Hi everyone, in light of recent events, we've gotten new types of questions from members and member families that we haven't had to deal with before.   Does HQ or any of your groups have policies, guidelines, or position papers on the role of the BPSA, member groups , and scouts in political activism?

By political activism, I mean pragmatic and real world decisions like discussing the topic with youth, providing positive forums for discussion, supporting or not supporting youth/Pathfinder desires to become active,  supporting (or not) marches consistent with our values, participating (or not) in marches, sharing Facebook posts, distributing (or not) member families event notices to the group community, participating (or not) in boycotts, responding to parents concerns about boycotts (recently focusing on Paypal), etc.

We've started an outline ourselves of some of our thoughts, but we wanted to learn from all of your great ideas and opinions. Any guidance, best practices, HQ policies, or suggestions are appreciated.

Thank you,

Robert

GSM, 8thPVD

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When the BPSA-US does not have any guidelines we should follow the 1938 POR which is the last set of rules B-P sponsored.  Scouting is non-political.  However, scouts are supposed to be active citizens.  If your group wishes to go to any demonstration or support anything, then your members can voluntarily do so but they cannot wear a uniform or use the scout group's name.

Movement Non-Political
Rule 13. The Scouts Association is not connected with any political body.  Members of the Association in uniform, or acting as representatives of the Movement must not take part in political meetings or activities.

Here are some excerpts from B-P’s Outlook about citizenship and politics.

=The Other Fellow's Point of View. June , 1912=

OUR attitude in the Boy Scout Movement is that we do not wish to be in conflict with any political, educational, religious, or other body, but we are very glad to have their advice or suggestions.  Our aim is to be at peace with all and to do our best in our own particular line.  Probably the majority of us are in sympathy with the Socialist ideal, though we may not see with the same eye the practicability of its details or its methods.  We, in the Scouts, desire not so much to cure present social evils as to prevent their recurrence in the rising generation; …

=The Responsibilities of Citizenhood. June, 1918. =

This is a matter, however, that cannot be taught by class instruction in "civics." … It is statesmanship rather than party politics for which we want to prepare them.  … Thus the Patrol [patrol method] becomes a practical school of self-government.

=A Mountain Dream [active citizenship]. March, 1939 =

As very many Scouters have already realised, it opens up a wonderful opportunity for each of us, according to our powers, whether we be Scouters, Rovers, or Old Scouts, to take a hand in spreading by personal example, by teaching and talks, this practical step in the so-called Moral Rearmament. One man cannot hope to do much, but tiny individual coelenterata have built coral islands by co-operation in an idea l. It needs a highly optimistic acorn to start hopefully on producing an oak tree.  …

Let us therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves become too absorbed in the steps. Don't let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, backwoodsmanship, camping, hiking, good turns. Jamboree comradeships are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER-- character with a purpose.

William, this is very helpful. I really like some of this and it will help us in our discussions on current events.  Many thanks!!

Thanks William, the response from some on Rule13 is to ask when is something political, and when is it a matter of human rights and ethics.  That becomes a very hard question to answer.  Your second post provides the path forward past that conundrum.  I'm very thankful to you for sharing both.

William Carter said:

When the BPSA-US does not have any guidelines we should follow the 1938 POR which is the last set of rules B-P sponsored.  Scouting is non-political.  However, scouts are supposed to be active citizens.  If your group wishes to go to any demonstration or support anything, then your members can voluntarily do so but they cannot wear a uniform or use the scout group's name.

Movement Non-Political
Rule 13. The Scouts Association is not connected with any political body.  Members of the Association in uniform, or acting as representatives of the Movement must not take part in political meetings or activities.

Here is my little free-write on the topic: I think a "Movement Non-Political" avoids all partisan activities, especially those designed to support one candidate over another in a bid for office. The first rule of this is that we seek to avoid complications that prevent our formal organs from loosing their private not-for-profit designation. The other consideration is that we are "scouty" with each other, and with others in our community, regardless of politics.

As a movement, we know it is consistent with the scouting ideals to be civilly engaged, as individual scouts whether in or out of uniform.

Indeed, we are a chivalrous movement, and we stand up for those in distress and for the oppressed. Our ideal is to do so in all times and in all places. I think we aspire stand together with all people of good will, in our friendship with animals and the wild and public places.

Of course when we stand, kneel or march, we do so in courtesy, even in the face of discourtesy.

I think it is correct for scouts to speak up, and to speak out, and to speak truth to power, when in uniform, and also when not in uniform.

