Saturday, May 9, 2009

DCMM: The Boy Scouts Are Dividing My Family

After fifteen years of dating, ten years of marriage, and nearly eight years of parenting, my husband and I have finally come upon something that we absolutely cannot agree on: The Boy Scouts of America.

He and I are generally pretty in sync in our parenting and lifestyles (if you set aside our political differences), which may explain how we have been married for ten years. Even with the things we disagree on, we can generally come to a compromise that satisfies both of us. Plus, we have an unspoken rule of veto power—if one of us really objects to a course of action, that person generally comes out on top.

But we're stuck on the Boy Scouts. I don't want to take part in, nor do I want my children to take part in, a group that refuses to accept gay people and athiests as part of their organization. Alex accepts both gay people and athiests, but he doesn't feel that this is a good enough reason to keep our three sons out of their group.

The Scouting bylaws maintain that "no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God," and believes that "homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed."

I disagree. And I think it's wrong that they exclude non-believers and gay people. I recognize that they probably do have the right to exclude who they want to because they are a private organization (and more importantly, the Supreme Court also agrees), although I think it is ugly and discriminatory. And go ahead and replace "athiest" or "gay" with an ethnic, religious, or other group, and I think a lot more people wouldn't want their kids involved.

I knew that this showdown with my husband was coming, even if he didn't. I have been quietly researching alternatives to the Boy Scouts and waiting for one of my children to express an interest. Now that my oldest child has said that he wants to be a scout, the issue has come to a head.

I'm pretty sure my kids would love the Boy Scouts and I'm kind of torn up about not letting them participate. For the most part, I think they're a good organization. But I just can't ignore the fact that they wouldn't accept me (athiest) as a member or a leader, they wouldn't accept members of my immediate family (gay) as members or leaders, and I don't want my children to grow up thinking something is wrong with them if they turn out to be (gasp!) non-believers or gay themselves.

And I know it may sound odd, but I'm not looking for a group that will teach my kids morals. I want to be in charge of that. I want a scouting organization to teach them character and self-reliance and creativity and tolerance. I would rather they leave the more ambiguous morality issues to me.

For now I continue to look at alternatives, such as Camp Fire USA, 4-H, and...well, I'm still looking. There is a pagan organization called the SpiralScouts, but I think my husband would exercise his veto option on that one. Also, the Boy Scouts offer a program called Learning for Life, which doesn't discriminate in the same way as their parent organization. I'm still wrapping my head around that one.

I'm not sure how this dispute will play out as far as my family is concerned. This is the first time that my kids and my husband really want to do something that directly contradicts my principles. But because I want to teach my children to stand up for what they think is right instead of taking the easy way out, I'm going to stand up for this.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Jean also blogs at Stimeyland.

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