When 6-year-old twins Samantha and Andrew Wilt joined Cub Scouts recently, they were excited about sharing activities and learning new skills with lots of other children.
By RIMSIE McCONIGA
When 6-year-old twins Samantha and Andrew Wilt joined Cub Scouts recently, they were excited about sharing activities and learning new skills with lots of other children. But they mostly wanted to experience Scouting together in the same den.
Becoming a Cub Scout has only recently become possible for girls. In 2018, Boy Scouts of America had received so many requests from families interested in the Cub Scout program for their daughters they began discussions on expanding the program. There are now three types of Cub Scout packs: all-boy packs, all-girl packs and packs that include a mix of girls’ dens and boys’ dens. But Cub Scout dens are either all boys or all girls.
For Samantha, Andrew and their parents, this has become an issue that they would like to see changed.
“The twins want to be in the same den and it causes us a lot of issues with them in separate dens and separate packs,” says the twins’ father, Daniel Wilt. "Neither wanted to go to the pack meeting with only half the family. With the different packs meeting at different locations at the same time, we can’t be in two places at once and ended up going to neither. Our daughter doesn’t understand why she cannot participate in her school’s den and was visibly upset when they had their initial rank advancement. She was forced to go to another school and receive her Bobcat badge without sharing the experience with her brother, father and friends.”
For the twins, who are very close, it is important to them to be in the same Scouting den. The separate dens make no sense to them, according to their father.
“They already recognize that boys and girls play together on our playgrounds, are educated together in our schools, worship together in our faith, work together in our vocations and serve together in our different organizations,” says Daniel.
Daniel, who is retired from the military and has lived in the area for nine years, believes it is important for all children to be in the same Scouting dens and patrols.
“It will instill in them confidence to grow, lead and develop maturity as they learn and understand that in our society, everyone should be treated equally and with respect. There are two reasons why the Scouting policy segregates girls. First, according to Brick Huffman, the Scout executive from the local BSA Heart of America Council, and Matthew Budz, the BSA area director, Area 5 Central Region, ‘girls cannot maintain the integrity of Scouting.’ Second, according to the national executives, BSA is a private organization and the Supreme Court allows them to discriminate as they choose.”
Samantha and Andrew had looked forward to serving in Scouting side by side and don’t understand why the boys and girls are separated, according to their father. Daniel has been troubled by their disappointment and has made many attempts to contact Scouting leaders in BSA to discuss the issue.
“I’ve spoken with many people, both in and out of the Scouting organization, about the integration of girls into Scouts BSA,” he said. “I’ve discerned that Scouting’s current policy is simply another form of bias. Biasness is a disease spread from one generation to the next and those that are against the girls from being with the boys in Scouts BSA all express the same sentiment of, ‘It’s not a place for girls to be.’ Scouting should be open to any gender, race or religion. An individual’s personal preferences shouldn’t interfere with his or her ability to be educated in our schools or serve in Scouting. I’ve spoken to the den leaders, tribe leaders, pack leaders, the chartering organization leader, to the council leader, to the area leader, and to representatives from the national council. The pack leaders have their hands bound by the national policies. The national leaders choose to embrace gender-discrimination.”
Having served in the Army, it is particularly difficult for Daniel to accept that Scouting is stuck in the past on the gender issue.
“Scouts BSA publicly supports gender discrimination,” he says. “The Army doesn’t support discrimination of any sort.”
Daniel was a Boy Scout when he was young and believes Scouting is a microcosm of society and that every Boy Scout troop and patrol, and every Boy Scout pack and den, is a reflection of its leadership.
“So some Scouts have a better worldview appreciation than others,” he said. “What Scouting can offer with the right leadership is that all people can, when provided with equal opportunity, achieve great things. Scouting can be a place where children can acquire new and exciting life skills, learn to work and serve our society together and learn to support and encourage one another. As my older children were a part of Scouting, I served as a volunteer in Scouting in Europe and across the U.S. I’ve seen a lot of the good and the bad of what is associated with Scouting.”
Daniel is passionate about working for the elimination of gender discrimination and urges people to take action by contacting their local school boards and churches to request that they keep Scouts BSA out of their facilities until Scouting ends all forms of discrimination. He is also encouraging people to go online and sign a petition at www.change.org/p/michael-b-surbaugh-end-gender-discrimination-and-allow-my-daughter-to-be-in-her-school-s-cub-scout-den?recruiter=909118354&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=triggered
“Gender discrimination prevents girls from becoming all that they can be in our great society,” he says. “Practices such as what Scouts BSA advocates restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of our daughters and hinders their psychological development. Studies show how such practices contribute to how girls see themselves and their role in society. Our daughters have the integrity, skills and desire to do more and be more than Scouts BSA is allowing them to be. Having our children serve in the same dens and patrols will enable them to recognize that all people should be treated fairly and with respect, and that with the development of a person’s skills and within a person’s individual ability, that any boy or girl can achieve great things as they develop into the men and women of tomorrow.”