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Change from Within Current Policy Impact of Current Policy Inclusive Scouting Award Religion What is Scouts for Equality?
Change from within
Should I enroll my child in BSA?
Absolutely! All of us can point to Scouting as instrumental in shaping who we are. Scouting combines leadership, survival, and teamwork with basic skills such as time-management, first aid, and planning. The discipline and dedication they learn along the way will undoubtedly make their Scouting experience one that develops them as youth and guides them throughout life. The BSA has made strides toward equality and there are many local units that have broad non-discrimination policies in place. It is important to find a unit that is a good fit for your family values.. Now, it’s up to all of us to get involved in Scouting to help ensure that the pro-equality voice within Scouting is heard. This alone is the best way to pave the path towards an even more inclusive and brighter future for the BSA. Scouting is a rewarding program–we encourage you to enroll your child in the BSA and to lead by example.
We want to start a new BSA unit. What should we do?
Whether you are looking to start a Pack, Troop, Crew, Ship, Post, or Lab Unit, there are some similar starting points. Some of the things you’ll need to get started are a sponsor (a religious group, civic association, or group of parents), a meeting place, and some members. With these in place, your district’s new-unit commissioner can work with you to establish your new unit. A trove of resources on this process can be found on the BSA’s blog. If you’re starting a new unit, please contact us at email@example.com so that we can assist you and also put you in touch with your local SFE Chapter.
My Pack/Troop/Crew wants to show their support for everyone in Scouting. How can we help?
We’re glad you asked! You can direct people to join us here and visit our Facebook page. You can also show your support to other Scouters by wearing the Inclusive Scouting Award as a symbol of your commitment to diversity and equality in Scouting. If you want to get more involved, we’d love to hear from you, so email us!
As a Scout/Scouter/Volunteer, how can I continue to support pushing for full inclusion while recognizing the right of the BSA as a private organization to set its own policy?
Remember that if you’re a member of an organization, you have a say in how that organization operates. The policy change on youth was voted on by adult Scouts representing every BSA Council, and was therefore a change that represented the wishes of the BSA as a member-led organization. The policy change on adults was voted on by the National Executive Board, which is a group of adult volunteers from all over the country. The inclusion of girls in Cub Scouts and the newly named Scouts BSA program was voluntarily and influenced by nearly 90% support in a Family Scouting Survey. Remember that as a member of the organization, you have the opportunity and obligation to help determine where this organization will go in the future.
What is the BSA’s current stance on LGBT Scouts and leaders?
As of 2014, no youth member (under 18 years old) of any BSA program can be expelled simply for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. As of 2015, no adult member of any BSA program above the unit level (e.g. district, council, national) can be expelled simply for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. However, units chartered by faith-based organizations can still deny adult membership in that unit because of their sexual orientation. Units chartered to secular organizations, however, must consider adult applications without regard to sexual orientation. As of 2017, the BSA recognizes a person’s gender as what is listed on the membership application.
To report violations of the BSA’s policies, please follow the instructions in this document.
The entirety of the youth membership standards resolution (effective January 1 2014) can be found here.
An announcement from the BSA regarding the changes to its adult membership standards (effective July 27, 2015) can be found here.
In early 2017, the BSA officially accepted transgender members in a video announcement. There was no prior written policy.
As of fall 2018, girls are allowed as Cub Scouts. Packs may be for girls, boys, or mixed gender, but dens are still required to be single-gender.
Beginning in February 2019, girls are allowed in Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts) in single-gender Troops.
Did the Boy Scouts have a legal right to exclude gay people from leadership and membership positions for so long?
In the 2000 case BSA v. Dale, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the BSA’s right to set their own membership and leadership standards. In the spring of 2015, Pascal Tessier – an openly gay man – was hired by the Greater New York Councils for a summer camp position, in spite of the national policy. Had the BSA fired him, many people believe that their actions would have been in violation of New York State Law and that it’s unlikely that the BSA would have been able to successfully defend their ban on gay employees in court.
Do the Boy Scouts have other policies or positions related to sexuality, sexual orientation, or sexual conduct?
Yes. The BSA has adopted a respected and strong Youth Protection Program as well as other rules, regulations and policies on sexuality and sexual conduct. We believe Scouting should be a fun, safe and inclusive environment for all young people and agree with the BSA that sexual activity should not occur between young people during Scouting events and activities.
Impact of current policy
Our unit does not discriminate, yet local sponsors seem reluctant to support us due to the fact that other units in the area might not allow LGB or atheist leaders. How can we show that we support equality?
