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The following is republished, with permission, from the Winter 2000 issue of Reform Judaism and with additional permission from the author. The issues raised in this article should be of concern to all individuals concerned about discrimination and equality.
Scouting has played an important role in my life. When I was a youngster, I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout and received the Ner Tamid Award (the highest religious award bestowed upon a Jewish scout). I was also inducted into the Order of the Arrow (the Scouts' honor society). When our sons were young, my wife and I served as co-leaders of the Cub Scout pack at Temple Emanuel in Newton, MA.
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***Rabbi Menitoff (Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion class of 1970) is executive vice-president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), which represents rabbis in Reform Judaism around the world.
*** Begin Right Sidebar ***
I was always proud of my association with the scouting movement — that is, until I learned that the Boy Scouts officially opposed homosexuality. Recently, the Boy Scouts of America has made its opposition clear through the expulsion of gay Scout leader James Dale and the resulting court case. (Notably, the Girl Scouts of America do not have a policy discriminating against homosexuals.)
As a fifty-eight-year-old heterosexual male, I decided that I could no longer be associated with an organization that engages in discrimination against homosexuals. It is an unacceptable affront to the principles upon which both Reform Judaism and our great country stand. Moreover, I believe the Boy Scouts' stance nurtures a climate of bigotry in the United States.
Last July, with much sadness, I resigned my rank as an Eagle Scout in the hope that others would join me. My letter of resignation was printed in the CCAR Newsletter and received widespread coverage. I received letters of support from others who had resigned their Eagle rank, and from Reform leaders who informed me that their congregations were considering whether to continue hosting Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups in their facilities.
It is estimated that between 3% and 10% of the U.S. population is homosexual. There is no reason to believe that the figures are any different in the Jewish community. Behind each statistic there is an individual (a parent, a child, a sibling) who is being subjected to the inevitable suffering that results from exclusion. Unfortunately, homosexuals are the group that people still love to hate.
In reality, we are each created in the image of God. It is no badge of honor to be heterosexual and it is no sin to be homosexual, just as it is no honor to be White and no sin to be Black. It is simply who we are.
Some have argued that individuals and congregations should work to change the Scouting movement from within, instead of disassociating themselves from it. Others have argued that the Scouts are such a positive influence on our youth that this flaw should be overlooked. These arguments would never be advanced if the Scouts were discriminating against Blacks, Hispanics, or Jews. Individuals would resign and congregations would immediately cut their ties with Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops. The Boy Scouts' position is discrimination — plain and simple! Given our historical experience, Jews can be no more tolerant of discrimination based on sexual identity than we can of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.
As Reform Jews, our response to the exclusionary policy of the Boy Scouts of America must be unequivocal; we must condemn it publicly, resign from the organization, refuse to sponsor or house Cub Scout or Boy Scout groups in our congregations, and ask groups (e.g. the United Way) that contribute to the Boy Scouts financially to withdraw their support. To do less is to condone discrimination and to contribute to an environment in our country that is already far too accepting of prejudice and violence against gays and lesbians.
David Ross home