Local Boy Scout troops are out in force this week selling popcorn, as part of their annual fundraising campaign. A group of cubs along with older scouts and their mothers were assembled Saturday in full uniform selling a variety of snacks in front of Peet's Coffee on Park Street in Alameda.
I had a chance to talk to some of the mothers about why they kept their boys in scouting, in light of revelations of abuse within the organization and the ongoing position of the national Boy Scouts of America organization against the LGBT community.
Those with whom I spoke seem to believe the organization's positive aspects still outweigh its many controversies and that they hope to work from within scouting to change its policies against gays and lesbians.
One parent did, admit, however that the national scouting headquarter's stance on the LGBT community has cut into their popcorn sales this year and that the public perception of the Boy Scouts has shifted. She was quick to explain that the money raised from the popcorn sales (unlike scout dues) stays here in the local community and is not passed through to the national organization headquartered in Texas.
When I shared my concerns with the parents about the Boy Scouts' stance on gays and lesbians I was offered a chance to sign a petition they had at their table and register my disapproval. My husband and I happily signed it and stated our reasons for not supporting Boy Scouting. Sadly, we were the only names on the petition (although it was early). It was only after I told them my feelings about the organization that they pulled it out and said I could sign it. They were not actively soliciting signatures from everyone who passed by.
Our sons are now 19 and 22. When they were much younger we enrolled them in Boy Scouts. My husband had participated in scouting as a child and it seemed a natural thing to do.
At some point early on we learned of the homophobic stance taken by the national scouting organization and we made a family decision to withdraw them from scouting altogether because of it.
We have many people in our circle of friends who love our children who just happen to be gay or lesbian. How could we, in good conscience, have our children wear the uniform of and participate in an organization that so openly discriminated against the people we cared about?
At the time I wrote a letter to local newspapers about our decision to withdraw our sons from Boy Scouts. There was some backlash. A couple families never spoke to us again. But, overall we felt supported in our decision. (Our sons grew up just fine, by the way, and participated in many other non-discriminatory youth programs in the community.)
Probably most importantly, some years later one of my sons' close friends came out as gay. His mother has since specifically thanked me for our personal boycott of Boy Scouting.
Those mothers out selling popcorn with their scout sons may be making the right decision for their boys today. It is conceivable that working from within scouting to push for a change in its policies may be a better tactic than pulling your child out of the organization altogether.
In either case, I think it is important to tell your sons (in an age appropriate way) that you are taking a stand against the national Boy Scouts' policies of discrimination against others. It could be the most important thing they get out of their scouting experience.