the human cost from the BSA’s discriminatory policies.
During Ryan’s early years in Boy Scout Troop 212 in Moraga, CA, he was a victim of bullying by fellow scouts. They bullied him with nicknames like “Tinkerbell” and “faggot.” At that age, Ryan “had no idea what gay was at that point.” While purportedly banned by the BSA, Ryan was subjected to hazing rituals in the troop. One included “having the word “fag” written in charcoal across his chest.” “It was really embarrassing and humiliating,” Ryan said. “And I was terrified.”
In a troop of some 75 boys, it is clear that Ryan was not the only boy who was subjected to bullying and hazing. One could ask where the adult leaders were when Ryan had ‘fag’ written across his chest. With 37 registered adults, it should be simple for the adult leadership to prevent bullying and instill within the boys a respect for others. After all, the BSA is supposed to be a “character building” organization that teaches values. If it is incapable of teaching respect of one’s fellow human being, it does not seem to have much of a reason for existing. Of course, when it comes to sexual orientation, the BSA has a problem.
According to the BSA, being gay “is inconsistent with the obligations they find in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.” This week, the BSA went further than it has ever gone before and stated that Ryan’s sexual orientation was not in agreement “to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God.’”
Thus, a gay person is incapable of being “morally straight,” “clean in thought, word, and deed,” and “following the wisdom of those [religious] teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.” So, non-heterosexuals are by the BSA’s logic; immoral, foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, impure, and incapable of following any religious beliefs, not to mention disrespecting others’ beliefs.
Given this position of anyone suspected of not being heterosexual, are there any questions as to why Ryan’s bullying was tolerated (possible condoned) by the adult leaders of Troop 212? The BSA does assert that they “teach our members to treat those with different opinions with courtesy and respect at all times and to adamantly oppose the mistreatment of others based on any perceived difference.” This and other claims of tolerance are evidently worthless, or Ryan and other scouts (regardless of sexual orientation) would not have suffered at the hands of fellow Boy Scouts!
An argument advanced by Bolton Smith (a BSA Vice President) on why black youth should be allowed to join scouting is eerily analogous to why the BSA should allow openly gay youth:
“The white boy who is a Scout – and many who are not – idealizes that Movement and when he finds that the negro boy is deemed worthy of becoming a Scout, he will for the first time begin to entertain a feeling of genuine respect for the individuality of the negro.”
In the 20s-30s when the BSA permitted local councils to ban blacks from joining, Smith realized that the BSA’s membership policy perpetuated the notion to white boys that blacks were inferior and sub-human, otherwise, why where they not allowed to join? The exact same argument can be made today.
If the BSA thinks gay youth are immoral, then why should Boy Scouts refrain from bullying those they suspect are gay? Why should adult leaders stop such bullying, given the negative view that the BSA has put forth for decades? From the BSA’s description of gay people, they seem to be perfectly horrid creatures.
Gay youth and adults are routinely expelled from the BSA simply for being gay. The Curran and Dale cases have made the BSA’s anti-gay position well-known. Because of this, adult leaders know that the BSA’s official position towards gay youth is one of derision and contempt. The day after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of James Dale,
“a scoutmaster showed his disdain for James Dale and the Supreme Court decision by pinning up a photograph of Dale’s face at the camp’s rifle range, according to two high-ranking staff members at the camp. The man used a picture, torn from a newspaper, for target practice. Camp officials kicked the scoutmaster out of camp, saying that they follow strict National Rifle Association guidelines not to use the image of a person as target practice.”
The adult was not removed from camp because he violated BSA policies, but NRA policies. He was allowed to remain in the BSA. The adults in Troop 212 learned from the BSA that it was bad to be gay, but okay to bully suspected gay youth.
Ryan’s days of bullying resulted in depression and caused him to act out in actions of self harm. These actions included cutting and the development of an eating disorder. His reaction to the bullying was so severe, that his parents were counseled to send him to an out-of-state residential treatment facility that provides therapy for victims of bullying. The fact that another family with the troop had similar experiences and was able to recommend a therapist illustrates the severe problems within Troop 212.
