7433 Sprague St., Philadelphia, PA 19119
August 5, 2012
To: Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca and the BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015
Dear Mr. Mazzuca and the Board,
I’m adding my name to the roster of former Eagle Scouts speaking out against your continued policy of anti-gay discrimination. I enclose my Eagle patch and Eagle certification card.
I became an Eagle Scout nearly 50 years ago. It was during the Johnson Administration—LBJ’s signature is even reproduced on my card.
Scouting helped to greatly widen my world at the time. I learned how to swim, how to canoe, even how to whittle. I backpacked for a week in a national forest, hiking to a different campsite every night. I traveled to Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, and Quebec—great experiences for someone whose family rarely ventured past a 10-mile radius of our home in Philadelphia. At a jamboree at Valley Forge, I traded memorabilia with Scouts from other countries. In our troop, I reveled in the bantering, joking, camaraderie and tall tales that came with friendships.
As you know, tradition plays a big part in Scouting. Many of the traditions are great ones, like service to community. Others are slightly odd but benign, like corny campfire songs, the profusion of badges, patches and neckerchiefs, and the multitude of knots we learned, even if only a few were useful outside a sailing ship.
But other traditions are hurtful and harmful, like the continuing discrimination your organization just reaffirmed. As the mainstream of U.S. society moves toward greater inclusion and acceptance of gay people (in our military, in our president’s stated support for gay marriage, in rapidly evolving public opinion), it seems that the BSA is digging in its heels in favor of prejudice.
I suspect that significant numbers of the BSA board and leadership oppose this discriminatory policy, even if a tolerant policy is not currently the prevailing position in the organization. One thing that visiting all those Civil War battlefields with our troop deepened in me was a love of history. So here’s a point that may be obvious: Fifty years ago, when I was a Scout, hard-core conservatives and segregationists opposed civil rights based on tradition and their constricted views of society. Who looks on their opposition with respect and appreciation in 2012? Think of how your continuing embrace of antigay discrimination will reflect on you in retrospect, and how you may start to reverse the self-inflicted damage the BSA is suffering today.
Ultimately, I’m asking you to reverse your policy not because it would be a popular decision, but because it would be right. Sexual preference is usually not a choice, unlike engaging in discrimination based on sexual preference. I ask you to choose a more tolerant and accepting policy.