On Thursday evening, I started to see a photo in various places in Facebook.
The photo showed county council member Billy Shreve, in Winchester Hall, in front of the words “Frederick County Council,” the county symbol and the flags of the United States, Maryland and Frederick County, with some of the members of a local cub scout pack, with a campaign sign for presidential candidate Donald Trump (and a campaign sticker on one of the scouts).
I downloaded it, and shared it on my personal page, too, and tagged Billy Shreve. That made it visible on his page, too, and enabled all those with access to either page to post comments. In a few hours, there were hundreds of comments, and the photo and post were further shared by nearly 40 people.
Even though the scouts were not mentioned by name, and there was no reason to think that anyone would blame them, in any way, for this photograph, there were concerns about the privacy of the boys and their families. That concern was easy to understand, especially as it became clear that the image was “going viral.”
I wanted to edit the photo to obscure the faces of the scouts, but since Facebook does not enable a posted photo to be edited, it meant having to delete it. Deleting it meant losing all of the extensive and interesting discussion that already took place. So, I wanted to find a way to preserve that discussion (considered copying it, somehow, to a new Facebook “Note”), deleting the photo and conversation, and reposting an edited version of the image, with the previous conversation, and creating a new FB space where the conversation could continue.
Before I had the chance to do that, however, the image and the discussion (as well as any and all discussions that were happening where the image was shared from my page) were removed from Facebook based on a report that it violated privacy rights.
I understand and appreciate that, even as I wish I had preserved the interesting discussion before that happened.
So, I am now posting here (above) a version of the image that has only been altered to fully obscure the faces of the cub scouts.
There is so much wrong with this image that it’s hard to know where to start, but…
Please note the following statement about the policy of the Boy Scouts of America with regard to “scout participation in political events” (emphasis added).
POLICY ON SCOUT PARTICIPATION IN POLITICAL EVENTS
“Uniformed unit members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and not remain on the speakers’ platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are not allowed in political campaign materials of any kind.
Volunteers and professionals must be alert to situations that would imply that the BSA favors one candidate over another. Strict observance of our long-standing policy against the active participation of uniformed Scouts and leaders in political events is mandatory.”
From another site:
Q: Why is this the rule?
A: The policy is meant to prevent someone from using our brand to convey support of a candidate or ideology. This prevents Scouts from being used by any party in campaign advertisements or materials.
That’s extremely clear.
Also clear is the policy that there should be no campaign or election-related activities or events, etc., in Winchester Hall or other county buildings.
Even if Billy had no understanding about the very strong and clear policy of the Boy Scouts of America, he should have known that such activity was not allowed in a county building.
Even if Billy didn’t know either of those things, however, posing with a pack of cub scouts that came to Winchester Hall, as scouts, as part of their civics education, with a campaign sign for a presidential candidate — campaign in which he has an official role, to boot — shows extremely poor judgement, at best.
Billy should have known better (even if there were no such scout or county policies). In fact, if there is anyone who should know better, it is someone with Billy’s experience and roles. To wit:
Billy Shreve has run for county offices three times (not including elections to the Frederick County Republican Central Committee).
Billy Shreve is currently the Chairman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee.
In addition, Billy Shreve is currently the Frederick County Co-Chair: Team Trump Maryland, part of the campaign of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
I will leave it to others to determine what response is most appropriate, and whether or not to file an ethics complaint or take any other action.
But, no matter what Billy Shreve knew before, based on what he knows now, at the very least — as a starting point — he should fully and clearly and publicly acknowledge his poor judgement and mistake, and he should issue a sincere and specific apology to the Cub Scout pack, the Boy Scouts of America, his fellow council members and the county executive, and the general public.
SIDENOTE: I restarted an old blog I used for a short while some years ago to post this. Was never happy with the overall look and feel, but may make an effort to fix that, and use this space occasionally.