WASHINGTON – Trustworthy,helpful,friendly and kind are all traits found in the Boy Scout Code; however,homosexuals and atheists are not.
That is why Scouting for All,a grassroots advocacy group aiming to make scouting available to everyone,publicly requested for the second time Thursday that President Bush resign as honorary president of Boy Scouts of America.
At a press conference,Bush was given a badge of dishonor for backing BSA.
Volunteers and former Eagle Scouts joined the California-based group,as did representatives from the American Humanist Association,the American Civil Liberties Union,the Secular Coalition of America and the Liberal Catholic Church,which is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
“How can President Bush support this?” asked Steven Cozza,the group's 20-year-old cofounder and a former Scout.
“The BSA is giving out a message of hate and bigotry,” he said. “They're educating youth every day. … If they taught inclusion instead of hate,things would be different.”
In June 2000,the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that as a private organization BSA had protection under the First Amendment to control its membership.
Since then,Boy Scouts of America,one of the largest youth organizations in the country,has denied membership to atheists and homosexuals. BSA membership was more than 3 million in 2004,with more than 1 million adult leaders.
“It's an atrocity that's happening in America,” said Scott Cozza,Steven's father,a former assistant scout master and Scouting for All's president.
Scouting for All is holding Bush to his 2003 State of the Union address in which he,referring to education,vowed that no child should be left behind.
Scouting for All advocates said leaving children behind is exactly what Bush is doing by supporting BSA.
“There is no reason that No Child Left Behind should not expand itself beyond the realms of education,” said the Rev. Edward Correll Jr. “Bush is associating himself with an organization that habitually leaves children behind.”
Bush is not the first president to serve as honorary president of the Boy Scouts,but he would be the first to resign.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey,D-Calif.,who in July 2000 led several congressional colleagues to request then-President Clinton to resign as honorary head of the Boy Scouts,is troubled by the organization's intolerance. Clinton did not resign.
“Private groups have the right to choose their membership and leaders,but the federal government should not honor intolerance because it is not a value we want to teach to our children,nor is it a value that the president of the United States should support,” she said.
Gregg Shields,BSA national spokesman,said Bush's endorsement of the Boy Scouts is simply his choice.
“It's the president's decision and we respect it,” he said. “Our membership standards reflect our values.”
Shields said he understands Scouting for All's desire to change BSA's policies,but the organization has decided not to change.
“The value structure is different,” he said. “If you were an atheist or homosexual,the Boy Scouts isn't probably the best place for you.”
While they don't expect Bush's resignation or changes in BSA's policy any time soon,the group hopes that parents and Scouts across the country will sever their connections with the Boy Scouts until inclusion is granted.
Eric Marx,46,of Chevy Chase,Md.,a former Scout,will not allow his 9-year-old son to join. Marx said he remembered Scouts as having a historical mission of respecting others and teaching fair and just treatment.
“I've not been an activist,” he said. “But because of their policies,we never joined.”
Roy Speckhardt said he was once asked by a humanist Eagle Scout,“Why doesn't performance alone prove worthiness?”
“A person's religion and sexual orientation have nothing to do with the merit behind scouting ideals,” said Speckhardt,executive director of the American Humanist Association.
Shields disagreed. “Performance alone is not enough,” he said. “These are values that we share.”
Shields said that boys with differing values have the option to join “other fraternal organizations.”