The whole Boy Scouts bankruptcy reminds me of why I did not become a lawyer. I often tell the story that at my High School reunion I was asked if I was a lawyer. “No, I work for the other side,” was my reply. Please, don’t misunderstand. I do not hate lawyers. I understand the need for these professionals. Our society needs people with legal training who advocate for the rights of other people. I am simply glad not to be one of those people. Lawyers. like Pastors, are only important to some people when we are needed. Our local Boy Scout council once chartered an Explorer Post for would be attorneys. I was briefly a member.
My Love/Hate Relationship with the Boy Scouts
I love our local scout troops and cub packs. It is easy to get me to volunteer for these activities. A church member answered the phone the other day and said, “It’s one of the old Boy Scouts.” There is a group of us former scouts in her life. Most of us knew each other back in the day. I served two summers as a staff member at Scout Camp. My best friend and I stuck with it until we turned 18. He continues to be active from time to time. We are after all members of the Order of the Arrow.
Being on staff at Camp Buck Toms is when I began to see that bad side of Boy Scouting. The District Executives and Council Members gave off an air of institutionalism in everything they did. Our staff housing was little better than tents. We worked around the clock. As an adult volunteer I became concerned over the expense of uniforms and the manipulative sales techniques at the Council store. Scouts became a business in my mind. But, I tried as an adult leader and pastor to make it good for my kids and others. I continued advocating for my congregations to become charter organizations.
The classism began to bother me. Some troop councils only wanted Boys from certain places. This was often done subtly. A troop would sometimes make it a policy only to recruit from a certain cub scout pack. The expense of outfitting, equipping, and paying dues and fees were ways of telling kids from lower income families they were not good enough. Then there was one incident where a woman went to the Council over a troop deciding they did not want kids from the “trailer park.” She was allowed to start another troop.
Avoiding Courts of Law
The New Testament is suspicious of the courts of law. They can be places of legally sanctioned persecution. Believers are counseled to not go to the law courts to settle disputes among themselves. St. Paul writes, “When any of you has a grievance against another, do you dare to take it to court before the unrighteous?” (1 Corinthians 6:1a) He continues by saying, “In fact, to have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.” He thinks such courts are inherently unjust. “But you yourselves wrong and defraud – and believers at that.” (vv. 7-8)
The problem with courts of law is that they make decisions rather than resolutions. Law courts are not in the business of reconciliation. When we start talking about winning our case or making someone else pay for what they did, we lose sight of something important. In the situation of those who were physically and sexually abused, they are doubly victimized in the courts even if the guilty person or organization is made to pay.
Lies, cover-ups, and turning blind eyes are ways victims have been defrauded. It is inexcusable behavior responding to inexcusable behavior. I can not abide this type of double abuse whose primary purpose is to preserve “the institution.”
My Future Relationship With Boy Scouts of America
A lot of thought and reflection has gone into my decision. I am burdened as a Pastor to guide my congregation’s leader through a difficult decision about voting on the reorganization and whether to renew the charter for our local troop and pack. I am taking the lead of a former peanut farmer.
President Jimmy Carter severed his ties with the Southern Baptist convention several years ago. He remains a faithful member of Maranatha Baptist Church. I will no longer advocate for the Boy Scouts of America. I will continue to help out local troops and cub scout packs. Good conscience requires me to no longer stand up for this organization. I hope one day a better organization grows out from it.
I believe churches should no longer charter with BSA. Even though, I am only one voice, it is important to speak up for victims. But, more importantly, it is needful for healing old wounds.