If your BSA unit has adopted a policy of non-discrimination, then local charities, businesses, and individuals may be more likely to provide direct support if they know that the money will stay within the local group. We would strongly encourage you to register your unit in our Inclusive Unit Program. This is an easy way to make sure everyone knows your unit is inclusive..
Why don’t you form your own Scouting group?
First and foremost, we are current and former Scouts, professional Scouters, volunteer Scout leaders and parents, and friends of Scouts who want the BSA return to and uphold its basic principles of inclusivity. The BSA is our organization. The BSA has demonstrated its capacity to follow the values that we hold dear as Scouts and most of the SFE leadership are active BSA parents and volunteers.
Were the LGB membership policies longstanding?
The oldest known mention of a specific BSA policy of excluding LGB members was in an internal 1978 memo. Earlier mentions of LGB exclusion appear in Scouting literature, including a passage in the 1972 edition of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook. The first public announcement of the BSA policy was in 1992. The first BSA National Executive Board statement of the policy was in 2001.
What about the Girl Scouts of the USA?
The Girls Scouts do not discriminate against anyone and we fully support this girls-only program. They have had a written non-discrimination policy in effect at the national level for several years. In response to the Girl Scouts inclusiveness, a small spin-off group called American Heritage Girls formed in 1995.
How many Scouts and Scouters have been dismissed under these policies?
There are more than two dozen known cases of discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America, dating back to 1980. There are many more undocumented cases where membership has been revoked, people were asked to leave, or people were made to feel so uncomfortable that they simply walked away. We have no idea how many people have been negatively affected by the policy; some boys simply quit Scouting after bullying or harassment or feeling excluded and others might have left quietly after their parents pulled them out of the program. Membership in Scouting had been on the decline since 2000, likely due to combinations of cultural shifts, changes in youth activities, and a continual shift toward more inclusive views, particularly with regards to youth and young parents.
Do other Scouting organizations outside the U.S. have discriminatory policies?
Most Scout associations in Europe and in the former British Empire do not discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender or religious belief. The United Kingdom Scout Association, Scouts Canada, and many others have adopted non-discrimination policies prohibiting the exclusion of youth on the basis of sexual orientation and religion. In July 2001, 400 representatives of the European Conference of Guides and Scouts, representing 3.1 million boys and girls in 41 countries, overwhelmingly approved a resolution, presented by the Belgian delegation, against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Only six nations — Turkey, Greece, Romania, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta — voted against the resolution.
Why did you feel that the old policy went against the Scout Oath and Law?
In 1911, the Boy Scouts issued their first edition of the Boy Scout Handbook. In it, the early leaders of American Scouting said they would work so that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” This original, founding principle of Scouting is just as powerful today as it was more than a century ago. For the BSA to serve every boy, it must be welcoming of both the youth and their family. Furthermore, in the Scout Oath we promise to “help other people at all times”; this implies that we will help all people at all times.
Inclusive Scouting Award
What is the Inclusive Scouting Award?
Introduced in 2002, the Inclusive Scouting Award is a way to show support for those who have been threatened with exclusion from Scouting in the United States because of the membership policies of the Boy Scouts of America. It signals that you actively support everyone in Scouting and are willing to identify yourself as a safe space for anyone who may feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
The two ropes of the square knot symbolize sexual orientation and religion, and the knot reflects ways in which the two issues are intertwined. One rope is silver and purple – colors the BSA reserves for religious emblems. The other rope is rainbow-colored – representative of diversity in general and widely used in LGBT communities as a symbol of pride and unity.
It’s usually worn on the uniform in the same manner as any other adult leadership awards, although it is unusual in that it is earned by the act of wearing it. By displaying this emblem, you set a positive example and help to create a friendlier and healthier environment for everyone in the Scouting program.
Didn’t the BSA change their policies? Is this badge really still necessary?
Many people have asked whether this award is still necessary, given that the BSA ended their blanket ban on LGB adults in July of 2015. The simple answer is “yes, absolutely.” Keep in mind that units chartered by faith-based organizations may still discriminate against LGB adults, and that a policy change doesn’t imply an instantaneous change in the hearts and minds of Scouting volunteers and professionals. The ISA also identifies the wearer as an ally – someone who is “safe” to approach and someone with whom you can be open and honest. In this way, it is modeled after the “safe space” programs used in high schools over the last decade, which have been shown to reduce stress for marginalized youth even if they never speak to someone – just knowing that an ally is present is a significant relief.
