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POINT OF VIEW How the Boy Scouts could change course Troop sponsorship, participation are keys

Monday, May 6, 2002 1:35AM EDT

By HARRY E. RODENHIZER III RALEIGH - I was active in Scouting for more than 40 years, beginning as a Cub Scout and continuing through the Boy Scouts, Explorers, summer camp staff, camp director and numerous volunteer positions as an adult, the last as Council commissioner for the Occoneechee Council here in Raleigh. I have taken and taught most every training program from Scoutmastership Fundamentals through Woodbadge and Basic Commissioner Training through five years on the faculty of Commissioner College. Included in all of this is training and as instructor in the BSA's state-of-the-art Youth Protection Guidelines Training.I have knocked on doors to help organize new packs and troops, I have raised money and I have recruited volunteers. I have done most everything that I could do to advance the mission of the BSA.I have earned the Arrow of Light, I am an Eagle Scout, earned God and Country, as an adult I received every training award, District Award of Merit, Distinguished Commissioner, three Woodbadge Beads and the Silver Beaver.This recitation is not to boast, but to demonstrate that I am entitled to speak on this matter.I love the Boy Scouts. This is painful.

Scouting's governance

Some brief background information. The young man that you see in his Scout uniform is not a member of the Boy Scouts of America. He is a member of the Scout unit of the organization that sponsors it. The members of the Boy Scouts of America are the organizations that sponsor Scouting units.

They are chartered by the BSA in the same way as the BSA is chartered by Congress. These sponsors appoint Charter Organization Representatives (CORs) who represent them in policy matters and who are eligible to vote in the District, Council and National Council meetings.Local Councils have no authority to change or deviate from the policies of the National Council. To effect change in the BSA is not possible at the local level. A large number of the Charter Representatives represent the stakes (geographic regions) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Many others represent The Methodist Men. Should the policy of the BSA change regarding gay leaders and Scouts, I believe these organizations will stop sponsoring Scout units. The BSA would see that as catastrophic.In my experience, the Mormon and Methodist Men Charter Organization Representatives actually go to the national meetings where decisions are made. Representatives of nearly all of the rest of the sponsors that I am aware of do not bother to participate in Scouting save to be a name on a required line on their charter. This is, in my view, a great failure of the BSA.Scouting's Youth Protection Guidelines Training, widely regarded as the most comprehensively researched and effective training in existence concerning all aspects of child abuse, including pedophilia, states that pedophiles are, in their adult relationships, normally heterosexual. So the idea that the Scouts are protecting children from pedophiles by excluding gay males is shown by their own research and training to be false.In my opinion, the exclusion of gays is not so much an issue of the BSA per se as it is a matter of the beliefs of the Mormons and The Methodist Men who are Charter Organization Representatives. It is a fact of my life in Scouting that several of the finest Scouts I have ever known are gay. These are Eagle Scouts, earned the God and Country Award, were not only selected by their fellow Scouts to be members of the Order of the Arrow but were highly respected officers of that organization. Some were camp staff members who for years taught the values and skills of Scouting to hundreds, maybe thousands of young boys.

Scouting is the poorer for excluding them now.The 12th point of the Scout Law is "A Scout is Reverent." The handbook states, in amplifying this point, that a "Scout respects the religious convictions of others." My religious convictions do not allow me to exclude any of God's children. On the other hand, I should not presume to impose my beliefs on the Mormons or on The Methodist Men. So why do we have to deny the same consideration to the Olin Binkley Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, for instance, or myself and those who share these beliefs? I am not aware of an exception to "respect for the religious convictions of others."

Cutoff won't work

Now, regarding the Triangle United Way and the local Scouts: In the attempt to change the policies imposed on the BSA, depriving the Scouts of United Way member agency status may make some feel better, but it will not work.How will Scout policy be changed? It will change when more and more people and organizations buy into the mission of the BSA. More units,
serving more Scouts, with better programs.Community groups, churches, schools and individuals who may want Scouting should fully embrace this sophisticated youth (and adult) leadership training organization. They should recruit leaders who will fulfill the responsibilities of the positions they hold, accept the training and provide this incredible program to every person they can find. And with this, these groups should not neglect the responsibility to have informed, well-trained Chartered Organization Representatives who will also fulfill all of their responsibilities -- including the one to go to the National Council meetings and vote.Should this happen, any exodus of the Mormons and The Methodist Men would not cause the death of Scouting that is now predicted and feared.Short of this, the BSA will not change.

Harry E. Rodenhizer III lives in Raleigh.



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