From the October 29th editorial: “Mormons don’t discriminate by religion in their Scout activities.” Not true.
I phoned the Mormon Bishop to find out what on earth he was thinking. His response was frank. The Bishop didn’t want me “poisoning the minds of the boys,” so my service as the Cub Scout Pack WEBELOS Den leader had been abruptly terminated.
It was an unusual situation. The PTA at Earl Legette Elementary School in Fair Oaks, California, didn’t want the hassle of chartering a Cub Scout Pack, so the local LDS ward offered to adjust their program. The Pack meetings would be held at the school. The Bishop would “call” a member of the ward to be Cub Master. And the Cub Master would run the unit, using willing non-LDS folks on the unit committee and as Den leaders. The result was an energetic Cub Scout pack with over 50 boys and lots of helpful adult leaders, most of whom were not LDS.
The Cub Master had noticed my uniform had an Eagle Scout recognition knot with two silver palms, a probable indicator I was an enthusiastic Scouter, so she asked me to be the WEBELOS Den leader. My son was in the Den (he’s 35 years old now).
Almost a year later the Bishop found out I was participating. He came unglued, rebuked the Cub Master, and summarily dismissed me. He personally made the announcement of his decision at a Pack Meeting. I was not contacted ahead of time (and I was out of town on a business trip, so I missed the festivities). My wife told me about it when I returned home.
The “poison” the bishop was worried about were my Presbyterian religious convictions. However, the only religious discussion that ever occurred in the WEBELOS den was when I helped a Jewish boy explain Hanukah (he was hazy on the history of the festival). The WEBELOS den had about a dozen boys, three of whom were LDS. And the Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant parents were not concerned about me poisoning the minds of their sons.
The bishop’s bigotry started a firestorm. Local volunteer and professional Scout leaders at the District and Council level encouraged me to formally protest the bishop’s actions. But while I was thinking about it the Cub Master took action. She persuaded the PTA to charter their own unit so they wouldn’t have to deal with her knothead bishop. A month later at the pack meeting the parents lined up to sign on with their choice, remain with the LDS unit or join the newly chartered PTA unit.
The bishop showed up to make a plea for participating in his ward’s unit, to no avail.
The result were two units, an LDS Pack with about 8 boys, the new Pack was even larger than the original unit. The LDS Cub Master moved her Scouter membership to the PTA unit and continued as leader. I was reinstated at WEBELOS den leader.
From the October 29th column: “Again, it’s sad that Cub Scouts is contaminated by bigotry.” True.
NOTE: I’m presently very active in the Trapper Trails Council, where there are few knotheads.