Who wears the ISA?
Anyone committed to standing for equality in Scouting may wear the ISA; this applies to youth and adult Scouts. Wearing the ISA sends a message to other Scouters that you support everyone in Scouting and that you are a safe person to talk to in a mature, responsible and confidential way. This is the responsibility that comes with the award. It is important that everyone wearing the ISA, particularly youth, is aware of the responsibility that they placed upon themselves by wearing it.
How can my child approach someone wearing the Inclusive Scouting Award badge when the only qualification is being unafraid to stand up for people who may face discrimination? A youth is not qualified to handle anything so sensitive unless they have gone through it themselves. I can see trained leaders wearing the badge, but not youth.
According to the American Psychological Association and other professional medical and psychological organizations, sexual orientation in and of itself is not a problem. The problems that gay adolescents experience are the results of isolation and social disapproval, and many similar “safe space” projects (often using stickers on classroom doors, lockers, etc.) have proved to be very successful in schools and other similar settings. In the words of one young man, the only thing they are looking for is “to know that you won’t wig out if I decide to talk to you.” If your child is capable of having a friend or acquaintance “come out” to them without “wigging out,” then they’ve got all the qualifications that they need. Even without bringing up the topic, LGBT youth and youth with LGBT parents may make note of the patch and gain some confidence knowing that their peers are supportive. Sometimes, all a young person needs is a safe person to talk to, a handshake or pat on the back and a reassurance that it will be okay and get better.
Does wearing the ISA mean that someone is LGBT or atheist? Will my child be bullied for wearing it?
To the best of our knowledge, the majority of ISA wearers are not directly affected by these policies; they are allies. If you or your child is confronted under these assumptions, explain that the Inclusive Scouting Awards means simply that you can talk to the wearer without fear of being reported or excluded. Taking a stand on a contentious issue is not without risks, and there are certainly those out there who believe that no one would stand up for such issues without having some “vested interest” (i.e. being secretly gay themselves). If suspicion of being gay could result in your child being bullied, then there may be deeper concerns about their Scouting peers and environment.
How can someone wearing the Inclusive Scouting Award be “safe” for an LGBT or questioning youth to approach if they haven’t had any training on dealing with these issues?
Most LGBT youth report tremendous feelings of isolation because they so often do not know with whom they can simply share this important fact about themselves. For many reasons that are not hard to imagine, they are often not ready to be totally “out” and feel that they cannot risk telling someone if there’s a chance that person will respond poorly (such as telling the entire high school). Often times, being a “safe” person simply means listening and being supportive. Further, the Boy Scouts of America’s recent survey in February 2013 of youth members aged 16-18 showed that a “majority oppose the [previous]…membership policy” and that “a majority of current Boy Scouts and Venturers” believe “the [previous] policy does not represent a core value of Scouting.” Today’s young people are aware of issues that affect the LGBT community. Many of them have friends at school or family members who identify as LGBT. In short, today’s young people are well-equipped and prepared to be a safe ear of support for their fellow Scouts and friends who identify as LGBT.
Since the Inclusive Scouting Award is not an approved award, couldn’t my child get in trouble himself for wearing it or become the target of unwanted attention from the BSA?
Yes, that is a possibility. But, we have distributed over 35,000 Inclusive Scouting Awards. In that time, we’ve only heard of a very small number of negative incidents. In most of these cases, an individual was simply asked to remove the award due to a strict adherence to uniform guidelines. In these rare cases, it is worth noting that the right pocket is an official location for temporary insignia, as is the back of the merit badge sash for youth members. Personal items, such as backpacks, are often adorned with pins and buttons already. Additionally, we believe that the overwhelming majority of Scouts, Scout leaders, parents and others are well-intentioned, loving people who care about the well-being of the youth in their care. If an adult Scout leader takes issue with the award and your child is able to explain what it means and why it is important to them, many leaders are able to respect and honor your child’s maturity and loyalty to Scouting and his values.
Why is it called an award if you don’t have to do anything to earn it?
You earn this award by wearing it, by showing courage and by demonstrating conviction and fortitude. Each time you put on your uniform with the Inclusive Scouting Award sewn on it is one small, daily exercise in achievement. When you respond in a safe, respectful and caring way to those who approach you about the award, you are truly living out the ideals of the award and the true values of Scouting. By displaying this emblem, you set a positive example and help to create a friendlier and healthier environment for everyone in the Scouting program.
How can I get the badge for my Scout and myself to wear? How much do they cost?
