Friday, February 15, 2013

Jesus Was The Ultimate Scout

During Lent, people give up things. I hope for all our sake that the BSA gives up this ban on gay leaders and scouts. As a current den leader to my son's pack here in Pennsylvania, I personally disagree with the BSA's stance to ban LGBT leaders and scouts. Unfortunately, because most packs are sponsored by churches this is a harsh reality. The BSA closely align themselves to Christian beliefs and stress the importance of godliness and bringing honor to God and your country. It's disgusting that the BSA would deny access for these individuals based on their archaic beliefs. Reverend Patrick Heery is an Eagle Scout. He is also gay. This is what he recently said about lifting the ban in the article "Presbyterian Clergy Call for an End to Ban on Gay Scouts" You can read more about his experiences as a scout and what scouts did for him when he was bullied and lost as a person trying to discover who he was. Sign his petition or visit The People of Faith for Gay Scouts and Scout Leaders on Facebook.

So please understand this: WE are Eagle Scouts. We are Christians. We are ministers ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). And we support the full inclusion of gay, bisexual, and transgender boys in the Boy Scouts of America. For us, there is no contradiction. There is no way for us to be true to our oath as Eagle Scouts without affirming the dignity and inclusion of all God’s children. We do not set aside our morality in making this decision; we embrace it. This is a moral choice.

This allowance goes largely ignored unless you attend a more liberal church like The More Light Presbyterians. More Light Presbyterian's mission from their website states "Following the risen Christ, and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church" Before moving to Pennsylvania, I attended a More Light Presbyterian church in Rochester, NY. It was a great experience to see people from all walks of life accepted for who they were and accepted by a community of Christian believers. If the scouts align themselves with the values of religion, we only have to look in
Romans 10: 11-13 to see what God thinks about including all people. As the scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference...the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
There have been gay scouts in the BSA for many years and unfortunately for these young men they had to conceal who they were if they wanted to stay in scouts. The BSA has seen a rapid decline in membership in recent years so if they made the right choice by accepting LGBT into scouts openly it would change scouting forever. What is it that has the BSA so scared? Pat Robertson believes that opening up this ban will allow predators and pedophiles into the organization. It is this fear that creates bigotry and hatred in an organization that is supposed to be about the development of young men. Were we not told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? Did Jesus not accept all people from all walks of life? Jesus was the ultimate scout.

What is interesting about this issue is that the Girl Scouts of America already uphold an anti-discrimination policy, so why not Boy Scouts? The Girl Scouts of America clearly state "Regarding sexual orientation, Girl Scouts of the USA holds fast to a commitment to embrace diversity and has in place a policy that prohibits discriminatory treatment of any kind, including on the basis of one's sexual orientation." It is this hate towards gays and lesbians that foster a fear in our society that anything different from what is perceived as "normal" is bad for us.

Why deny these young people a chance to excel in the opportunities that scouts can offer? Personally, I hope my son grows up understanding that no matter who he is he will be accepted by me. When we attended the More Light Church in Rochester there was a transgender man who attended church at the same time as us. She was engaging and liked to talk to the kids. Once my son asked me "Dad, is that a man dressed like a woman?" I told him yes, that some people were born a certain way and that to truly be himself, he probably needed to dress the way he felt inside. I asked him what he thought of that. He said "He must be very brave" I said that yes, he probably was, and that it was probably hard to do it, but that he had to be true to himself.

I can't stand by and call for equal rights in the workplace, want the use of Mr. Mom to be banned, and idly stand by and not be offended that an institution that bases itself on the ideals of helping others without being offended that they discriminate against gay scouts and leaders. Wouldn't having gay scouts and leaders there as mentors be important to these young boys who feel lost and need guidance? Brent Almond of Designer Daddy believes so, he is gay and was a boy scout. "I think that gay leaders would have a lot to offer and gay kids would have a lot to learn.." He recently wrote a post called "What could a gay kid learn from the Boy Scouts anyway?"

Because of the ban and the flip-flopping on the decision to lift the ban, many dads feel reluctant to allow their boys to be a part of such an institution. Phil Corless is an Eagle Scout. He left the scouts 30 years ago and never looked back because of their policies. When asked if he had an opinion on the ban he said "My mind changed when I had a son who needed something to help him come out of his shell, gain more confidence in himself, and learn better social skills. He found that with the Scouts. However, he found that with a tolerant, progressive troop." Scouting does have benefits for young boys who need something to believe in, and get involved in that is not sports related. Scouts was the perfect thing for my son. We had recently moved away from all his friends to a new city. We didn't know anyone and he had a hard time making friends at his new school. Scouts opened up a new world of friendships for him and made it easier for him to adjust to the move. He has gained so much confidence in fact, that my son decided on his own that he was going to sing a song to fifty scouts and parents on his own, in front of everyone. I couldn't have been more proud.

It is time for a change Boy Scouts of America. John Kinnear agrees. In his post I Really Hope My Son Gets to be a Boy Scout he drives home the importance of what he learned as a youth becoming a man. Teaching hate towards another boy or man because they are gay shouldn't be taught in any organization. I pray that you allow every boy and girl the opportunity to be a scout. A scout is supposed to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent but without tolerant, none of those mean anything. I hope for Lent, the BSA decides to give up on this ban forever. If not, then this the the salute you deserve.

Image by Designer Daddy

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