Having purged their ranks of atheists and gays, Cub Scout Pack kicks out retarded boy.

If you have a mentally disabled son and you live near St. Louis then you can forget about having him join the Wyland Elementary Cub Scout Pack 765 because the pack’s leaders are bigoted asshats who don’t want your retarded child rubbing off on their normal kids. They’ve already kicked Renee Irby’s adopted son Christopher out of the pack for unspecified “behavior and social challenges.”

“After much consideration in regards to the Cub Scout program, the [Cub Scout Pack] Committee has concluded that Pack 765 does not offer an appropriate format for your son,” states the September 24 letter, which is signed by Huston and Hummert.

“In addition, after observing Christopher’s behavior at both den and pack meetings throughout the 2003-2004 school year, and, for both his safety and the other children’s safety, we insist that he not attend the meetings or other pack events,” the letter continues.

“I got very upset. I cannot believe that these guys are kicking me out because my kid’s retarded,” says Irby. “I cannot believe grownups are acting like this. This is a very bad example to set for your children.”

Scouting leaders in the area tried to defend the issue as being one of potential risk to the other members despite the fact that the newspaper wasn’t able to find any other scout mothers who felt Christopher had been a problem at all.

Boy Scout representatives maintain they make every effort to accommodate special-needs children.

“There are many, many stories of accommodation and success,” says Joe Mueller, spokesman for the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America. “In this case the scout presented some extreme challenges, behaviorally and socially, that required [leaders] to consider the safety of the rest of the scouts first.”

But scout mothers who spent months with Irby’s son contend the seven-year-old never posed any behavioral problems. “He was a little slower than my child, but he participated just as well as mine did,” says scout mother Amy Aubuchon. “He wasn’t dangerous, or irate, or anything like that. He sat and did the same activities as my kid. He’s a great kid. I never found anything wrong with him.”

Boy Scout spokesman Mueller declined to discuss Irby’s son’s behavior, saying only: “The pack has made a determination. We support the leadership of our packs and troops.”

The pack leaders themselves are keeping quiet other than to try and claim that the letter wasn’t discriminatory at all:

Huston and Hummert declined to comment for this story, but Hummert did offer that she thought the letter was “not at all” discriminatory toward Renee Irby or her developmentally disabled son.

Phil Ferguson, dean of the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, begs to differ. “Come on! He’s seven years old. On its face, it’s outrageous, segregationist and discriminatory,” Ferguson says. “It’s offensive that these leaders would reach this point instead of saying, ‘Let’s sit down and figure out how we can work this out.’ But what really irritates me is that they take that kind of almost restraining-order kind of language—‘Keep your kid away from our normal kids.’ It’s bogus.”

This flies in the face of official Scouting brochures which promote scouting as being inclusive of disabled kids and providing them with an opportunity to fit in.

“The basic premise of Scouting for youth with disabilities and special needs is that they want most to participate like other youth—and Scouting gives them that opportunity,” reads a fact sheet entitled “Scouts with Disabilities and Special Needs.”

“The program for Scouts with disabilities and special needs is directed at (1) helping unit leaders develop an awareness of disabled people among youth without disabilities, and (2) encouraging the inclusion of Scouts with disabilities and special needs in Cub Scout packs.”

But local scout leadership is holding firm. “If [pack leadership has] made a decision that the health and safety of their youth members is being compromised—then we respect that decision,” says Mueller, who emphasizes that the scouts have presented Irby with other options. “He could join another pack at another school.”

That’s cold comfort to Renee Irby, who has yet to tell her son he’s no longer welcome at Pack 765 events. “You know what I feel like?” she asks. “I feel like it’s all bullshit.”

Indeed. What’s to stop these other packs from also deciding they don’t want a retarded kid in their midsts? How many packs does he have to get kicked out of for being different before the BSA decides to join the 21st century and end its policies of discrimination? How big of an asshole do you need to be to kick a kid out without ever even discussing the supposed problems with his mother who went as far as to become a “Tiger Cub Leader” herself to help out the group?

Just one more reason I won’t support the Boy Scouts in my area.

20 thoughts on “Having purged their ranks of atheists and gays, Cub Scout Pack kicks out retarded boy.

