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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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Commentary: A father and his son give back their Eagle Scout medals

Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 24, 2000
425 Portland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN, 55408
(Fax 612-673-4359 ) (E-MAIL: ) ( )

Frank Edward Allen

Few public-service groups in our country enjoy the prestige of a federal charter. One of them is the Boy Scouts of America. Earlier this month, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill ridiculed a few fellow lawmakers for suggesting that the federal charter of the Boy Scouts should be revoked.

Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah called the suggestion "an attack on the fundamental values of America." Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia said those who made the suggestion "truly ought to be ashamed." House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas compared the idea to declaring "open season on the Boy Scouts."

Barr, whose adultery was made public last year, is hardly in a position to assign shame. Armey would seem to argue that certain groups are above criticism and that a federal charter is forever. And Cannon would appear to believe that discrimination is one of America's "fundamental values."

For three generations, scouting has been important in my family. Breaking such a strong bond, as I did recently, is a painful act, but I had to do it. A few weeks ago, I surrendered my Eagle Scout medal and asked for removal of my name from the Eagle Award Registry.

My father became an Eagle Scout during the Great Depression. Leadership and survival skills learned in scouting saved his life several times as a Navy officer in the Pacific during World War II. In the 1950s, my dad became a scoutmaster and my mom became a Cub Scout den mother. I became an Eagle Scout in 1962. My eldest son became an Eagle Scout in 1993.

I have cherished the honor of being an Eagle. For nearly 40 years, my Eagle medal has had a prominent perch at home, reminding me constantly of so many happy, profound, character-shaping experiences. For all that time, the spirit represented by this medal has nourished my belief in unselfish
service to neighbors and strangers, to community and country. For all that time, I have considered scouting remarkably effective in helping adolescent males become good men.

But now, scouting has lost its moral compass. Current leaders of the Boy Scouts of America pervert the meaning of "morally straight" in the Scout Oath. They wrongly equate "morally straight" with having a "straight" or heterosexual orientation. I reject this false equation and the official Boy Scout policy of hostility toward men and boys who are gay. My own orientation is heterosexual. I am "straight," but I refuse to be narrow.

Like other Eagle Scouts, I have tried to become a citizen, in the best sense of that term. Decorated Navy officer in the Vietnam era. Staff assistant in the Executive Office of the President in a time of crisis. Fourteen years as a senior writer, an editor and a bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Sunday school teacher, Little League baseball and youth soccer coach, Scout troop adviser. Supporter of many other community-service and charitable groups. Elected member of a local public school board. Mentor to troubled young people. Caregiver to a terminally ill parent.

My eldest son, Zachary, is a citizen. When a fire destroyed our church, he helped restore it by designing safe playground toys and then gathering a crew to build them. That effort was his Eagle Scout project. As a youth, he also worked in soup kitchens, promoted a recycling network in his township and volunteered for organizations that ease suffering among Amish children with rare genetic disorders and among adults from all backgrounds with diseases that have no known cure. Zack graduated from high school with high honors. At Stanford University, he held down several part-time jobs, helped bewildered young people strengthen their sense of self-worth and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Now he manages a growing organization in the nonprofit world.

Zack surrendered his Eagle Scout Award, too. He is gay, and he sees no place for discrimination or prejudice among the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America. I stand up for him, now and always. He is a fine person, a man of character and empathy. Character and empathy are what matter. Being gay or straight is not a measure of a person's worth.

Nor is being gay a "choice" or a "preference" or a "lifestyle." Being gay is an orientation. Like being left-brained or right-brained, right-handed or left-handed, being gay or straight is a fundamental part of a human being's natural makeup. Does God favor only the right-handed or the left-brained? Does God favor people with certain skin colors or hairlines while rejecting people who have others?

The Supreme Court of the United States upholds the legal right of the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But a legal right isn't always a moral imperative. The Supreme Court protects the legal right of free speech for the Ku Klux Klan, but such protection does not constitute moral approval of the KKK's hateful discrimination against
Catholics, Jews and blacks.

For almost a century, the Scout Law has inspired American boys and young men to develop good moral character. The Scout Law declares that all Boy Scouts should be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. But how does discrimination against boys and men who are gay uphold the Scout Law? What is loyal or helpful or friendly or courteous or kind or brave about prejudice? How does the teaching of discrimination and prejudice to boys and young men help them become trustworthy? How does it help them develop a sense of fairness and justice?

Finally, how does the practice of discrimination and prejudice show reverence? Aren't all children God's children? Didn't Jesus teach that we should love and respect our neighbors and treat them as we would want to be treated? Would Jesus want to be a scoutmaster today?

Frank Edward Allen, of Missoula, Mont., heads the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. He was a reporter and editor for the Minneapolis Star in the late 1970s.




Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
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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