(Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to members of Webelo Den 9 and printed here at the writer's request).
Dear Boys and Parents of Webelo Den 9
I originally planned to write a very different letter to the den this summer. But the situation has changed, and so must this message. As many of you are aware, the Boy Scouts of America was involved in a court case over the organization's policy barring gay people from membership. I was aware of both the policy and the lawsuit when my son, Charles, first joined the Cub Scouts as a Tiger. I had hoped and assumed that, as a result of the litigation, the Scouts would be made to realize the wrongfulness of their position. Initially, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts' discriminatory policy violated the state's public accommodations law. But, as you know, that ruling was overturned on June 28 by the United States Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 decision which upheld the Boy Scouts' right to exclude gay people from their organization.
The Boy Scouts claimed that, by the very fact of being who they are, gay people are incompatible with the Scouts' message. Specifically, the Scout oath requires all Scouts to keep "physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight." Our handbook explains that to be "morally straight" is "to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character." Apparently, the Boy Scouts of America believe that gay people cannot be all of these things. I know that is wrong. And, I believe that is not morally straight.
After thinking through the issues and discussing them with my son and my family, I have come to the conclusion that there is no recourse for me but to resign as den leader and withdraw my son from all Scouting activities. It would be impossible to lead our boys each week in the Pledge of Allegiance to our nation "indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" knowing full well how empty those words now are. Nor could we recite in good faith the Cub Scout promise "to help other people," which our handbook explains "means thinking about other people and their needs."
I feel great sadness about this decision as the Cub Scouts have been a wonderful experience for Charles and for me. I have such enthusiasm for the group and such respect for all of the boys and parents in our den. One could not find a finer group. I had looked forward with excitement to leading you through the next two years of Scouting and, beyond our den, through all of Pack 77's activities: the trips, popcorn sales, food drives, Mets games, and other outings. I will always remember with fondness the meetings, discussions, and the wild times we have shared. All these activities made us feel part of something larger than ourselves: our group, our community, our planet.
But none of that can counter the sickening feeling I had when I read about the court's decision. I can no longer feel proud to see my son wearing a uniform that represents bigotry and discrimination against gay people. This is contrary to every value I had believed we were teaching our sons.
There are other organizations such as the Girl Scouts and the Boys Clubs of America that do not maintain these discriminatory practices. I fervently hope that the Boy Scouts, too, will soon mature as an organization and move beyond its fear of people who are different.