Stuart started participated in Cub Scouts last year when he turned 8 (which is when Mormon boys start participating in scouting. We have our own troops and we kinda play by our own rules.) I was thrilled because all three kids could go to the same place at the same time on Wednesday nights—a rarity these days!
He has learned some new things, but mostly it’s just been fun stuff—nothing heavy duty. Just last week, for instance, they all met at our house for a rain gutter regatta. The boys all built their own boat-type structures and raced their boats in rain gutters—powered by their breath! So, yeah—not earth-shattering, but fun if you’re nine years old. It’s a really nice group of boys. The leaders do a great job with them, and I appreciate their efforts.
Stuart loves to check off little boxes and gets super anxious about following rules to a tee, so cub scouts suits his personality quite well. I do not love that part. All those badges and pins and belt loops make my head swim.
Still, it’s something he enjoys and looks forward to each week.
So, imagine my disappointment last week when I saw that the Boy Scouts of America organization had re-affirmed their policy to ban “open or avowed homosexuals.” I knew they had a policy prohibiting openly gay leaders to participate, which is a shame, of course–but for some reason, I didn’t think about their policy extending to the boys themselves. When I read their statement, I got a pit in the bottom of my stomach as I imagined boys Stuart’s age having fun in scouts, feeling like a part of a community, learning things about the American flag, patriotism, service, responsibility, teamwork . . . and then beginning to grapple with their sexuality and eventually learning that if they were honest and open about it, they would no longer be able to be a part of that team that they may have been with for 4-5-6, maybe 10 years.
Practical questions: Upon whose shoulders does it fall to actually kick a gay boy out of the organization? Is it the den leader? Or is it maybe some higher-up? And do they have a face to face meeting with the boy to tell him this sad news? Are his parents there, or is he alone? Or do they send him a certified letter, maybe?
Forget “boys Stuart’s age.” That could be Stuart for all I know.
I was sitting in front of the computer one night last week and Stuart saw this meme from the Human Rights Campaign. He asked what it meant. I told him it was criticizing the Boy Scouts organization who had just announced a policy that gay people can’t participate in their organization. His brow crumpled a bit and he said, “What? Say that again?” So I explained it again and then waited for him to respond. He looked confused. His lower lip quavered a bit. After what felt like a really long time, he said, “But . . . I thought boy scouts was all about teamwork and being nice to other people and having fun and stuff.” And I said, “Yeah, it is about those things, but they don’t want gay people to participate.”
He shook his head a bit, as if trying to shake the idea out of his head, and then wandered off.
I got distracted by some work-related tasks and didn’t think about it again until Sunday morning, when a member of the bishopric (local church leaders) stopped me in the hallway and asked whether I’d be willing to be a den leader in August when school (and scouts) starts up again. I was in a hurry, so I told him I’d think about it.
It took me about 10 seconds to think about it before I realized that of course I don’t feel good about volunteering in an organization that is explicitly (and proudly?) anti-gay. This is a no-brainer.
But what to do with Stuart? We would not allow our kids to participate in an organization that is openly racist. Is this any different? We don’t have the option—in East Texas—of participating in any of the organizations that have cropped up as alternatives to BSA.
Do we pull him out? Do we talk to him about it and let him choose for himself?
Have any of you ever faced a similar situation?
P.S. We also eat at Chick-fil-A—one of the best fast food places in our rinky-dink town . . .