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?


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