Friday, July 10, 2009

A show of good will

The official policy of the Boy Scouts of America repudiates homosexuality and atheism. This leaves us more open-minded individuals with a decision -- when confronted with an opportunity to support a program that has a largely positive influence on youth, do we grit our teeth and pitch in -- hoping that our charity isn't seen as endorsement of the bigoted 'company line' -- or do we stand in principle and take our charity elsewhere? I just got back from the local post office, where I was dropping a carton of books in the mail:
  • The Backyard Astronomer's Guide
  • Princeton Field Guide to Stars and Planets
  • Burnham's Celestial Handbook (all three volumes)
  • Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds
  • Audubon Field Guide to North American Trees
  • Audubon Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders
  • Audubon Pocket Guide to Familiar Mushrooms
These were donated by BA members in response to an inquiry from a Boy Scout camp in Connecticut. Disclosure: I was once a counselor there, and the director contacted me personally to ask if I could provide some teaching materials for the staff of the Joe George Nature Pavilion. Knowing that the BA crowd is full of science- and nature-lovers, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show some good will. Assistant Organizer Nora sent out an email asking for donations. In response, some members promised to send books, and others stated their objections to the Boy Scouts' policies. I think both positions are justified, but in the end I myself decided to purchase some new nature handbooks. The books won't be resold and turned into hard cash destined for the coffers of the national organization. The books won't be used to fuel a bonfire, over which is hung wood-carved effigies of Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins. My decision wasn't so fraught with self-contradiction, because I know that they will be going directly to the young Scout staff who teach nature topics to young Scouts at the camp.

The Boy Scouts of America discriminates against gays and Atheists. If we need to respond to this prejudice at all, I think it is best that we do so by objecting to their policies while helping their kids. By showing good will, we show the bigots what a good turn really looks like.

If any BA members have suggestions for other we can embarrass the BSA national office with charity, or recommendations of other youth organizations who might benefit from similar book donations, please make it known to the group organizers. Below, the bookplate affixed to the inside cover of each donated book.