Re: SCOUT-L does not mean Scout minus Logic
Ian N Ford (ianford@DIRCON.CO.UK)
Sun, 16 Feb 1997 13:03:02 +0000
Why does everything have to come down to litigation in USA ?
OK, I know that despite our common law heritage the legal systems of UK
and USA are very different in practice, but let us <assume> that BSA
could come up with a formula that would allow Chartered Organisations to
opt for either a single gender or a co-ed program ... why does that mean
that the single gender program could be sued ? Its like saying that
because the chartered organisation chose to have Boy Scouts and not Girl
Scouts the girls could sue for equal treatment ... has it ever happened ?
Here in UK The Scout Association is an educational charity, covered by
the same law as private schools, which can be co-ed or single sex, or
single denomination or covering a particular age group or catering for a
particular disability. Most groups are inter-denominational, many are co-ed,
a very small number are " closed " drawing membership only from a
particular school or organization. As far as co-education goes, in UK a
single-gender unit is exempt from the Equal Opportunities Act in the same
way that a school is. However, if the unit chooses to go co-ed it must
then be fully open thereafter and cannot revert. But of course, in
practice the 1st Nowhere (Co-ed) Group can close and the 2nd Nowhere
Group start just down the road as a new unit ...
The point is that there should be a legal way of working around any problems.
Let us assume that this is the case, the question is surely whether it is
practical and desirable to have co-ed units. Many Scout Associations
throughout the world do achieve this without any difficulty, and the way
it is achieved varies with local cultures. I have heard that in Holland
some troops have boys and girls in the same patrol and sharing the same
tents ... that may be a little too integrated for many of us. Certainly in
many British troops we have girls and boys in integrated patrols, but with
separate accommodation. Equally there may be occasions when it is
appropriate to split the troop by gender, just as it may be appropriate
to split them according to age or training status (rank).
I am not arguing for or against a particular position, just to say that 75%
of the membership of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement has
some degree of co-ed membership. I will discount the Exploring program of
BSA because female explorers cannot participate in the Boy Scout award
program, i.e. a male Explorer can also be a Boy Scout and work for Eagle
Scout rank, whereas a female Explorer may not.
I suspect that this issue will be around for a long time, and we need to
differentiate between the small p " political " or philosophical arguments
and the practical solutions. I assume that if the policy decision is
taken to have a single Scouts of America then the necessary Congressional
Charter, Bye-Laws etc. could be drafted, and appropriate legal frameworks
put in place.
We had this in UK in 1966 when the Venture Scout section was started - it
took a few years to go from " mixed " Scout / Guide units with two groups
of leadership, two programs etc. to one co-ed section. Then a few years
ago the whole organisation had a co-ed option from six to twenty. It took
a change in the Royal Charter and various legal processes, but it happened.
IF BSA were to agree on a co-ed policy I have no doubt that the number of
ex-Scouts in Congress, the judiciary etc. could devise a legal framework
that would be watertight, even airtight.
In the UK the pressure came from below, in that packs and troops just
registered girls, and in the end Headquarters had to bow to the
inevitable, just as B-P had eventually to ask Agnes to set up the Girl
Guides because the demand for Girl Scouts was irresistable, but in the 1920s
co-education was not an option.
That could not happen in BSA because the registration and advancement
processes are more controlled by Councils and National Office. In the UK
there is no membership or advancement record beyond unit level, so girls
joined local units and eventually Headquarters had to fall into line or
look very silly. The pressure came from units, and I suspect that will
be the case if and when BSA opts to go co-ed. Only it will need to be
done by Chartered Organisations using their voting power at Council and
National level, and it will probably need a greater " critical mass "
than we had in the UK.
I suspect that at the moment that critical mass of opinion is not yet
there, but equally I would not be surprised if at some point in the not
too distant future it will be.
Group Scout Leader, 25th Greenwich Scout Group, (Co-ed) - London UK
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City