An Open Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

The following letter, along with items displayed, was mailed to the Boy Scouts of America on August 2, 2012.


BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079

To Chief Executive Bob Mazzuca and the BSA National Executive Board:

I write to you as an Eagle Scout, former member of the Order of the Arrow, and longtime Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer, and Assistant Scoutmaster. This month, by all rights, should be an auspicious time for the Boy Scouts of America; one hundred years ago this August the first Eagle Scout award was given, and over the past century, the BSA has done many wonderful things. This should be a time to celebrate that, but instead, your recent decision to uphold the Boy Scouts’ exclusionary membership policies has turned it into a time of controversy and failure.

By adopting what is essentially a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regard to gay scouts and leaders, you have taken the same position that the United States Military took from 1993-2011. That policy was ended because Congress, the President, and the military itself concluded that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was an unjust and discriminatory policy which served little benefit, and certainly served no benefit worth the toll it extracted on gay and lesbian service members.

The Boy Scouts are not the military, but they work to instill many of the same values that we instill in our soldiers, including honor, loyalty, and pride. By forcing gay scouts and leaders into hiding, you introduce many of the same fundamental issues into your organization that our military suffered from over the past two decades.

Chief among those is the explicit suggestion that gay people should hide their identity for the sake of being accepted by society. It is fundamentally hypocritical and wrong for the BSA, an organization that includes trustworthiness, loyalty, and kindness in its most fundamental law, to require that people lie in order to be part of your organization. It would be less hypocritical to simply ban gay people outright—not that I am advocating such a thing, although functionally your current policy produces exactly the same result.

For some reason, you have decided that it is not enough for gay members and scouts to merely abide by the same policies that heterosexuals do. Instead, they must actively conceal their personal lives for fear of being accidentally or purposefully “outed” and expelled, much as gay service members feared would happen (and indeed often did) under the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Mr. Mazzuca stated, in a July 17th interview with USA Today, that “we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership and society.” I would suggest that rather than the current abomination you’ve put in place, you in fact already have such a policy, one which values diversity, morality, and loyalty, and would meet your needs perfectly well without either necessitating discrimination or compromising principles.

That policy is the Boy Scout Law. By emphasizing loyalty, kindness, respect, and trustworthiness; by accepting people for who they are; by instilling honor and self-respect in all who would care to learn; you would demonstrate a steadfast commitment to principle and continue to be a guiding light for countless American boys, regardless of their sexual orientation or creed.

In order to stay true to that very Scout Law, and in order to fully respect both myself and others, I can no longer call myself an Eagle Scout with pride. Nor do I wish to be associated with an organization that has strayed so fully from its own principles, and which practices a level of discrimination almost on par with racial segregation.

The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization, and has the right to set its membership requirements as it sees fit. However, as a private citizen I have no requirement, or frankly, desire, to be associated with an organization that sanctions and promotes discriminatory practices. Therefore, enclosed please find the following: an Eagle Scout award, a patch, and a mother’s pin (included with said mother’s consent), which were awarded by Troop 208 of Christ the King Lutheran Church, in Cary, North Carolina, on June 10, 1998.

Speaking of the Boy Scout Law: I am not religious, but nevertheless consider myself to be a highly reverent person. That in itself could be the subject of another whole letter, but nevertheless, your exclusionary policy against atheists and agnostics suggests that I am not actually welcome in the BSA anyway. So this is likely no big loss for you (you might even consider it a “purifying” of your organization), but it is a loss for me. Scouting instilled in me a deep and abiding love of the outdoors, it gave me confidence in my leadership capabilities, and it has been a lasting influence in my life.

But for the sake of my gay friends and family members, and for the sake of my own conscience, I must take what action I can. The Boy Scout Oath requires its members to be “morally straight”, but I have never once interpreted this to refer to sexual orientation. Rather, I would suggest it means practicing your values and staying true to your moral compass. It is in order to stay morally straight that I write this letter. These are turbulent times, as evidenced by the recent outburst over Chick-Fil-A, and the politics of the 2012 election, and I will do what I can to support and stand with the people I care for and love.

Perhaps one day the Boy Scouts’ objectionable policies will change, and I will be able to once again call myself an Eagle Scout with pride. Indeed, it is my fervent hope that such a day will come to pass. But until then, I cannot in good conscience support or claim association with the Boy Scouts of America.


Andrew S. Williams