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Rabbi Saperstein: "We look forward to the day we can encourage our congregations to return to their historical rolein hosting BSA troops; indeed, we hope that day may be soon."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 5th, 2013 -- As the Boy Scouts of America considers ending its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, this afternoon Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent the following leader to BSA president Wayne Perry. The full text of the letter follows:
Dear President Perry,
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, with membership of more than 2000 Reform rabbis, I write to urge you and the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors to end the discriminatory ban prohibiting gay scouts and scout leaders into the Boy Scouts of America.
There was widespread excitement in our movement across North America when we learned that you were reconsidering your policy, yet disappointment at the announcement to postpone the decision. That delay extends the time that the current discriminatory policy is in place. We recognize that deliberate and assiduous review is a part of any policy change; but we urge you to take up the question as swiftly as possible. The ca use of equality and justice is an urgent one. Justice delayed is justice denied.
The promise of the Boy Scouts has always been to develop leadership, foster a sense of responsibility toward others, and strengthen the bonds of community. However, by continuing the exclusion of gay scouts and scout leaders these very goals are undermined. What does it say about leadership to discriminate against our neighbors, loved ones and friends? What does it teach about community to prevent those who may be different from participating in and sharing the values we espouse?
It is perhaps most concerning when the cost of persistent prejudice against LGBT youth - bullying, discrimination, harassment, and tragically the high rate of suicide to which these too often lead - is taken into account. These young people, so frequently facing isolation in schools and in their family, need more outlets to build community, not fewer. The BSA's policy of excluding gay scouts denies a population that has a lot to benefit from the Boy Scouts promise.
That is why, in 1992, the Central Conference of American Rabbis called upon the Boy Scouts to end its discriminatory policy, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth called upon all Reform Jewish youth to divest from and refuse participation in the Boy Scouts of America so long as such discrimination continues. It is also why, in 2001, we recommended that Reform synagogues refrain from sponsoring or housing Boy Scout troops and packs that do discriminate. We look forward to the day we can encourage our congregations to return to their historical role in hosting BSA troops; indeed, we hope that day may be soon.
Lifting the ban on gay scouts and scout leader would be a major step forward for the Boy Scouts. All people, regardless of their sexuality, are created B'tselem Elohim, in the divine image, and thus have a place in our communities. It would be troubling, however, if the national ban on gay scouts is lifted yet individual troops are permitted to discriminate. At this moment of reflection I urge you and your organization to consider not only ending this nationwide ban but also adopting a national non-discrimination policy. That is the only way that we can ensure that no child is prevented from joining the troop of his choice.
Thank you for your openness and your consideration,
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism