Lake Miller, NFTY-OV ’15, became an Eagle Scout in 2013, but after nearly a lifetime rising through the ranks as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, something about Boy Scouts of America still didn’t sit quite right with him. When the organization reaffirmed its stance against LGBT scouts and leaders, Miller knew he needed to speak out.
“I come from a family where you have to do the right thing,” he says. “I’m a straight white male. We’re an upper middle class white family. That comes with a lot of privileges, so it’s my job to fight for those privileges for those who don’t have them. [The policy] in no way would have affected me directly, but it affects those who I love and care about.”
So, while he was still in high school, Miller got involved in Scouts for Equality, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending discrimination—particularly among the LGBT community—within Boy Scouts of America.
He launched his own chapter, the Tecumseh Council, with the goal of ending discrimination on a council level within five counties in Ohio. “We were there to serve as a helping hand in case someone were to have found trouble within our council,” he says. The chapter is based at Miller’s home congregation, Temple Israel in Dayton, OH, which was an obvious choice for him.
“Religion has always been a huge thing in my life,” says Miller, who said he’s considered becoming a Rabbi instead of pursuing business. “I’m so connected to my faith at this point, in everything I do, [I ask] ‘how can I connect this to Judaism?’ … I knew I had to start an inclusive unit [with Scouts for Equality] somewhere, so it made sense to start with my home congregation,” he says. “One beautiful thing about URJ congregations is every single one wants to make a difference in some way.” Miller is hopeful that other URJ congregations will follow suit and become home to inclusive packs across the country.
“I attribute a lot to my Jewish faith,” Miller says, noting that a huge turning point for him was participating in the L’Taken program with the Religious Action Center. “That was the moment that I knew I had to start fighting,” he says. “I saw all these policies that needed to be changed, and there weren’t a lot of people fighting for them. I had to take things into my own hands.” Soon after, he attended his first NFTY Convention, which he says further solidified the notion that he needed to take action. “I heard amazing stories. We need to be social change agents in our community.”
Soon after getting involved with the organization, Miller reached out to URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs asking for his support of the mission of Scouts for Equality, and the Scouts for Equality National Leadership Council received a letter of support from Rabbi Jacobs almost immediately. “I’m in a really lucky position where I feel like I have the backing of my religion,” says Miller.
After earning such a public endorsement for the work they were doing, the Scouts for Equality national team invited Miller to join them, and he’s spent the past year and a half wearing many hats within the organization, working as the social media director, Jewish relations coordinator and youth representative. “It’s pretty amazing,” he said. “I really enjoy what I do.” In February, Miller will be traveling to Chicago to represent his organization at NFTY Convention.
Miller says he hopes to spread more than one message when he returns to NFTY Convention this year as a vendor: the first being the mission of Scouts for Equality, of course, but the second that it’s never too early to start making a difference. “I want to show kids that, the age they are in NFTY, they’re not too young. I joined a national team at a national nonprofit at their age. They can really make a big change. Regardless of how small your actions, every small action builds up to the bigger picture. His goal for Convention is to “inspire kids to follow in whatever path they seek and not be afraid to make a change.”
Scouts for Equality was formed in 2012 by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls after a lesbian Den Mother was ousted from her son’s Cub Scout pack. Just a month later, BSA publically reaffirmed its stance against LGBT members and leaders. In part because of Scouts for Equality’s work, in May of 2013, BSA lifted their 30-year ban on gay scouts, and two years later, lifted the ban on LGBT leaders. Learn more about Scouts for Equality here.
Recently, Miller was given a humanitarian award from the National Conference for Community & Justice for the work he does for social justice. “It’s nice to see that someone else recognizes the work you’re doing. Sometimes, when you’re doing all these small things, it’s hard to see that you’re making a difference.”
When he’s not working for Scouts for Equality, Miller attends Whittenberg University, where he studies business management and entrepreneurship.