Alternatives to the BSA

There are countless examples of this all over social networking.

In elementary school, I wanted to join Cub Scouts.  I think Mom and Dad just wanted me to be sure it’s something I wanted to do, as I had to press them on this for a few years before they relented in 4th grade.  I started in Cub Scouts, transitioned into Boy Scouts, and ultimately completed my Eagle Scout Award in high school, the Boy Scouts’ top rank.

To say “I learned a lot” from Scouting would be an understatement.  Aside from merit badges and outdoor survival skills, I learned team work, social skills and leadership skills from my experience in Scouting that was indispensable as I continued through life.  I have held multiple leadership roles in church, in concert/marching band, and in academic organizations since that time, but the roots of these experiences are drawn directly to Boy Scouts.  I continue to enjoy the outdoors, though I don’t spend as much time there as I used to.  It’s something I hope I can foster in Meg and in our future children as our society moves increasingly forward in this “Digital Age.”

About a month ago, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their position against openly homosexual boys and leaders within their ranks.  It’s a position they’ve held for over a decade, openly, and one where I fully believe they’re on the wrong side of history.  It’s telling when both our Presidential candidates support the organization’s right to hold this view, yet still disagree with it.  As shown in the image above, more than a few Eagle Scouts agree with Obama and Romney and have returned their awards to the Boy Scouts of America to express their disappointment with the organization.

When this news was in the media more prominently, Brooke asked what I thought about the decision.  To be honest, I haven’t completely made up my mind.  I guess I’d like to think that the Scout Leaders I had in Troop 701 wouldn’t have turned anyone away that wanted to be there.  They were quick to provide support to those who wanted to participate, but couldn’t afford the dues or equipment to go on weekend camping trips.  They were supportive of Scouts that needed to focus on their school work rather than meeting obligations for the Troop.  In ways I imagine some pastors disagree with their denomination’s stance on this particular issue, I expect that the Leaders of my troop would have tried to simply “ignore” the issue, rather than actively seek out the homosexuals within their ranks.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s what I’d like to think.

At the same time, I disagree with Chick-Fil-A’s stance on this issue as well, contributing their corporate funds in favor of “traditional marriage.”  To me, it’s bad enough when a corporate CEO makes comments I disagree with, but when the profits of an organization as a whole are used as a tool in a larger fight, it’s a bridge too far.

This all comes back to Meg (plus her sister(s)/brother(s)), though.  Brooke and I both want her to have access to experiences like we had:  Brooke had 4-H, I had the BSA.  Depending on where we live (e.g. the City of St. Louis), 4-H may not be a viable option.  We aren’t aware of many clubs in this area, so we’d possibly have to drive to another county to attend one.  There are Boy Scout troops all over, but their numbers have been in decline in recent years, possibly because of their silly political stances, but mostly, I’d argue, because our world has changed quite a bit since it was founded.

St. Louis On The Air had a show in late-July looking at an organization I’d never even heard of called the Baden-Powell Service Association.  Any of you that are familiar with Scouting will likely recognize the name, as Lord Baden-Powell is responsible for starting the Scouting movement in 1907.  It came to the United States in 1910 after William D. Boyce encountered “The Unknown Scout” while visiting London.

The BPSA is similar to the BSA, but has a few key differences.  One of these is that it accepts all people into its ranks.  Thus, it is a co-ed organization, open to the whole family, straight or gay, etc.  They also focus heavily on skills (in the form of “proficiency badges”), the outdoors, and service, similar to the BSA.  They even have a similar “Scout Promise” and “Scout Law” to the BSA equivalent.  It appears to place more of an emphasis on “service” than I remember from BSA.  We definitely participated in service outings, but I think the overall “family approach” to BPSA sounds like it may lend itself to family-oriented service opportunities than BSA did (when I was there, at least).

While the BPSA is part of a larger international organization, it’s decidedly smaller than the BSA.  So far as I can tell, the only “Group” in our area is in Washington, MO, which isn’t particularly close.  According to the NPR story, there’s interest in expanding to other locations here in St. Louis, but it doesn’t appear that there are many of these groups around the USA just yet.

Still, it’s nice to know there’s still interest in groups like this, and there are groups that are accepting of all people, regardless of their color or creed.  Hopefully, by the time Meg’s old enough, there will be more groups like this around the City (BPSA/BSA, 4-H, or otherwise) that can expose her and her friends to the same kinds of things Brooke and I got to experience growing up.

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