  1. All right, that does it… I am hereby notifying the BSA and all affiliated organizations that they are not welcome in my club, the DOFCOFWHOICSANDTAS.

    (That’s the “DecrepitOldFool’s Circle Of Friends Who Hang Out In Coffee Shops And Talk About Stuff” organization, though we aren’t organized and the organization sort of ‘doesn’t exist,’ as John Stewart might say.)

    If getting kicked out of a non-existent organization isn’t enough to wake them up to the error of their ways, I don’t know what would be.  What a bunch of jerks.

  2. When I was a Scout (which is up until a couple of years ago), the BSA made me almost ashamed to call myself a Scout. The setup in the UK is almost totally different – as well as accepting pretty much anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or religion, children with mental disabilities were welcome too. In fact I was in the same lodge as one in Cub Scouts. We even take girls!

    That said, as an atheist I did feel uneasy saying the Scout promise, which has the line “I promise […] to do my duty to God and to the Queen” – but then I decided that as there was no God I didn’t have to do any duty to him, thus making life a little easier.

  3. I won’t support the United Way because of the Boy Scouts.  I just don’t care to give my hard earned money to any organization that will use it to discriminate against people.  The Boy Scouts of America are full of such bigots.  Therefore since the United Way supports them, I don’t support the United Way. 

    I’ve had work put pressure on us in the past to participate and donate money to them and last year I basically told them “No!  Not No but HELL NO!”  I explained my reasons for my choice and thankfully this year they have not bothered me about.  (Probably had a lot to do with the threat of a lawsuit for harassment over last years very agressive fundraising drive.)

  4. Intolerant assholes.  Apparently those creeds that they have are fairly subjective.

    That’s fine if they want to discriminate.  They’re a private organization but, when more states go the route of Connecticut and remove the BSA from the roles of charitable organizations to receive donations, maybe they’ll wake-up and move into the 1970’s.

    If they continue along this path of intolerance it won’t be long until we’re hearing stories of BSA uniforms being banned from wear in public schools.  Of course, the outcry from the right will be tremendous then.  Is that ‘What Would Jesus Do’ thing just a slogan to them?  Believing in the imaginary is one thing, but the hypocrisy of it all is just sickening.

  5. It seems like the BSA is purging all undesirables from its ranks, starting with the atheists and the gays, and now the mentally retarded, these all seem to be soft targets so far.

    So who’ll be the next to bite the dust?

    People should keep in mind what Martin Niemöller wrote.

    “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out,because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

    Of course being thrown into a death camp isn’t comparable to being kicked out of a scout troupe, but I imagine that the principle is a universal one.

  6. They’re taking their script from Pink Floyd:

    Are there any queers in the theatre tonight?
    Get ‘em up against the wall (‘gainst the wall)
    There’s one in the spotlight, he don’t look right to me
    Get him up against the wall (‘gainst the wall)
    and that one looks Jewish, and that one’s a coon
    Who let all this riff raff into the room?
    There’s one smoking a joint, and another with spots
    If I had my way, I’d have all of ya shot!
    – “In The Flesh” (The Wall)

    Give them time, just give them time…

  7. The quality of the BSA in the US depends on where you’re located I guess. I feel for the parents of the boy who was kicked out.  My son has Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified.  He’s a member of a cub pack too.  My wife and I decided not to tell them about it because we didn’t want him treated any different than the other kids.  He’s lucky.  His school work is more affected than his social interactions by his condition.  But still I worry about how people outside of the educational community would treat him if they knew of his mild autism label.

  8. I’d be inclined to deal with this case differently from the no-gays or no-atheists decisions by BSA.  I disagree with the those, but as a private organization with a religious bent, that’s their prerogative (it’s also the prerogative of other organizations and agencies to decline to work with them because of it).

    This one is a little different and kind of weird, since it’s not an ideological dispute, but a “does this kid work with the program” kind of thing.  With the pack not talking, and the mom presenting her understandably outraged side of things, it’s difficult to pin down the facts.  It’s difficult square, for example, the assertion that none of the scouting moms thinking there was any problem with the kid with Ms. Irby’s contention that nobody made her feel welcome and nobody would come to any meetings she had at her house.  If the latter is true, then the former seems dubious, and vice-versa.

