Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Time for the Boys Scouts of America to Evolve

Jennifer Tyrrell was the leader of Pack 109's Tiger Cub Scouts in Ohio of which her son, Cruz age 7, was a member.  Ms. Tyrell is lesbian. She and her partner together raise their four children.  Ms. Tyrell informed the local Boy Scout official and the parents of the children in her pack of her sexual orientation and they all were fine with it.  By all accounts she did a great job as pack leader.  However, someone filed a complaint against her with the Boy Scouts of America regarding her sexual orientation and she was promptly fired.  It was reported that the complaint was filed after she raised some questions regarding scouting finances after becoming local treasurer. 

Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America said in explaining the removal of Ms. Tyrell, “Scouting, and the majority of parents it serves, does not believe it is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay."

Deron Smith’s argument could be equally well applied to differences other than sexual orientation; perhaps children should not have to become aware of people being black or Jewish or Hindu or atheist or disabled or female (Boy Scouts of America in fact does exclude atheists, agnostics and girls). 

Boy Scouts of America is a private organization and the courts have held that they have the right to determine their own membership as part of their freedom of association.  But that does not make their decision right or wise. 

The Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gays and lesbians, atheists and girls teaches intolerance.  Apparently boy scouts have to be taught, by example, that they should not associate with others who hold different (and more rational) belief systems, or are born with a different gender or sexual orientation.  Organizations that aim to help children develop should imbue a spirit of tolerance and understanding rather than one of exclusion and intolerance.

Scouting brings to mind the image of training children to be respectful, helpful, hard working, and to love nature and the outdoors.  These are all laudable goals – for all children.  Teaching intolerance and discrimination is not appropriate for any children.

Let us hope that the Boy Scouts of America evolve – whether or not they believe in the theory of evolution.

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