And we remember that we are diverse, in all ways, including in our politics. And when our politics differ with other scouts, there remains room for us all, bound by our fellowship and our courtesy.

I think we are friends to animals, the environment, all people of good will, and to all other scouts. I'm not sure if we are friends to corporations <wink>.

We are individual scouts first, and as we go about our world wearing our uniforms with pride, we remind ourselves and those who see us of our scout oaths and laws. Our presence in uniform does this. It can elevate each thing we do, if we let it. And so, wear your uniform early and often...but not when knocking on doors seeking the election of specific candidates.

As individual scouts, using social media helps extend our visibility (and our ideals) into the world. And our courteous participation in social media, always remembering that we are a diverse bunch, should help keep the dialog civil and purposeful.

I think it is possible for individual dens, patrols and crews, or entire scout groups to become motivate to participate in the civic discourse en corps--and that it should always be done thoughtfully and within the context of a robust discussion held by the PC and the Auxiliary.

In times past scouts have participated on the side of justice and fair play and national emergency. I think we should Be Prepared to do similarly as need arises in future.

I think that as we consider this and we speak out either for or against things, we need to be careful to address specific policies or actions and not people or political parties, and we should point to specific points in the scout law to support our positions.

"A scout is a friend to all."

"A scout is courteous."

"A scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances." 

I really appreciate this post, Geoff. Thank you. 

Geoffrey McGrath said:

Here is my little free-write on the topic: I think a "Movement Non-Political" avoids all partisan activities, especially those designed to support one candidate over another in a bid for office. The first rule of this is that we seek to avoid complications that prevent our formal organs from loosing their private not-for-profit designation. The other consideration is that we are "scouty" with each other, and with others in our community, regardless of politics.

As a movement, we know it is consistent with the scouting ideals to be civilly engaged, as individual scouts whether in or out of uniform.

Indeed, we are a chivalrous movement, and we stand up for those in distress and for the oppressed. Our ideal is to do so in all times and in all places. I think we aspire stand together with all people of good will, in our friendship with animals and the wild and public places.

Of course when we stand, kneel or march, we do so in courtesy, even in the face of discourtesy.

I think it is correct for scouts to speak up, and to speak out, and to speak truth to power, when in uniform, and also when not in uniform.

And we remember that we are diverse, in all ways, including in our politics. And when our politics differ with other scouts, there remains room for us all, bound by our fellowship and our courtesy.

I think we are friends to animals, the environment, all people of good will, and to all other scouts. I'm not sure if we are friends to corporations <wink>.

We are individual scouts first, and as we go about our world wearing our uniforms with pride, we remind ourselves and those who see us of our scout oaths and laws. Our presence in uniform does this. It can elevate each thing we do, if we let it. And so, wear your uniform early and often...but not when knocking on doors seeking the election of specific candidates.

As individual scouts, using social media helps extend our visibility (and our ideals) into the world. And our courteous participation in social media, always remembering that we are a diverse bunch, should help keep the dialog civil and purposeful.

I think it is possible for individual dens, patrols and crews, or entire scout groups to become motivate to participate in the civic discourse en corps--and that it should always be done thoughtfully and within the context of a robust discussion held by the PC and the Auxiliary.

In times past scouts have participated on the side of justice and fair play and national emergency. I think we should Be Prepared to do similarly as need arises in future.

Geoffrey, you've given us not only guidance but also inspirational and aspirational wisdom here. Thank you (again!) for your continued awesomeness.

Beautifully put Geoffrey, as always. This is why I call you when i need someone to talk me off the ledge. #wisdom 

Geoffrey McGrath said:

Here is my little free-write on the topic: I think a "Movement Non-Political" avoids all partisan activities, especially those designed to support one candidate over another in a bid for office. The first rule of this is that we seek to avoid complications that prevent our formal organs from loosing their private not-for-profit designation. The other consideration is that we are "scouty" with each other, and with others in our community, regardless of politics.

As a movement, we know it is consistent with the scouting ideals to be civilly engaged, as individual scouts whether in or out of uniform.

Indeed, we are a chivalrous movement, and we stand up for those in distress and for the oppressed. Our ideal is to do so in all times and in all places. I think we aspire stand together with all people of good will, in our friendship with animals and the wild and public places.

Of course when we stand, kneel or march, we do so in courtesy, even in the face of discourtesy.

I think it is correct for scouts to speak up, and to speak out, and to speak truth to power, when in uniform, and also when not in uniform.

