The Westside Gazette

Direct from the Emergency Room at Mt. Sinai Hospital at 2:34 a.m. –

Direct from the Emergency Room at Mt. Sinai Hospital at 2:34 a.m. –

By J.M. Ristow

     Recently, the Westside Gazette published an editorial entitled “Boy Scouts shouldn’t become ‘Gay Scouts’” by Raynard Jackson.

    Having dedicated my life to advocating for human rights, I would fight for Mr. Jackson’s rights to express his views; however, as a private citizen, I personally find his sentiments troubling.

    It is impossible to summarize Mr. Jackson’s editorial in one sentence, but he seems to support the Boy Scouts of America’s discrimination against gay people and appears to base his position on Christianity.

    Ironically, in the Westside Gazette online edition next to Mr. Jackson’s editorial was a video of President Barak Obama’s inaugural speech. President Obama began by saying, “What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Later in his speech, President Obama added, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

    I am fortunate to have traveled the world and made many sacrifices working toward improving human rights through education in the former Communist Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan West Africa. Living in South Florida, I take pride in the region’s diversity and the ability of so many people to have different life styles, points of views, and, concurrently, live in harmony even when we disagree.

    My parents, who are ultra-conservatives and for many years were leaders in the church, raised me to follow God’s teachings and to love everyone. Fortunately, I have lived most of my life free of prejudice. I believe the Holy Father loves all people including straight and gay Boy Scouts.

    Like Mr. Jackson, I will not apologize for my Christian faith, which has taught me, to first and foremost, follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps by showing love and understanding for everyone regardless of their race, religion, sex, political belief, disability or sexual orientation.

    In the Bible’s Book of John, Christ said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Despite my best efforts, like so many of us mere mortals, I sin everyday in one form or another and seek God’s guidance, understanding and forgiveness regularly. Still, I know that God loves Mr. Jackson and me equally despite our differences.          

    When we teach young people that it is acceptable to discriminate against one group of people, they learn that it is appropriate to do the same to other groups of people too. One cannot be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed as the Boy Scouts re-quire while at the same time discriminating against and violating the civil rights of an entire class of people.

    The Boy Scouts of America could learn a great deal from my church, which welcomes all parishioners irrespective of their race, religion, sex, political belief, disability or sexual orientation. Our congregation’s faith is stronger because of it. During every service, we learn about God’s unconditional love for everyone. And, our minister advocates for everyone to go out into the community and share God’s love.

    Mr. Jackson is right that the Boy Scouts of America currently has the legal right to set membership standards that discriminate against people; however, this does not make the organization’s violation of gay people’s civil rights morally correct.

    In time, I hope people will increasingly apply God’s love, understanding and forgiveness to everyone, including organizations like the Boy Scouts. I do not want to be judged, and it certainly is not for me to judge Mr. Jackson or the Boy Scouts. I am blessed by God and extend the same blessings to the Boy Scouts in hopes that they will someday end their discriminatory ways.

    It wasn’t until 1967 that the same U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled the Boy Scouts can set their own membership standards, ended the ban on interracial marriage. In 1954, the same Supreme Court abolished desegregation of our schools.

    Civil Rights Leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis said it best, “I fought too long and too hard against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up and fight and speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

    As Mr. Jackson correctly wrote, “Boy Scouts shouldn’t become ‘Gay Scouts’.” However, it is sad for such a great organization like the Boy Scouts that does so much good to be known as the ‘Discriminatory Scouts’ too. I have faith that one day the Boy Scouts will also welcome everyone with love and understanding just like God and my church does.


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