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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Scouting parents face tough decisions after court ruling
Mark Sauerbrey of Oakdale is a former scout leader who left his position because he is gay. His son is still
a Cub Scout.
Jon Tevlin / Star Tribune
August 4, 2000
When Cub Scout Pack 22 took its place in St. Anthony Park's July 4th parade in St. Paul, some of the dozen Scouts
noticed that their friend Austin Granger was missing.
In fact, Austin was watching the marchers from the curb with his parents, Adam Granger and Renee Bergeron. "As
I watched them march by, I was glad my son wasn't among them," his mother said.
The Boy Scouts of America won a major victory in June when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 that it could exclude
Scout leaders who are openly gay.
Weeks later, at the urging of his parents, 9-year-old Austin quietly quit the Cub Scouts, leaving behind his best
friends, the parades and the camping trips to northern Minnesota.
In its case, the Boy Scouts of America argued that an openly gay person was inconsistent with the moral values
it is trying to teach, and that as a private organization it has the right to exclude whom it wants. The courts
agreed. And parents and scouts who also agree don't have an issue.
But for people such as Austin Granger's parents, the question looms: What's the right thing to do?
According to scouting officials, the court's decision triggered a small but passionate response from those in
scouting who disagree with the national organization's position banning gay Scout leaders.
At least two Scout leaders in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis have resigned. A Northfield Eagle Scout, now a
professor, recently returned his pin, badge and sash, saying he no longer wants anything to do with scouting.
At the same time, one gay former scoutmaster has allowed his son to remain in the organization, reflecting the
deep conflict many parents face between their personal values and their affection for the scouting organization.
So far, most parents and Scouts have decided to stick around. The summer camp sessions remain filled, and according
to Kent York, spokesman for the Indianhead Council, which oversees St. Paul Scouts, the issue is not a prominent
topic among campers. "It's not really being discussed at that level," he said. "That's not to
say there aren't people with deep feelings about it."
York said he has received calls and mail from people since the decision. "It's been pretty mixed," he
said. "People who are critical have been more likely to write. One person sent us $100 because he supported
the court decision."
Some scouting officials say they think they will hear more about the issue this month as the annual recruitment
Experts say how parents deal with the issue will have an effect on how those kids perceive and handle ethical
decisions in the future.
Pauline Boss, a professor in the Department of Family and Social Science at the University of Minnesota and a
family therapist, said parents of scouts should weigh the costs and benefits of belonging to the organization,
and ask themselves, "Do I want to have my kids belong to a group that espouses this philosophy?"
Randy Cohen, who writes an ethics column for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, recently tackled the subject.
The issue is not that tough, he wrote. "That scouting has a legal right of free association does not clear
you of this obligation [to quit]," he wrote.
Cohen, who said he received an unusually high volume of mail about the column, most of it negative, said he also
thinks that parents who claim they can do more to change scouting from the inside are kidding themselves.
"I fear that if the civil rights movement relied on such sympathizers, we'd still be living under segregation,"
he said in an e-mail.
For the Bergeron-Granger family, the decision to ask Austin to quit the Scouts didn't come easily. Bergeron is
a former member of the Girl Scouts, where she learned many positive things, including the importance of volunteering.
When the courts announced the decision, Bergeron and Granger were frustrated and mad, and sat Austin down for
"I mentioned the names of several people we know, and told Austin they could not be Scout leaders,"
Bergeron said. "He understood why we wanted him to quit. I feel strongly about the issue of not discriminating
against someone on the basis of who someone loves. We didn't think we could let him be part of an organization
"I expected more resistance. That said, even if he did resist, we probably still would have removed him."
Until Austin didn't show for the parade, few knew of the family's decision to leave scouting. Bergeron said she
did not contact any other parents because she didn't want to imply that they should quit.
"I realize this is a very individual and private decision, and I didn't want them to think I was being judgmental
about their choice to stay," said Bergeron, who did not seek media attention, and declined to let her son
be interviewed for this article.
Blaine Thrasher, the leader of Pack 22, tried to persuade Austin's parents not to make him quit.
"I do understand they are doing it for their own reasons," he said. "It's a shame we're going to
lose Austin. We enjoyed having him."
Thrasher said he has discussed the differences in sexual orientations with his 9-year-old son, Drew. Thrasher
said he wouldn't stop his son if he wanted to quit over the decision.
"What kind of bothers me, is that this is not Austin's decision," Thrasher said. "It's a decision
made by his parents." But I know some would debate whether that kind of decision could be made by a kid that
Boss said that kids should be part of the discussion on whether to remain in Scouts, but that she favors the parents
having the ultimate say.
