I suspect this will be a controversial post. But it has been on my mind and I find that I can’t quite let it rest.
First of all, let me say that individually and on a troop level, the Boy Scouts are generally amazing, accomplished young men. I have no problems with individual Boy Scouts. My co-teacher (TB) in Illinois at AAUW Preschool has a son who, I believe, was an Eagle Scout. The scouts did a lot of volunteer projects building things at the preschool and they were very nicely done. Another friend has been a troop leader (JW) and her boys are in Scouts. But…As I’ve said before, there is always a but. But, I strongly disagree with the “endorsement” our School Board recently gave to the Boy Scouts. Let me explain further.
There were Boy Scouts at a recent Board of Education (BoE) Meeting to fulfill the commitment to attend a public meeting. Great! The BoE recognized the boys who were there. Again, great! But (remember, there is always a but), then one of the Board Members went on to “endorse” and “support” the Boy Scouts.
He commented that the Boy Scouts were a great organization and that he wanted to see more of them in the schools. Huh? This was the same week that Jennifer Tyrrell made the news because of her petition to have the Boy Scouts reinstate her as a Cub Scout Leader. She was removed because she did not “meet the high standards of membership that BSA seeks” (you can read Jennifer’s own words here) because of her sexual orientation. Furthermore, the Boy Scouts of America is fundamentally a religious organization. Atheists and Agnostics are not welcome to be leaders within the Boy Scouts because of their “lack” of belief in G*d. Most Boys Scout Troops are supported (and “endorsed”) by churches. To be fair, there are a few troops that are sponsored by Jewish Religious Groups and other religious groups, but the vast majority are church sponsored.
There have been legal challenges to the Boy Scouts of America’s policies on homosexuality, atheism and agnosticism but because they are a private organization they are allowed to discriminate. I won’t even contest that they are allowed to do so by law. But, to endorse this organization at a School Board Meeting? An organization that believes some should be excluded because of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs? Somehow that doesn’t seem to fit with the expectations of a School District and a BoE. Aren’t the schools restricted from discrimination because they are public institutions?
I’m not even saying that elected officials cannot support the Boy Scouts. Regardless of their discriminatory policies, the Boy Scouts do good in the community. However, to have a BoE Member, in the middle of a public meeting, state that we should see more Boy Scouts in the schools; to say it was a worthy organization to be supported by the community and should be “honored” by the BoE, is downright disgusting.
Again, I am not saying that a BoE Member (or any other elected official) is not entitled to their opinion. I am saying that it was inappropriate to “endorse” the Boy Scout Organization during a public meeting. These particular Boy Scouts were not being recognized for their community service, they were attending a meeting. It was totally appropriate to recognize their attendance. It was quite another thing to give them a glowing recommendation and encourage more participation in the schools (in fact, there was a discussion between BoE members regarding the restrictions for allowing the Boy Scouts to “advertise” their meetings on school property and how those restrictions were “too strict”).
It really scares me to think of where this “endorsement” may lead us.
What do you think? Should a School Board Member be allowed to endorse a blatantly discriminatory organization? Even if it is the Boy Scouts?
Follow-up…I wrote this post before I read about Eagle Scouts writing letters and sending back their awards. I am in awe of these men, who have taken a stand for what they believe in and who have sent a message to the Boy Scouts of America saying that they are ashamed of their discrimination. You can read about their protest here.