Scouting and gays: Excluding those who need help the most

Feb 9 2013 - 11:22pm

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The Boy Scouts of America delayed deciding whether to allow gay Scouts or Scout leaders, which is too bad because the current policies are hurting both scouting and the young men who would be in scouting.

If the goal is what's best for boys, the decision should be obvious, but don't take my word for it. Helping young people develop is not my area of expertise.

It is, however, that of my younger son. Ben works for a major youth service organization in Salt Lake City. When he saw the way Boy Scouts were treating gay youths, he was outraged.

Ben is not speaking for the group he works for, although he reflects its ideals. These are his thoughts, about how he approaches working with kids.

Interestingly, he learned this stuff in scouting:

"In light of the decisions being made in the Boy Scouts of America regarding homosexuals as Scout leaders or youth in the organization, I decided that, as a former Scout, following the guidelines that I learned as a Scout, I am obligated to stand up for those in need.

"I learned well the Scout Law, Oath, Motto and Slogan. I try to be the best person I can in order to fulfill my duty to my interpretation of God and country, other people and myself.

"As a Scout, I learned about acceptance and leadership. I use those skills as an area director for a youth-serving organization where I am responsible for close to one thousand youth who attend my programs daily.

"I always felt my agency and scouting aligned in the services and support we offer. There is one striking difference: I employ homosexuals and I serve them in my programs. I am obligated to do that by the codes I learned as a Scout.

"The Boy Scouts don't.

"I employ a wide group of staff ranging in age, ethnicity and interests. Every staff I employ has a criminal background check conducted before they see the youth they may work with. Their sexuality is no business of mine, so I don't ask.

"Gay or straight, if one of my staff were to engage in conversation with youth regarding what they like to do sexually, they would immediately find themselves looking for another job. Simple.

"The BSA council in Salt Lake City has ruled that they will not change their policy. The Boy Scouts of America has put the decision off. Both are afraid that, if they change their policy, they can't undo it, but what they can't undo is the damage they are doing to the youth they serve.

"They are teaching them that not everyone is equal and entitled to the same treatment.

"They are teaching them to segregate, to help everyone BUT someone who is gay.

"They are fueling a false stereotype that being gay means you are bad, or you will molest someone. This is unfair to the Scouts in the program and to the gay community.

"This is most unfair to the gay young men who need the support and guidance of the BSA. This tells them that they are different and that they need to hide who they are.

"My organization serves youth in the LGBT community because they need the support just as much, or more, as anyone else. I hire staff from this community because they show the youth I serve that they are normal human beings. Their sexual preference is nobody's business, and no one asks.

"No one cares because they are good people showing others how to be good people. Simple."

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can contact him at 801-625-4232 or email him at ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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