An Open Letter to BSA National Leadership

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As an Eagle Scout, the BSA’s continuing ban on the membership of gay and lesbian Scouts and Scouters saddens me beyond measure. The BSA’s position on this matter is a clear violation of its own Declaration of Religious Principles, in which it states that “it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward … religious training.”

In light of this declaration, how does the BSA reconcile its policy with the teachings of those religious institutions that are welcoming and affirming of all people, including LGBT folk? What of the Scout that belongs to a Unitarian Universalist Church? Or a Presbyterian Church? The Episcopal Church is welcoming and affirming, as is the United Church of Christ. Among the many other welcoming and affirming Christian denominations, there’s even an Association of Welcome and Affirming Baptists. Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish Congregations are accepting of LGBT folk, as are many religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. What are the Scouts that belong to any of these churches or religions to make of this policy, which stands in stark contradiction to the teachings of their faiths? 

How is it logical to establish and maintain a policy that is clearly based in sectarian religious teachings when one has declared a universality of religious thought, based solely on a belief in god?

The BSA’s Declaration goes on to state that its “policy is that the home and organization or group with which a member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.” Time after time in training materials and manuals for adults and youth, leaders are directed to refer all matters of religion and morality to the parents and spiritual adviser(s) of the Scout(s) involved. What is a Scout to do when he raises the moral question of social justice and equality for his LGBT brethren, only to be told that in this particular case, the BSA’s morality overrides that taught by his parents and spiritual adviser?

In the Scout Law, we are taught that a Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. The Law goes on to explain that a Helpful Scout “cares about other people,” a Friendly Scout “is a friend to all,” a Kind Scout “treats others as he wants to be treated,” a Cheerful Scout “tries to make others happy,” and a Brave Scout “has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right, even if others laugh at him or threaten him.” The Law also explains that to be Obedient means that a Scout “follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them.”

I fear that for some Scouts this policy adds a 13th point to the Law: “A Scout is Hypocritical.” At church and in his home life, he practices what Scouting teaches about being Helpful, Friendly, Kind, and Cheeful to all, and what his religion teaches about accepting all of God’s children as equals. But at his Scout meeting, he learns that “all” does not include LGBT folk.

The BSA’s policy of banning gay Scouters and Scouts is not consistent with its Declaration of Religious Principles, it is not consistent with the Scout Law and as such, it is a violation of the Scout Oath.

As a private membership organization, the BSA has a right to this discriminatory practice. Ignoring calls from outside the organization to change its rules is one thing; ignoring the wishes of its own membership is quite another. On this matter, the BSA leadership has much to learn from its own youth and adult leaders who are fighting for openness, fairness and tolerance.

I urge the BSA to follow the lead of those Scouts and Scouters who are Brave enough to stand up for change.

Very truly yours,
Hugh J. Donagher, III
Eagle Scout
Trained Scoutmaster

Originally published on Facebook.

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