Scouting for Some Sense
Gay Father Welcomed into Scouts and Then Kicked Out
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Pet Care. Kickball. Archery. Cub Scouts earn a colored belt loop for each cool new skill they master. Strangely, the organization doesn’t make a loop for the lesson that’s being taught to the little boys in Pack 70 of University Park, Texas: intolerance.
The pack’s leaders stripped a fellow dad of his uniform and troop leadership role earlier this month because he’s gay.
That’s all. Just gay.
For two years, Jon Langbert and his nine-year-old son, Carter, were active in the pack; Carter has more than 15 loops on his belt for fishing, woodworking, basketball, and chess.
Langbert was once a Cub Scout himself and treasures memories of building pinewood derby cars with his own dad. But he worried about joining with Carter.
“I was concerned about the gay issue,” he told me last week. “I called the Cubmaster and said, ‘Hey, I’m a gay guy and my son wants to sign up. Is there going to be any problem with that?’” The Cubmaster welcomed him, and the pack even nominated him to run its popcorn-sales fundraiser. A Harvard Business School grad, Langbert brought sales up from $4,000 to $13,000 in one year.
Then two weeks ago, the Cubmaster called. “He said some of the dads went to him and complained about having a gay Popcorn Kernel.” (Yes: Popcorn Kernel.) They said he was no longer allowed to wear the pack leader uniform when attending scouting functions with his boy, or hold leadership positions in the group.
“I said, ‘This is wrong,’” Langbert said. “I was so taken aback.”
Wrong? Yes. But perfectly legal.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts of America (headquartered just a few miles from Langbert’s home) has a right to exclude anyone they choose to.
But just because they canF doesn’t mean they should.
The club doesn’t offer membership to “avowed gays and atheists” (don’t even get me started)—a policy that applies to both adults and kids. When asked to explain the logic behind said policy, Boy Scouts of America PR director Deron Smith said that the group does not “engage in teaching about sexuality,” believing that “boys should learn about these issues from their parents.”
Dear god! Was Langbert teaching about sexuality? You know, between badminton matches and map-and-compass lessons?
“Absolutely not!” Langbert said, his voice growing angry for the only time during our chat (and can you blame him?). “Never once did that conversation come up. Not with the adults, not with the kids. Never.”
It’s ironic, really: The only education these li’l scouts are getting about sexuality is that if they discover they’re gay—and some absolutely will—they’ll no longer be welcome at the fishing hole. Or in the woodshop. Or on the archery field.
Pack 70’s remaining leaders have invited Carter to stay in the troop, and even asked Langbert to continue fundraising; turns out the gays can really move popcorn. But he’s not sure he wants to be part of a group that would have him explain to his boy why he’s unfit to wear the scout uniform.
“I’m not ashamed of being gay, and I don’t lie to my son,” he said. “I’d love to be able to do the campouts and continue, if Carter wants to. But if they’re just going to make it uncomfortable for us along the way, why put ourselves through that?”
The guys who run Pack 70 ought to brush up on their Scout Law. Remember “loyal, friendly, courteous, and kind”? They might take another whack at “brave” while they’re at it, because there’s no honor in fearing what you don’t understand.
But let’s be clear, dudes. You’re the ones asking him to take his shirt off.
Starshine Roshell is the author of Keep Your Skirt On.