Over the summer the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay members and leaders. As we understand the policy, it provides that while the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, it does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals and who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA. As expected this announcement generated quite a bit of national media attention and resulted in a lot of questions and soul searching from scouts, scout parents and the community at large – not just in Piedmont but in towns across the country.
As individuals and long-time scout leaders, we each have thought long and hard about the BSA policy and are uncomfortable with the implication that by remaining in scouts we are somehow endorsing it. Quite the opposite is true. We would like all children and parents to feel welcome in Piedmont Scouts, and are committed to that goal in this community. As individuals we will also continue to work to change this policy at the national level, and we are actually in a position to have our voice heard.
We are writing this open letter for several reasons. First, we feel it is important for this issue to be discussed within Piedmont. We want families reading news stories regarding the topic, especially families that weren’t here when the issue came up more than ten years ago, to understand how we feel and what we are doing to address it. We are proud of Piedmont’s history of promoting inclusivity and tolerance in scouting both nationally and within the Council and want to let families know our commitment to this key value has not wavered.
Second, we want people to know the reasons we are in involved in Piedmont Scouts and why we believe the whole of the program is worth fighting for despite our disagreement with this one policy. Scouting and Venturing programs in Piedmont offer wonderful opportunities for outdoor activities, camping, leadership and individual development, community service, and fun. The Scout Tree Lot, Scouting for Food, and Rebuilding Together Oakland are each living examples of the positive impact Piedmont Scouts can have on children and the community.
Third, we want to encourage a conversation with Piedmont families that want to learn more about this issue, and perhaps more about Scouting. To that end we invite you to reach out to us by email or phone, ask us questions and tell us what you think and how you feel. We love Piedmont, along with the great sense of community, service and family that it offers to everyone. We want to promote that feeling, build a stronger sense of inclusion, and through Piedmont Scouts offer programs and activities that are fun, positive and inclusive for all our families. If you would like to be part of a broader discussion please contact the Scout Office via email or phone we will do our best to keep you informed about what we are doing and attempt to put together a number of community wide opportunities to gather with Piedmont Scout Council Members and other concerned citizens.
Point 7 of the Scout law says, "A Scout is obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them.” We embrace this principle and look forward to continuing the dialogue.
Eileen Ash Arthur
Anne Marie Lamarche
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