Friday, July 16, 2010

Worcester Humanists hold BSA's feet to the fire

Although I work and go to school in Boston, I actually live out in the suburbs, closer to Worcester (pronounced Wu-ster, for those not from the area) than to Boston.  It was cool to see the local humanist group, the Greater Worcester Humanists, on the front page of the AHA's newsletter this week.

The Worcester Humanists have written a letter to several local Boy Scouts council leaders, urging them to make a statement about the BSA's national policy of denying membership to atheists and homosexuals.  The problem, according to the article, is that while the national leaders of the Boy Scouts have made it clear they support this discriminatory policy, local BSA groups remain quiet about the policy (and in some cases they tell some potential donors that they reject the policies, but that it is in place over their heads).  This allows local BSA groups to keep public support, while the discriminatory policies at the national level are not even challenged.

I think this is a great move by the Worcester Humanists.  Either the local groups speak out against the national policies, and put some pressure on the national BSA, or they admit they support the policies.  The latter would be disappointing, but at least it would be out there in the open.  People would know that local BSA groups discriminate, and can make a decision about supporting them in the future.   

So far, there has been no response from any of the local BSA leaders.  However, I think if more people were to ask these questions of local leaders, they would have to respond.  If you care about these discriminatory policies, please consider sending email to your local BSA chapters, asking about their attitudes towards discrimination.  I will be contacting the same members that the Worcester Humanists did, whose contact info can be found on their council sites:

If you decide to write the councils, please don't be antagonistic.  It's quite possible that they do not support these discriminatory practices at the higher levels of the BSA.  We simply want to know where they stand, and make those opinions known.  As the article stated:
It should be made clear, however, that this is not an attack on the local council leaders. They are the ones who work so hard, often as volunteers, to help local children grow into respectful and capable adults. The Telegram & Gazette quoted GWH spokesman Christopher Lackey as saying, "It's our understanding that the local councils are run by decent people who want to do the right thing and it's a shame that the national BSA casts a cloud of intolerance over scouting."
Hopefully we can get some local leaders of the Boy Scouts to speak out more publicly against discrimination against the organization.
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