TO: Tom Wilson
Atlanta Area Council 1800 Circle 75 Parkway, SE Atlanta, GA 30339 CC: AJC Editorials, AJC Faith and Values, Southern Voice, Creative Loafing
My brother in Scouting,
For 18 years, I have been a scout. Since the age of six, I have been a part of this scouting family. Indeed, over the years, Scouting has nurtured me, raised me, supported me and become a second family to me. These have been, overall, a wonderful 18 years. For the past 10 years, I have served on summer camp staff, devoting two months each year to be with my scouting family. For the past three, I have had the honor and pleasure of serving as Chaplain, caring for the religious and pastoral need of the literally thousands of scouts at camp.
During my time in the BSA, I have grown as a leader. To this, the scouting movement taught me well, and I am grateful. I have served as a Senior Patrol Leader as a youth and as an Assistant Scoutmaster as an adult. I earned my Arrow of Light, God and Country award, and Eagle rank and I wear all three with the utmost pride. I cannot count how many other scouts I have helped in turn to do the same. Within our elect Society of Honor Scouters, the Order of the Arrow, I have served in leadership for many years. I remember my time as Chapter Chief for the DeKalb District. I look back fondly on all that we accomplished my year as Lodge Chief when I led the Lodge of the entire Atlanta Area Council. The house we built that year with Habitat for Humanity stands today as a testament to our service. During my time with the O.A., I have received both the Vigil Honor and the Founder’s Award, the highest honors a Lodge can bestow upon a single member.
My time in scouting these past 18 years has been precious to me. Let me say again, scouting is a second family to me through which I have met my closest friends and discovered my greatest mentors. It is for this reason that I am in such pain to continue this letter. I fully understand the consequence I will face because of what I will disclose, but it is because of my love for this organization that I pray it will change and stop setting an example of family values that include prejudice, hate, abuse, and intolerance; and instead return to the original values Scouting professed in the Scout Law: to be “Courteous,” “Kind,” “Cheerful,” “Friendly,” and above all “Brave” enough to honestly see the damage that is being done today by the stance it takes.
Looking back, I realize that this has been my case for my entire career in the Boy Scouts, but out of fear for what Scouting will do to me, it has taken me this long to say openly, I am a scout and I am gay. After all the pain I have seen, I can no longer let my silence be a sign of support for an organization that condones the emotional, spiritual, and at times physical abuse of gay youth in society today. Every year, over one thousand gay youth will commit suicide because of the violent and vehement prejudice and hate that receive from their family, schools, churches, and organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. Consider still the countless other gay youth that go homeless, thrown out by their families into the streets with no further concern of whether they live or die. What kind of example is set for families when the Boy Scouts, my scouting family, throws out a scout simply because he is gay, a part of himself over which he hasno control. You will kick this scout out based solely on the prejudices imposed by intolerant faith based organizations that try to control our Scouting Movement.
In my years, I have seen these same religious leaders, fathers in scouting, who claim such high Christian values such as charity and compassion, turn around and deny their own sons. I have seen the same man who proclaimed the high values of Scouting based on his religious beliefs turn to his son and tell him in no fewer words that he would rather him be dead than be gay. Let me put this clearly: these parents who threaten and throw out their children are following Scouting’s example. You are ashamed of us, and so are these parents. And rather than live with the judgment of those around them, they would make it so that their own sons never existed. How can you do this to a boy? How is this scout-like behavior?
Why do you fear us, the homosexual scouts of the BSA, so much? You claim that a gay scout is not a decent role model. Take a moment to look back on my 18 years of service, my numerous accolades, and tell me now that simply because I am gay, as I have been this entire time, I am not a decent role model for those boys. It is easy to hate a faceless group, to blindly reject them without ever having to see them. I have been around Scoutmasters who praise my work at camp and in the same breath speak with such venom about gays in scouting and how evil gays are, having no idea that I, too, am gay. But now, look at me. I am part of that faceless group, but I am not faceless to you. You know me, as I have served for years in the scouting movement. I am not a faceless group without a voice that you can use as a scapegoat. I am not a faceless scout who you can remove without caring. But I am a scout. I am gay, and I believe that I still deserve the respect and love that this organization claims to hold in our Scout Law and Promise. I deserve this, as does every other member of this scouting family, gay or straight. For an organization that claims to build the character of today’s youth, how many more will you blindly destroy before you even begin to reconsider?
