The Boy Scouts have been in the news lately over the issue of gays and lesbians openly participating in Scouting. My encounter with their one-time requirement of membership in an organized religion leads me to believe the worst thing the Scouts can do is fail to declare a universal policy which is fair to all but the haters, and that "local control" on such matters is a recipe for injustice.
I had my minimalist civil rights adventure so long ago, the savvy reader will have to forgive the writer's embellishment that trying too hard to remember can produce.
I had gotten my father, who insisted we call him "Dick" the whole time, involved in my case.
Through the level of 1st Class Scout, the meer accumulation of merit badges qualified you for each advance in rank. If memory serves.
Then came the high ranks of Star, something, and Eagle.
An important requirement at these levels was not just the earning of stinkin' badges, but also letters from teachers and preachers.
I submitted my application sans "clergyman" but with a letter of explanation which Dick had found worthy enough to practically write for me, while calling it "proofreading" all the while. Your kindest attention, indeed.
I was denied, by mail, but allowed an appeal.
That's what found Dick driving me to Bogota, or maybe it was Leonia. I'm thinking it was a church basement regularly used by a local troop that was the site of my appeal.
Dick found the place, parked the car and sat in the shadows among rows of folding chairs, finding a sometime bridge partner to talk with, while I was in the spotlight of strategically aimed (no doubt) track lighting.
Horace Rampsberger was our Scout troop leader when I was 11 or so. He was now the Scout Council's inquisitor who would have to sign off on me.
Why no clergyman?
"So, I read here that you were home-schooled in religion?"
"Yes, Dick read to us from the "Golden Book of the Bible."
"So how many days did it take God to create everything?"
"Dude, I can't believe you just went there."
"You know in communist Russia, they don't let you have a religion."
"What are you doing here? You're saying in order to be an American you must have a religion? Isn't that the same level of intrusion as the communists?"
I was mailed a notification of achieving "Star" rank but the Scout Council had ruined it for me. I didn't stay much after the ordeal.
I will never forget the look I caught my father giving Murray when Horace Rampsberger met his match at the hands of his flesh and blood. Kind of a "that's my son."
And that was a rarity.
Several years later, Horace Rampsberger was the board's signature on my draft card. To this day I don't like right wingers, and John Birch Society types in particular.
The committee which will present policy recommendations to the national board has given itself a little more time, but May fast approaches.
It would be a shame if the Scouts did anything short of the right thing.