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In June, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America has the right, as a private organization, to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts also discriminate on the basis of religion, revoking the memberships of children and adults who don't believe in God. For generations, Boy Scouts had been accepted as a semi-public, all-American institution, with troops often sponsored by public schools and police departments, meeting for free in public facilities, and recruiting for free via notices sent home in children's backpacks. Now, many public agencies, including schools, are reexamining their relationship with the Boy Scouts, recognizing that their support of the organization may conflict with their legal and policy commitments not to discriminate. Public agencies have an obligation to serve every child and family, including those who are atheist or gay.
WHAT CAN I DO?
1) Write a letter and follow up with a phone call to the local Boy Scout Executive, asking him to change his mind. The Boy Scouts are in the phone book, or find contact info at http://www.scouting.org/localcouncillocator.aspx
a) You could ask him to write to the national office of the Boy Scouts objecting to the policy.
b) You could ask him to make a public statement expressing his support for all Scouts (both youth and leaders) regardless of their sexual orientation and inviting them all to remain in Boy Scouting.
c) You could tell him that Scouting is such an important experience it shouldn't be denied to any boys and that excluding those who are different sends a terrible message to their peers.
2) Meet individually with any school board members who will join you for coffee. Write a letter to your school board; you can mail it or present it in person at a school board meeting. Call to see if you could hand deliver a letter from the whole Safe Schools Coalition: 206-296-4970.
a) You could explain that you don't want to deny the Boy Scouts, or any group that is non-violent, equal access to the physical plant. And you could go on to say that equal access is not the same thing as special endorsement.
b) You could ask them to pass, publicize and enforce a policy requiring that in order to
1. send informational materials home with students,
2. have access to the names and addresses of students,
3. consider the school a "sponsor,"
4. provide color guards or entertainment at school-sponsored events such as assemblies and ball games,
5. meet in the school rent-free, or
6. use school district bulletin boards, newsletters, newspapers, computers or daily bulletins to advertise membership, services, products, or events
- NY organization (commercial or not-for-profit) would have to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability or marital status.
c) You could promise school board members your vote the next time they run and 100 hours of your volunteer time in the next levy campaign, if they will support every child by insisting that, while all groups can meet on campus, only those that don't discriminate may enjoy special privileges.
b) Write a letter and/or call your own employers, if they happen to be among those that make charitable contributions, asking them not to contribute to the Boy Scouts unless the local Boy Scout Council makes a pledge not to discriminate on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation.
c) Write a letter and/or speak up at your own community of worship, if you belong to one, especially if they happen to be among those which sponsor troops. You can ask them to withdraw their sponsorship unless the local Boy Scout Council makes a pledge not to discriminate on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation. You can also ask them to contact the Boy Scouts.
d) Write a letter and/or call United Way, asking them not to contribute to the Boy Scouts -- even to their Learning for Life program -- unless the local Boy Scout Council makes a pledge not to discriminate. United Way is in the phone book., or find contact info at http://www.liveunited.org/myuw/local.cfm
e) If you are involved in your school's PTA or Site Council or Student Body Association - how about asking for a building-level policy that all organizations, commercial and social service alike, must sign a pledge agreeing not to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or country of origin, before they will be allowed to send marketing literature home for free to families.
f) If you are an athlete or a cheerleader - how about organizing your teammates to object to Boy Scout Color Guards at your games. The point isn't to punish the actual students in those color guards, and you could convey that by inviting them to join you for some shared event (a "diversity teach-in"¯ perhaps). The point is that their presence on the field or on the court elevates a discriminatory private club to the same status as a school-sponsored, non-discriminating group or team. They may, as individuals, not believe in excluding kids who are different, but they represent that value when they wear that uniform.
g) If you ever went to school (whether you graduated or dropped out) - how about writing to the principal of the last school you attended, asking him or her to make sure no group gets to use the school's bulletin boards or to advertise in its newspaper unless it signs a pledge that it will not exclude students for reasons such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or country of origin.
h) If you are currently a Girl Scout, or are involved in Campfire or the YMCA or YWCA or 4-H or a non-discriminating church youth group - how about organizing a peaceful protest outside your school with fliers pointing out that not all youth groups discriminate. You might invite all the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and fierce, principled heterosexual Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to join your organization, instead, or to form alternative leadership and service clubs.
i) If you are currently a Boy Scout (youth or adult) - how about acting in solidarity with your gay fellow scouts, who can't come out without being expelled and your openly gay classmates, who can't even join in the first place? You could organize every Scout in your troop to start wearing a pink triangle among your badges. You could educate your troop by inviting a panel of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth to speak at your next meeting. You could start wearing duct tape over your mouths at Scout events. You could agree to serve on a Color Guard and then arrange to carry, alongside the American flag and the Boy Scout flag, a rainbow flag, to honor those who weren't invited to walk beside you. You could send $7, to match the money you paid in Boy Scout dues, to the Safe Schools Coalition to support its work fighting bigotry in schools. (Send donation checks made to "Safe Schools Coalition" to us through our fiscal agent. Mail to: Safe Schools Coalition c/o Lifelong AIDS Alliance; 1002 E. Seneca; Seattle, WA 98122-4203)
j) Educate yourself about the issue. Start with these resources:
letter to a school board:
in September, 2000, the Safe Schools Coalition began working to help Seattle
Public Schools disassociate itself from the Boy Scouts. Our letter to the
president of the board can serve as a model for families and activists in
For All: national organization working toward a time when the Boy Scouts of America
will rescind its policy of discrimination against gay youth and adults. PO Box
2832, Petaluma, CA 94953-2832; Phone: 707-778-0564; Email: email@example.com;
Scouts For Equality: Since 1991, the Boy Scouts of America has barred openly gay individuals from participating in its program at any level. Scouts for Equality will lead a respectful, honest dialogue with current and former Scouts and Scout Leaders about ending this outdated policy. We’re asking Boy Scout councils, troops, and parents nationwide to stand up against the National Board in protest of their discriminatory policies. Website: http://www.scoutsforequality.com/
Honor: video traces
the conflict between the anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts of America and
the movement by many of its members to overturn them. The story is told
through the experiences of a 13-year old boy and a 70-year-old man - both
heterosexual, both dedicated to the Scouts, and both determined to change the
course of Scouting history. New Day Films, 22-D Hollywood Avenue, Hohokus, NJ
07423; Phone: 1-888-367-9154; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
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