By Katy Snyder, JVA Consulting
To say that I am biased toward the Girl Scouts is an understatement. I was a Girl Scout for 13 years (yes, 13!), received the Girl Scouts’ highest honor, the Gold Award, along with the rest of my troop for a tree-planting project, and traveled to an International Scout Jamboree in Norway as a 14-year-old. I still regularly get together with my entire troop, including our leader. I credit the Girl Scouts with teaching me business skills (selling those cookies, dedicating countless weekends to fundraising for our Norway trip), camping skills, and just general life skills.
As long as I have been involved with the Girl Scouts, they have also been strong advocates for inclusivity—actively educating girls about the importance of treating all people with respect, regardless of religion, ethnicity, sexuality or disability status, and leading by example in their hiring practices. While I have never attended a Boy Scouts event, I had always assumed that they operated similarly, providing boys with the same life skills and open-minded guidance I had received. I was wrong.
On Tuesday, the Boys Scouts of America announced that it would uphold its position on excluding openly gay leaders and scouts. Not only does this sadden me, it means that generations of boys are being denied the guidance of leaders who happen to be gay. And boys who identify as gay—boys who are likely already struggling with peer acceptance—are being denied the camaraderie, friendship and acceptance that scouting provides. While thousands of Girl Scouts are learning tolerance, thousands of Boy Scouts are learning intolerance. Turns out my bias was right.
Not only does the Boy Scouts decision stand to hurt the very group it purports to help— boys—but it is a decision that is not in line with the majority of Americans’ beliefs: Fifty-three percent of Americans currently support gay marriage. The Boys Scouts policy is also in opposition to the practices of the vast majority of nonprofits, which have inclusivity policies on the books that require equality for people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, etc. Most nonprofits agree that inclusivity enriches their organization, and makes them more effective in providing their services, a belief that JVA Consulting strongly supports.
Some nonprofits, including one in Colorado, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), have already taken action and expressed their dedication to inclusivity. ELK, which recently was selected to receive an award from the Boy Scouts for its work with Hispanic/Latino youth, turned down the award, saying in a statement to 7NEWS:
ELK believes that it cannot serve these communities—or any community—without strong, long-term relationships with community members, a deep understanding of community needs and an open-minded, collaborative approach to sustainably meeting the needs of a diverse population.
If actions such as those taken by ELK don’t have an impact on the policy, perhaps the Boys Scouts should take a lesson from the authors of the Colorado Common Grant Application, who explain the importance of inclusivity to a nonprofit organization:
Being inclusive helps organizations be more responsive to those it seeks to serve and more effective at creating and delivering relevant and successful programs. Inclusiveness also leads to a broader and richer pool of board, staff, and volunteers.
To refuse to include people because of their sexuality is to refuse to allow boys in scouting to achieve the mission set forth by Boy Scouts of America: to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.
Tell us how you feel about the Boy Scouts’ decision by leaving a comment below.