Boy Scouts shift on gays wouldn’t change rules on atheists

February 8, 2013

WASHINGTON

For former scoutmaster Richard Guglielmetti, the Boy Scouts of America’s reconsideration of its ban on gay scouts and leaders is long overdue.

Guglielmetti, 66, who led Troop 76 in Simsbury, Conn., for a dozen years until 2005, said leaders and members of his troop ignored the national organization’s prohibition on gays because they felt it was wrong.

“It’s about time,” he said Monday (Jan. 28).

Despite the national policies set forth by BSA, his troop always rejected the policy, Guglielmetti said.

“We had a bunch of boys in our troop who were gay, and they all felt the policy was wrong,” he said. “Gay Scouts and everybody was always welcome in our troop.”

One of those Scouts was Guglielmetti’s own son, Matthew, now 34. Last year, Matthew turned in the Eagle Scout award he earned in 1993 because of Scouting’s anti-gay policies, his father said.

In September, the elder Guglielmetti resigned from Scouting. He had been serving the Matianuck District in north central Connecticut as the chairman responsible for giving Eagle Scout candidates their review boards.

Guglielmetti said that for him the final straw was hearing of Ryan Andresen, a gay teen in California who was not allowed to earn his Eagle Scout ranking even after completing the required service project.

“The boy did all the work and everybody knew he was gay, and then they rejected him. That was just intolerable. When that came up, I said, I can’t take it, I can’t put up with this anymore,” he said.

“Just because a person is gay doesn’t mean he’s a pedophile,” Guglielmetti added. “Barring gay leaders kind of accuses them of being pedophiles. Which they’re not — there’s plenty of good gay men that would be good leaders. As far as their policy against gay Scouts, I don’t think they should discriminate against anybody — black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight. I mean, it’s Boy Scouts, and they’re boys. That was my problem with it.”

The potential policy shift raises a question about another group shut out of Scouting: atheists, who decline to say the Boy Scout Oath because it begins: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.”

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said Monday, “If they are considering lifting the ban on gays, that’s a good thing, that’s progress. If they lift that bigotry from their requirements, I would hope they remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well.”

Refusing to admit atheists who decline the oath, Silverman said, “tells boys that atheists are immoral. If local groups want to behave in an ethical way, I’m confident they will make Boy Scouts about Scouting, not about bigotry.”

The Girl Scout Promise is similar in committing the girl to “serve God and my country.”

But the official site also stipulates: “According to the Girl Scout Constitution, the motivating force in Girl Scouting is spiritual. The ways in which members identify and fulfill their spiritual beliefs are personal and private.”

The Girl Scouts of the USA policy is that religious expression is diverse and “the decision to say grace, blessing or invocation is made locally at the troop or group level and should be sensitive to the spiritual beliefs of the participants.”

Brian Shane writes for USA Today and The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times. Mike Chalmers writes for USA Today and The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal. William M. Welch contributed to this story.

  1. Scouting is not a religious organization. Even though many churches sponsor (own) Scouting units, most do so in support of its complementary role as a non-denominational or secular youth development program. Eagle candidates are interviewed by a BSA District representative, but an atheistic Scout can answer the Higher Power question with a yes by thinking about the forces of nature. Reverence is an attitude and behaviors showing deep respect, but these may adhere to things other than a deity. If a sponsoring organization wants to accept atheists, it can do so, and the BSA will not question it. Scouting deliberately avoids listing specific details that do or do not meet the requirement. This protects the BSA from being trapped into promoting one interpretation over another. The group that promote this particular interpretation would see its adoption as new entitlement, while different ones would see unfair disenfranchisement. “Render unto Caesar…” teaches us not to expect secular governments (and IMHO private organizations as well) to enact God's teachings or church polity. The BSA proposal to reconsider its policy barring gay Scout or adult membership is whether to leave the whole matter to the local non-BSA sponsoring organization or not. This would allow a group that wanted to be inclusive, and another passionately opposed, to each make their own respective decision and policies. ANY sexual contact or behavior is inappropriate in Scouting, and it’s already subject to preventative instructions in the Guide to Safe Scouting. It should never come up in normal interaction or discussion and should never be interjected into Scouting. Violations enable every single Scouting unit’s Chartering Organization Representative to enforce discipline or expulsion. This is the high road BSA needs to reclaim, not the Culture War mud-wrestling for which some of its passionately constituent sponsoring organizations, pro and con, are trying to co-opt it for their own religious or political purposes that lie outside Scouting’s purview. The question for Christina is, “Would you yank your son out of Scouting if your own sponsoring organization ‘did not turn away from God” and retained the ban, but the BSA allowed other groups to make different decisions?” The lifestyle choice at issue is not whether they should be gay or not, or whether BSA excludes or includes them. The heart of the matter is, “How we will handle the ‘Them’ that, unlike Gay Agenda stereotypes, instead keep looking and behaving honestly, respectfully, and decently at work, school, and church very much like the ‘Us’ that we can and ought to be?”

    by Bill Peters

    March 5, 2013

  2. World Scouting requires a Scouting Association include in their oath "Duty to God and Country" - but how that duty is defined is NOT defined. Source: http://www.scout.org/en/about_scouting/promise_and_law

    by Jeff

    March 2, 2013

  3. I know that if my troop turns away from god on this one and accepts this sexual sin my son will no longer be a boy scout. It is a person's choice if they want to be gay or not. God did not make them that way. I do not want my own son around that environment. Gays want to be justified in their sinful lifestyle. I am not exposing my son to that behavior.

    by Christina Miller

    February 10, 2013

  4. I fail to see how this is relevant church news.

    by David

    February 8, 2013

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