Dear Mr. de los Santos,
I accept the challenge – made in your recent editorial in the San Antonio Express News – to help the Boy Scouts of America accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.
Indeed, I have looked through your list of merit badges and believe I can be of service to you in more ways than one.
- I rescued and now care for five dogs, (don’t ask), making me the perfect person to help a young scout receive his Dog Care Merit Badge.
- I own my own business, whereupon I work with nonprofit organizations on capacity building, increasing their ability to effectively serve more people, so I can certainly help answer questions and offer guidance for an Entrepreneurship Merit Badge, and may even be able to help a scout tackle your Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge.
- I have been on stage since the age of five and spent four years teaching young children and teens the art of theater, so I kind of have some expertise for the Theater Merit Badge.
These are just a few, but I didn’t want to lose out on the Humility Merit Badge. (I don’t think there is one, but there should be.)
Here’s the problem: I can’t actually accept your challenge, Sir. I can’t help the Boy Scouts of America help “young people grow into good, strong citizens” because your organization has a policy banning me – an “avowed and open homosexual” – from participating in your organization.
To believe that this conversation about gay rights – rather human rights – takes our focus away from our nation’s children and what is in their best interest shows how out of touch the Boy Scouts of America Corporation is from our nation’s current narrative. It is difficult for me to understand, then, how your organization is able to help young people grow at all.
When you reduce the conversation to one that is about doing what is best for our nation’s youth, then I ask you to be prepared to answer questions about your organization’s disservice to the very population it purports to represent.
Every day that you uphold your discriminatory and simpleminded policies is yet another day that your organization shows your scouts that it is acceptable practice to blindly discriminate against a sector of society based on misinformation and a lack of understanding. This does not do what is best for our nation’s children.
Every day that you proclaim to be an organization that provides youth “programs of character development and values-based leadership training,” while upholding a policy that asks for the “open” and “avowed” homosexuals to stand down, is a day that you show that lying about who you are is better than being open and accepting about who you are. This does not do what is best for our nation’s children.
To teach discrimination and a lack of acceptance doesn’t bring up good, strong citizens, but rather a group of young men who are close-minded, lack diverse life experiences, and, quite frankly, miss out on meeting some amazing individuals that can teach them incredible things about the world.
Your organization is currently at the center of a nationwide debate – not because of your work with young people, but because of its discriminatory policies and its unwillingness to see them as such.
Please don’t reduce this conversation to an Either/Or Proposition – either you’re concerned with the best interest of children or you want to talk gay rights. As a good, strong citizen, I believe this is a Yes/And Proposition. I am both concerned with the best interest of children and believe that means they need to understand human dignity.
So, I offer you a challenge of my own: I challenge you and the Boy Scouts of America to rethink your concept of “good and strong citizens.”
I argue that in an effort to be both good and strong, we should know that there are people who are “different” and good at the same time. I argue to be good and strong, we should learn from people and embrace diversity. A good, strong citizen questions antiquated policies and learns from, then rectifies, mistakes.
Let’s lead by example – a good, strong example – and truly help accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.