Do you realize the damage that is done to a boy, who upon discovering that he is gay, is taught that he is not worthy of love, or even considered a normal human being, let alone a scout? He finds that in scouting, what once claimed him as a son and brother, he is now worthy of nothing more than crass jokes, derogatory terms, and the many other forms of abuse that he will receive from both scouting’s youth and adults. I have witnessed the tears of these boys too many times. Do you realize the destructive self-loathing that you instill in these boys and the damage that does? Do you realize the scarring caused by a leader condemning a boy for ”a choice” he has made when that boy knows deep down it is no choice of his own? It is absurd for the BSA to honestly think that a scout would choose a life that would force him to be ostracized and rejected by a family he has come to love.
What is more, though the BSA no longer publicly holds this stance, countless Scout leaders still argue that gays should be removed as they are the leading threat of molestation cases in our organization. First off, I worry that these same Scout leaders who would be so keen on protecting their boys would ignore the obvious statistics that the majority of molestation case are perpetrated by heterosexuals, not homosexuals. These Scout leaders seek scapegoats, not solutions. Second, I fail to see how these leaders, given the care of our youth, can look a 12 year old boy in the eyes and tell him that he is obviously a child molester and somehow a threat to his very friends around him. Is the damage in this instance not blaringly obvious? Finally, I cannot imagine a more revolting, baseless, disgusting insult than to accuse me of being a pedophile because I am gay. I personally know the damage caused by having innocence torn away at such an early age. I have counseled those who have been victims, and with the help of our own Youth Protection policies, I have helped identify youth that have been in unsafe situations in their homes and troops. There is no way that I could ever imagine hurting a child in that manner. It is time the Boy Scouts held themselves accountable and stopped using homosexuals as scapegoats when we are trying just the same to solve this problem.
I am a religious man, raised within the Church, currently a brother of a Religious Order, and have read my Scripture in its original Greek, so skewed arguments of divine morality to be used against me have no place here. I know for a fact that by the Love of God I am not an “abomination,” though there are organizations in Scouting that would choose to insult my faith with such a claim. I earned my Eagle and have helped many others do the same, so arguments about my not being an adequate role model have no place here. I have counseled those whom Scouting has forced to the brink of suicide, so arguments accusing me of unscout-like behavior have no place here. I ask you then, for what reason would I and so many other gay scouts be removed? If only you could see all the scouts in the BSA that are gay: the Senior Patrol Leaders, the Scoutmasters, the Eagle Scouts, the Lodge Chiefs, the Region Chiefs, the Scout Executives. But out of fear of losing the scouting family that they have served so well and love so much, they are forced to hide. Running an organization by fear, how is that scout-like? The BSA treats us like a cancer. Not only is the gay scout cut out from the organization, but so are any other scouts that may show their support for him. I am compelled to ask again, why do you fear us so much? Why are we, who served scouting in the highest offices, such a threat to you?
I have seen what has happened to those before me. I know the standard procedure. I will be issued the standard letter of expulsion. My name will be removed from all records. Though I was presented my medal, here after, it will be as though this Eagle Scout never existed. The BSA will seek to strip me of 18 years of my life. I thank God that I have been able to continue working within the organization, helping those gay and lesbian scouts and scouters come out to themselves rather than live the self-loathing lives that Scouting would enforce. It is my hope that even though I will be removed, I can continue to help those who need it the most, though my work will become severely limited outside the organization. I hope there are Scoutmasters out there that will learn to look after their boys rather than condemning them. I pray there are those that will pick up where I must leave off.
Let me say again, I have the greatest faith and love for my scouting family. I have seen and been a part of the good that it has done in service to youth and the community. This is not a letter of resignation. I have no desire to leave the Boy Scouts, but for what I have seen and experienced firsthand, I cannot sit idly by as the abuse continues. I pray that for any scout who is “brave” enough to tell his scouting family that he is gay, that scouting family will be “kind,” “friendly,” “helpful,” and “reverent” enough to love him regardless. As Lord Baden Powell said, “Once a scout, always a scout.” He said this without any restrictions. I am a scout. Whether or not the Boy Scouts of America will continue to acknowledge this is up to you.
Yours in Scouting,
Br. Kenneth Hosley O.P.C.
Eagle Class, 1999
Vigil Class, 1999
Founder’s Award, 2001