For more than 100 years, the motto for Boy Scouts of America has been “Be prepared.” The organization is dedicated to building character and virtue for generations of young American boys.
Clearly, up until a few months ago, many on the top rung of the Boy Scout ladder appeared unprepared to accept changes in American society. Last summer, the group’s leaders reaffirmed a standing policy banning gay members or Scoutmasters.
We acknowledge the legal rights of private organizations such as the Boy Scouts to exclude people based on sexual orientation. But we also support the free expression of all lifestyles and opinions.
In July, we questioned the organization’s decision to reaffirm its outdated policies in a time when we as a people are showing greater acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people.
We are not the only ones to recognize a need for change in the BSA’s policies. Since the organization’s decision, companies such as the United Postal Service, United Way, Merck Company Foundation and Intel Foundation have announced they will drop or postpone funding for the Scouts.
Petitions and protests from gay Scouts or Scoutmasters have rung out across the nation, with some straight members and leaders leaving in solidarity against the ban.
Thankfully, it appears the group is considering a change to its position in the fight for fairness. Last week, sources reported the BSA’s consideration of a sort of home-rule policy. This would allow religious and civic groups that sponsor individual Scouts units to decide individually how to address homosexuality, whether by maintaining an exclusion on gays or opening membership and service to all.
The issue stands a good shot for debate this week at the Boy Scouts national meeting near Dallas. This would seem to be the right time and place for the group to take a step toward its future, rather than staying mired in its past.
In a constantly evolving world of threats and temptations, many of the Boy Scouts’ core values are still important to impart on future generations: Self-reliance, good citizenship, trustworthiness and strength of character. We share a rich history with Scouting, with Troop 1 in Unadilla as one of the oldest continuous troops in America, chartered for more than 100 years.
We support continuing the legacy of the Boy Scouts in our community and beyond. But we hope a new chapter of tolerance and acceptance can be written into the group’s history. Allowing gay Scouts and leaders to serve would show a strength of character and an ability to be prepared for whatever the future holds. There is no need to turn away those who look to make a positive impact on the lives of children and their community.