The Boy Scouts of America have taken a bashing for their outdated policy on sexual orientation. I don’t profess to know all of the details nor do I fully comprehend the legal nature of the issue. What I do know is that the organization’s image has suffered greatly. I also don’t know if other major youth organizations (e.g. the Girl Scouts of the United States of America) also have exclusionary policies or practices, but get less scrutiny.
What I can say is that, based on what I have known, I have always disagreed with the BSA’s discriminatory policy. With a major reversal of BSA’s policy imminent, and my own son’s future membership close; I felt the need to contact them and state my opinion in support of the change. This is the letter I sent the BSA:
Boy Scouts of America
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
I have been an Eagle Scout since 1988 and have been a member of the National Eagle Scout Association for 25 years. My Scouting journey began in 1979 as a Cub Scout. For many years, I have been away from Scouting, though I have followed the organization from a distance. I disagree with the BSA’s current national policy on sexual orientation because it is not inclusive. Sexual orientation should have no bearing on a boy’s membership. Like gender, sexual orientation should have no bearing on an adult’s ability to lead these boy’s. The safety and care of youth is a top objective, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
My six-year old son will enter first grade this fall and he is interested in Cub Scouts. I want him to experience what I experienced and capitalize on all of the good that BSA offers. My Scouting experiences played a huge influence in my leadership development and have helped me succeed in family, business, sport, and community. I frequently cite the values and skills that I learned as a member. Along with my father, uncle and grandfather, I thank many of my Scout leaders for having the courage to lead.
The exclusion issue has hurt the BSA’s image and damaged development efforts. The BSA needs to evolve and get with the times if it is going to restore its place as “the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organization.” Our business and our family support many conservation, outdoor recreation, outdoor leadership, and environmental organizations. Additionally, my spouse, Deborah, and I are leaders in many of these groups. Several of these non-profits have developed youth leadership opportunities as an alternative to the Scouts, and these organizations’ policies are inclusive.
It is worth noting that the BSA Connecticut Rivers Council already has a policy that forbids discrimination, which gives me the confidence to support it fully. Our local units reflect the majority of Connecticut residents’ feelings about this issue. It is evident that the pressure from outside groups is not coming from New England, but rather, from less progressive regions of our country. A change in policy will not eliminate all bigotry, but it delivers the right message.
The recent announcement that the BSA is considering a new approach that would give local units, parents, and leaders the permission to decide on the sexual orientation issue is welcome. It doesn’t make the bold national statement that this issue deserves, but it is a step in the right direction. I urge you to finalize your decision, reject exclusion, and kick open the door for inclusion.
President and CEO
Horst Engineering & Manufacturing Co.
Eagle Scout, 1988