Monday, May 23, 2011

What to do when your boy wants to be a Boy Scout...and you disagree.

I knew the day would come, but have put off the Boy Scouts conversation with my oldest son until now. He came home last night with an "I want to be a Boy Scout!" sticker on his shirt, directing us to the informational packet in his back pack. Now Mr. Greenhab and I are faced with a difficult decision. Do we swallow our morals and let him join, or disappoint him because of our own, grown-up, beliefs?

If you're not up on the subject, the Boy Scouts of America have repeatedly disallowed openly gay members as well as atheists and agnostics.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the largest private youth organizations in the United States, has policies which prohibit atheists and agnostics from membership in its Scouting program, and prohibit "avowed" homosexual people from leadership roles in its Scouting program as directly violating its fundamental principles and tenets. BSA has denied or revoked membership status or leadership positions of youths and adults for violation of these foundational principles. The BSA contends that these policies are essential in its mission to instill in young people the values of the Scout Oath and Law. (source)

So here we sit weighing the (good) lessons he'll learn, the skills, friendships...with the bad. If we allow him to join BSA, will we be teaching him that it's okay to exclude people based on their sexuality or religion? What if they wanted to exclude his little brother who is African American?

By allowing him to participate in an organization that thinks being gay or atheist is wrong, wouldn't we be supporting that view too? Just as the BSA think these folks would push their beliefs and ideas on Boy Scouts, should we be concerned that the organization might push it's myopic views on our son?

Or, should we be allowing him to form his own views on the subject? Should we even be broaching such a heavy subject like that with him? At this point, he just knows that his Girl Scout sister gets to sell cookies, do fun art projects and go camping. Is a 5 year old able to weigh "cool stuff" against moral values?

I'm really interested in knowing how everyone feels about this, so please tell me your thoughts. What have you done? Do your sons know about BSA's policies? How do they feel? How do you feel? Please, views are bound to vary greatly, so let's be respectful.


Stephanie said...

this is a tough one. My thoughts are that I wouldn't want to snuff out something that he was interested in and excited about ... but with caution. Perhaps explaining some of your hesitation in his own language -- or maybe only doing that as issues might arise.

tough decisions!

PottingSoil would be my indian name, but given that I am of whiteman heritage, my parents named me Anna. said...

ARGH. I had it all typed out, and then blogger lost it all.

We no longer participate in BSA or in Girl Scouts. While Girl Scouts do not openly speak out against homosexuality, they do reserve the right to remove you from participation if your personal life is deemed inappropriate. Simply stating you have a female partner can get you investigated at the very least.

My Sister's friend lost her lifetime membership to the Girl Scouts a few years ago for openly acknowleging she was a lesbian.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Wow. I didn't know about the atheist/agnostic part. What if you're jewish/muslim/pagan/wiccan or some other non-Christian religion?

We're out then, since we are no religion. I guess that'll be an easy decision for us. What about a 4-H club or some other activity? Or a play group for older kids with like-minded parents?

Robbie said...

Boy, that's a tough one. Are there other alternatives in the area, like 4H or other groups?

Anne said...

A tough decision for sure! Although, I feel I should point out that your son will be joining as a Cub Scout. . . they don't join Boy Scouts until 5th grade. My now 4th grader has been in cub scouts since 1st grade, and we have found that the program can vary greatly depending on your Cubmaster and your particular pack. We've honestly been a little disappointed with what he's learned in scouts, it's more about "having fun!" than service in our pack. We have not broached the subject of BSA's policies with our son yet, but we will soon as he has an uncle, who ironically is an Eagle Scout but is now an atheist. I doubt my son will bridge to boy scouts, we're ready to be done! Sorry for the long rambling. . .hope something is helpful.

Jaime said...

Oh, wow. That is tough. I think that it is important as parents to only support the organizations that we can believe in. However, I also think that it "perceived fairness" is important to kids and it would be hard to let one child do Girl Scouts without allowing the other child to do Boy Scouts.

I don't think I'd be ready to broach the subjects with my child at 5, either. I think kids naturally accept others so well and I wouldn't want to call attention to prejudices until it becomes an issue that affects them.

Good luck. I'd be very interested to hear what you guys decide.

Cake said...

I completely understand and had to go through a similar situation when my son was about 7. I am so glad to see that you choose to blog about this topic. I remember telling my son that he could not participate in Boy Scouts because they don't accept all people.
Good Luck in your situation.