Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Am The Storm

As far as I can tell, Trump's undivided government will do everything it can to roll back the New Deal and the Great Society.
They have said they want to do it, to "privatize" everything they can--education, roads, prison, military, social security, medicare...everything.
If this makes you uncomfortable, then you must mobilize to prevent it.
If you think this privatization effort is a scam, then you must do something about it.
Wringing hands and fighting last week's battle is an example of doing nothing, rather than something. If you focus on racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and neglect these other matters, then they win, for you continue to fight yesterday's battle, rather than today's.
Do not be confused--the things that matter to you are important, and tone does matter, and the safety of the marginalized is critical to guard.
But don't be robbed blind while you do it, by those large factors that are controlled by plutocrats, who love it when you are distracted, when you leave them in the meantime free to sack the treasury, stacking the system ever more in their favor.
The dice has been rolled, and the winds of change are blowing. It has been said that fate whispers, "you can not withstand the storm." It is upon each of us to answer back, "I am the Storm." After the storm there will be peace--but the storm, well. It is upon us.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The End of Anti-LGBT Discrimination at Chief Seattle Council Still Out of Sight

Months later, it remains difficult to see progress in Chief Seattle Council on the simple question of anti-gay discrimination, much less the other issues of gender or religious discrimination. One way to tell if there is progress is to look at specific cases of discrimination. In this e-mail exchange see how difficult it is for the discriminating organization to do more to accelerate entry into a more egalitarian future [some names changed]:

On Jul 17, 2015, at 8:14 AM, Geoffrey McGrath wrote:
In light of the pending policy change, and the direction from National BSA that members and units revoked under the prior policy be accepted back, I have made inquires at Chief Seattle Council with the Scout Exec as well as the new DE. Having received no response to my inquiries I'm hoping you can find out what the prospects are for restoration and/or help advocate for us. Naturally the parents are asking, and will benefit from whatever can be done to set appropriate expectations.

I'm out camping with our scout group this weekend, looking forward to your response,

Geoff McGrath

On Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 10:09 AM, Scouter wrote:  
Geoff -I am certain that everyone would be happy to reinstate your troop. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. There is s final membership vote coming up on July 27, I believe. After that date they are able to officially reinstate troops. But I am certain that they would be happy to work with you unofficially in the meantime. Btw, we are all pleased with the policy change and the welcoming of everyone into scouting.
I am on a cruise until the 24th. In the meantime I hope you are having a great hike/camping trip. Scouter
Sent from my iPhone

Seattle, WA 98118  October 1, 2015  Rob McKenna, President Chief Seattle Council, Boy Scouts of America 3120 Rainier Ave S PO Box 4404408 Seattle, WA 98114 FAX: 206-721-8985  Dear President McKenna:  Recently Pastor Paul Mitchell met with Chief Seattle Council (CSC) Scout Executive Mike Quirk to better understand what is required to restore the Charter to the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church (RBUMC) to operate Troop 98 and Pack 98, and to restore the memberships of the individuals associated with the troop and pack.   I spoke with the Pastor after the meeting to know where things stood. The Pastor left the meeting understanding that Mr. Quirk felt the early termination without consideration of the Charters and memberships in April 2014 by Chief Seattle Council and/or the National Boy Scouts of America (BSA) was a closed matter. Mr. Quirk did not offer to refund unused memberships, fees, nor funds held in escrow, nor provide any other consideration for the abrupt premature termination of the Charter or memberships--termination initiated on the part of CSC and/or National BSA solely because the Scoutmaster is gay and because the RBUMC stood by its staffing decision and responsibilities and refused to discriminate.  Mr. Quirk indicated to the Pastor that RBUMC was free to submit a new Troop application, acceptance of which would require review by National, and that including myself in any membership or leadership role in a new Troop or Pack application would be unacceptable to Council, not because I am gay, but rather because of concerns on Mr. Quirk’s part about my effectiveness working with other volunteer leaders in the council because [unspecified council members] have been "offended by his behavior, not his orientation.”  Naturally the Pastor is dismayed, as it is difficult for good relations to be restored between Council and RBUMC after RBUMC was mistreated in the prior year. The Pastor may feel the rationale for continuing to exclude the scoutmaster from membership in Council is simply a pretext for continuing to discriminate.  A robust expression of goodwill and encouragement from Council is needed. If you were to work with Mr. Quirk to have the Charters for Troop 98 and Pack 98 and the associated memberships restored to the pre-April 2014 state, this extension of goodwill would enable the two units to return to normal functioning in Council and provide an ideal way to mend relationships.   Effectively managing any difficulty anticipated in re-integrating Troop 98 and Pack 98 into the good functioning of Thunderbird District and Chief Seattle Council may be required, and your working together with Mr. Quirk would get this done.   Advocacy with National BSA regarding the Charters and memberships may also be necessary to make real the aspiration that all are free to Scout together with equal dignity, effectively ending invidious discrimination, and respecting the rights and responsibilities of Chartering Organizations to select the leadership they deem most fit.  I would be happy to discuss this further by phone or in person if that is helpful, and hope to know your response within ten working days.  Yours,    Geoffrey McGrath, MSW
Image: Letter to Chief Seattle Council
From: Geoffrey McGrath
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:00 PM
Dear Scouter,
I appreciate any help you can provide. Scout Exec Mike Quirk did reach out for an informal chat with the RBUMC Pastor in September, but the outcome was less than encouraging. I followed up with a letter to Board President Rob McKenna (attached) and have heard nothing since. What are your thoughts about productive next steps?  I'm also including [another Scouter] (I think you know each other) in the hopes that together something productive can be sorted out.

