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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

From Fox News:

Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.

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I'm an Eagle Scout and I'm Ashamed of the Boy Scouts of America

August 16, 2000

To Whom it May Concern,

Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is John Satter. I currently teach 7-12 graders science and college students Biology. I do this because I enjoy awakening young minds, and because it is a necessary service provided to my fellow travelers in our society. I am an Eagle Scout. In fact, the process of earning this award was one of the more meaningful experiences of my youth. I earned this award in 1986 while in a troop lead by my father who had also earned his Eagle Scout as a young man. Since my father's passing last August, my Eagle award has become part of my link to him and to my past. It means more to me than you could imagine. My father was the pastor at the church in which our troop met. I remember reading The Bible, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution in that church basement. I remember discussing Justice, Life, Prejudice, Service to others, Liberty, Compassion, Tolerance, Honesty, and Honor. We discussed their place in a just and honorable society. From my father, I formed an intellectual base that still serves me well today. It is one that I hope to pass on to both of my sons.

That base allows me to understand that the Boy Scouts of America is a private organization. As such it has the right to be grouped in with other organizations that can exclude anyone. I will say that it is unfortunate and disturbing to me that you have chosen to do so. When the BSA decided to exclude girls I didn't speak up. When an Eagle Scout candidate was not given his award because he was honest enough to admit he was an atheist I, to my shame, did not speak up. Now we have moved one step further down the road and I find that I can no longer remain silent. As I remember, one of the greater triages of the civil rights movement was not the actions of the few hate filled people, but the inaction of the vast majority of people who knew that there was good to be done but did not do what they could to fight injustice. This is an injustice that deserves action. So, I will say my peace and do what needs to be done.

The stance that you have chosen to take will hurt your organization and those you serve. This damage may be immediate in the loss of young gay people or far reaching in the loss of honorable people willing to lead. But, be assured that it will occur. The essence, whether we like to admit it or not, of the exclusion of one group from another is prejudice. That is judging someone before you know the content of their character. In fact, it begins with the values one uses to create artificial divisions in the human family. If, for example, we look at a person who is gay and decide that he/she is not morally straight and tell them that they are not fit to lead, we have done two things.

First, we committed a tremendous error in logic by associating a person's sexuality with the qualities necessary to be a good and honorable leader. Biologically and genetically this argument does not hold water. The vast majority of current research indicates that there is a huge genetic/hormonal network at work in sexuality. This makes ones honest sexuality relatively less of a choice and relatively more of
a biological imperative. The Boy Scouts need to update their thinking concerning sexuality from an early twentieth century choice/morality view to a early twenty first century sociological/psychological/hormonal view. Secondly, when we choose to exclude that person we make a value call that says that they are valueless to the institution. This judgment is unjust if it based on arbitrary criteria like sex, race, religion, sexuality, etc.. It is unjust and thereby un-American because it does not take into account the match of the abilities of the individual to that task that needs to be done. In short, it judges the performance and character of a person by looking at a mere one facet of the amazingly complex multifaceted personality that represents each person. This type of decision making is the core nature of prejudice and injustice. This is what has been done by the Boy Scouts. It has earned the Boy Scouts the dubious honor of being grouped with organizations that injure members of society and society as a whole with prejudice and injustice under the guise of morality. The hate groups and religious extremist are good examples of this. It is a view that is bred in intolerance and should not be permitted to spread unchallenged.

It is part of my commitment as an eagle scout and a citizen to fight injustices of this type. There are two quotes that sum up my reasons: 1) All evil needs to prosper is for the good to remain silent. 2) Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Sooner or later the attitudes you are fostering will impact our lives and our families in a significant way. It is best to stop the prejudices now, before they take on a life of their own (in much the same way as cancer) in an organization whose purpose should be to educate and eliminate the very injustice and prejudice you are fostering.

Now on to what this will do to the boy scouts as an organization. Those who lead honestly and think seriously about what is happening in the organization will probably take one of three paths. The first choice would be to either defy the ban on gay leaders and scouts or openly fight the policy. This tends to create hostility that encourages those who are honorable to look for other places to help young people. Those who do participate in the exodus of leaders will take with them the skills that they possess. In this way hostility is created and the most skilled and honorable leave the organization. The second choice is that people will disagree but not be willing to speak up or leave the organization. This is the silence of the good people that I wrote of earlier. Eventually, these people will realize that to remain silent is to advocate your position. Put simply, if you acquiesce you are not part of the solution you are supporting the problem. This is not healthy for the individual or the institution. The third choice is for those who are gay or atheists to simply hide who they are and lie when they are asked about the subjects. When this happens it breeds dishonesty and drives those who are honorable enough to admit their uniqueness away from the program. This, in turn, causes the Boy Scouts lose those who have the strength of character to accept themselves and others as they are. These people are the life blood of an honest organization.

Regardless of which path people choose, it is plain to see that the organization as a whole will become a poorer place to be. However, if the Boy Scouts decide to change and evolve into a more modern institution there is a good chance that the support of honorable people can continue. In fact the framers of the constitution, in their wisdom, realized that any large institution, like the government or the Boy Scouts, would eventually need to change with the society it serves. As such they provided a mechanism to allow that change to occur. The boy scouts seem, now, to be unwilling or unable to change even when the path that they are taking is clearly harmful to those who they are attempting to serve. This causes an unhealthy stagnation in the institution that breeds contempt and festers personal prejudices. It may very well be that the boy scouts as an institution has out lived the niche that it once occupied. If so it is time for someone to find or develop an organization that is similar to but embraces the differences that make us all unique and add to the strength of our society. I hope that that institution can be the Boy Scouts in a more modern and enlightened form. But, if it can't, I am sure that some other organization will fill the niche that the Boy Scouts once occupied.

For the reasons listed, for honor, and for the progress of our society I can not in good conscience remain affiliated with the organization that The Boy Scouts of America has become. My first desire was to return my Eagle Scout award to you. However, on further consideration I realized that this would be an empty gesture. There is no way to return the experiences of my past that it represents. What was awarded simply is. The action that does have meaning is what I can do now. This letter is the first step. My second action will be to renounce any and all associations I have with your organization. From now on I will neither associate with nor encourage others to associate with your organization. My final action is renounce my rank as Eagle Scout. From this time forward I will no longer be known as an Eagle Scout. I will neither use it nor claim it. It is with a profound sense of loss for the now tainted award, memories and the Boy Scouts organization that I feel this is the only honorable course of action. Although this is painful for me personally, I understand that if enough of us do so, perhaps you will listen and understand the need for change. Sacrifice is the base unit of change. Perhaps mine will do some good for society. I know that this is the action that my father would have taken. I know he would have been proud.

Working Toward a Better World,

John Satter
Former Eagle Scout
Troop 123
Central Wyoming Council




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We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

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