Not so Serenely Accepting that Which I Cannot Change
My son Alex is a Boy Scout and he really enjoys it. He very much wants to make it all the way to Eagle Scout and I want to support him on his journey. They have been so anxious to work with his social challenges and find ways that he can be included in the group. Every moment he’s spent with scouts has helped me to ignore the misgivings I have about the Boy Scouts of America.
And yet, I do have misgivings. Primary among them is their unflinching policy when it comes to gays and lesbians involved in their organization.
As a private organization, the BSA have the right to eject her. The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that they can discriminate against gays and lesbians at will and their explicit policy is that anyone who is openly gay or lesbian is not permitted to be involved in the pack.
The pack in question didn’t care that she was gay. She was open to parents about it because she wanted no misunderstandings. Someone else, however, complained to the local council and she was done.
That means that even if a certain pack or troop doesn’t care about sexual orientation, if even one person complains about it, they must eject the individual in question or their charter can be revoked. The opinions of those involved in a particular pack or troop don’t matter. It is a nationwide policy.
It is a policy that starts from the fractured premise that sexual identity is a concept that the kids are too young to understand in spite of the fact that boys who stay with scouts will easily be old enough to handle those concepts by the time they are sixteen. I found that if I talked about the idea of love between a two people – regardless of gender – my kids understood the concept just fine when they were four.
Many of these boys will, unquestionably, be going to churches that actively campaign against homosexuals. Apparently it is OK for the church to tell kids that it is wrong but it isn’t OK for someone involved in the boy scouts to show that it might not be wrong simply by existing.
My son isn’t gay. But he is an atheist. He came to this conclusion by himself and while I admire him for making that decision, I worked very hard to ensure that his decision about god was his own.
In his response to the situation detailed above, Hemant Mehta at the Friendly Atheist tells a story of trying to change the organization from within. When that attempt failed, he called the PR representative for his council and ended up telling that individual he was an atheist. What happened?
At that point in the conversation he told me I didn’t really meet the high standards that BSA was looking for and that I would be better off in another organization or youth group.
Keep in mind, Hemant is straight and an Eagle Scout. His atheism, however, meant that he didn’t meet the “high standards” of the BSA.
Now let me be clear – I have never met with a single moment of discrimination in the time Alex has been involved in the BSA. Both he (and I) are open about our atheism and we’ve never been made to feel unwelcome. The people involved in his Troop are good people – every single one of them.
Thing is, if anyone wanted to make an issue of his non belief – I would have no recourse whatsoever. My son could be booted out of the Troop and he wouldn’t understand why. I don’t think anyone in the Troop would feel good about it but that is the policy of the organization.
I don’t have a good alternative for Alex and the fact is, he’s made friends in scouts and he enjoys it. If I pulled him based on news of the latest action, I feel as if I would be punishing my son for the sins of the organization.
It makes me feel angry and a little helpless.
But the fact is, BSA has been a positive experience for him and even with the policies I find incredibly distasteful, I can’t ignore that. The best I can do is tell him that there are policies that the national organization set that I feel are just plain wrong and hope that if I (and enough other parents and leaders) teach our kids that those policies are wrong, eventually they might end up in a position to change them.
It is, I think, a nearly impossible dream. I see too much good in what the organization does for my son, though, to give it up.
Maybe that is hypocritical of me. Sometimes you have to make what you think is the best decision for your child – even if it results in moral ambiguity for yourself.