It is my privilege to serve as the volunteer president of the Susquehanna Council, Boy Scouts of America. Our council serves all Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venture Scouts in Clinton, Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties. Since its founding in February of 1910, Scouting has instilled classic American values of citizenship, character development, and self-reliance in more than 110 million young men and women. Cub Scouts promise to "Do Their Best" while Boy Scouts pledge "to do their duty to God and country, help other people at all times, and keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight." Of the 12 men who have walked on the moon, 11 were Scouts. Over the last 103 years, more than two million young men have worked through the ranks of Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life, culminating in the achievement of at least 21 merit badges and completion of the legendary "Eagle Service Project," all to become one of the 5 percent of all Scouts who proudly wear the red, white and blue emblem of an Eagle Scout.
Most of Scouting is not done in the public eye. Scouting service projects and skills instruction are not the stuff of reality television. Scouting activities designed to build character and train future leaders are rarely front page news. Few outsiders really know what we do.
In recent years, Scouting has come under some attack for its support of traditional family values. Several years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the Boy Scouts of America was entitled to set its own membership standards, including a standard which bars membership to any adult who was avowedly gay. In fact, the Boy Scouts have never had any "agenda" on this issue. There are no questions about sexual orientation on any Scout membership application. It is likely that there are today (and have always been) gay Scout volunteers. No one asks and no one brings it up. In my view, wholesome youth activities are not the place for open discussions about adult sexual activities.
As it turns out, silence is not always golden. A few groups who do have an agenda on this issue (the national media calls them "activists") have undertaken to bully corporations and private donors to withhold charitable support, unless the National BSA changes it membership policy. As a result, the National Council is likely to amend its rules, allowing local Scout Chartered Partners (local churches or civic groups who sponsor Scouting) to make their own decision. While this may work very well for many, it is possible that some churches and other groups will simply fold their Scouting units, rather than subject themselves to political pressure that they wish to avoid.
Diversity within a national organization is often a good thing. The great "melting pot" which is the United States has benefited greatly by combining influences from every corner of the world. While I currently serve Scouting as a council president, my opinions are mine; alone. I never have, and I never will, have any concern about good natured, well-meaning adults of every race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation, who wish to volunteer their time and talent to Scouting's mission of character building, skills instruction, and leadership training. The real question is what we will achieve, and at what cost. If this change means more volunteers who will bring more Scouting to more children, it could not come at a better time. If it means fewer Scouting units serving fewer children, just so that a handful of adults can further their private political agenda, it is hard to see any hope in this change.
William Carlucci, Williamsport