And we remember that we are diverse, in all ways, including in our politics. And when our politics differ with other scouts, there remains room for us all, bound by our fellowship and our courtesy.

I think we are friends to animals, the environment, all people of good will, and to all other scouts. I'm not sure if we are friends to corporations <wink>.

We are individual scouts first, and as we go about our world wearing our uniforms with pride, we remind ourselves and those who see us of our scout oaths and laws. Our presence in uniform does this. It can elevate each thing we do, if we let it. And so, wear your uniform early and often...but not when knocking on doors seeking the election of specific candidates.

As individual scouts, using social media helps extend our visibility (and our ideals) into the world. And our courteous participation in social media, always remembering that we are a diverse bunch, should help keep the dialog civil and purposeful.

I think it is possible for individual dens, patrols and crews, or entire scout groups to become motivate to participate in the civic discourse en corps--and that it should always be done thoughtfully and within the context of a robust discussion held by the PC and the Auxiliary.

In times past scouts have participated on the side of justice and fair play and national emergency. I think we should Be Prepared to do similarly as need arises in future.

Thank you Geoffrey very much for this. Your words remind me of the safe harbor language tied to the safety-pin symbols.  We can be prepared to be safe-harbor for anyone persecuted, and stand up for their human rights and equality.    Making that statement is not political.  At the same time we can prepare our scouts with the character and moral foundation to make their own decisions in the future based on strong values (as William wrote) and be active citizens.  And finally, we can be inclusive in every sense of the word, and maybe even teach our scouts the civility and open minds needed to bridge the decisive gap between the many good people on both sides of what is happening in our country.   Thanks for your inspiration. 


Geoffrey McGrath said:

Here is my little free-write on the topic: I think a "Movement Non-Political" avoids all partisan activities, especially those designed to support one candidate over another in a bid for office. The first rule of this is that we seek to avoid complications that prevent our formal organs from loosing their private not-for-profit designation. The other consideration is that we are "scouty" with each other, and with others in our community, regardless of politics.

As a movement, we know it is consistent with the scouting ideals to be civilly engaged, as individual scouts whether in or out of uniform.

Indeed, we are a chivalrous movement, and we stand up for those in distress and for the oppressed. Our ideal is to do so in all times and in all places. I think we aspire stand together with all people of good will, in our friendship with animals and the wild and public places.

Of course when we stand, kneel or march, we do so in courtesy, even in the face of discourtesy.

I think it is correct for scouts to speak up, and to speak out, and to speak truth to power, when in uniform, and also when not in uniform.

And we remember that we are diverse, in all ways, including in our politics. And when our politics differ with other scouts, there remains room for us all, bound by our fellowship and our courtesy.

I think we are friends to animals, the environment, all people of good will, and to all other scouts. I'm not sure if we are friends to corporations <wink>.

We are individual scouts first, and as we go about our world wearing our uniforms with pride, we remind ourselves and those who see us of our scout oaths and laws. Our presence in uniform does this. It can elevate each thing we do, if we let it. And so, wear your uniform early and often...but not when knocking on doors seeking the election of specific candidates.

As individual scouts, using social media helps extend our visibility (and our ideals) into the world. And our courteous participation in social media, always remembering that we are a diverse bunch, should help keep the dialog civil and purposeful.

I think it is possible for individual dens, patrols and crews, or entire scout groups to become motivate to participate in the civic discourse en corps--and that it should always be done thoughtfully and within the context of a robust discussion held by the PC and the Auxiliary.

In times past scouts have participated on the side of justice and fair play and national emergency. I think we should Be Prepared to do similarly as need arises in future.

I reached for the "like" button, and then saw it didn't exist.  Consider this "loved". Thanks for these words David. Robert

David Coronado said:

I think that as we consider this and we speak out either for or against things, we need to be careful to address specific policies or actions and not people or political parties, and we should point to specific points in the scout law to support our positions.

"A scout is a friend to all."

"A scout is courteous."

"A scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances." 

Namaste!

I'm the FNG around here, but-  Perhaps a way to "participate," without dragging the organization into the fray would be to set up a logistics point at the base camp as opposed to protesting on the front line.  I can think of a couple of support roles such as a field kitchen or a ham radio station sending out ARRL Radiograms to loved-ones of the camp residents.  This would keep the BPSA-US brand separated from the likes of organizations such as CPUSA and Revcom who always seem to be out there pushing the protesters. Providing humanitarian support such as nourishment or morale fits into the service association framework better than political activism in my mind.

Just my opinion.

-Duke

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