Justin Bickford: The choice for Boy Scouts: Blaze trail or fall behind


Published: Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 26, 2013 at 10:59 p.m.

The Boy Scouts of America has formally announced a proposal that will be voted upon in May. If passed, this proposal would overturn the decades old proclamation that homosexuality goes against the core values of the BSA.

As an Eagle Scout, I was never taught this opinion, and neither was fellow Eagle Scout Justice Stephen Breyer until he heard the Dale v. BSA case in 2000 and ruled against the BSA. Much of America was unaware that the BSA leadership felt this way until the Supreme Court case.

Thirteen years later, the shouts to overturn this ban have grown to more than 6,300 Eagle Scouts and countless other Scouts and supporters through organizations such as Scouts for Equality and the Inclusive Scouting Network.

We were taught to live our lives by the Scout Oath and Law. Many people have come up with their own interpretations of these promises, but what is written in my Boy Scout Handbook has not changed.

Morally straight still refers to strength of character, reverence still refers to following your own beliefs and respecting the beliefs of others, and the duty to God still does not specify any particular god.

Not only is the BSA America's youth organization for leadership and character development, it is also one of the greatest interfaith organization for America's youth.

With the majority of Americans and most Christian Americans supporting marriage equality, it is unfair to label Christianity or any religion as an excuse to continue discrimination in the BSA. Furthermore, those that choose to label the BSA as a "Christian organization" are throwing away a major point of the last tenet of the Scout Law.

For a Scout to be reverent, he must respect the beliefs of others; this goes beyond respecting only that which he finds agreeable. The narrow morality that admonishes homosexuals does not stand as the supreme morality of the BSA.

Taking a step toward ending discrimination will not bring about the end of the BSA as some have prophesized. The BSA's own internal survey found that ending the ban on gay youth "would be consistent with the religious beliefs of the BSA's major chartered organizations."

The majority of parents and Scouts support a change in policy. It is likely that many people who have turned their backs on the BSA over this policy would also support a more inclusive membership policy.

Kids that have gone through Scouting come out as prepared citizens and leaders. The morals instilled in us compel us to speak out for what is just and to stand up for people when they are mistreated. We have been given some of the most amazing opportunities for personal, emotional and spiritual growth and development that any child could have.

Denying these chances to anyone is wrong. Telling a child that they are not worthy of these opportunities is wrong. Telling a child that their parents are not worthy is wrong. The BSA is still an amazing organization, but discrimination is tainting the BSA in the eyes of young American families and potential new Scouts.

The BSA will make a choice in May. Either our beloved organization will choose to stand still as knowledge, fairness and America pass it by, or it will choose to accept that discrimination against youth is an unconscionable act that must not continue.

Telling youth that they are only capable of morality until they reach adulthood is far from ideal, but the outright discrimination in place now is an insult to every morally upstanding LGBT individual and those of us who find our LGBT friends, families, neighbors and coworkers to be just as worthy of dignity and respect as anyone else.

This straight Eagle Scout stands with Scouts for Equality in asking the BSA to take this historic step toward equality.

Justin Bickford, communications director at Scouts for Equality, lives in Gainesville.

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