The decision by a 10-member board of the Boy Scouts of America’s continued ban against the membership of gays and atheists is a bad decision that is unnecessary, unjust and unduly discriminatory. This March 2008 issue of PFLAG FYI covers the large and growing number of Americans who have left or disaffiliated from the organization since Dale v. The Boy Scouts of America, a Supreme Court case which ruled that the BSA, as a private organization, can continue to discriminate against LGBT people and people who don’t believe in a deity.
However, for many who are well aware of such awful issues as the BSA’s continued discrimination, the lack of access to information on alternatives for the activities and engagement of the youth in communities across this country as provided by the BSA makes for a difficult situation.
Fortunately, there are alternatives which are thriving and very active.
One such alternative is Navigators USA, a small but growing scout-like organization set up by Robin Bossert in 2003 after his church, the Unitarian Church of All Souls, voted to disaffiliate from the BSA due to its policies, which run counter to the inclusive principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association, of which All Souls is a member church. At present, there are 23 local chapters that have been set up from New York to California to as close as Tennessee and North Carolina, and two new chapters were launched this year. Navigators USA’s principles are inclusive: LGBT people and atheists can serve as members and as leaders in the organization.
Navigators USA has been endorsed by a growing number of peers, ranging from the Unitarian Universalist Association to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. According to its website, it is easy to establish a chapter in any local area, and one only needs to reference the wishes of 5 younger children who are interested in forming a chapter to get going. Learn more at http://navigatorsusa.ning.com.
Camp Fire USA
Another, more established alternative to the BSA is Camp Fire USA, formerly known as Camp Fire Boys and Girls. Established in 1910 as the first nonsectarian, multicultural organization for girls (later extended to boys), no policy against the membership or leadership of gays or atheists is known to exist. It is primarily known as a camping-focused organization, and is open to kids aged 3-18. The Georgia Council of Camp Fire USA can be reached for more information at campfireusaga.org.
Other organizations which serve as gay-friendly alternatives to the functions of the BSA include:
- SpiralScouts, which appeal to those persons or families of
polytheistic or Neopagan spirituality (started in 1999).
- Camp Quest, which engages young atheists, humanists, freethinkers and naturalists with summer camps.
A More Inclusive Youth Engagement
Organizations like these are inclusive and empowering to their members and sponsors. They don’t serve any so-called “gay agenda” or “atheist agenda”, but are organizations which succeed where the Boy Scouts fails: engaging and training youth in life skills and development, bringing youth of a wider, more diverse number of backgrounds together as fellow passengers on the road of life, and extending such programs of self-development and community involvement to more Americans, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or their religious or non-religious worldviews. We encourage organizations like these in the local area.