National Jamboree 2017 – Day 4 Reflections
Reflections about SFE @ Jamboree, 7/22/2017
Day 4 of 10 – Rev. Michael Crumpler
Today’s gatherings at the Scout is Friendly Cafe were indeed very Scout friendly as scouts stormed the Cafe seeking wooden tokens collected for Duty to God and Country memorabilia. Hundreds of Scouts gathered around the small plastic table to willingly listen to United Church of Christ (UCC) and Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) representatives share about the histories of our faith and our common ministries of justice in the world today. Themes of unity, justice, freedom, equality, dignity, and love were liberally used as virtues that dovetailed with Scout laws of trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Oddly, but not surprisingly, today such values came into direct conflict. In 2015, the BSA and the UCC/UUA reunited under the understanding that the BSA was a safe environment for LGBTQ experience. Today, more than any other days it has become clear that the Memorandum of Understanding between these three parties is a memorandum of misunderstanding. The UCC/UUA returned to Jamboree with the expectation that freedom of religion would be the basis for determining what we share about who we are and what we believe.
Today our freedom was severely restricted as we were made aware that our Friendly Cafe was woefully too “friendly” to LGBTQ+ Scouts. As such we were forced to rearrange our multicolor sunglasses, such that they do not resemble a rainbow. We were forced to remove multicolored paracord, for its potential representation of Stonewall Riots. We were forced to pop select colors of our multicolored balloons for fear that we would be too squarely aligned with the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepherd. These small but important representations of diversity and freedoms of conscience were conceded willingly, but when it came to time to remove banners reflecting the highest ideals of diversity and inclusion, we took our stand.
When an official of BSA arrived at the predetermined time to ensure that we were in compliance, I stood my ground. I informed the BSA representative that his actions were in violation our MOU. I informed him that I would not and that I could not remove the banners. That if he wanted the banners removed that he would have to remove them himself. I informed him that our booth promotes welcome and inclusion and has no official symbols or emblems of LGBTQ+ pride and equality. I instructed the BSA representative to return to whomever sent him and inform them that we will not and that we cannot remove our banners. Doing so would put us in violation of our religious freedom and commitment to the Scout Law. The BSA representative was as resolute in his mission to censor as I am in my mission to protest on the side of love for the sake of justice, diversity, and inclusion. Shortly afterward, the Duty to God and Country tent was shut down in preparation for nightly festivities. The issue of banners and anti-LGBTQ+ policies would have to wait another day.
Later, UUA/UCC and Scouts for Equality convened to discuss the day’s actions and series of events that lead to them. Others shared their perspectives on who we are and what our space is at the Jamboree. It was clear that our views and values are as diverse as the diversity we seek to promote and protect. My view is that civil disobedience is the most effective and immediate path to justice. Authoritarianism concedes nothing. The only way to advocate for justice and equality and ensure the full dignity and inclusion of LGBTQ+ scouts is to speak truth to power. Today’s truth is that the values of the UUA and UCC are in full compliance of the Scout Law. I will not and I cannot remove any signs that represent full welcome and inclusion of all Scouts, namely LGBTQ+. Such values are consistent with the Memorandum of Understanding brokered between the BSA, UUA, and UCC. As such, I refuse to concede to the bigotry, fear, and hate that is causing the BSA to behave beyond the Scout Law, namely to be friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, and brave during a time when our country needs these most.
“A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.” ~ James Baldwin