When he returned to California, Ryan dropped out of the troop because of the bullying. The troop’s scoutmaster – Rainer Del Valle – persuaded him to return to the troop. Ryan only disclosed his sexual orientation to his troop this past summer after learning of another bullying incident within the troop. He felt that his disclosure would help both the victim and bring attention to the endemic problem within the troop.
After revealing his sexual orientation to his troop, he sent a letter to Del Valle inquiring about the possibility of him remaining in the troop and finishing his Eagle Scout requirements. Del Valle continued to encourage him to remain, knowing that he was gay. When he presented the possibility of building a Tolerance Wall at his former middle school to allow victims of bullying to express themselves, for his Eagle Scout service project, Ryan said that Del Vale “was in love with my project.”
On October 1, 2012, Del Valle told his father (Eric Andresen) that he would refuse to sign his Eagle Scout Award application because he is gay. According to Eric, Del Valle said, “I’d rather resign than sign.”
To say this was crushing news to Ryan is an understatement. Ryan felt that Del Valle “was leading [him] on the whole time.” Even four days later, Ryan says that Del Valle “still hasn’t had the courage to tell me himself. I am sad and confused over the whole thing. He told my Dad to tell me. I haven’t heard from him since.”
Unfortunately, Ryan’s scouting experience is one of abuse. Abuse at the hands of other scouts, abuse by those adults who turned a blind eye to the bullying, and finally abuse by the Boy Scouts of America who have declared him to be immoral, foul-mouthed, dirty-minded, impure, and incapable of following any religious beliefs, not to mention disrespecting others’ beliefs.
The BSA’s spokesman Deron Smith, who issued a statement informing Ryan that he was no longer considered a member of the BSA, much less eligible to receive the Eagle Scout Award for which he completed all of the requirements, has never met Ryan. To Smith, Ryan is one of those gay persons who deserve no respect as they believe that he is unable to live up to the Scout Oath and Law. In reviewing Ryan’s experience with the BSA over the past seven years, it is readily apparent that it is Ryan who has shown by his actions that he lives the principles embodied within the Oath and Law. The BSA’s actions in regards to Ryan clearly demonstrate that they have little regard for the well-being of children. The recent disclosures that the BSA refused to report child molesters to the police and even protected many child molesters, send a clear message that the protection and development of youth is no longer the BSA’s mission.
If the BSA’s professionals and board members had any sense of common decency, they would reject its anti-gay policy once and for all. Its continued existence only validates the bullying that Ryan and others in Troop 212 have experienced. Failure to do so makes every single member of the BSA’s professional and volunteer staff culpable in the harm that is being committed on scouts every day. Ryan’s abuse while participating in the program of the Boy Scouts of America is laid at the feet of all members and employees of the Boy Scouts of America. If you are a member of the Boy Scouts of America, what actions will you take to make sure this abuse never happens again?
A statement from the Mt. Diablo Silverado council reads: “one of our Scouts proactively notified his Troop leadership and Eagle Scout Counselor that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of “Duty to God” and does not meet Scouting’s membership standard on sexual orientation.” The scout in question is Ryan Andresen.
According to his mother, she told us, “There was not a problem with [Duty to God] . . . His views are listed as agnostic on his facebook page, which to him means he believes in some higher power. Many of the scouts in troop 212 have agnostic on their facebook page, as well. The scoutmaster of troop 212 did not mention DTG as the reason for not signing, he said he would not sign because Ryan is gay.” (More details about the abuse Ryan encountered while a scout in Troop 212 can be found in a companion post.)
According to the BSA’s current Scout Handbook, Duty to God is explained as: “Your family and religious leaders teach you about God and the ways you can serve. You do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teachings every day and by respecting and defending the rights of others to practice their own beliefs.” The 12th point of the Scout Law – A Scout is Reverent – is defined as “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”
On March 16, 1978, the BSA added the words “Supreme Being” in its explanation of its DTG principle. In the 1984 edition of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook, “Because duty to God, or a supreme being, is an important Scouting ideal, a boy should be challenged to think about this aspect of life”) and in the Scout Handbook (on page 414, “. . . a country whose people believe in a supreme being,” and on page 41, “You show that you are reverent to God by serving Him in what you do, and by worshiping Him in the way your parents and spiritual leaders taught you.”). Prior to this date, the words “Supreme Being” are not to be found in BSA’s religious policy.