Also, the Rainier Beach United Presbyterian Church (Pastor Jane) is having a discussion on scouting situation in our neighborhood tomorrow evening and has asked me to participate. It is short notice but perhaps you and/or [another Scouter] will participate as well?

Geoff McGrath

On Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 8:32 AM, Scouter wrote: 
Geoff – I doubt that I can be helpful to you.  You have burned many bridges and the trust that can go with it.  And frankly, that includes me.
Re-read your letter that is attached to your email, and copied above.  It is not an invitation to work together.  It is riddled with threats.  Boy Scouting is about the boys, not you and not me.  If you or the church want to put together a Troop and/or Pack, you need a Chartering Organization, five adults and five boys.  I suggest that you start with that organization.  Whether you get the number 98 or not, is a separate issue, to be determined by the Council.  If you choose to be a part of the leadership, you have to prove that you are there for the boys.  That part of Scouting has always been first.
You and I agreed on the need for an open membership policy for our gay population.  We certainly had different approaches.  I wish your approach was more cooperative.  /Scouter

From: Geoffrey McGrath
Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 9:21 AM
As I see it, the problem with your plan is that Chief Seattle Council refuses to work with me, full stop. And they refuse to work with RBUMC unless the church chooses a different person to lead their scout program.

RBUMC and I have complained about this mistreatment, and have brought attention to this matter in the hopes that Chief Seattle Council would reform. They haven't, rather they continue to blame and ostracize the victims of their invidious discrimination.

Restoration of memberships and privileges fixes this problem, and repairs the damage done. I'm unclear what prevents you from helping now, especially in light of your earlier encouragement. What prevents working through the barriers and repairing the relationships?


On Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 9:34 AM, Scouter wrote: 
Geoff –READ what I wrote below.  If you don’t understand it, I suggest you discuss with [another Scouter].  /Scouter

From: Geoffrey McGrath
Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 11:43 AM
I think you are urging RBUMC and myself to accept there will be no reconciliation, restoration, restitution, consideration, apology nor acknowledgment for the mistreatment we received last year, that this is simply unachievable.

And that there is no gesture that can nor will be made on the part of Council to restore the relationship, absent RBUMC seeking new charters de novo with a different scoutmaster.

If that fairly represents Council's position it naturally leaves little ground upon which to build a new foundation.

Bridges that were burned beginning March 31 2014 when because of discrimination my membership as revoked, and then later in April because of discrimination the Charters were cancelled remain destroyed and lying in rubble around us. That rubble ought to be cleared, and a better bridge built--one that can be trusted to carry all across in safety.

