Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Letter to the Boy Scouts

David Steakley and his family have been like our extended family for the past 26 years, since shortly after we moved to Framingham.  We have watched Dave grow up, and we attended his Eagle Scout ceremony, as well as several other events, including his wedding last year.

Recently, Dave wrote an amazing letter to the Boy Scouts of America, and he gave me permission to post it on this blog.  I hope it impresses you as much as it does me.  Feel free to share it with your friends, because it carries a message that we should not ignore.

July 24, 2012

Boy Scouts of America
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

To Bob Mazzuca, Wayne Brock and the Board of Directors of the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America,

My name is David Steakley and I am writing to implore that you to reconsider your recent decision to continue to ban the participation of gay youth and adult leaders from Scouting.

I earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 2003 with Troop 78 in Framingham, Massachusetts and the Knox Trail Council. I was a member of the Order of the Arrow, worked as a counselor for numerous summers at my council’s summer camp, and was a very active scout for a number of years. Scouting still occupies a cherished space in my life and I hope someday to participate in scouting with my own children.

I am not gay, but I am deeply troubled that an organization that acts as a force for good in the lives of so many young men can actively choose to continue a punitive and discriminatory policy. My experiences as a scout were some of the most important moments in my life. These experiences helped to mold me into the confident, productive adult and citizen of the community, the nation and the world that I am today. Above all, I learned that hard work and difficult tasks in service of others is a noble goal, and that boys and men must lead by example to make their communities a better place for everyone.

For these reasons, I cannot understand BSA’s decision to deny these opportunities to boys and families solely based on their sexual orientation. The BSA promotes diversity and makes space for everyone in all other areas; why not this one? Every merit badge book inclusively pictures boys of every race. It would be laughable to exclude boys or their families based on race or religion. It is similarly absurd to exclude them based on whom they love.

The BSA prides itself on fostering the ethic of service for the good of the community. What better example could the adult men in charge of the BSA demonstrate then by making the hard choice of helping these boys and their families find acceptance in the same way as everyone else? Certain members of the community will not be comfortable with this policy change, but change and personal growth are often uncomfortable. The results, however, are worth it. The Scout Oath says, “On my honor I will do my best …to help other people at all times”. Scouting should act as a leader encouraging its participants to become better people and to grow, not allow them to hide behind an institutional policy that discriminates against its own members to escape that growth. If this policy were to change tomorrow a new generation of boys would grow up to learn that gay men and women are no different than their peers. The BSA could again be a driver of meaningful social change in America.

In taking a pragmatic approach, I pose these questions: Will the BSA find itself on the right side of history with this choice? How will you reflect on this policy in 15 or 20 years? Will you be proud that you stood in the way of social progress and made the lives of these boys and their families more difficult than they already were? It is obvious that with time the public will rightly come to accept that gay people deserve to be treated with equity. Rather than standing in the way of this change why not embrace it and be on the morally just side of history and known as an organization that can be counted on for true social leadership. The real morally straight position on this issue is to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person, regardless of sexual orientation.

Please do the right thing and reevaluate this policy as scouts, adults, and leaders of boys.

With hope for change,
David Steakley

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