Archive for the ‘BSA National’ Category

A Fork in the Trail

July 26, 2010

This week 40,000 Scouts will flock to Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia for the National Scout Jamboree.  This year a drama smolders:  will Barack Obama, the Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, make an appearance?  Most Presidents (but not all) visit the Jamboree to give Scouting a boost.  This year’s celebration has special significance:  it is the 100th Anniversary of the Boy Scouts.   If Obama doesn’t attend it will be a clear sign that the Boy Scouts have problems.

For eighty years supporting the Boy Scouts was a political no-brainer.  Elected officials from both sides of the aisle embraced the Scouts. It was easy: the values of the Boy Scouts lined up exactly with the values and aspirations of mainstream America.  But over the last ten years, things have changed.

The core of the problem is the Boy Scout policy that bars gays and atheists from leadership. In 2000 this issue came to a head at the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale.  Assistant Scoutmaster James Dale was expelled from Scouting when it was made public that he was gay.  The Boy Scouts won the case and affirmed their right to discriminate against gays as a private organization.  The problem is that the Boy Scouts is not an ordinary private organization.

The Boy Scouts of America is technically private but–like the Red Cross, Fannie Mae and the United States Olympic Committee–it was granted a Charter by Congress. With Barack Obama as Honorary President and backed up by a Congressional Charter the Boy Scouts of America enjoys a special status in our society.  The Charter is also the basis of a muscular intellectual property approach used to “protect the brand.”  The Boy Scouts of America have registered dozens of exclusive trademarks including “Be Prepared,” “Scoutmaster,” “Merit Badge,” and “Scouting.” Unlike France and Germany, which have a variety of Scouting programs with different membership rules, there is only one brand of Boy Scout in America.

This means that the Boy Scouts have it both ways.  They enjoy a government-sponsored monopoly and, like a private club, they get to discriminate against gays and atheists.  No wonder Barack Obama is taking his time to decide whether he wants to attend their 100th Birthday Jamboree.

Sooner or later the Boy Scouts of America will need to make a decision.  It can follow the lead of the US military (lead by Distinguished Eagle Scout Robert Gates) and change the discriminatory policies.  Or it can cut ties to our government, retreat into a niche and recognize that their values no longer represent all of us.

Justin Szlasa
Eagle Scout & producer/co-director
759: Boy Scouts of Harlem
justin (at)


759 goes to Capitol Hill

October 13, 2009

We would like to thank our Sponsors Sentator E. Benjamin Nelson and Senator Jeff Sessions for a fantastic celebration of Scouting on Capitol Hill last week with the screening of 759 in the Congressional Auditorium.  We also would like to thank Al Lambert and Dan Ross and everyone else at the National Capital Area Council for making the event a success.  Willie Iles Jr. from the National Office and Ron Timmons and Brian Gorman from the Greater New York Councils also played important roles and gave tremendous support.

We thought you would enjoy some photos of 759 on the Hill…

Scouts on the Balcony

Devon on the Democratic Senate Leader's balcony

Keith with his mom & grandmother

Senator Sessions addresses the crowd

Congressional Auditorium

Wille Iles Jr., Ron Timmons, Justin Szlasa, Jake Boritt, Keith Dozier, Okpoti Sowah, Ann Dozier

Celebration of Scouting on Capitol Hill…Screening Oct 8th

October 6, 2009

Here is the official invitation to the screening of 759 on Capitol Hill.  All are welcome but you do need to RSVP…


759: BOY SCOUTS OF HARLEM….a documentary film

Sponsored by Senators Jeff Sessions and Senator Ben Nelson

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

5:30 PM sharp

Capitol Hill Visitor’s Center

Congressional Auditorium – CVC 200

Enter on First Street & E. Capitol Street and allow time to clear security

You are invited to attend the Washington, DC premiere of the film 759: Boy Scouts of Harlem to celebrate Scouting and its contribution to American values. The Sponsors, members of Troop 759 and local and national Scouting representatives will be present and a Q&A with the filmmakers will follow the screening.

Please come to this exciting DC premiere of the film.  The event is free but you’ll have to RSVP at or call Justin Szlasa at 917.355.9895.

This is an open invitation so please forward it to friends, colleagues or Scouters who you think might be interested to attend.


The film follows Boy Scout Troop 759, a Troop located in Harlem, NY, and eleven-year-old scout Keith Dozier who takes his first trip to a Scout summer camp. The film shows, in a fun way, how Scouting can transcend geography, age, race and economics to teach practical skills and build character among America’s youth.  It is the first major documentary ever made about a Boy Scout Troop and celebrates Scouting’s contribution to America in one of America’s most iconic neighborhoods. The film is warm, tender, funny and upbeat.  You can learn more about the film and watch the trailer at


The Boy Scouts of America is the largest youth scouting organization in the United States and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2010.  Since 1910, more than 111,000,000 people have been members of the Boy Scouts of America, including over 215 currently serving Members of Congress and Senators.  In 1916, Congress granted the Boy Scouts of America a Federal charter.

Tico Perez–The National Commissioner

May 12, 2009

Jake and I had a chance to meet Tico Perez–the National Commissioner–who, if he wasn’t running around the country volunteering for Scouting, could easily play nose guard for the Miami Dolphins.  Tico is one of these great guys who fills up a room with personality and positive energy.  I think he represents the best of what Scouting can be–big, bold, honest, excited, optimistic and forward looking.  We are looking forward to seeing him again at the annual meeting next week in Orlando.  Meanwhile, if you want to get to know Tico better check out his podcast.

Tico Perez, National Commissioner

Tico Perez, National Commissioner