Friday, May 22, 2015

Scouting in a world as it is....

From the New York Times...

Robert M. Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America and former secretary of defense, called on Thursday to end the Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders, warning the group’s executives that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”

Speaking at the Boy Scouts’ annual national meeting in Atlanta, Mr. Gates said cascading events — including potential employment discrimination lawsuits and the impending Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, as well as mounting internal dissent over the exclusionary policy — had led him to conclude that the current rules “cannot be sustained.”

If the Boy Scouts do not change on their own, he said, the courts are likely to force them to, and “we must all understand that this will probably happen sooner rather than later.”.  In a nod to the religious organizations that sponsor a majority of local Scout troops, he said they should remain free to set their own guidelines for leaders. “I support a policy that accepts and respects our different perspectives and beliefs,” he said, adding, “I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”

Conservative religious groups that sponsor many Scout troops, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Roman Catholic Church and some evangelical churches, opposed the participation of openly gay members, while local leaders in more liberal regions have called for an end to discrimination.

A Scout group in New York has defied the rules by employing an openly gay 18-year-old as a camp counselor, and several other councils around the country have expressed opposition to the ban. 

Mr. Gates said Thursday, in prepared remarks released by the Boy Scouts, that the national leadership would take no action against defiant local councils.  

At the same time, he said that in the name of religious freedom, the Scouts should allow local sponsoring organizations “to determine the standards for their Scout leaders.”

The Mormon church issued a guarded statement Thursday: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the B.S.A.” If the Scouts’ executive board adopts the policy Mr. Gates has recommended, letting local groups set their own leadership rules, the church is not likely to be affected.
Well this should come as a surprise... to nobody.

This  sort of "compromise" was pretty much inevitable,  because of the chaos the bizarre  youth policy change created in 2013.   Where a 17 year old gay scout was fine but the day that kid turns 18 he suddenly is a threat to Scouting and must be banned. 

This was starting to create serious issues around Summer Camp Staffing.  Where you have a Camp staffer who works as a volunteer counsellor when he is 15, then gets a paid position on staff as a  16 and 17 year old.  Suddenly  this experienced  employee who is a tremendous asset to your program has to be banned because he is now 18 years old. 

Interestingly enough the camp staff issue may turn out to  have been a key driver in this.  The BSA was about to start running afoul of employment discrimination laws in multiple states.  Cases they knew they would have a very hard time  winning should they end up in court. 

Also. The issue was a huge  problem for some  organizations within Scouting.   The Order of the Arrow and Sea Scouts both considered a "Youth" to be  someone under the age of 21.  Which suddenly was in conflict with the overall membership standards.   The whole attempt to avoid dealing with the larger issue by changing the policy on Youth just created a bigger administrative mess.

A "live and let discriminate" compromise was inevitable. Where membership standards can be  decided at the local level by sponsoring organizations.  Where scouting units sponsored by the Mormon  and Catholic Churches can still cling to their homophobia,   while more progressive organizations can take an inclusive approach.   This keeps the BSA intact.   The reality is,  if the LDS or Catholic churches pulled their support for Scouting,  the BSA would cease to exist.   This sort of compromise,  imperfect as it may seem. May be the best option at this point.

As news of Gate's  speech in Atlanta yesterday began to be widely reported, my phone started to buzz with emails and text messages from old friends,  who all were asking the question;  Should those of us who left scouting rather than lie about who we are (and in many cases who we are married to...). Re-Register if we live in areas where the local council is inclined to be more inclusive?   I think the answer is  No,   or at least, not yet.    

At the1992
National Order of the Arrow
Scouting's discrimination has been incredibly painful to many of us who gave decades of our lives to the program, and value it tremendously.  So it is very tempting to seize this development as a pathway back to being able to give of our time and talents to an organization we dearly love.   Yet this issue is far from resolved

The. BSA National Executive Board  had no plans to take up the membership standards issue this year.    Now that was before Robert Gates went ahead and  put the issue front and center.    So  this summer may see more developments on this .
So at the end of the day, yes this IS good news and cause for "Cautious Optimism". But. It's too soon to claim a victory for equality just yet.

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