    Finally, it’s clear that they’re not kicking the kid out for “being retarded,” per se, let alone because they don’t want “your retarded child rubbing off on their normal kids,” but because of various (mis?)perceptions of whether the kid had behavioral problems that potentially put other kids at risk.  It sounds kind of dubious to me, but I certainly don’t think the story is informative enough to start equating the BSA with the Nazis.

  9. Sorry if I offended anyone, I didn’t mean to purposefully equate the BSA with the Nazis. Rather I was saying that we should remember the words of Martin Niemöller, when you allow one group to be discriminated against, you open the door for other groups to be discriminated against in the same vein.

  10. It’s okay, we’re all that closer to having an Aryan race of BSA members now.  smile

    That was sarcasmy BTW, this is seriously fucked up.

  11. I have to agree that the BSA is a long way from becoming the Nazis by any stretch of the imagination and I never intended my entry to make it sound like they were.

    My problem with this whole story is the simple fact that the pack leaders made a decision without bothering to speak with Mrs. Irby about the perceived problem at all and the Greater St. Louis Area Council refused to look into the issue to see if perhaps the pack leaders were abusing their position. In effect giving pack leaders the OK to discriminate on whatever flimsy basis they might have at will.

    Certainly as a private organization they have every legal right to discriminate if they should choose to do so, but I also have a right to not support them as a result and to speak out and encourage others not to support them and that was basically what my entry was intended for.

  12. Last year I volunteered to do a presentation for a BSA “Merit Badge Day” before my “What the hell are you doing?” neurons kicked in.  When presented with the official BSA “Computer merit badge” instruction book I was horrified to discover it had not been updated to include either Windows or the internet. 

    But it did have a picture of a “Central Processing Unit” from a computer… an Intel 8086. (I think they also mentioned the 8087 math coprocessor as an advanced option.)  Asked if the presentation could be updated, the organizer just said “we’re not supposed to change anything but do the best you can.”

    A chemistry professor who was presenting the “Chemistry merit badge” said his book was similarly outdated but that the basics of chemistry hadn’t changed that much in a long time.

    Is this any indication of BSA adaptability? The BSA was founded when a majority of Americans lived in rural areas – now a majority live in cities and most of the merit badge topics are well suited to life on a farm.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to get with the program despite their high-minded words in the brochure.

  13. Brian:  Good point on the United Way/BSA connection.  For years, whenever I had the huge misfortune of finding myself employed by “Corporate America” I refused to give one cent to United Way for the same reason.  It always amazed me the huge amount of pressure to contribute to UW.  Always find out who these umbrella organizations support – I think you’d be surprised.

  14. One point I’d like to make in defense of the United Way: It seems that it’s possible for you to express where your donation goes when making a donation to UW. My company just started their annual United Way drive and they brought that point up repeatedly so I’m assuming it’s an official policy.

    So, if you like supporting United Way, but don’t want your contribution going to the BSA then it may still be possible for you to do so.

  15. And, to echo what Les said on the United Way, it is almost always possible to target your donation, either to a specific charity or to a general charity group.  (Though, to be sure, it’s never been clear to me whether that simply means that a greater proportion of other funds go to other organizations that you didn’t target.)

    Big orgs like the BSA shouldn’t be fundraising under the United Way umbrella, anyway.  The idea behind UW is that smaller charities that can’t afford to get the word out can band together to solicit contributions.  I don’t think the BSA is particularly hurting for publicity or contributions.

  16. I continue to have mixed feelings about the BSA.  My sons are 9 and 7 and are Cub Scouts.  I’m a den leader for a local pack, which happens to be sponsored by neighborhood church.  (We used to belong to a public school sponsored pack, but they were poorly managed).

    Since I’m atheist and my philosophy is plain in our household (my wife doesn’t refer to herself as atheist, but is, shall we say, open to my viewpoints), my children tend to follow the same.  This is a point of conflict then.  As an earlier poster mentioned, Cub Scouts have a promise that includes “to do my duty to God and my country”.  How then do I teach my boys that a promise needs to mean something when you make it and yet reconcile my atheism?

