Seven Days has a good story on the Montpelier Boy Scouts controversy today.
Again, Thierry Guerlain distinguishes himself in his stand for principle. As quoted in Seven Days, Guerlain says:
“They went from teaching the boys discrimination to also teaching them spite,” said Guerlain, who called the decision not to volunteer at the event a “spiteful move” on the part of local Boy Scout leaders. “I’m surprised that we’re even discussing the fact that it’s more important to get the trash picked up conveniently by the Boy Scouts than to respect the civil rights of lesbian and gay parents who are disinvited from the Boy Scouts.”
I keep thinking about this and I think about what this means to the participating Boy Scouts. I was a Cub Scout for a few years but I was never a Boy Scout, but I always thought that the organization had something to do with citizenship. In fact, I could almost swear that I read something about it, something like this:
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
The parade is part of Montpelier's Independence Day celebration, recognizing the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Here's part of what the Declaration has to say about citizenship:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
It's not just me, but I have to say that the “created equal” thing, as well as the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” thing, are pretty relevant both to this issue and to recognizing full citizenship for our fellow Americans. Funny that the Boy Scouts don't see it the same way.
And the other thing about citizenship is that it has a lot to do with petitioning your government, engaging in a dialogue with bodies like the Montpelier City Council in a political way to bring them over to your side of an issue. By failing to show up, the leaders of the Montpelier Boy Scouts deprived the Scouts of an opportunity to participate in citizenship in a very direct way; they also deprived the community of the chance to have that dialogue.
As our own John Odum said (again quoted in Seven Days): “The local scouting organization simply walked away and slammed the door on their way out,” wrote Odum in an email to Seven Days. “Just think of the messages they are sending to the kids themselves by just walking away at the first hint of a difference of opinion: that its OK to angrily dismiss others' deeply held beliefs, OK to walk away from commitments, and that its fine to stand by while homophobic comments are being spread, supposedly on their behalf.”
This is not a pot-kettle thing, this was a total failure of the Boy Scouts hierarchy to live up to their stated principles.