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So my post on Tuesday left me with some thoughts I wanted to flush out a bit more.

First, I want to talk about my background with the Boy Scouts.  I’ve been involved with Scouting for most of my life.  I started Cub Scouts when I was 5, and Boy Scouts when I was 11, and although I haven’t been very involved recently due to college, I still consider myself part of the organization.  I was heavily involved in my Boy Scout troop, taking several different leadership positions over the years.  I’m an Eagle Scout, and extremely proud of that achievement. I’ve spent three summers working as a counselor at a Boy Scout summer camp, and I’ve met some of my closest friends there.

I like to think of myself as a good person.  I try to do what’s right, and I try to be kind to other people.  I believe the Boy Scouts has played a very important role in shaping me to be that person.  Every week while a Scout I recited the Scout Oath and Law:

Scout Oath:
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
To help other people at all times
And to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law:
A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

One of the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout is to show a commitment to following the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life.  I did that.  I lived every word.  Although I didn’t say “God” (just like with the pledge!) and reverent means something different to me than it does to most people, I still took those words to heart.  I firmly believe that the Boy Scouts is an excellent organization that helps millions of youth become better people.

That said, the Boy Scouts’ descriminative policies make me very sad.  It makes me sad that the leaders of an organization I respect and admire have become this backward.  It makes me sad to see the values I cherish twisted to support a bigoted agenda.  It makes me sad to see the reputation of the entire organization suffer because of a few misguided individuals at the top.  It makes me sad to think of all the people who can’t be involved in Scouts, but would love to have the chance to experience it.

It also makes me very angry.  It makes me angry to see the Boy Scouts run by bigots who let their religious beliefs override their sense of humanity.  It makes me angry to see the values I love corrupted and taught to millions of youth across the country.  It makes me angry to see those youth learning to hate the same people their parents hate, and exclude the same people their parents exclude.

Ultimately, I don’t entirely blame the Boy Scouts for their policies.  Much of their funding comes from the Mormon and Catholic churches, two very bigoted institutions.  I’m sure the Scout executives are concerned with losing their funding if they change their policies, and are making the decision they think is best.  Obviously this doesn’t excuse their actions, and I feel that they should make the organization as inclusive as possible, and damn the consequences.

I also think that a lot of people are too hard on their criticism of the Boy Scouts.  While criticism of the national executives is entirely justified, and there are certainly individual troops that are just as bigoted (if not more so), the Boy Scouts is a very diverse organization.  There are many troops (mine included) that are very open and welcoming of Scouts from various backgrounds.  There are many troops who would be totally fine with gay or nonreligious Scouts.

I strongly disagree with people who this the Boy Scouts should go extinct.  I also strongly disagree with people who think they Boy Scouts should stay as it is.  I think the Scouts are a good organization, and with some change, they could become a great organization.  I know the Scouts have helped me become a better person, and I believe it can do the same for millions of other youth in the years to come.