Boy Scouts Allowing Gay Youth Starting New Years Day
Pomona First Baptist Church has been the home of Boy Scout Troop 101, one of the oldest west of the Mississippi River, for 103 years. But as of tomorrow, New Years Day, that relationship will end when the church will sever ties with the troop over the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to admit openly gay youth.
The Boy Scouts have a long history of discrimination, and not just against the LGBT community, most of which you wont find on their website. Their website boasts in their ‘about’ section:
“The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. For over a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through over a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.”
1910: The Boy Scouts are founded in 1910, and in 1911 the official oath is adopted, which says that scouts will keep themselves “morally straight.” The Boy Scouts decide later that homosexuality is counter to this oath.
“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law. To help other people at all times, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
1974: For decades, the Boy Scouts let local troops decide what to do about integrating African Americans into the group. The policy wasn’t successful at integrating African American troops: Many chapters, particularly in the South, continued to discriminate.
Nov. 1980: As part of a series on gay teenagers in the Bay Area, the Oakland Tribune covers 18-year-old Tim Curran, an Eagle Scout and aspiring scoutmaster who attended his high school senior prom with a male date. After the Mount Diablo Boy Scout Council gets wind of the story, they bar Curran from scouting activities. Shortly after, Curran sued the Council with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. The case was brought to the Supreme Court of California, which ultimately ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts.
1998: The California Supreme Court weighs in on Tim Curran’s lawsuit and finds that the Boy Scouts are not subject to California’s anti-discrimination law.
June 2000: In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court rules that the Boy Scouts can bar gay troop leaders because the group has a “constitutional right of expressive association.” The case was brought to the highest court in the land by James Dale, who was fired from his position as assistant scoutmaster in 1990 for being gay.
Aug. 2000: Two couples, one gay and one straight (and agnostic), file a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and the city of San Diego because they are barred from using a public park that is exclusively leased to the Boy Scouts. The District Court rules in favor of the couples in 2003, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the decision in 2012.
“For me, the proudest moment of my years of service and dedication to Scouting was the moment I received my Eagle award. My little brother deserves that moment, too. Every Scout deserves a chance to get their Eagle,” says Lucien.
The BSA had been planning for an internal vote by adult members on the issue of its anti-gay prejudice at the end of May. After launching a series of membership surveys the BSA found that, among other things, an overwhelming majority of parents, teens, and members in the Scouts strongly agreed that it would be unacceptable to deny an openly gay Scout an Eagle Award solely because of his sexual orientation. ”The Boy Scouts insist on denying hard-working young men the honors they deserve simply because they’re gay, which tears apart their relationship with proud Scouting families like the Tessiers,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s Vice President of Communications. “A majority of Americans, and even the Boy Scouts’ own members, agree that it’s time we end the shameful rejection of qualified gay Scout.”
In response to the surveys the Scouts announced on April 19th that the quickly approaching May vote would be specifically on allowing openly gay youth back into the Scouts, but they still would not allow gay adults or even though there was internal and nationwide support for dropping the ban altogether. “I’m thrilled that under the proposed resolution, after years of service and dedication to the Boy Scouts, my brother would be eligible to earn his Eagle award,” said Lucien Tessier, “But what I cannot understand is why the Boy Scouts of America believes that I’m not fit to lead my brother’s troop, even though I received the Boy Scouts highest honor just a few years ago. If a Scout has what it takes to earn his Eagle award, surely he has what it takes to serve as an adult leader.”
GLAAD is also working with Scouts for equality an organization of more than 5,000 Eagle Scouts who are working together to urge the Boy Scouts to end their ban on all gay members. They both stand firmly in support of the Tessiers’ efforts to overturn the ban. “Lucien and Pascal are shining examples of outstanding Scouts. Their situation clearly demonstrates the shortcomings of the BSA’s policy, and we will not rest until youth like Pascal get the rank and respect they deserve,” said Brad Hankins, Eagle Scout and National Campaign Director of Scouts for Equality. “We’re proud to see Lucien standing up for his little brother, and we’re proud to call them both brothers in Scouting and members of Scouts for Equality.”
The Tessier’s are just one story of many but there was also plenty of opposition as well. After the BSA announced they would lift the ban on gay youths, issuing a statement on May 23, 2013 that, in part, reads: “Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote. This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units. The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.”