"I may be old fashioned, but I think giving children too much choice at a time when their cognitive abilities
and experience don't allow them to make the best choice is not wise," she said. "I think 10 is certainly
too young to make a good decision on this issue. Parents carry out the executive function in a family; this is
not a democracy. As they get older, it can become more of a democracy."
But do parents who remove their kids because of their own beliefs do a disservice to the kids?
"We do that all the time," Boss said. "We make value decisions for our kids all the time, from
what day care and high school they will attend, to what their first group of friends are like. That's how parents
teach their kids values."
Mark Sauerbrey, a former Oakdale Scout leader who is gay, let his son, Aaron, decide whether to stay in Scouts.
"Do I want him to be in scouting? I don't know," Sauerbrey said. "But he's 13, and I think it's
something he should decide."
Aaron has been exposed to gay issues ever since he learned that his father was gay four years ago. Sauerbrey resigned
as a leader "because we have a great troop, and I didn't want to cause trouble for them."
He thinks the Scouts will be better -- and more likely to change -- with kids such as Aaron inside the organization.
"That said, I commend those who stand up for what they believe by quitting..
"At some point Aaron may decide to stand up and say, 'Look what I've done for scouting, and it's time to
change,'" Sauerbrey said. "Or maybe he'll say he can't be a scout anymore. Ultimately, I just hope he
makes the decision that's right for him, whatever that may be."
Returning the badge
Justin London, a Carleton College professor in Northfield, attained Eagle Scout rank in 1975, an accomplishment
of which he is still proud. So it was difficult when, shortly after the court's decision, he sent his Eagle badge,
sash and pin back to the national organization.
"It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter following the recent United States Supreme Court decision,"
London wrote. "I agree that a private association such as the Boy Scouts of America must retain the right
to set its own standards for membership and leadership. But in light of the standards the Boy Scouts have chosen,
I find I can no longer honorably consider myself to be a Scout."
"In a way it was an easy decision, because I so strongly disagree with the Scouts' position," he said
in an interview last week.
John Judd, a scout leader in south Minneapolis, also disagrees, but he will remain in the organization and has
counseled others to remain as well.
"My view is that it's an imperfect world," he said. "Institutions are imperfect just like people
are. I hope I'm never confronted with the issue of homosexuality in the Scouts, of having to enforce the code,
because then I'll have a decision to make."
After thought from Scouting For All
Scouting For All recommends that one not stay in scouting unless you attempt to seek to change the policy. A person
can do this on the scout unit level by advocating for your scout unit to adopt an anti-discrimination statement
to be sent to your sponsoring organization, BSA National and to your school district and or city council. If you
chose to remain silent then you are
colluding with the discrimination of the BSA. Ethically one should stand up and be counted. If one is not able
to advocate from within and is not able to locate a scout unit that will adopt an anti-discrimination statement
then Scouting For All encourages members to resign from scouting. We must look at the message we give to our young
people by staying in a bigoted organization
and not try to change it.
Please keep in mind staying up for human rights is not always an easy thing to do and may lead to consequences
one hadn't expected. Steven and I stood up and did not even mention the issue in our troop because the troop committee
asked that we keep our issue out of the troop. We respected that and never brought it up in the troop. I ended
up getting kicked out of our troop, unofficially "banned" from associating with any scout troop by the
BSA National and being denied along with the Untied Church of Christ from starting a new troop. We had 6 kids and
parents and had adopted the homeless shelter as our service project and was going to give the homeless kids scholarships
to be members of our troop. We were denied because of our
belief. The troop and scout council officials also made it very difficult for Steven to acquire his Eagle rank.
They told him he didn't have the Eagle Spirit and didn't believe in the scout oath and law, let alone his troop
kicking me out. But Steven stood up and maintained his sense of integrity and today is a stronger person for it.
He could have turned his back on the BSA's
discrimination and how it hurt gay kids and adults and continued to go on outings and he and I could have had fun
together. We would both have to live with that decision for the rest of our lives of how we chose to turn our backs
on our friends, on a beautiful segment of our society who were experiencing a social injustice from a program we
loved. We couldn't do that.
And I believe that is one of the fundamental lessons being taught through Steven's example: that we as a people
must allow ourselves to feel the hurt and pain of another human being and in doing so we must reach out. When we
become aware of human suffering and social injustice do we collude in the suffering and injustice by remaining
silent or do we stand forth and speak out? That is the question for us all to answer. Steven Cozza, Eagle Scout
answered that question as a 12 year old.