You can get the badge by filling out our order form. If you promise to put it on your uniform, we’ll send it to you for free, though a suggested donation of $5 or more allows us to continue providing it at no cost to those who are less fortunate and helps us to defray the cost of producing the award, postage and other activities in our continued mission to create a safer, more inclusive Scouting program.
How should we respond while wearing the badge and someone questions us about what it is for and what it means?
You should tell others that the Inclusive Scouting Award means you support an inclusive and safe Scouting program for all people, period. You can explain the symbolism of the emblems colors and tell them that. by wearing the award, you are signifying that you are an ally — a person who is safe to approach and talk to without fear of being kicked out, a safe ear and friend for your fellow Scouts and Scouters. You can learn more about the meaning of the Inclusive Scouting Award in other questions in this FAQ and on our Inclusive Scouting Award page.
Are there ways for a parent or other non-Scout to show their support?
Absolutely! Scouts for Equality also has shirts and apparel available in our store.
Our troop wants to wear this award as a group. How can we show our support without losing our charter or membership with BSA?
We have distributed over 35,000 Inclusive Scouting Awards. Several local councils and numerous Packs, Troops, and Crews have publicly decided to support inclusive policies. Some have even publicly adopted the Inclusive Scouting Award as a permanent part of the uniform or used their support for equality in Pack recruiting drives. To date, we have heard of no negative repercussions for these brave decisions in support of inclusion.
What is the BSA’s current policy on religious belief?
The BSA has adopted a Declaration of Religious Principle which is included in Article IX of the BSA charter and bylaws. It states:
“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God… The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.”
Although the BSA states a nonsectarian approach to religion and is not based on any one religion, they also state that a Scout cannot fulfill their potential without “recognizing an obligation to God”.
What about non-theists in Scouting? What is Scouts for Equality’s position on “A Scout is Reverent”?
We believe the Scouting program offered by the Boy Scouts of America is an amazing program for youth, and as such it should be available to everyone, including non-theists.
Furthermore, reverence is a deeply-held, constantly evolving set of beliefs and ethics. For some, it is embodied by organized religion. For others, reverence is represented by a respect for others and the world around us. Reverence is as much about respect for one another’s beliefs—or lack thereof—as it is about a Scout’s own beliefs.
The Boy Scouts have said as much in their own teaching about reverence.
From the BSA’s charter and bylaws:
“The activities of the members of the Boy Scouts of America shall be carried on under conditions which show respect to the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion, as required by the twelfth point of the Scout Law, reading, “Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” (emphasis added)
Consistent with the BSA’s policy, Scouts for Equality believes that showing respect towards the beliefs of others is consistent with the Scout Oath and Law. We expect all of our members to show reverence and respect for all religious beliefs and philosophical positions.
We believe Scouting is a force more powerful than one person or one religion. By welcoming people from all religious beliefs and philosophical positions, including non-theistic Buddhists and Unitarians, and other people from other traditions, including those who are atheist, agnostic, or not affiliated with any religious group, Scouting can better fulfill its vision of preparing youth in America to become responsible, participating citizens and leaders.
What if someone’s religion says that it’s immoral to discriminate against others? How can a Scout with these beliefs reconcile being “reverent” with being “obedient”?
Many of the world’s religions hold the view that discrimination against others is wrong for any reason. This sets-up a moral dilemma given that the BSA simultaneously says that its members must be trustworthy at all times, but that they must also ascribe to a belief in a higher power. We hope that Scouts are able to find a way to express their true beliefs even when they are in conflict with BSA policy. A good way to express this disagreement in a forthright, non-confrontational manner is to wear the Inclusive Scouting Award in an obvious place on the Scout uniform. Enlist your religious leader and congregation to provide support for your decision. If possible, have them award it to you privately or as part of a religious service. By doing this, the award in effect becomes another religious award in the same category as the purple and silver knot award.
What should I do if one of my Scouts tells me he/she is an atheist or agnostic, or is questions his/her faith?
Keep them in Scouting! No one should be excluded; many adolescents are unsure of their beliefs at one point or another — they may be exposed to religion in Scouting, or come to a different understanding later. Faith is very personal and it can be a journey. No one should be punished for asking questions about faith and they should be encouraged to speak truthfully about their beliefs.
The Boy Scouts were founded on the principles of God and country. Surely you don’t expect them to abandon the cornerstone of their philosophy?
