August 24, 2012 To the BSA National Executive Committee: Thank you for your work on the new policy reaffirmation regarding homosexual members and leaders. I know you studied this issue for a long time, and strove to deal fairly with the issues and constituencies involved. Contrary to how we are sometimes portrayed in the press, the Scout movement in America is not the captive of an authoritarian hierarchy. I have known some of you for many years, as well as many of the BSA’s professional leadership. I believe you all to be sincerely motivated by what you feel is best for young Americans and their families. Our policy reaffirmation, found in Press Releases at www.scouting.org, is: While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of BSA. For some of you, the policy reaffirmation runs counter to the treatment of homosexuals in other aspects of your lives. National Executive Committee members Randall Stephenson (CEO of AT&T) and Jim Turley (CEO of Ernst & Young) have noted that their companies have policies that differ from BSA’s, though the unanimous vote in favor of the policy reaffirmation would have included both of you. The policy restatement does not fit BSA well. homosexuals. The second paragraph of the policy states: It unfairly singles out
Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics. The Scouters and parents I know believe that sexual attraction of any kind – whether heterosexual or homosexual – is not a topic for extended discussion in Scouting, certainly not with our younger members. As a number of BSA spokesmen have pointed out, our average member is 12-years-old. What we tell them about sexuality is found on page 120 of the current (12th) edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, captioned “Sexual Responsibility”. It has some frank talk about how sex and unwanted pregnancy can affect the lives of young people, and ends with this advice: “Your religious leaders can give you guidance for making ethical choices. Your parents, guardians or a sexeducation teacher can provide the basic facts about sex.”
Page 2 We tell the boys that sex is connected to family and faith. So why have we adopted a policy that may supersede the advice of family and counselors, and violates the principles of many faiths? This issue is one of religious choice. After centuries of persecution and prosecution, homosexuals are finally gaining acceptance in most parts of American life, including religion. During the last ten years, the Episcopal Church, other Protestant denominations, and large parts of the Jewish community have shown their acceptance of homosexuals. BSA’s purpose is to provide its chartered organizations – most of which are faithbased – with a program for teaching citizenship, character and physical and mental fitness to youth. By maintaining this exclusionary policy, BSA leaves that purpose and attempts to dictate to our chartered organizations what morality is on this issue. Over the years, several local councils have advocated changing our policy. This May, a Connecticut Yankee Council Scouter proposed a resolution to the BSA National Council to allow chartered organizations to determine whether homosexuals could be leaders. That plan would permit each unit’s religious leaders and families to decide this issue. Other than homosexuality being contrary to a person’s faith, I have never heard anyone give a reason why homosexuals should not be in Scouting. BSA’s policy no longer states that homosexuality is immoral as it did from the 1970s through the 1990s. Our own youth protection materials have confirmed that homosexuality is not related to pedophilia. If we are going to exclude people from Scouting, we need a better reason than that some of our members are uncomfortable with those we exclude. The prejudice against homosexuals may still be tied to the idea that homosexuality is a choice. That view is not supportable. This April, eminent psychiatrist Dr. Robert L. Spitzer apologized to the homosexual community for permitting his research to be misinterpreted to suggest that homosexuality could be cured. Homosexuality cannot be cured, because people are born with their sexual orientation. (Read the pamphlet endorsed by the American Psychological Association, Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel at http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/just-the-facts.pdf). Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) said it best in a recent speech about his two sons, both Eagle Scouts, one of whom has Down Syndrome. He described them both as created by God, and both “perfect”. Homosexuals are created by God, and their sexual orientation does not make them imperfect. The negative message this policy sends to young people trying to understand their own sexuality, particularly when it is different from most of their peers, is very harmful. A best friend from my old troop suffered with having to hide his orientation until college; he went on to become a successful lawyer and community leader. Though the policy speaks of “members,” no one under 18 years old has ever been removed from
Page 3 Scouting because of sexual orientation, but it is still a concern. Just recently one of the finest Scouts I know told me he was gay, and that he has feared being “outed” and then being “ousted”. Our policy makes him lie about himself. We do not need this policy. Twenty years ago, the Girl Scouts adopted a membership policy permitting people to join without regard to sexual orientation; UK Scouting has adopted a similar policy. BSA’s own experts on child-raising have urged us to change this policy. Childdevelopment psychologist and author Michael Gurian, who has advised us on programming, has written that parents and youth leaders must accept and support our homosexual youth. In his speech at the 2011 national meeting, Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, urged us to change our policy. Over the years, we have gone out of our way to accommodate the needs of those who were different – we’ve let the LDS Church vary the program to fit their ages of religious instruction, we’ve allowed girls in Venturing, we’ve altered program schedules to fit the holy days of various faiths, and we’ve found ways to include youngsters with physical and mental abilities that are different than most. We should change our policy on homosexual members and leaders to one in line with the Scouting way of inclusiveness, at the very least to permit chartered organizations to make this decision. Best wishes,
Nelson R. Block P.S. Those who know me understand that this letter is the result of more than a dozen years of advocating for this position to the National Council. In studying this issue over time, I have adopted several rules on dealing with it, which I suggest for your – and every other Scouter’s – consideration: • • Continue to support Scouting regardless of the policy. American youth need Scouting and Scouting needs us. Recognize that Scouting is just a reflection of America, America’s view of homosexuality is changing, and Scouting is caught up in the national discussion. Listen to what the press and the advocacy groups say about Scouting, but recognize that the press sells news and the advocacy groups care only about inclusion of their constituents in American life. Both the news and the inclusion of homosexuals are very important. So is Scouting. Some of the advocacy groups have caused BSA to lose support from United Way and other community resources, and kept us out of public schools. Those tactics have been unsuccessful in changing our policy and are not appropriate to the goal of including homosexuals in a youth program.
Page 4 • Know that the policy will change to include homosexuals. I think it will happen sooner rather than later. When it happens, the net effect will be rather small. Despite the rumors about this or that group leaving the Scout program, I believe that people will come to recognize what has always been the case – America is a diverse country, and Scouting is the place where we all come together to teach our young people how to be good Americans.