Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts' Gay Leader Ban Preserves Worst Stereotypes, Holder Says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Creative Commons image by Ola Thorsen via the U.S. Department of State

Taking aim at the Boy Scouts of America’s continuing ban on gay adult leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder said the prohibition perpetuates “the worst kind of stereotypes.”

“It’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,” Holder said Tuesday to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for LGBT rights.

Referring to the group’s work a decade ago to challenge the termination of a gay assistant scoutmaster, Holder said that “too many organizations, policies, and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns.”

“Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders — by an iconic American institution — only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,” he said.

In Missouri, Oak Scouts Offers an Alternative to the Boy Scouts

Photo courtesy Kerry Kasten

One of two Oak Scouts logos — each troop individually decides the logo they wish to use. Photo courtesy Kerry Kasten

As the Boy Scouts of America gets ready to admit gay youth, one Missouri organization has already broken away, but not because it favors tradition.

Oak Scouts is designed to be a safe space for everyone, regardless of faith or sexual orientation.

It all started when Kerry Kasten began guiding children’s meetings at a nature preserve and nondenominational Shamanic Wiccan church in Boonville. The more Kasten met with the children, the more she realized the need for a new type of scout troop.

“I realized there are all these parents out there who were not wanting to go into the mainstream scouting program due to disagreements in faith and sexual orientation,” Kasten said. “They wanted to go somewhere they felt safe being gay or pagan or not mainstream and express how they felt.”

On Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America will begin accepting openly gay youths, a historic change that has prompted some churches to drop their sponsorship of Scout units because of the new policy.

Opponents to Boy Scouts Policy to Launch Alternative

Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr

John Stemberger speaking at CPAC FL in Orlando, Florida. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via Flickr

A fledgling organization that opposed the Boys Scouts of America’s decision to accept openly gay Scouts announced Tuesday it will launch an alternative group with a Christian worldview.

“It’s our vision to be the premiere national character development organization for young men which produces godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens,” announced Rob Green, interim executive director of the as-yet-unnamed organization.

“The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation,” Green said in a conference call with reporters.

John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net, which opposed the BSA policy change, differentiated between the inclusiveness of the BSA and the new organization.

Southern Baptists Condemn Gay Scouts Policy but Won’t Force a Boycott

Photo courtesy RNS.

More than 5,100 Southern Baptist “messengers” met in Houston for an annual meeting. Photo courtesy RNS.

Southern Baptists overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to stand with churches and families that drop ties with the Boy Scouts of America over its decision to allow openly gay Scouts, and urged the BSA to remove leaders who supported the change in policy.

Members of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, gathered on the final day of their annual meeting in Houston, also acknowledged the right of churches to remain in Scouting, urging them to “seek to impact as many boys as possible with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

While expected, the Baptists’ resolution stopped far short of calling for an all-out boycott, as they did in 1997 with the Walt Disney Co. to combat what they saw as the company’s gay-friendly policies. That boycott was ended in 2005.

Churches Move to Cut Ties to Scouts After Gay Policy Change

Boy Scouts of America uniform and flag. Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.

For the Rev. Ernest Easley, the decision to cut ties with the Boy Scouts was simple.

The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. The Boy Scouts do not.

“We are not willing to compromise God’s word,” said Easley, pastor of the 2,300-member Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., which has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 204 since 1945.

One Scouts Ban Remains Intact: Atheists

RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

A Boy Scout marches with his troop during the Memorial Day parade in Smithtown, N.Y. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz.

The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to accept openly gay Scouts has raised the question: Are atheists and other nonbelievers — the only remaining group BSA still bans — next?

No one is holding their breath, least of all Neil Polzin, an Eagle Scout who was fired from his job in 2009 as an aquatics director at a Boy Scout camp in San Diego after he admitted to being an atheist.

“I don’t see that happening, at least not in the immediate future,” Polzin said. “The focus has always been on the Scouts’ discrimination against gays and it seems atheists were always on a back burner or not discussed at all.”

But that doesn’t mean nonbelievers — atheists, humanists, and other nontheists — have abandoned their quest for inclusion. In the wake of the BSA’s May 23 vote that led to the inclusion of gay Scouts — but not gay scoutmasters — every major organization of nonbelievers has issued a statement condemning their continued exclusion.

A BSA official declined to comment, but issued a statement that said, in part, that since the organization had “just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.”

The problem for atheists lies in an oath in which scouts promise to “do my duty to God and my country.” Some nonbelievers have suggested their sons change the word “God” to “good,” but the BSA has remained firm. Some atheist children have been asked to leave after years in Scouting when it was revealed that they did not believe in God.

Church-Based Scouting Alternatives Attract Interest

Photo courtesy Calvinist Cadet Corps

Calvinist Cadet Corps participants from the Grand Rapids North Council. Photo courtesy Calvinist Cadet Corps

They have pledges. They have merit badges. And they may go camping.

But they’re not the Boy Scouts.

Across the country, there are decades-old religious alternatives with names like Pathfinders (Seventh-day Adventist), Royal Ambassadors (Southern Baptist), and Royal Rangers (Assemblies of God).

And as the Boy Scouts of America considers whether to change its membership policy to admit gay members (but continue its ban on gay leaders), some of these groups are fielding inquiries from people concerned about the action the BSA may take.

‘What Is Going On with Men?’ TEDx Speaker Urges Fellow Men to Speak Out Against Sexual Abuse

Jackson Katz speaks out on domestic violence at TEDx. Video still.

Who is missing from the slew of headlines this week on kidnappings, gender-based violence, and victims' paths to healing? The perpetrators themselves.

Which is why this TEDx video is a must-see.

“Gender violence issues have been seen as 'women’s issues' that some good men help out with,” Jackson Katz, PhD, Founder and Director at MVP Strategies, says in the video. “I have a problem with that frame, and I don’t accept it. It gives men an excuse to not pay attention."

Boy Scouts Proposal Displeases Religious Leaders on Both Sides

Photo courtesy Unitarian Universalist Association

The Rev. Peter Morales called the resolution “a step in the right direction.” Photo courtesy Unitarian Universalist Association

Conservative and liberal religious leaders may not agree on much, but both are expressing displeasure with the Boy Scouts’ proposal to accept gay members but reject gay leaders.

The Boy Scouts of America released its draft proposal on April 19 that will be voted on at its annual meeting in May.

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” reads the proposed resolution, which also notes that the Scouts “will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Hit the Hallelujah Button: The Silent Monks/Boy Scouts of Richfordshire, UK

The German Baroque master composer George Frideric Handel wrote his most famous piece, the English oratorio Messiah, in 1741 and it was performed for the first time publicly on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. In the intervening nearly 300 years since its composition, Handel's Messiah — and it's "Hallelujah Chorus" in particular — have become staples of Christmastide, with thousands of renditions recorded or performed by everyone from The Royal Philharmonic and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Leonard Bernstein's unorthodox restructuring in the 1950s and R&B music producer Quincy Jones' modern "soulful celebration" gospel interpretation in more recent years.

Beginning today, each day until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Inside, see the first installment from a silent order of monks (aka the Barton Boy Scout troop of Richfordshire, North Yorkshire, England) performing Handel's classic.

HALLELUJAH!

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