The Boy Scouts of America would not be abandoning their principles by allowing inclusion of atheist or agnostic members any more than an atheist abandons his beliefs by attending a friend’s wedding at a church. The issue is not whether the BSA believes in God, but rather whether the organization accepts members with differing beliefs. Excluding members due to a stated belief or non-belief is contrary to the teachings of many religions and creates a conflict of principles for BSA members whose religious organizations teach inclusiveness. Multiple Scouting organizations outside of the US have adopted more inclusive policies with regards to non-theists. For example, in the UK (where Scouting originated) The Scout Association introduced an alternative version of their Scout Promise that can be recited by people with no affirmed belief in a higher power.
If a Scout has no formal religious background and feels there is no superior being, could his ethics and humanistic beliefs be enough to earn an Eagle?
Officially, according to the BSA these beliefs are insufficient. In practice, however, this seems to vary a great deal, depending upon the unit and the members of the Eagle Board of Review. Many Scouts are able to provide well-thought out answers regarding how they live every point of the Scout Law, including reverence to things beyond themselves. Since the BSA does not go to great lengths to define God, individual interpretations may vary.
If the BSA states that a requirement for membership is the belief in a deity called “God”, then doesn’t the BSA also discriminates against those who are Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Taoist, Confucianist, Sikhs, Pagans, Wiccans, and those of Native American religions?
The BSA currently recognizes religious awards and programs for various religions and faiths that do not have a strictly defined God or that recognize multiple deities. As such, there is a discrepancy between “recognizing an obligation to God” and allowing religions that vary from strict monotheism. This policy allows some minor flexibility with regards to specific religions, although it still discriminates against individuals with other personal and philosophical beliefs.
How can I push for a more inclusive position toward religious beliefs?
You can wear our Inclusive Scouting Award, a knot similar to awards given by the BSA. It is a sign that you support a safer, more inclusive Scouting experience for all people, regardless of sexual orientation and religion. You can learn more about the award here.
You can also help by simply beginning conversations in your local Scouting community. This topic is often taboo, but it shouldn’t be. Bring it up with other adults in your unit, district, and council, at unit committee meetings, and roundtables. While some people may disagree with the notion of making Scouting available to non-theistic youth, you might be surprised by the number of people who would support changes to this policy to make as many families feel welcome as possible.
What is Scouts for Equality?
Who can be a member of Scouts for Equality?
Anyone can be a member of Scouts for Equality. We have established ourselves as an alumni organization for Scouts, but our membership includes Scouts, former Scouts, family members of Scouts, parents of potential Scouts, and concerned members of the public. We do not require anything of our members, although all of our voices are amplified and made stronger by your support.
How did you start?
Early in 2012, Jennifer Tyrrell was removed from her son’s Cub Scout Pack because she was gay. A handful of Eagle Scouts decided that they could not watch their beloved organization push a parent out of her son’s Scouting life, and Scouts for Equality was born. With the help of Scouts for Equality, GLAAD, and Change.org, Jen launched a petition which reached over 350,000 signatures. In the fall of 2012, Ryan Andresen was denied his Eagle Award for being gay. A Change.org petition to grant Ryan his Eagle Award reached nearly half a million signatures. We reopened the public dialogue about this issue and partnered with other long-standing supporters of equality in the BSA, such as the Inclusive Scouting Network (the creator of the ISA) which was founded following the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale Supreme Court decision granting the BSA the legal right to discriminate. Following the vote to end the ban on LGB youth, Scouts for Equality and the Inclusive Scouting Network merged to form the organization you see today.
What have you done to end discrimination in the BSA?
We have stood up for people negatively impacted by the BSA’s membership policies in order to build a stronger and more inclusive BSA. We provide support to individuals affected by the membership policies. We provide a voice to those who wish to speak out about how the membership policies have hurt themselves or their families. We campaigned for the BSA to reconsider their policies in 2012, despite an internal BSA panel concluding that the policy should stand. By the end of 2012, several major corporations and both US presidential candidates had spoken out against the ban. In 2013, the BSA decided to allow its National Council to vote on a policy removing the ban on LGB youth. We made sure that the personal impacts of the policy were known and we ran a national campaign to end the ban. At the vote in 2013, we partnered with the Inclusive Scouting Network to host an Equal Scouting Summit across the street from the BSA vote to provide a friendly venue for National Council members to speak with us. The resolution to end the ban on LGB youth passed with over 60% support from the voting members.
We took this as a first step and established Scouts for Equality Chapters around the country to work for long-term change in both the policy and to help create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone in the BSA.
