Bigotry in the Boy Scouts

BAY AREA AFFAIRS: A local high school student who was unfairly denied his Eagle Scout award indicates a need for the Boy Scouts to change its ways.

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The Boy Scouts of America has a lot to learn from Ryan Andresen. In order to qualify for his Eagle Scout award, Andresen, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, spent hours building a “tolerance wall” with hundreds of tiles depicting acts of kindness. He should have been recognized for his contribution to the community by receiving scouting’s highest honor, but unfortunately, the Boy Scouts proved that as an organization, it does not stand behind the values depicted in Andresen’s project.

Andresen’s membership in the organization is being revoked for two deplorable reasons: his sexual orientation and his alleged violation of an oath which states that scouts must honor their “Duty to God.” As a private organization, the scouts are not required to welcome individuals of all identities or beliefs, but that does not justify their actions in this case.

Andresen’s rejection is just another recent part of the Scouts’ shameful legacy. Over the summer, when the Scouts reaffirmed their stance against allowing gay people in their organization, they faced heated public outcry that included some Eagle Scouts returning their awards in protest. Now, more than 300,000 people have signed a petition started by Andresen’s mother calling on the scouts to change their policy. How much backlash will it take for the Scouts to get the message?

The Boy Scouts should be a positive influence on young people. The organization teaches valuable lessons — such as the importance of brotherhood and giving back to the community — which all young men can benefit from. But taking such a hard stance against people based on sexual orientation detracts from the Scouts’ message. The Scouts’ rejection of Andresen on religious grounds also demonstrates its engagement in religious discrimination, which should never be accepted in this country.

On its website, the Boy Scouts of America claims that “helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.” But in practice, the organization is doing something completely different. It is hurting much of America’s youth, sending the message that if they are gay or have different religious beliefs from those appreciated by the Scouts, their character is not virtuous enough to warrant membership.

It’s time for the Scouts to re-evaluate its discriminatory viewpoints. Becoming more accepting will allow the Scouts to significantly expand the organization’s reach; continuing to reinforce draconian policies will accomplish the exact opposite.