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Monday, March 4, 2013

Real Men*

I think I mentioned before that I'm the committee chairman of my son's Boy Scout troop.  The following is a letter I sent to adult leaders and troop parents in preparation for tonight's committee meeting.  I put one or two difficult issues at the end of each meeting--and this month's were lulus.  The issue of membership and leadership requirements (Should the Boy Scouts of America change those requirements to allow those of homosexual orientation to be members of the organization?) is being hotly contested across the country, and I have no idea how it's going to resolve.  Coupled with that, a recent local issue involved some inappropriate comments the boys were making.  Just read it, darn it.
I.                   Elephant in the Room

A strong, active, working relationship with the Chartering Organization is dependent on many things, not the least of which is the behavior of the visiting group. I belong to a regional symphony orchestra which used to include Lansdale’s Calvary Baptist Church as one of its performance venues.  The sanctuary is beautifully appointed and is an acoustical marvel to play in.  About three years ago the church abruptly decided that they were going to terminate that relationship.  Apparently someone had said something unkind about the Church community (no, I do not have the details) and officials at the church decided that it was not in the best interest of the church to continue to allow us to perform there.

Recently, at several troop meetings, I was witness to some inappropriate talk by the boys.  In one case, remarks were made about one of the boys looking like he was wearing makeup, to which the response was, “oh, we’re not that kind of troop”. In another case, the boys were setting up tables for Mr. xxx's memorial service.  As two of the boys carried a table from the storage area to the meeting room, I heard one of them announce loudly, “I’m coming out of the closet”.  He must not have gotten the response he was looking for, and he announced it again.  In either case, I can’t say with any certainty whether anyone reacted to what was said, but it was clear that the Scouts heard it, because in the first instance, it was repeated at a later meeting.

In Scouting’s current situation, where membership and leadership requirements are undergoing increasing scrutiny, we can’t afford to be our own worst enemy, by acting and talking in ways that reflect what many in the non-Scouting world think we are.  It’s okay to have beliefs and values that may not be in sync with the rest of the world, but it doesn’t give us the right to openly and deliberately offend others by our words or be belligerent in the exercise of those beliefs and values.  Rather, it gives us the obligation to quietly go about Scouting’s business, enduring the slings and arrows the world may aim our way.

Point being, all it takes is one careless word or action witnessed by one sorehead with enough drive, determination, friends and funding to skew the balance, and programs like Scouting or symphony orchestras are left wondering why they don’t have a home.  While the relationship we have with Ascension UCC seems to be good, things could change quickly and we would be powerless to do anything. I am asking everyone to exercise moderation in what you say and do while participating in a troop meeting.  Adult leaders, please don’t have side conversations when one of your fellow adult leaders is addressing the boys.  The boys will follow your lead, if not as fast or willingly as you’d prefer. Parents, please insist on respectful listening at home and in Scout meetings, and it will be a huge help to the adult leaders at the meeting.  You know your boys best, and what words will carry the greatest effect.  I’m not going to dictate what you say to them, but please talk to them.

I believe in what Scouting stands for; I wouldn’t have offered to work with Jeff, the adult leadership, and you, if I didn’t. But it’s also our obligation to stand for Scouting. Let’s make certain that we give Scouting that strong foundation.

Daniel J. De Kok, Acting Committee Chairman, Troop 724
Chartered to Ascension UCC, West Norriton, PA

*--Joe Jackson, Steppin' Out, 1982.

UPDATE, APRIL 26, 2013: The proposal on the table at next month's national meeting will read, in part, that Scouting may not discriminate in the boy's case for reasons of lifestyle or orientation.  If this is based on that deeply flawed survey the BSA put out, their proposal is equally flawed.  They know it's going to have to be all or nothing.  Where's that box of Morton's salt I can pour in this wound?
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