Fed Up With Boy Scout's Bigotry, Portland Parents Start Alternative LGBT-Friendly Troop

Adorable 5-year-old Jackson in his Cascadia Scouts uniform.Portlander Ethan Jewett has fond memories of growing up as a Boy Scout. But as his son Jackson neared Cub Scout age, Jewett felt that, like many parents, he did not want to enroll his son in an organization that continues to exclude LGBT folks and atheists.

So instead of just joining the campaign to transform the Boy Scouts of America, Jewett and other parents are making their own official scout troop.  The 55th Cascadia Scouts are open to kids of all genders, sexual orientations, and religions. They already have 45 kids signed up to join the troop on outdoorsy trips. 

“My love of the outdoors all traces back to my scouting experience—Troop 259! I really wanted that for my son,” says Jewett. “I continue to have hope that the Boy Scouts of America will change. But I have a five-year-old son. Time’s up.” 

The Cascadia Scouts are an official scouting organization with merit badges, scarves, backpacking trips and all. They are not the only independent scouting group. The World Federation of Independent Scouts oversees hundreds of scout troops worldwide that are distinct from the well-known Boy Scouts of America, including several other alternative troops in America.

The Boy Scouts of America are considering changing their national ban on LGBT members and volunteers, potentially signing off this spring on a plan that would let local troops make their own decisions about who to exclude.  But that’s not a big enough culture change for many parents, including Jewett.

 “They’re deciding whether to make discrimination optional or mandatory, says Jewett. “I don’t remember religion or sexual orientation being at all a part of my scouting experience, but it feels the battle lines have been drawn in this.”

After talking with other parents and staging several just-for-fun multi-family camping trips, the parents behind the Cascadia Scouts decided to get official. Now, the Cascadia Scouts have mutlple levels of scouting for different age groups and all will be welcome to participate “traditional scouting” trips and projects that develop leaders and a love of the outdoors. One potential trip for older kids this summer will be backpacking on a trail that circumnavigates Oregon’s Mount Hood and another in the works is brining treats to Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers.

At right: Adorable five-year-old Jackson in his homemade Cascadia Scouts scarf.

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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5 Comments Have Been Posted

Yay for good scouting services!

Thanks for posting this! I've got one little boy and another due in June, and we did not want to put them in the Boy Scouts for a number of reasons (though the idiotic ban on gay scouts was the main one). I'd already found Navigators USA, but didn't know about Baden-Powell Services. Interesting that they're building off the same basis as the Boy Scouts (founded by Baden-Powell himself), but have gone a somewhat different direction.

No Badge for Bigotry

I really enjoyed Boy Scouts as a kid... usually. My boy is 8 and I have not liked the answer I have gotten when asking Packs in Jersey and now Orlando, Florida about issues of homosexuality and atheism. A proactive couple has set up a group they've called "Science League for Kids". Ages range from 5 to 15 and both boys and girls explore and learn together. It is also a great group of like minded parents that get to socialize as well. Parents have taken turns each month with different topics that the kids may like. We started with a plant background and experiment of the each child's choice, tie-dyed t-shirts, gone camping, looked at stars though a telescope, have done cooking chemistry, built gingerbread houses, built simple circuits, and more that I am forgetting. We are going camping again this weekend. We do a simple potluck after every meeting and the kids play while the parents talk. It Should be copied!

How sad to read that Scouting

How sad to read that Scouting in the US upholds such archaic and frankly ludicrous ideals.

Scouting the UK is completely different - while religion is respected as being one of the original founding cornerstones of the Scout movement it's by no means compulsory for many. Furthermore it embraces all faiths, not just Christianity. The group to which I'm attached is, like many, not attached to any church. We recognise the role - and for many the importance - religion plays in scouting and teach and practice it as part of a balanced programme. But it's by no means compulsory to be 'a person of faith'.

As for the issue of gender it's simply a non-issue.

Sure, you won't find dedicated LGBT groups no more than you'll find dedicated anti-religion-based groups, nor does the programme actively promote these issues either, but it shouldn't be that way anyway. True inclusion is about being agnostic to such issues, it should be an envrionment where such things are irrelevant and I think modern Scouting in the UK reflects this very well,

Like the The 55th Cascadia Scouts, Scouting in the UK is open to kids of all genders, sexual orientations, and religions.

Good luck with the campaign!

Homophobia and Scouting.

I live in the UK but I too support the parents of Cascadia in their efforts to drive out homophobia and for that matter, religious bigotry and racial bigotry out of the BSA (Boy Scouts of America.)

It never ceases to amaze me how many universal institutions somehow undergo a Nationalist metamorphosis when they cross over in to the USA. Not only the boy scouts but many other institutions.

The most notorious institution is the Christian faith. Only in America (USA) will one find the notion of racially segregated churches who even include the word 'BLACK' in their very titles. How can this be? How can a faith that preaches tolerance, compassion, love, and inclusivity in it's new testemant, have become so-oo perverted and insular and bigoted and hateful in it's nature. The answer is simple, the whole founding spirit of America has become subverted by bigoted, racist, homophobic xenophobes who have lost the message and spirit that drove people from the persecutions they found in their own lands.
Now those persecutions and oppressions are to be found in the divisive fundamentalist churches of America.

The horrible ironies are these amongst others.

1 The 'black' churches who once represented a brutally oppressed and exploited nation have in themselves now become homophobic, bigoted and separatist towards anybody they perceive as different. The have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. They are every bit as racist and judgemental as the whites were only a couple of generations ago.

2 One of the worst extents of paedophilia and child abuse has been found to exist within a christian organisation that has been cruel and mysogynist for generations, nay centuries; namely the Catholic Church (Though this is not exclusive the the USA, it seems universal wherever the catholocism has a hold.) So much for the man's teachings ... Suffer little children to come unto me!!!!!

3 These same fundamentalist american churches are now sending missionaries to Africa no less where they are preaching the whole message of intolerance, bigotry and homophobia that the old 'empire builders taught a hundred and fifty years ago. This obscenityhas become so vicious that Ugand is now considering the death-penalty if somebody is determined to be homosexual. That's the same as imposing a death penalty on somebody because they are black or white or yellow or brown!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Will Americans ever learn???

Over here

<p>It's about the same in the Netherlands. LGBT is not even an issue. Sure there are the odd persons who on their personal beliefs don't want to have anything to do with LGBT-persons. Some groups have a distinct christian or moslim denomination and some are only in name a christian or catholic group. Over all anyone and everyone is welcome to join the scouts just as long as you respect one another. To that is what 'a lot of americans lack , respect for anyone who is different or even the same.</p>

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