I don’t know about you guys, but I think it’s the coolest thing in the world when people decide to buck tradition or break the rules in order to do what they feel in their hearts is right.
Which is why I’m in awe of the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council right now.
Last year, I wrote about how disappointed I was by the fact that the Boy Scouts of America openly discriminate against homosexuals to the point that they’ve banned them from their scout and troop leader ranks. It’s not just little me, though, who doesn’t like it. Dozens of Eagle Scouts returned their badges and medals in protest. Some sponsors, such as The United Way of Cleveland stopped funded local Boy Scout chapters because the organization’s anti-gay stance broke with their own diversity policies. Of course, this doesn’t really matter because the Boy Scouts of America are a private institution.
Being a private organization means, that they kind of do have the right to decline admission to people they wish to discriminate against. As I pointed out in the original piece about their anti-gay stance, if I wanted to start a big private club called The Elephant Scouts of America that only allowed entry to people who have ridden elephants in their lifetime, I legally could. It wouldn’t be nice of me to shun people who haven’t had the glory of riding an elephant, but it’s within my legal right. It’s also why Mormons can ban non-Mormons from entering parts of their temples, and Catholics can deny communion to non-Catholics, and the Boy Scouts of America can deny entrance to women and homosexual men. It’s this weird thing about American democracy that the very laws that allow us freedom to do what we want (barring criminal practice and personal injury to others) also give us the power to deny others the right to join in with us.
So, if there is ever going to be any change in how the Boy Scouts of America treat homosexuals, it can’t come from outside pressure, but rather from popular demand inside the organization.
Which is why the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council is kind of the coolest, most rebellious and most badass group right now.
Ryan Andersen had been an active and exemplary member of the Boy Scouts for twelve years. After working all that time on improving himself, doing charity and helping his community (including spearheading a campaign to set up a “tolerance wall” against bullying at a local school), he had finally earned all of the badges and honors to garner him Eagle Scout status.
Except, as I mentioned before, he was openly gay.
And so, his Scoutmaster not only refused to grant him Eagle Scout status, he also said that because he is gay, “he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting.” Specifically, the Scoutmaster believed that Ryan did not have a “Duty to God”, which is paramount to being a Boy Scout.
Ryan’s family countered by saying that “The Boy Scouts of America’s statement that Ryan does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ is inaccurate. Ryan has never said that he does not believe in a higher power, and the only reason he’s being denied the rank of Eagle is because the Boy Scouts of America has a problem with Ryan being gay.”
Which is most definitely true.
Like I said, the Boy Scouts of America has every legal right to kick Ryan Andersen after years and years of being an exemplary member out of the organisation simply because of his sexual orientation. However, a lot of people, like me, agree that it’s morally wrong to do so. I believe discrimination of any kind is morally wrong.
More than 460,000 people signed a petition demanding that Ryan be granted his Eagle status and Ryan’s local chapter, the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council, has granted him his membership and Eagle Scout rank in direct opposition to the national organization’s policies.
Now, the Council and Ryan’s family fully expect to be challenged on this by the organization, but in my mind, it’s still a victory. It’s a visible part of the Boy Scouts proudly affirming that they are most definitely Boy Scouts, and that they most definitely will openly welcome homosexuals to be Boy Scouts as well.
Whatever happens next, Ryan Andersen has earned Eagle Scout status.
He’s not just an Eagle Scout because the Boy Scouts let him be. He’s one because he’s earned it with his character, hard work and courage.
That’s pretty awesome.
Hopefully the future of the Boy Scouts is filled with more kind, patient, hard working and brave young men like Ryan, and perhaps this is the first sign that it will be.