While the Boy Scouts of America wrestles with declining memberships and whether to rescind its long-standing policy against gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders, one “all welcoming” scouting organization says it’s seeing a boost in enrollment from parents and kids looking for a more inclusive alternative.
A number of families who are discouraged with the Boy Scouts’ policies have found Navigators USA — a small organization that “welcomes all people… no matter what gender, race, lifestyle, ability, religious or lack of religious belief.”
The Navigators originated from BSA Troop 103 in East Harlem, which was also the first troop in America that was started in a shelter serving homeless families.
After the Supreme Court reaffirmed that the Boy Scouts could bar gay troop leaders in June, 2000, Navigators founder Robin Bossert, who was leading the Harlem troop at the time, said he stayed in the organization for three more years, “while I tried to see if it was going to be possible to change their policy from within.”
When he realized this wasn’t going to happen, he pulled out of BSA and Troop 103 became Navigator Chapter 1.
In March, 2012, the Navigators had 19 chapters, but today, there are about 45 chapters across 21 states, according to Tony Porterfield, a chapter leader in Los Altos. Bossert adds that they are growing at a rate of about two chapters per month, with each chapter having an average of 8-12 children, so he estimates that there are up to 600 boys and girls enrolled in the program.Read more at Mother Jones →
Bossert says that Navigators participate in many similar activities that Boy Scouts, but its philosophy is that members shouldn’t be discriminated against over gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
Bossert says the Navigators has openly gay chapter leaders, as well as board leaders and co-members.