26 July 2017
Michael Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75015
Dear Mr. Surbaugh:
WC is a former Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Explorer, member of Order of the Arrow and a camp counsellor at Lost Lake Boy Scout Camp. WC’s mother served as a Cub Scout den mother; WC’s father helped supervise camping trips. Scouting had an important influence on WC’s life.
But WC was profoundly embarrassed by Scouting’s systemic homophobia, which led WC to return his Life Scout badge to you in protest.1 The Scouts partially backed down from that extreme homophobic position. Not an ideal response but, gradually, much more slowly than it should have, the Scouts backed away from that extreme position.
But instead of learning from that experience, you invited President Donald Trump to speak to the 2017 Jamboree. Predictably, the President managed to violate most of the Scout Law. The Scout Law, of course, requires a Boy Scout to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. The Boy Scouts in attendance got to listen to the President encourage the booing of former President Obama and Senator Clinton, curse, boast, and promote misogyny. The Scout Oath requires Boy Scouts to be “mentally awake, and morally straight.” President Trump demonstrated neither of those things.
The President’s conduct was completely foreseeable; he is and always has been the antithesis of everything Boy Scouts claim to stand for. WC has heard he was invited because it is “traditional.” WC has read the lame press release the Scouts have issued. There is nothing “traditional” about Donald Trump. It’s a miserable, pitiful excuse.
But what’s even more appalling is the Boy Scout’s failure afterwards to disavow or distance itself from the lies, bigotry, misogyny and naked hate the President uttered. There has been no apology. There has been no effort to emphasize the ethics and values that are the very heart of scouting. The absence of anything beyond a vague, silly and self-defensive claim of “tradition” demonstrates yet again that when its avowed values are put to the test, Scouting fails to honor them. Racism in the South; anti-Semitism in the 1930s; homophobia. And now this.2
Scouting talks about integrity. But all too often fails the test. And it has done so again. That pattern, that willingness to talk the talk but not walk the walk, demonstrates the Boy Scouts are not a suitable place for young boys to learn ethics. It’s not an organization on which a sensible parent would want their kids to model their lives.
/s/ Wickersham’s Conscience
- The Boy Scouts never responded, not in any way, to that letter or its enclosure. ↩
- The President of the Boy Scouts is Randall Stephenson. He is probably best known in corporate circles as the chairman and chief executive of telecommunications giant AT&T. AT&T is trying to shepherd its $85 billion deal for Time Warner though the Department of Justice antitrust review. If either Stephenson was motivated by the merger to invite Trump to speak, or the Boy Scouts’ failure to apologize, is motivated by the merger, then Stephenson has betrayed everything the Scouts claim to stand for. ↩