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Darrell Rivers

Darrell Rivers
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Huntington Beach, California,
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December 31

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Salon.com
NOVEMBER 22, 2012 2:36PM

An End to Gay Discrimination in Scouting

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An End to Discrimination in Scouting:
A Treatise on Recent BSA Policies
 
original 
 

I have remained silent on the issue for quite a while, giving my opinion to a select few, but I might as well come out of the proverbial closet with my stance on gays in Scouting. Many may think my position to be the opposite, given my demeanor and my tendency to show an affinity for the the prudish and Victorian. I wish to lay out the reasons I feel discrimination against gays in Scouting must end, and why I feel that Scouting has strayed far from its purpose and founding principles. Scouting has marked its 100th anniversary in the United States, it has a rich heritage, and a noble place in our culture. Though, among other things, this policy has made Scouting into an organization far from what it once was. 

"The requirement of belief in a higher power does not entail adherence to the religious morality from any one particular faith. 

 

                The requirement of belief in a higher power does not entail adherence to the religious morality from any one particular faith. I am not ashamed to be a Scout, Scouting developed my character and made me into the person I am today, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout. 

                What I do find to be abhorrent are the policies set down by the corporate beauracracy that controls the organization that once was the Boy Scouts of America. There are many things intrinsically wrong with the Scouting program today, many of them stem from the edicts coming from on high, from the businessmen masquerading in Scout uniforms with the yellow epaullettes of Scouter-Employee. It is with this business mindset that many of these policies have been written, appealing only to far-right religious conservatives, the last of their ever dwindling recruitment base. 

 "...the Scouting Movement was not intended to become a moral compass for the nation, focusing on self-improvement and community involvement rather than on placing judgement upon others."

                Regardless of your political stance and religious beliefs, Scouting holds a place in our society, giving counsel and purpose to youth, teaching them to become good citizens, and more importantly, good human beings. A progressive organization for its time, the Scouting Movement was not intended to become a moral compass for the nation, focusing on self-improvement and community involvement rather than on placing judgement upon others. I'm not sending my Eagle Scout medal back, I earned that with the work I did in my troop and district, not merely from decrees from BSA. The experiences I had were unique, not solely the result of curriculum handed down from National. Each scout's experience is different, and indeed it may be said that you get out of Scouting what you put into Scouting. I see my Scouting career as having been driven by my troop leaders, the troop families, and my peers. 

                The opposing arguments are exhaustive, insulting, or simply ignorant in many cases. They are shamelessly circular. One of the simple truths as to why BSA wants to preserve their anti-gay policies is whereby in an era when recruitment is becoming increasingly difficult, much of Scouting's recruitment comes from religious communities. In particular the LDS church is one of Scouting's strongest backers, a faith that holds homosexuality, and sexual immorality in general to be  "most abominable above all sins"[1] In appealing to their strongest supporters, the BSA maintains its supply of new scouts from such communities, but at the same time alienates a significant population of American families looking to join an organization of which their parents and grandparents were proud. Scouting has been through its fair share of tribulation, but that leaves little excuse for excluding openly gay scouts and scouters. 

                This problem is reflected in our increasingly divided country. Scouting cannot possibly appeal to everyone at once.How I beleive one would initiate the death of bigotry in scouting is to begin widespread devolution of powers to individual councils. Scouting will not change overnight, nor will the social conservatives that fear the breakdown of their society stray from their morality. At the national level, there must be widespread devolution of policy whereby a large amount of decision making must be left to the councils, because it is clear in this era of culture war, there is no single clear American moral standard. San Francisco Bay Area Council will not have the same stance as Great Salt Lake Council. They must be able to make their own decisions, lest we continue the divisive stubbornness of recent years. Scouts from each council are drastically different, it seems only natural that each council be granted political autonomy. 

 

"...a Scouting Reformation might help our youth to develop and learn without the hateful policies that contrast with many modern Americans' ideals." 

 

                Should the corporatocracy remain stubborn, secession may be the answer. In many countries, issues have divided the scouting movement apart, causing multiple organizations to form. Should the edicts of the national organization be contrary to more liberally minded families, it may become necessary to dissolve the bounds that tie the troop and the Scouting bureaucracy together. Though it may initially be a logistical nightmare, a Scouting Reformation might help our youth to develop and learn without the hateful policies that contrast with many modern Americans' ideals. If such a secession led to the decline and death of the Scouting program as we know it then so be it. History will remember the BSA as the program that ran from 1910 into the 21st century, but did not adept to modern societal values and could not sustain recruitment. 

 

Darrell Rivers 

Eagle Scout, 2007

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