Should the Boy Scouts be allowed to recruit in public schools?

It’s always interesting to me when I run into a situation that I have to reconsider for the first time since becoming an atheist.

A mother in King, North Carolina recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal:

On the second day of school, a representative from the Boy Scouts of America came to my son’s school to recruit new members. My son came home so excited, and cried when I had to tell him no. I feel he is too young to understand BSA’s homophobic and discriminatory policies, so I told him we already had too much on our plate. The BSA is prejudicial (it doesn’t accept atheists or agnostics) and homophobic (no gays allowed). My son will never be a Boy Scout and I wish that I had been notified that valuable learning time was going to be spent promoting a homophobic hate group.

Recently President Obama made a 15-minute speech to children about working hard and staying in school. I got a verbal message from the teacher, a note and two calls letting me know about the speech.

Is the president’s message that scary? Why does a positive message from the president require so much parental warning, while a discriminatory organization gets free rein to recruit during the school day with zero parental notification?

From now on, I expect notifications of future speakers at my son’s school and the topic of discussion. I expect a verbal message from his teacher, a letter from the principal and two auto calls. I would also like the opportunity to send in a signed note to excuse him from said speaker.

The BSA, in case you didn’t know, has official anti-LGBT and anti-nontheist policies, which have led to Eagle scouts being stripped of their awards and scout leaders being removed from their positions.

I’m an Eagle scout. I received my award from a scout troop where religion and sexuality were never discussed. Maybe there was an undercurrent of religion in some of the things we said (like the Scout Oath, which mentions doing duty to god and my country), but apart from the routine recitations it was never really raised as an issue. (Come to think of it, that’s kind of surprising, considering that I grew up in a pretty conservative area of Michigan…)

But I know that troops do exist where just believing in the wrong god (e.g. being a Hindu) is enough to keep you out. And I’ve seen dozens of cases of scouts and scoutmasters having their awards and positions stripped away after publicly coming out of the closet.

So it’s clearly not enough for me to apply my own personal experiences to this issue. If I say that it’s okay to allow some scout troops into schools since not every scout troop discriminates on the basis of sexuality or religion, it would be equivalent to saying that since not all Christians are like Fred Phelps we should allow the more accepting groups to recruit in schools.

I can see the mother coming at this question with two different approaches:

  1. She doesn’t want her kids to be potentially indoctrinated into anti-LGBT, anti-nontheist beliefs.
  2. She doesn’t want to support an organization that discriminates the way the BSA does.

From the first viewpoint, it would seem a bit hasty to prejudge the practices of a local troop based on the policies of the national troop. The second viewpoint recognizes that things like membership dues and subscriptions to the Boy’s Life magazine would be giving financial backing to a group with an official policy of hate, and I absolutely agree that such discriminatory groups shouldn’t be given the platform of the classroom to seek new sources of income and new members.

Now I’m torn between turning in my Eagle badge to officially renounce the BSA and keeping it to pad my résumé…

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s