We seek partners in bridge building, and despite our history and the despair we sometimes feel that repair is impossible, I still think it is achievable, and that people of goodwill can find a way beyond what once seemed intractable.

I'd like to repair my relationship with you--it didn't have a time to grow prior to the events of last year, and it didn't survive the rough and tumble of the events that overtook us.


On Fri, Oct 16, 2015 at 11:55 AM, Scouter wrote: 
Geoff – I see a lot of me, me, me in your comments below, and not one word about the boys.  That’s where you can build bridges.  /Scouter

From: Geoffrey McGrath
Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 1:32 PM
Thank you for hanging in there as I try to understand your perspective.

The challenge regarding "proving that you are there for the boys" strikes me as a rhetorical flourish--that there is nothing that can ever be said or demonstrated that can satisfy the question.

That challenge is not asking for a resume about the years in youth service, nor the specific credentials and course work taken in preparation to provide youth service. It isn't about the continuing hours devoted per week and month ensuring kids have an opportunity for great preparation and experiences in the wilderness, in citizenship and community service.

Instead that challenge strikes me as an accusation--that re-worded it reads more clearly this way: "If you truly cared about the kids you never would have allowed this to have happened, and in it happening you never would have done anything other than retire the field--because any action other than that proves it isn't about the kids, it is only about your ego."

Last year when you issued the same challenge. I mentioned that gay men get this a lot--that homosexuality and self-absorption/selfishness are inextricably linked. I bristled at the time, and shrug at it now. If it isn't what you mean, or isn't intended and you can more artfully express your meaning I appreciate in advance the effort.

Meantime, Council's re-framing last year's discrimination as this year's personality problem doesn't help our Council move forward. I'm hoping you can be our elder statesman that can lead the way.

Geoffrey McGrath​

From: Geoffrey McGrath
Sent: Sunday, October 18, 2015 14:56 PM
Re-reading our conversation--something I'm puzzled by is the initial hopeful tone in your response to me dated Jul 17, 2015, and how that stands in contrast to where things are today.

Back then you and I both expected the troop and pack to be reinstated--perhaps to both of us it seemed trivially accomplished and the right thing to do. When it became more complicated I think we were both disappointed--I was and I wonder if it wasn't the same for you.

Later you mentioned that I had burned bridges. I thought you were talking generally, but now I wonder if perhaps you don't have something specific in mind since our communication in July...if so I am unsure what that may be--as I am unaware of any open lines of communication, as Council had rebuffed all contact. It may be I have offended you or otherwise done something that felt like a sabotage of your efforts between July and now? If so I should like an opportunity to know it and perhaps make amends.

Regarding the complication that prevents the reinstatement of the troop and pack, you may be unaware how difficult it is for the parents and the chartering organization to consider working with Chief Seattle Council at this time, without first an expression of goodwill extended in their direction. They remember acutely the unilateral and abrupt breaking of the charter contract, followed by the poaching of staff and families accomplished through promises of funding and facilities and staffing provided directly by the Council, for the purpose (to their minds) of breaking our community's existing youth scouting program.

The families' feelings remain deeply offended by the actions of this District and Council, well beyond the offense brought by the silly membership prerogative that National used initially to end the charters and memberships, since resolved by National through a change in national policy.

I had hoped that if Council would simply reinstate the pack and troop, even without an explicit apology for their prior actions or other compensation or consideration, that the fellowship between our community and Council would gradually re-establish, resulting in a successful re-chartering the following year. If reinstatement had happened in July as you and I both hoped, or perhaps early in August, then it would have been easy to imagine a successful re-charter campaign happening in time for January 2016.

Such an outcome is something I still yearn for--for renewed fellowship or at least amicable relations to be restored, rather than this unresolved conflict. The benefit to the families, their kids, and all concerned would be incalculable, and remain worth striving towards.

What lacks that would re-enable your engagement in this worthy effort? Are there others who should be involved as well?


