I have been involved in Scouting since I was 7 years old. I participated as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, earning my Eagle in 1992. I worked on numerous summer camp staffs and other activities and events. I served as an Assistant Scoutmaster, Unit Commissioner for inner city kids and once my oldest son was able to enter the program, as Den Leader and then Cubmaster for his Pack. My father, also an Eagle, participated with me and was Scoutmaster for a time in my youth. I had become aware of the Boy Scouts of America's national policy issues shortly after earning my Eagle. After becoming a father and reflecting on my own Scouting background and values, I started to re-evaluate the BSA program as something I wanted to be involved in with my children.
I felt the Scouting program had strayed from its roots in outdoor skills and public service. With the organization's discriminatory policies (no girls, gays or godless), I could not in good conscience support the organization with my membership and money. Dignity and standing up for what you believe in are important lessons I want for my children and I couldn't continue to participate with them in a program that directly (via policy) and indirectly (through exclusion) taught children that some other children and parents have less worth than them by not allowing them to participate in a program that they enjoyed. At this point, much like those fighting BSA policies today, I thought I had to do something.
My first attempt was to present the idea of a non-discrimination policy for our local Pack to our BSA Council. After a lengthy talk with the Council representative about the idea, I was told that if we adopted a local, non-discrimination policy they would revoke our Pack's charter. I was incredulous. I told the representative at that point, that as an atheist, I was clearly in violation of their policy but that as an Eagle Scout, Leader and longtime active scouter in the program I was a good example of the kind of person the BSA should want involved at the local level, despite my lack of faith or religion. The representative then told me -- in no uncertain terms -- that I was not what the BSA was looking for in an adult leader and to find another organization in which to participate.
And that's exactly what I set out to do.
If the Boy Scouts of America wants to claim itself as a private, religious organization and limit its membership based on this view, it can do so. And given their disregard for those, like myself and others that have tried in the past to get them to change, I don't have to participate in their program or continue a decades long fight to change them from within and have these pleas fall on deaf ears. I sent my Eagle badge back to BSA National, along with a letter expressing my sadness about the direction of the organization and my sincerest hopes they would change but I was moving on.
I want a Scouting organization that is open to all youth and adults in the spirit of Scouting as a worldwide movement meant to unite cultures around the world in the ideal of service over self. A Scouting organization with a traditional program based on building character and responsibility through the progressive teaching of outdoor skills and a love of nature. Scouting in the U.S., for me, should reflect the respect for diversity, promotion of inclusiveness and hope for the future that we all want to represent and as parents instill in our children.
After resigning my membership from the BSA, I found the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) in 2008. The BPSA, as a traditional scouting program and part of the larger World Federation of Independent Scouts (WFIS), seemed to be exactly what I was looking for in a Scouting program. The BPSA was open to everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or no-religion. Its program was based on the original Scouting program laid down by Scouting's founder, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, in 1907. It was focused on nature and outdoor skills and heavy on the idea of real, public and community service by the youth.
I started a new group under the BPSA in my hometown and worked for some time as Secretary of the organization. And in 2010, I took over as Chief Commissioner of the organization. My goals since then have been to promote the values and inclusiveness of the BPSA's program nationwide and encourage and support the start up of local BPSA Scout Groups around the country.
In the past six months we have had a rapid growth of new, chartered BPSA groups across the U.S. As an all-volunteer organization, we've been working hard to provide our members and groups with the resources, training and help they need to get groups up and operating and have youth participating in the program. Scouting is about the youth and BPSA's mantra is "Scouting for Everyone." I try to keep this in mind every day and keep our tasks and actions oriented toward those goals.
Making sure the BPSA, as an alternative Scouting organization and program, stays active and growing will help provide an opportunity for so many boys and girls, men and women to participate in Scouting in the U.S. and take an active role in the rich history and positive benefits of the Scouting movement. You shouldn't have to leave your values and dignity at the door to participate in Scouting. And if we, as a society, decide we want a Scouting program that focuses on nature and outdoor skills, while being inclusive and representative of our own values we don't have to fight an uphill battle to make it happen. We can help build and support a new organization that already provides that kind of program and ensure it continues to do so for future generations to come.
I hope that my enthusiasm and commitment to this program and the opportunities it can provide for youth and adults is contagious.
Web Site: http://bpsa-us.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BadenPowellSA (@BadenPowellSA)