Seems you can’t even disagree with the Boy Scouts of America these days without getting into trouble. In October of 2002 I wrote about Darrel Lambert who was an Eagle Scout that got kicked out of the BSA for being an atheist. Today, I’m writing about an Eagle Scout by the name of Andrew Cote of Illinois who has been kicked out of his troop for criticizing the BSA’s policies with regards to gays and atheists. Apparently back on February 22nd an Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held for Andrew at Bethel Bible Church where he was presented with his Eagle Scout badge. As his acceptance speech Andrew decided to announce that he would be following the example set by his brother when he was awarded an Eagle Scout badge.
“The BSA doesn’t allow non-theist or homosexual people to experience the same memories I have. So as I receive my Eagle Scout badge now, tomorrow I will be sending it to ‘Scouting for All’ Headquarters, where it will hang on a wall next to my brother’s badge, and the badge of hundreds of other Eagle Scouts who believe in the same thing my brother and I believe in. That a Scout should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
Not two days later Andrew received a letter from Rev. Dean McFadden and Bethel Bible Church’s representative, James Moore that read:
“Bethel Bible Church as sponsor of Boy Scout Troop 352 has taken action to dismiss you as a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 352. You have taken a position which is not consistent with the policies of Bethel Bible Church.”
Some of you are probably thinking what the hell does the church have to say about this? It’s not commonly known, but the chartering organization that establishes a troop pretty much owns it and can remove members of that troop if they so wish. Troop 352 is chartered by Bethel Bible Church.
The article where I read about this is written by a woman named Terry Bibo who also happens to have served on Andrew’s Eagle Board of Review so she had an interest into finding out what happened. So she got in contact with the Troop’s Scoutmaster, Paul McKim, who said he was acting under the advice of W.D. Boyce Scout Executive Fred Wallace who had supposedly been told by folks in the national BSA office that Andrew should be dismissed. The only problem is, Wallace says that’s not true.
“No, it didn’t come from national. It didn’t come from the council,” Wallace says. “It was a decision of the church.”
McKim says that the group is “mis-aligned from the beliefs of the church and the BSA,” which is why Wallace directed the church to send Andrew Cote a letter of dismissal.
Again, Wallace disagrees. He says he did not know much about the group until this incident, and there is no directive from the national or council office to dismiss members of Scouting For All.
“That’s not true whatsoever,” he says.
Well, sometimes people hear what they want to hear. Checking with the Rev. McFadden, he says Wallace explained the church’s options.
“The office told us, ‘Don’t discuss it, just act.’ They told us, ‘You own the troop. You make the decision.’ So we did,” the pastor says. “He did not directly tell us, in my conversations, ‘You need to get rid of Andrew Cote.’ He did not say that. But he did say they would back it. And it did go all the way to national.”
But wait, it gets better…
The bottom line is if McKim and Bethel Bible Church disagree with Andrew’s stance, they can get rid of him – and his parents. Greg Cote was Troop 352’s committee chairman, which technically is the most powerful position in a troop. Along with his sons, he is a Universalist Unitarian. The rest of the Cotes are Catholic. (Only a handful of troop leaders and Scouts attend Bethel Bible.) Since Chris Cote was no longer a member of Troop 352 when he sent his badge back, he couldn’t be dismissed. But his parents could be removed from leadership.
On March 8, Greg and Melinda Cote and another member of the troop’s committee were sent a letter telling them that the church had dissolved the committee. A new troop committee was formed. In order to be on it, members must sign a leader agreement that reiterates the BSA mission statement, Scout Oath, Scout Law, and says “I do not disagree with the mission statement of Bethel Bible Church.”
Questioned on this the Scoutmaster again points to Fred Wallace who again points back to the Church and the troop for making this decision. Wallace makes a point, for example, that Andrew was only kicked out of his Troop, not out of Scouting altogether. He could join up with another troop if he wanted as long as they don’t have a problem with his viewpoint. I found this last bit from the Reverend to be interesting:
The Rev. McFadden is in a difficult position. He relies on Scoutmaster McKim, who has been involved with Scouting for decades and helped organize national events. McFadden hopes people will not get the wrong impression of Bethel Bible Church. But he says Andrew knew what he was doing when he took a stand contrary to the church’s teachings.
“Conviction can never be sacrificed for compassion. There is compassion, but compassion cannot allow us to say, ‘We’ll let that slide,’” he says. “Were there no conviction, there could be no compassion.”
Which is fine and all, but what about Andrew’s conviction that the BSA is wrong to discriminate? Is the good Reverend suggesting that only the Church’s convictions are important? Have they considered the idea that Andrew is merely standing up for his own convictions without which, according to the Reverend, he couldn’t be compassionate? I would even argue that Andrew is not only demonstrating a conviction, but his compassion for those people not able to participate by speaking out on their behalf.
Oh well, just one more good reason I won’t support the Boy Scouts.