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Scouting and the Media: Why it matters

Last year I agreed to participate in an interview by Al Jazeera regarding the continuing discrimination against LGBT scouts, families and employees in the Boy Scouts of America, and featuring the twin Eagle Scouts Liam and August. The interview was published on Al Jazeera's program America Tonight in June, 2014. Afterwards a friend inquired:
How did the interview go?
Iran is having borders re-drawn pre 1954...ISIS is evaporating the Syrian border, Russia is occupying a previously colonized peninsula, the US no longer has ground troops--now it has advisers--and Al Jazeera wants to interview gay boy scouts?.... what is this Al Jazeera? A slow news day? No offence guys.....

My Response [June 2014]

The twins' story came after a piece on the deteriorating conditions in Iraq, and following a discussion of the experience of refugees from Bhutan to the Pacific Northwest.

Did you know that up to 40% of the homeless kids in Seattle are gay or lesbian. Or that 75% of homeless kids in Salt Lake City are gay or lesbian. These kids have been either kicked out of their homes, or have run away from abusive and/or neglectful situations. These kids need someone to help them, and to work to change the situation that causes their homelessness.

In America the average age of "coming out" as gay is 12 years old. These kids, if they are in Scouts may want to talk about it with their scout leader--in some cases their scout leader is the first person they tell. But that scout leader may not know anything about how to help, or may even be hostile to the idea that a young kid is gay. Because BSA refuses to train their leaders correctly, and because BSA confuses the issue.

Sometimes a young 12-year-old has difficulty reading social may "come out" to an unprepared or hostile scout leader. Then what happens? The scout leader may kick the kid out. Or he may tell the kid's parent--and the parent may be even less prepared, or more hostile to the child than the scout leader is. Which may result in abuse, neglect or homelessness. The Boy Scouts of America policies and practices abandons, leaving them to fend for themselves. The smart ones who can read the social queues are able to opt to stay in the closet. The lucky scouts have a caring and informed scout leader. But most of these kids (and that means about one in ten kids!) don't. To BSA these issues don't matter--that what matters is the corporate and religious prerogatives of BSA and its sponsors. I reject the idea that these kids don't matter.

Consider, if there are 2,500,000 Scouts in America, there are perhaps 250,000 kids directly facing this--and they are individually at risk. Some are lucky, some are smart. Most are in danger of mistreatment or neglect. And that doesn't address the gay and lesbian adults who serve quietly and in secret--they are also in danger from their fellow scouters.

There are 106,000 scouting units in America--each one has between 5 and 10 adults on average working as a Scouter. That means there are likely 50,000 to 100,000 LGBT adults who serve in secret, and in fear that one of the other adults members or persons from the community might become jealous and have them kicked out. Living in fear like that is terrible--and it means these adults are taken advantage of. All so that straight people don't have to change the rule that says gay people cannot serve in equal dignity with straight people.

The editors at Al Jazeera did consider this story to be worth reporting--both in the difficulties presented to people at scale throughout our society, as well as in the specifics of the two young men profiled. This story, showing these young men and their father living with integrity in the context of a deeply flawed and compromised organization, is a story that for some parents and some young people throughout the nation will help them know how to navigate their own situation in a way consistent with all 12 points of the scout law, and for the rest to consider their role in perpetuating a system that casts so many aside, or otherwise struggles and fails to grace all with equal dignity.

Media Again, Why? [July 2015]

A year later the media is again asking for opportunities to discuss scouting in America, and are curious to know how the Boy Scouts of America's announced [pending] policy changes may affect our scout group. When I asked the parents if they wished to participate, they responded enthusiastically, saying these are matters that concern them, and their voices and faces should be part of the national conversation. The scouts also feel it is important, and they want to be able to share their story with their friends.

A Word About BSA Organization

Charters are accepted by Council and then forwarded to National. If National has questions then Councils are obligated to support/defend their decision before National. The procedure for individual memberships is similar. Chief Seattle Council personnel have said "this is on the top of the Scout Exec's list" but for weeks has made no private nor public statement of intent, inclusion, congratulations nor welcome to LGBT youth, families, employees, nor to the Charter Organization, Pack and Troop kicked out last year.

National has maintained this change to their discrimination policy is forced upon them. They also disclaim any responsibility to individual scouts or units, insisting those responsibilities rest solely upon their Charter Organizations. Disclaiming responsibility while claiming monopoly on the scouting movement in America is problematic.