In 1985, a Life Scout candidate – Paul Trout – went before his Board of Review. When the subject of Paul’s belief in a “Supreme Being” was discussed, Paul responded that “he did not have any belief in a Supreme Being, but rather had complete belief in self and self-reliance.” Since the Board was looking at BSA documents which referred to a “Supreme Being” in discussions of God, they expected Paul to accept this new definition as well. Given Paul’s response, the Board sought advice from the council and they told the Board to refuse Paul’s advancement to Life Scout.
In appealing the decision, Paul received a letter from the Chief Scout Executive at the time – Ben Love – which stated: “If a person does not have belief in a Supreme Being, then they cannot be a member of the Boy Scouts of America . . . Youth and/or adult members of the (BSA) must meet certain membership requirements. One of these requirements is a belief in a Supreme Being.” Because of the letter, the troop revoked Paul’s membership in the BSA. According to his Scoutmaster, he declared that Paul “is no longer a troop member or a member of the council. I hated to loose him. He was the best disciplined and most helpful of the boys in my troop.” A BSA spokesperson stated that, “The Boy Scouts makes a firm commitment to duty to god and to the country. It is absolutely clear that’s one of our regulations. There is no discussion. That’s it. He had a nice tenure, but he cannot be a Boy Scout anymore.”
The wide-spread publicity of this incident caused BSA to review and revise its religious policies. It also necessitated a Reaffirmation of the Position of the Boy Scouts of America on “Duty to God” by the National Executive Board on October 10, 1985. In the revision of its policy the BSA replaced the words “supreme being” with “God” from all of its publications. From this point onward, the BSA was not defining God as a Supreme Being. On that same day, October 10, 1985, the Boy Scouts of America reinstated Paul and awarded him the rank of Life Scout. Paul’s view of a higher power was in compliance with the BSA’s Duty to God requirement.
Since 1985, the BSA has not revised its religious policy to re-define God as a Supreme Being. In fact, in a 1991 position statement on the issue the BSA stated: “The BSA does not interpret God or religion. That is the role of the Scout’s family and religious leaders.” One of the questions in the Q&A section states: “Some people maintain that God is a tree, a rock or a stream. Would a person believing such be eligible to be a member of Scouting? The BSA does not seek to interpret God or religion. The Scout Oath states a requirement for a Scout to observe a duty to God, and the Scout Law requires a Scout to be reverent. Again, interpretation is the responsibility of the Scout, his parents and religious leaders.”
This brings us to 2012 and Ryan Andresen. According to Karen Andresen, the issue of Ryan’s religious beliefs or his Duty to God was never described by Ryan’s Scoutmaster — Rainer Val Delle — as the basis for his refusal to approve Ryan’s Eagle Scout application. And even if it was, according to the BSA’s own religious policies, Ryan would meet the DTG requirement, just as Paul Trout did in 1985. Since Ryan’s religious beliefs are not a factor in his dismissal from the BSA, then the BSA’s statement is making a direct connection between its religious policies and anti-LGBT policies.
Essentially, in their statement yesterday, the BSA is not only asserting that Ryan is no longer eligible to be a member because he is gay, but that because he is gay, he is incapable to fulfill his Duty to God requirement. Why? Because the BSA has made sexual orientation a theological issue and adopted the principles of a majority within the Abrahamic faith tradition. Those Abrahamic (Episcopal, Unitarian-Universalist, Quakers, Judaism, etc.) and non-Abrahamic (Buddhist, Wiccan, etc.) religious traditions which reject a religious objection to non-heterosexuality are effectively told that they should leave the BSA. There is now a theological litmus test within the BSA.
This is a very troubling development for the BSA. In this past summer’s press release, the BSA used the LDS and Evangelical Christian accepted term – same-sex attraction – instead of gay, lesbian, or even homosexuality. A clear signal that religious belief was the foundation for their rejection of gay youth. Yesterday’s statement seals the evolution of the BSA from a non-sectarian youth organization to a religious (and, at least for the moment, Abrahamic) youth organization. It appears that it is only a matter of time before the BSA comes out of its own closet as a Christian-only youth organization.
Yesterday was a sad day for all those who support the Scouting movement and mourn the takeover of the movement in the United States by religious zealots.