October92012
October 8, 2012

BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas  75015-2079

Dear Members of the BSA National Executive Board,

I recently read a statement from the Boy Scouts of America affirming its policy of barring “open or avowed homosexuals” from membership.  This policy, the statement says, “reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.”  It also says that, “a majority of our membership agrees with our policy,” and that, “the vast majority of parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”  Beyond these assertions, the BSA offers no rationale for barring “open or avowed homosexuals.”

I’m an Eagle Scout, but I certainly wouldn’t need to be to hold the BSA to a standard consistent with justice and with its own ideology—namely, fairness, a standard it fails.  I deplore not just this lack of fairness but the lack of courage the BSA exhibits in defending its exclusionary policy.  The best it can offer is the cowardly assertion that, in its decision-making process, majority rules.  This principle of majority rule is often, as you know, justly applied—for example, to the election of public officials—but here it constitutes, transparently, a cop-out.  It’s a cop-out because the matter at hand demands not an argument from majority but an argument from morality—an argument which, having experienced Scouting’s moral imperatives first-hand, I expected to hear.  Actually, I still expect it, and ask the BSA to release a statement justifying, in moral terms, its position on sexual orientation and membership.

Can this be done? What form would such an argument take?  On what grounds would Scouting justify itself?  What is it about “open or avowed homosexuals” that must bar them from membership?  Why maintain this exclusionary policy?  If the only answer to this last question is, “because the majority of our members want it that way,” the burden of a moral defense is merely shifted from leadership to members—to the very members leadership must speak for, not hide behind.   “Majority rules,” in this case, means “our policy is our policy because it’s our policy.”  What a cowardly evasion that is, as well as a retreat from the public arena, where the BSA, if it doesn’t want to suffer from an even greater dearth of relevance than it already suffers, is enjoined to explain itself in moral terms.

Either the BSA’s leadership has no compelling moral argument for its position, or it doesn’t want to articulate whatever argument it has.  Neither the former or the latter circumstance is sufficient to sustain my association, such as it is, with Scouting, and so I return, herewith, my Eagle badge, ring, and merit badge sash.  I don’t want to be associated with an organization unwilling to declare its moral position, unwilling to justify its exclusionary policy, and most of all, unwilling to accept members regardless of sexual orientation.  I disavow the Boy Scouts of America because I disagree with its policy; I deplore it for its policy and its cowardice both.

Sincerely,

David Guterson
P.O. Box 11755
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

October 8, 2012

BSA National Executive Board

1325 Walnut Hill Lane

PO Box 152079

Irving, Texas  75015-2079

Dear Members of the BSA National Executive Board,

I recently read a statement from the Boy Scouts of America affirming its policy of barring “open or avowed homosexuals” from membership.  This policy, the statement says, “reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth.”  It also says that, “a majority of our membership agrees with our policy,” and that, “the vast majority of parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”  Beyond these assertions, the BSA offers no rationale for barring “open or avowed homosexuals.”

I’m an Eagle Scout, but I certainly wouldn’t need to be to hold the BSA to a standard consistent with justice and with its own ideology—namely, fairness, a standard it fails.  I deplore not just this lack of fairness but the lack of courage the BSA exhibits in defending its exclusionary policy.  The best it can offer is the cowardly assertion that, in its decision-making process, majority rules.  This principle of majority rule is often, as you know, justly applied—for example, to the election of public officials—but here it constitutes, transparently, a cop-out.  It’s a cop-out because the matter at hand demands not an argument from majority but an argument from morality—an argument which, having experienced Scouting’s moral imperatives first-hand, I expected to hear.  Actually, I still expect it, and ask the BSA to release a statement justifying, in moral terms, its position on sexual orientation and membership.

Can this be done? What form would such an argument take?  On what grounds would Scouting justify itself?  What is it about “open or avowed homosexuals” that must bar them from membership?  Why maintain this exclusionary policy?  If the only answer to this last question is, “because the majority of our members want it that way,” the burden of a moral defense is merely shifted from leadership to members—to the very members leadership must speak for, not hide behind.   “Majority rules,” in this case, means “our policy is our policy because it’s our policy.”  What a cowardly evasion that is, as well as a retreat from the public arena, where the BSA, if it doesn’t want to suffer from an even greater dearth of relevance than it already suffers, is enjoined to explain itself in moral terms.

Either the BSA’s leadership has no compelling moral argument for its position, or it doesn’t want to articulate whatever argument it has.  Neither the former or the latter circumstance is sufficient to sustain my association, such as it is, with Scouting, and so I return, herewith, my Eagle badge, ring, and merit badge sash.  I don’t want to be associated with an organization unwilling to declare its moral position, unwilling to justify its exclusionary policy, and most of all, unwilling to accept members regardless of sexual orientation.  I disavow the Boy Scouts of America because I disagree with its policy; I deplore it for its policy and its cowardice both.

Sincerely,

David Guterson

P.O. Box 11755

Bainbridge Island, WA 98110


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