Parents, it's time to quit Boy Scouts

This photo taken Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, shows a close up detail of a Boy Scout uniform worn by Brad Hankins, a campaign director for Scouts for Equality, as he responds questions during a news conference in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
This photo taken Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, shows a close up detail of a Boy Scout uniform worn by Brad Hankins, a campaign director for Scouts for Equality, as he responds questions during a news conference in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) (Tony Gutierrez)
Posted: February 18, 2013

I am reasonably certain that when most parents signed their little guys up for scouting, their good intentions mirrored my own. It was an excellent early social opportunity, and our boys would learn valuable skills - fire-starting, knot-tying, good-deed doing. The pack meetings were fun. We saw our neighbors; our boy saw his classmates. The opportunities to get involved in a meaningful way were plentiful. It was as wholesome an activity as we could possibly want.

And then, for us, it wasn't.

We didn't know about the ban on gay troops and leaders when we signed up years ago. After we did, in 2010, we left, and in the last few weeks I have been so grateful that we no longer have anything to do with this organization. And I am shocked that so many families who believe in gay rights still have boys in the program.

The Boy Scouts seemed poised to end the ban earlier this month, but instead chose to kick its can of intolerance down the road until its national convention in May. At best, this decision was cowardly; at worst, evil. If the U.S. military has figured this out, why can't the leaders of the Boy Scouts?

Parents of scouts can no longer pretend that their family is not part of a group that discriminates and hurts children. Join the scouts and you endorse its position. Maybe the parents aren't the bullies who actually inflict the pain, but they aren't innocent bystanders, either. Being part of Boy Scouts means being part of the prejudice. Every kernel of popcorn sold, every badge earned, is awash in discrimination.

Many parents assert that their troop "isn't like that" or "there is no other option out there." Yet, if the families in these troops share the belief that gays should not be discriminated against, why not leave en masse and form a group that doesn't discriminate? Same people, same activities, but under a banner of respect and equality. Be something better.

If the Boy Scouts discriminated against blacks or Jews or Catholics, would decent parents still let their sons belong? Of course not. They would be ashamed to be part of a hate group. So why aren't they embarrassed now? You can't support gay rights and support the Boy Scouts. It's one or the other.

Parents have the right to raise their sons as they see fit. But, if they believe in equality, it's not OK to immerse children in a program that spits in the face of respect for all.

Telling our sons that they are not allowed to be Boy Scouts because the organization discriminates against gays - and that is wrong - is a conversation my husband and I are proud to have. We will gladly take our boys camping, gather their friends for activities, and teach them how to start campfires and tie knots. We will teach them the meaning of good deeds and the value of serving the community. We don't need the Boy Scouts for that.

When we were part of the Boy Scouts, I complained bitterly about the high price of the popcorn our boys had to sell. Today, it pales in comparison to the cost of the discrimination. It's time to stop buying into the hate. It's time to quit the Boy Scouts, and teach our sons what honor truly means.


Emily Mendell is cofounder of www.mothersofbrothers.com. E-mail her at emily@mothersofbrothers.com.

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