Once again, I’ve been getting worked up over a discussion over at MM.
This one is about the Friends of Scouting funds drive (“FOS”). As a former scoutmaster, I have been involved in this funds drive in the past, and have seen, and even helped, the scouts in my ward be turned into little fundraisers for this program. So when I found out years ago that all the money donated under this program goes to Scouting HQ, never to be seen again by the local unit that raised the money, it made me angry, and I vowed never to participate again.
Further, when I found out how high some of the salaries are for some of the BSA executives (for example, according to the SL Trib: Great Salt Lake Council executive Paul Moore made $228,000 annually before leaving to head a council in Los Angeles where he is paid $383,500, and Robert J. Mazzuca, the national chief Scout executive, had a 2009 compensation of $1.21 million), I became even more disillusioned and upset.
To put this in context, you need to be aware of all the charges that parents and wards are asked to pay in order to be a part of the BSA. There are annual dues and registration fees and payments for uniforms and for training and for scout books and for study materials and for awards and for camps and for activities and for materials at the camps. Nothing you get from the BSA is free. It all comes at a cost and usually a high cost. Then, on top of that, you are asked to raise money for the BSA. And the BSA does not share this money with you. It all goes to the BSA to pay their expenses.
If the BSA had amazing facilities and services for its member units, this might be somewhat justifiable. But it does not. The camps are often poorly staffed and poorly maintained. The people who work at the Council HQ are often unhelpful and sometimes even rude. What all of this means is that, in my mind, and after my experiences with scouting in the BSA, there is little or no justification for asking anyone to contribute their money to FOS. It just doesn’t make sense to keep giving money to a non-profit that is using its funds in this way.
Yet the Church continues to ask people to do so. I’m OK with that, I guess. But just don’t get upset with me when I decline to contribute, and don’t try to tell me that I’m required to keep silent about a program that I see as a complete boondoggle. In other words, run your program however you see fit, but don’t ask me to be complicit in something that I see as little less than a scam.
And yet apparently, that’s precisely the message one ward is sending to its members. This story in the Tribune tells of a Young Men’s President who was apparently released from his calling “because of his unwillingness to support scouting” when he sent an email to members of his ward telling them the facts about the money contributed to FOS. In other words, he told them what I have just told you, and which I have known and been told by others for years.
You could look at this email as a sort of “Title of Liberty” if you like. Captain Moroni used his to inform his fellow believers of a few things, and we celebrate him for that. But that’s not what happened to our YM President.
After sending this email, he got an email back from his Stake President saying that the SP was “appalled”, and on the same day, he was released from his calling by his bishop.
Is this really the message we want to send? That loyalty to our programs (even when they are obviously questionable) is more important than the truth? And that we value getting money for the BSA over the feelings of our members who are working on behalf of our youth? I don’t think so. This YM President did nothing that hasn’t been done by others in his calling and similar callings for years (including me), except that he’s the first I have known to say this stuff in writing. He set out to inform his fellow ward members about the facts. And instead of thanks, he got his head handed to him.
That’s just not how our Church is supposed to work. Someone who cares enough about his fellow ward members to try to get the facts and inform them of those facts in an effort to protect and help them deserves our support, not our condemnation. To me it comes down to this: Who are we really loyal to? If it’s a choice between the BSA (or any program, really), and a fellow ward member and brother in the gospel, I choose my brother every time.