On Friday, June 28, 2013, a group of Western Washington Catholics delivered a petition to the Archbishop with over 5,500 signatures. The petition was two-fold: first, to acknowledge and support the public statement Archbishop Sartain and other Washington State bishops made recently, vocalizing their continued support of Scouting (the statement). Secondly, however, the petition was to ask the Archbishop to followup his words with actions, especially in light of at least one parish in Western Washington very publicly and vocally severing ties with Scouting because of the membership policy change. (The membership change simply was to allow those scouts with same-sex attraction to participate in scouts. There was no change to the call for all scouts to be chaste and to avoid all forms of political activism by or within Troops. Basically, sexual orientation in and of itself is no longer factored into membership consideration).
The parish that already severed ties did so in a particularly nasty and hurtful manner. I’ll let you read the letter for yourself (website or as PDF file), but spoiler alert – it’s pretty hateful, bigoted and homophobic. Highlights include that gay kids are gay because they “dislike team sports”, they likely had “sexual abuse or rape”, probably have “extreme shyness” and might well have “lack of hand/eye coordination”. Well, gosh darn, that about explains it all. Other than I love team sports, wasn’t abused, aren’t particularly shy, and am about the perfect male specimen example of superior hand/eye coordination.
Anyway, we petitioners gathered and two speakers – me (Tee Earls: Eagle Scout, Catholic, and gay) and Bryce Goldsen (soon-to-be-Eagle Scout, Catholic, and straight), delivered a few remarks.
Below are the remarks I delivered:
“My name is Tee Earls and I live here in Seattle. I am a lifelong Catholic. I am an Eagle Scout. I am gay. And I have blue eyes and brown hair. Not surprisingly, I am personally supportive of the Boy Scouts’ recent change to remove sexual orientation from membership consideration.
I know from my own experiences and years of participating in Scout Troops, service projects, skills and leadership development, summer camps, and even the occasional prank, Scouts provided me a consistent outlet for – and reminder of – the importance of service to others, self-improvement, duty to God and Country, and confidence to develop into the person I am today.
It’s probably no coincidence that the values of Scouting and the values of the Catholic Church align quite closely. For most of my entire time in Scouting, across two cities and my family’s move, I was a member of the local Troops sponsored by my local Catholic Parishes we attended.
Although I earned my Eagle Scout in 1991 – over 20 years ago – I also doubt the coincidence that some of my closest friends back then remain so today. Our lives have evolved, we’ve physically moved apart, families have been formed and kids have been born, jobs have changed – and yet the bonds of true friendship forged partially through Scouting – remain.
I’m also encouraged that both the “National Catholic Committee on Scouting” and the more local “Bishops of Washington State” have both recently explicitly affirmed that the membership policy change in Scouting is fully in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church. And that there is no change or effect in the manner Catholic parishes in Washington State can continue to sponsor scouting programs.
While this is a good and needed step – and I applaud the bishops for it – we’ve already seen at least one Catholic parish in Western Washington publicly proclaim that they are ending sponsorship of their local Boy Scout Troop simply because the Scouts stopped discriminating on sexual orientation. To be clear – we are talking about intrinsic and fundamental attraction, not actions or activism. Scouts have always been – and still are – called to be chaste. Scouting rules have always prohibited any type of political activism by or within Troops. This, too, remains the same. There is every reason for the Catholic Church and its organizations to continue strong support for Scouting.
And yet, we’ve already seen one parish very publicly and hurtfully withdraw. This type of unilateral and misguided action is uncalled for. It is spiritually damaging. And it is a dereliction of Catholic stewardship by those who are its supposed stewards. As Catholics, as Christians, as moral beings, we are called to love, to embrace, to encourage, to uphold, to affirm, to include …. to mirror the very God-made-into-Man upon which our Catholic Church is founded. The 1997 edition of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” explicitly states that those with same-sex attractions “must be [must be] accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. “ It continues: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”
Quite simply, Catholic entities that choose to terminate Scouting relationships as a result of the more inclusive membership approach are out of line with Catholic teaching, are in direct conflict with the well-considered rationale and statements from the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, and appear to be ignoring our own Archbishop’s direction.
As an Eagle Scout, as a Catholic, and as a concerned citizen who wants to afford young men the same opportunities that I had to benefit from Scouting, I pray that the Archbishop – and I ask the Archbishop – to ensure that all those under his guidance and leadership will follow his own example and continue to offer full support for Scouting. ”
The event received good media coverage and several news outlets reported on it:
Q13 News ran an on-air segment several times.
Kiro 7 TV ran an on-air segment several times and also published a news article.
The National DC-based group Catholics United issued a press release and helped coordinate this overall event and signature gathering.