    My answer thus far as that in our home our “duty to God” is
    1) learn about religion: regardless of whether you believe in a God, it is a powerful force in society and one should not be ignorant of it
    2) practice integrity of one’s values:  what are your ethics and how do you gain the courage to follow them.
    3) think critically about your beliefs and those of others.  My boys should learn how to assess their own beliefs (over time obviously; I don’t want to indoctrinate them as much as I want to give them the tools to decide freely when they approach and gain adulthood),
    4) learn respect for others (really more of 2 above).  Others believe in God: can we find constructive ways to work/play/live with those without letting religious differences interfere (at least as much as others will let us do)?

    So, why do I put myself and my boys through this for an organization that has occasionally showed strict intolerance for others?
    1) I just want my boys to learn some useful skills and some of the BSA programs provide a straightforward way of doing just that
    2) much of the BSA program isn’t really about religion; it depends very much on the pack you’re in.
    3) it gives a concrete chance to reconcile ourselves to our community in ways that aren’t otherwise readily accessible.
    4) community service is a worthy effort (i.e., food drives, etc.) in a community setting (such as scouts) as long as we don’t coerce others

    I have gone so far as to volunteer as a den leader for 2nd graders (Wolves), but before I did so I made sure the leader above me (Cubmaster) was aware of my atheism.  His response?  “So what?”  As far as he was concerned, religion was the further thing from why we were really there.  I reasoned that if he was cool with having my boys and I as a key part of the pack, then we’d go with it.

    I can discuss theology compentently with the boys if the subject comes up without espousing my own personal beliefs although as much as possible I handle it secularly and leave the religion for their families.  My position has been that as long as we are a part of the BSA, I should not, within that context at least, work against their ideals even if I don’t agree with all of them (i.e., religion).  I can seek to change the organization within (i.e., promote tolerance), but as a member and, now, a leader, I need to work with them.

    Somehow, though, it feels as though I’ve simply found a way to justify and compromise (read “water down”) the situation to take an easy route. 

    The simple crux is that here in LDS (Mormon) land of Boise Idaho, there are few organizations that my boys can belong to that cover some of the secular topics that BSA does (camping, self reliance, outdoorsmanship, teamwork) in an age-appropriate program that doesn’t completely revolve around a particular sport.  (As an aside, a trend in BSA is to become more and more beholden to the LDS church, at least out here in the Western inland states).

    I want our family to be connected to our community and while I am fiercely atheist, I don’t want that to mean that we must stand on the sidelines.  It’s a tough line to walk.

    Now if there were a secular equivalent of the good points of BSA, we’d probably consider moving to it very seriously…

    Nothing like angst at 39 years old.

  17. I never joined a scouting organisation, but was in the cadets for two years while at boarding school.

    Man, we got picked on.

  18. RDNewman, I fully support you. A lot of people think that because I am so vocal about not supporting the Scouts that I think it’s a lousy organization when the truth is I’m so angry and vocal about it because I think it’s a wonderful organization that should be open to ALL boys. As you correctly point out a good majority of the activities the Scouts engage in have nothing to do with religion so why they’re so stubborn about the issue is beyond me.

    I continually point out that when the Girl Scouts, an organization I DO support, was faced with either changing its bylaws or excluding some girls because of religious or sexual orientation rules, opted to change their bylaws so that ALL girls could benefit from participation. They get it. The BSA doesn’t. So I continue to speak out against them. But in your case I can completely understand what you’re doing and why and as long as the folks in your chain of command are willing to overlook the issue then keep on with it. Perhaps you will help bring the BSA into modern times.

  19. Now if there were a secular equivalent of the good points of BSA, we’d probably consider moving to it very seriously…

    There would be almost unimaginable hurdles in the way of any new youth organization, especially if it were urban and secular.  It’s hard to imagine where or how such a thing could start. 

    RDNewman, that was a really good statement of your thinking on raising kids in a religion-saturated society.  Something tells me your kids will turn out very well.

  20. RDNewman: Thats not a trend, maam. every ward

    of the LDS church has a Full Blown Boy Scout organization, and has had one since my grandfather was a child.  The entire young mens program of the LDS church is and has continued to be intertwined with the BSA.

    Oh and they are more than happy to let anyone join up, and no bother with atheism.  Figure if they let you hang around them, their religion might wear off on you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.