See press conference after vote with BSA leadership here:
There were many who hated the decision and warned the Scouts to not give in to pressure. On “The 700 Club,” the conservative televangelist, Pat Robertson, said the Boy Scouts’s ruling “boggles the mind.” He blamed Hollywood and the “liberal media” for promoting (LGBT) rights and Robertson added, “It breaks your heart to see the Boy Scouts…torn up in order to accommodate a few kids that want to do sex with each other.” Also, he wondered aloud if permitting gay Scouts to join the BSA would also open the door to “predators” and “pedophiles.”
See the video courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
Two Christian radio show hosts known for their controversial, anti-gay commentary have suggested that the repeal of the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay members will lead to merit badges being awarded for cannibalism and sodomy. ”Manhood is a problem and the Boy Scouts are going to lead the decline now,”host Kevin Swanson said. ”Since the final decision came down that the Boy Scouts as a national organization are going to invite homosexuals into the troops.”
This “breakdown of manhood” brought on by the inclusion of gay scouts will lead to several new Boy Scout awards, according to Swanson’s co-host Dave Buehner, including “the sodomy merit badge.”
“And after that I guess it’s incest. After that I guess it’s the cannibal merit badge,” Swanson cut in, adding that the Boy Scouts “are trying to add abomination on abomination, effectively going into God’s word, trying to find the thing that God really, really, really hates the most. The sins listed in the Bible, going through the lists of sins in the Bible, finding the very worst ones and creating merit badges for them is where the Boy Scouts are headed.”
After the ruling, Pastor Greg Walker tells WBRC-TV that Boy Scout troops will no longer be welcome to meet onsite at the First Baptist Church of Helena. “It’s hard on a personal level to say to a troop of young boys who have done nothing wrong and to the leaders, ‘You’re not welcome here,’” Walker told the news channel. “I didn’t make the decision, Boy Scouts of America did.”
And then there is Trail Life USA, a Christian and anti-gay scouting group that intends to serve as an alternative to the Boy Scout program, had their first gathering in September, drawing in over 1,000 attendees — including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and a George W. Bush impersonator. A statement from the group reads: ”Trail Life USA will be inclusive of boys, regardless of religion, race, national origin or socioeconomic status, and accept boys who are experiencing same-sex attractions or gender confusion. However, it will not admit youth who are open or avowed about their homosexuality, and it will not admit boys who are not ‘biologically male’ or boys who wish to dress and act like girls.”
The program is set to function around a structure that is the same as that of the Boy Scouts, but with a focus on both “sexual purity” and adherence to “a standard statement of Christian values.” Trail Life USA will also incorporate values and beliefs of the American Heritage Club, a Christian-based Girl Scout Alternative formed over a decade ago.
The Boy Scouts released a statement in response to the formation of Trail Life USA that reads: “It’s inappropriate for us to discuss other organizations, but we’re pleased that our members remain committed locally and nationally.”
Trail Life USA is expected to formally launch on January 1, 2014- the same day the Scouts are allowing gay members.
A video from the group:
Two of BSA’s biggest sponsors, the Catholic and Mormon churches, have maintained ties with the organization. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of fallout,” said Haddock. “If a church said they wouldn’t work with us, we’d have a church right down the street say, ‘We’ll take the troop.’”
As far as the church in Pamona, officials just delivered the news in mid-December that the troop’s charter would not be renewed after it expired on Dec. 31, leaving troop leaders scrambling to find another sponsor within weeks. On Sunday, the troop voted to accept an offer from a new partner, also a church. Scoutmaster James Meyette said he felt “encouraged.”
“We have somewhere where we’re wanted,” said Meyette, 44, a father of two boys in Scouting. “It is a relief knowing that the troop is not going to fade away. What we’ll be able to take away from this is being able to teach the boys that life isn’t always neat and tidy.” Meyette, who will be charged with clearing out troop relics and equipment from the church, including photos of its Scouts pre-dating World War II. How one deals with change and moves forward “is going to define you,” he added.
Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, said he felt the BSA would learn that there was nothing to worry about by admitting gay youth. “The biggest result of this change is simply going to be people wondering what all the fuss is about,” said Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of a lesbian couple. “Opening membership to gay youth is an historic first step toward full equality in the BSA, but we’re not there yet,” Wahls said. ”Scouts for Equality will continue to advocate for a fully inclusive membership policy, to help build a stronger, more inclusive Boy Scouts of America.”
Wahls pointed out in the statement that gay scouts will be excluded from their troops once they turn 18, even after they have achieved the highest honor in scouting, the Eagle Scout Award.
“My hope is there will be the same effect this Jan. 1 as the Y2K scare,” said Brad Haddock, an executive board member of the BSA to the AP, referring to the feared computer havoc that never materialized in the year 2000. ”It’s business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward.”