Gay-Friendly Alternative to Boy Scouts Doubles in Size in a Year
A group that’s an alternative to the Boy Scouts of America says its membership has doubled in the last year, according to Mother Jones.
In pointed contrast to the much larger and older BSA, the organizers of Navigators USA give as its mission to "welcome all people, no matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief." What they’re saying in effect is that the group does not exclude members of the LGBT community, girls and atheists. The BSA has been the center of controversy ever since 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it could legally bar gay scouts and scoutmasters from participating.
"We knew the Boy Scouts excluded gays when we started, but we thought that was one of the old, outdated rules on its way off the books," Bryan Freed told Mother Jones. "We told our 8-year-old son Nathan what we thought of the official BSA rule on excluding gays, and we let him decide." The Freeds left the Boy Scouts to join the Navigators’ Los Altos, Calif., chapter, after the BSA reaffirmed the gay ban last summer.
Robin Bosset, a former scoutmaster, founded the Navigators in 2003 with just 19 chapters. It has since grown to 45 chapter in 21 states. Tony Porterfield, a chapter leader in Los Altos, told Mother Jones that the group keeps expanding at the rate of about two chapters per month. Each chapter has eight to 12 members. In total, about 600 kids have enrolled in the program.
"For the most part, Navigators participate in the same kinds of activities that Boy Scouts do: camping, organic farming, hiking, tie-dying, excursions to museums, and community service," Mother Jones reports. The group has openly gay chapter leaders, board leaders and co-members.
"We wanted our two sons to take part in scouting," Porterfield said. "We wanted to do that within an organization that reflects our family’s values. Inclusiveness and respect for others is part of the Navigators program and something we discuss directly with our children."