The actual needs of LGBT people remain unaddressed by BSA, and leave allies in the struggle for equal dignity uncertain. More can be done than has been done, even within the constraints of their proposed policy, for those reluctant to draw outside the lines. The new policy was published on the BSA website, and can be read here:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Boy Scouts of America's New Policy of Discrimination

Yesterday the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced a draft of its new discrimination policy, expected to be adopted July 27, 2015 at the national board meeting. These documents were published outlining the details:
What is so curious about this announcement is that it outlines a continuing policy of discrimination at a time when most organizations are struggling to do the opposite. Most everyone else is trying to actively end discrimination in all it's forms, but with this policy discrimination against LGBT individuals may continue in the up-to 70% of units that are sponsored ("chartered") by religious institutions, and invidious discrimination against girls/women and the godless on the part of the Boy Scouts of America will continue. The activism and pressure that was required to end the active discrimination against LGBT youth and adults in membership and employment continues to be required to bring about change. The BSA admits (see links above) the changes currently in play is primarily due to actual or threatened litigation, as well as BSA (perhaps unintentionally) having abandoning the expressive claims made in the BSA v. Dale Decision.

The BSA's continued practice of discrimination against LGBT in volunteering and membership in their religiously sponsored scouting units continues to prevent them from re-entering their formerly privileged positions in communities and educational settings throughout the nation. The changes announced yesterday and expected at month's end are limited to ending an active policy of discrimination against "avowed homosexuals," while simultaneously permitting it to continue with its religious partners. Local Councils will continue to attempt to adopt non-discrimination policies that National BSA in the documents published yesterday insist are null and void.

BSA's proposed policy changes continue to abandon youth and families in religiously discriminating units, leaving them at risk. The public will see this and continue to object to it. Those religious organizations that do not change will be increasingly marginalized by the rest of society.

BSA has bought a little goodwill with the changes announced today, but that goodwill will erode over time if BSA cannot figure out how to welcome those members it is currently deciding to not actively mistreat and neglect, and if it fails to extend scouting to those it still actively excludes.

As with the changes in membership policy January 1 2014, the changes now proposed by the BSA is not predicated on the needs of families and children. Not one word in the materials prepared for communication with the public, nor with units, charter organizations nor councils speaks to the special vulnerabilities of LGBT youth and the risks they face at the hands of those in whose care they are entrusted. Not one word addresses the needs of families with LGBT members or participants. The BSA is making this change with the narrowest of focus: "that the National Executive Board will act in the best interest of our organization."

Holding the "rights of religious chartered organizations" to continue invidious discrimination without simultaneously discussing and safe-guarding the needs, indeed the rights, of children and families to equal dignity and protection, participation and expression goes beyond neglect. It is reckless endangerment.

Subjecting children and families to what amounts to a ZIP code lottery is simply immoral.

Let's be clear. With this change BSA adopts a new policy of discrimination at a time when what is needed is a policy of NON-discrimination. National BSA threatens all Councils throughout the nation that if they adopt non-discrimination policies the prohibit any chartering organization the prerogative to mistreat, neglect, abandon, discipline or discharge any who are or are thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, then "The National Council will take action on a council that violates this provision." (-source: Adult Leadership Standards and Resources Update June 2015, Question 18).

What kind of respectable child and youth serving organization does that?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Response to An Anonymous Scoutmaster

