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Discussion 1 to Ask the Patriarch 192
Honesty! Integrity! Responsibility!

by: John Tyrrell

To add to this discussion (or any other,) please use the Contact form.

From the very beginnings of this web site, I have made ethics and morality a significant element of the site. I think that Boy Scouts in its own way also tries to instill ethics and morality into its membership. Part and parcel of ethics and morality are honesty, integrity, and responsibility.[1]

One other relevant issue here is how parents should act. When I wrote my views on the fifth commandment I wrote that parents should “Act such that you merit honour.

Less than an hour after I advised C___ that I had published his question and an answer, I received a carefully written six paragraph message from his email address. Quite frankly, I do not believe he wrote it even though it came from his address and had his name at the end. Because of the message’s length, style, good spelling and grammar, apparent unfamiliarity with the process of submitting comments and feedback, and the speed of the response, it was clear to me it was probably written by someone other than the original writer.

If I am correct, that is dishonest; not “white lie” dishonest, but a fundamental dishonesty in the entire message. Assuming that a parent wrote the reply, I question if it is acting with honour? Is it acting with integrity? Is it taking responsibility? Could not a parent have replied in his or her own name raising concerns rather than pretending to be the son?

It was requested in the message that I not publish it, and that I remove C___’s name from the question as published. Now as Paul Sharkey wrote in Reflection 80, ethics is about responsibility. So, what we have is a rejection of responsibility both for the original question and for the follow up message. I have acceded to the request and removed C____’s name from his innocuous question. However, while as requested, I will not publish the follow up message, I will briefly paraphrase each paragraph and respond to the issues.

1. If I had known my question would be published, I would have worded it better. Did I agree to publication by submitting the question?


a) The question was submitted to a web site which contains a published question and answer section.

b) Immediately above the link to the feedback form is “Your comments or feedback will be considered for publication on the site.”

c) In the heading of the feedback form is “Please be aware that any submission may be considered for publication on the site.

d) And finally, on Tuesday - five days before publication, C___ was sent a message in response to his question stating “ I will address this in the next site update (sometime between Friday night and Sunday night)

So, C____ should have known and fully expected his question would be published, and he had nearly a week to revise his question if he so desired. Either C___ is being dishonest here, or whoever actually wrote this item is being intellectually dishonest through not having researched the issue.

2. The merit badge in question is Personal Management. The charitable requirement was added by the counsellor. BSA policy allows this.

Response: Correction of the badge in question noted. I did state I had not reviewed every badge. As for counsellors adding requirements, it strikes me as unfair and contrary to a national standard. Either merit badges are based on an equitable standard which applies to everyone, or they are not. If the latter, the systems lacks integrity and is open to all kinds of discriminatory abuse. The only question is at which level in the BSA organization does this lack of integrity exist. I have trouble accepting that it is a national policy, but the writer may be correct.

3. Yes the Oath and the Law refer to God but my troop does not make a big deal of it. The only religious view not tolerated is atheism.

Response: A refusal to tolerate atheism, in my view, reflects a lack of integrity by BSA at the national level. Atheists should not just be tolerated; they should be recognized and accepted as full participating members in society.

4. I’m a tolerant agnostic. The moral values taught by Boy Scouts are important to me, so I’m not quitting.

Response: I only suggested C___ consider quitting because he seemed to think an unjustified demand was being made of him. Also, quitting would have been a far better moral choice than metaphorically "spitting in their face." As for the moral values of the Boy Scouts - frankly, I would have hoped that honesty, integrity, and responsibility would have taken root. But then, it’s probably not C___ who wrote the message and that criticism is applicable to the actual writer rather than C____.

5. Thank you for putting in the effort to reply.

Response: I’m glad that is recognized. I hope that the parent who acknowledged this recognizes that I provided a morally sound reply.

6. Please take my name off the original question. Please delete my email address from your records. Don’t publish this message.

Response: So C___ will not take responsibility for the question. OK, his name (and only his first name was published) has been removed and replaced with “C___.” Really quite a silly request as C___ is a relatively common name in the USA, and I am quite sure there are many C___’s amongst the million members of BSA.

As for the request to delete the email address, our privacy policy is clearly stated on the Contact page and on the Feedback form. It is the writer’s ignorance of this published policy and ignorance of our publication policy (per item 1) which drives home the point that whoever wrote the latest message did not go through the various pages to submit the original question.

And as for the request not to publish the message, we have another example of a refusal to take responsibility along with hiding behind a son’s name.

To whichever of C___’s parents who presumably wrote the message - perhaps you thought your removal of his name would protect him from a slight carelessness when he wrote “kinda want to spit in their face.” This type of minor rebellion is no big deal for a teenager. It is not something to be concerned about, nor will it damage his future prospects if someone manages to tie it to him at some future date.[2] However, the dishonesty you have shown in crafting a response in his name and in the response itself - that could possibly damage his relations with you and his respect for you. Honesty! Integrity! Responsibility! Demonstrate it in your daily life so that C___ can follow your example.

by John Tyrrell - I take full responsibility for this article.[3]


  1. I don't claim personal perfection for myself in these areas, but I do try.
  2. Unlike much else of what can be found on the Internet about others far more careless with their words.
  3. On reflection a few days later, perhaps I went a little overboard in my response here. But inasmuch as my integrity was questioned in the opening paragraph by suggesting I had no right to publish the original question and answer, I'll let this stand.