All eyes are on Grapevine, Texas today as the Boy Scouts of America begins the annual meeting of its National Council. Earlier this year the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would postpone a reconsideration of its policy prohibiting gay scouts and scout leaders until the meeting this week (see the letter that Rabbi Saperstein sent to the BSA in response to that decision). Today the 1,400 person National Council, including representatives from across the country, will vote on whether or not to lift this ban and make the organization a more inclusive one.
In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America, as an ‘expressive’ organization, had the right to exclude gay scouts and scout leaders from their ranks. Believing that this policy was contrary to the values taught by Jewish tradition, shortly after this decision the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism advised Reform synagogues to stop hosting Boy Scout troops. Sadly, since that time the BSA leadership has repeatedly affirmed its discriminatory policy. The possibility that this policy could be about to change is an exciting and welcome development. However, the BSA announced recently that the provision being considered by the National Council this week would only lift the ban on gay scouts, leaving the ban on gay scout leaders in place.
In response to this decision, the Religious Action Center drafted a letter from Jewish clergy to the BSA leadership urging them to fully change their policy and include both gay scouts and scout leaders. More than 500 rabbis and cantors – representing at least three denominations, 46 states and 140 Boy Scouts Local Council regions – added their name to this call for justice and inclusion.
“Like the Boy Scouts, our Jewish tradition emphasizes the values of personal responsibility, service to the community and a broader commitment to justice,” the letter to the Boy Scouts read. “These values apply equally to gay and straight individuals. Indeed, how can we teach service to a community when that community excludes our friends, family members and neighbors?”
“We believe that each human being is created b’tselem elohim, in the image of God. That stamp of the divine does not change between childhood and adulthood. Indeed, LGBT adults can and do provide exemplary role models for both straight and gay youth. As Jewish clergy, we urge you to fully lift the BSA’s policy of discrimination that currently impacts both children and adults.”
Image Courtesy of CNN.com