Following the implementation of the BSA’s youth policy in January of 2014, we continued to raise awareness of the ongoing discrimination in the Boy Scouts and rallied support around ending the ban on LGB adults. As we expected, we continued to see families hurt by the discriminatory membership policy. In the fall of 2014, Yasmin Cassini was denied a job with the Denver Area Council because of her sexual orientation. Later, in the spring of 2015, the Greater New York Councils hired Pascal Tessier as a summer camp employee in defiance of the national policy. These challenges to the policy proved to be instrumental in convincing Dr. Robert Gates, president of the BSA, to announce in May of 2015 that the ban was unsustainable and needed to change. Two short months later, on July 27, 2015, the BSA ended their blanket ban on LGB leaders. The policy change went into effect immediately, and those who had previously been kicked out were allowed to reapply.
As further changes to membership standards were proposed (inclusion of transgender boys and then inclusion of girls), we have stood in solidarity with the leading advocates on those topics and supported the BSA in implementing those changes.
What are you doing now that the membership policies have become more tolerant?
Having more tolerant membership policies does not automatically create a welcoming environment for everyone. Winning an end to the BSA’s blanket ban on LGB youth and adults was never the sole goal of Scouts for Equality. Our long-term vision has always been of a strong and vibrant American Scouting movement. Now that the Boy Scouts of America has ended its LGB and welcomed transgender Scouts and girls, our work has shifted into protecting the gains we have secured, continuing to advance equality, and helping to grow Scouting. Conveniently, all three of these objectives can be met by pursuing a single strategic goal: building up and promoting Inclusive Scouting.
By creating fully inclusive BSA units and bringing back into the Scouting family those chartering partners that left the Boy Scouts so many years ago, we not only make it more difficult for the Boy Scouts to backslide, but we also shift the potential of what future change may look like. And it should go without saying that more fully inclusive BSA units will help us realize our vision of a stronger Scouting movement.
We also attended the national Scout jamboree in 2017 and NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference) in 2018 where many youth were excited to learn of and be part of the support that existed for Inclusive Scouting. These events reinforced the need for an inclusive environment where all Scouts could feel safe regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious belief. All were welcome and the conversations we had with supporters and dissenters were invaluable.
Our ongoing efforts include anti-bullying training and inclusive and welcoming environments training. Some of these courses are already being offered by BSA Councils and individual units.
How can I help?
There are several ways that you can lend support to the cause. Simply signing up allows your voice to be added to the cause. Educating others about the benefits of inclusive environments in Scouting is a wonderful way to help raise awareness. Some people may be supportive of the concept but lack awareness of the movement, and the more people that join the movement, the louder our collective voice becomes. Wearing the Inclusive Scouting Award establishes you as both a supporter and a safe person in Scouting. Scouting units taking a public position of inclusion can register as an inclusive unit. For any supporters looking for ways to become more active in the movement, we have local chapters around the country that provide an opportunity to coordinate locally and effect change. Finally, we are supported by donations so, if you are able, you can also donate to our cause.
Is there support for equality outside of the US? Does WOSM support your position?
Several other members of WOSM (World Organization of the Scout Movement) have taken up inclusive positions, including Scouts Canada (and here), Scouts Australia, and many of Europe’s Scouting organizations such as Scouting Ireland, Scouts UK, and Swedish Guide and Scout Association. WOSM’s Human Rights Task Force released a report in 2014 which addresses their opposition to discrimination on “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”. WOSM also recognizes the UN’s accepted definition of “sex” to include gender identity and sexual orientation. However, WOSM also recognizes that member organizations must operate within the laws of the countries in which they reside.
Why are you asking for my money? What are our donations used for?
Scouts for Equality is run almost entirely by volunteers. We have hired full time staff during times of intense campaigning, such as the months leading up to the 2013 vote to end the ban on LGB youth. Donations are also used to fund the Inclusive Scouting Award program, support our Chapter program, pay for our website and email services, legal counsel, host events such as the Equal Scouting Summit in 2013 and our Spring Gatherings (in 2015 and 2016), and to help defer costs for events such as the national Scout jamboree and NOAC .
Where can I find more resources for youth dealing with these issues?
You can visit our Helpdesk for general information, our Guide to Coming Out for Scouts and Scouters, or the Trevor Project (866-488-7386) for any youth who is at immediate risk. The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has already developed age-appropriate resources for young people in grades K-12. Similar resources could be developed for use inside Scouting, although we are not aware of any information on this topic offered directly by the BSA. We also have some resources which you may find helpful available on the resources page of our website. For more Scouting-themed material, the UK Scout Association devotes an entire section of their website to LGBT support.