This morning I read an op-ed piece posted in the South Seattle Emerald written anonymously by a gay scoutmaster, currently serving in Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He says:
I am an Eagle Scout myself. I am also a Scoutmaster, and I happen to be gay. I was awarded Scoutmaster of the year by my district in 2014, but if my local council knew that I am gay I would no longer be allowed to serve which is why I write this in anonymity. I am committed to serving the youth in my troop and for that reason I cannot be honest about who I am...
It’s about time the BSA follows its own rules and allow LGBT leaders to serve. I’m calling on the Chief Seattle Council of the BSA to be a leader and adopt its own inclusion policy for the sake of the youth the program serves. After all it is the Cub Scout Motto to “Do your best.” Is the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts really living up to that?
I posted this response:
Dear anonymous gay Scoutmaster currently serving in Chief Seattle Council,
Thank you so much for sharing your story. The voices of the oppressed, in their oppression, help us all understand the continuing need for reform.
The pillars of discrimination in Chief Seattle Council have changed from last year, and its foundations have eroded. Specifically Sharon Moulds is no longer Scout Executive. And the President of BSA has said he will not de-charter councils who refuse to follow the discrimination policies of National. And the district executive of your district may have changed.
Because of those changes it may be that an out gay scoutmaster in BSA, with the full support of his Charter Organization can successfully change the discriminatory practices of Chief Seattle Council and end the shame the continuing discrimination practiced by these scouts in our town brings upon us all. Coming out is required in order to change the practices, and support and defense by the Council is required in order to change the opinion of the community.
Harvey Milk famously said "Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out." Your bravery is what changes matters for yourself, your troop, your district and your Council.
If you find that Chief Seattle Council fails again to live up to the ideals expressed in the Scout Oath and Law, you will not be alone. Many others in this community will stand by and defend you. Our hearts and hands are outstretched towards you. And there are other scouting organizations who will welcome you around their campfire: specifically Baden-Powell Service Association seeks brave men and women such as yourself to continue bringing traditional scouting values to the next generation, equally to all.
Coming out is for the sake of all youngsters. Coming out frees straight scouts from the embarrassment they currently feel as participants in oppressing others. And for the gay scouts and their families it creates a world free from the fear of discrimination, exclusion, excommunication and shame. It is 2015. It is time to come out.

Friday, February 20, 2015

BSA Cub Scout Enrollment Declines 8.5% in 2014

I've never heard of an inclusive Klan registry. But I have heard of an inclusive BSA registry (link below). It is curious that not a single current unit, charter organization, district, nor council is listed in the inclusive BSA registry.

When I've asked BSA volunteers who claim their unit or council is inclusive, but who are not listed in the registry, I've gotten various unsatisfying answers as to why their unit is special and cannot be listed.

So here we remain, it is 2015, no BSA units are certifiably inclusive, and none (that I know of) are working towards certification.

Meantime, nation-wide cub numbers declined 8.5% from 1,416,000 to 1,295,000 (source unavailable for attribution, change in membership 2013-2014), this during a year when the leadership emphasized a focus on cub scout membership.

Can one be ethical and moral and still be a member of BSA? I think one can, but it does require some hard work, which begins with an honest assessment quickly followed by action. Scouting isn't so much about "being" -- these marketing slogans ("be a cub(tm)" and "be a scout(tm)") get in the way of "doing," which is more to the point of scouting. Doing non-discrimination is significantly different from "hoping" and/or "waiting" for it.

The Civil Rights movements of the past taught us many things. The most important being that it doesn't happen by wishing; it requires hard work and pressure tactics. Nice doesn't get it done. It requires dreams supported by actions.

Here is the link I promised:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Highline School District Ends BSA Recruiting During School Day

Highline School District is taking the matter of nondiscrimination seriously, ending the prior practice of allowing BSA personnel access to students and facilities during the school day. See this post for background: Here is the reponse from Superintendent Enfield:
Highline Public Schools
Ambaum Boulevard Southwest
Burien, Washington 98166

October 10, 2014

Dear Mr. McGrath,

I have received notification of your complaint regarding Boys Scouts of America distributing program material and recruiting students during the school day. We recognize that these activities should not have occurred during the school day. The district has implemented reasonable measures to eliminate this circumstance in the future. We have spoken with the principal in question to make sure she is aware that these activities should occur befoer or after school. Further, we have taken the initiative to remind all building leadership of our Nondiscrimination policy and the Equal Access Act.

If you have any further questions, or believe your concerns have not been addressed, you may appeal to the School Board of Directors by filing a written notice of appeal to the Secretary of the Board. Please refer to the attached Board Policy and Procedure 3210 and 3210P for specific timeline information.

Susan Enfield, Ed. D.
It is interesting to compare the difference in tone and rational with that provided by Seattle Public Schools, who made program changes but claimed it was due to academic rigor rather than discrimination.

Do you think that Highline has gone far enough to ensure all students and families are treated with equal respect and dignity? Your comments and concerns are welcome in the section below.