August 13th, 2012
11:57 AM ET

Protesting Scouts renounce Eagle awards

Earning the right to be called an Eagle Scout ranks among life's most cherished achievements for countless men. But now, more than 100 Eagles have renounced their precious red, white and blue medals to protest the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay and lesbian members.

"With sadness for the loss of the good things I respectfully return my badge and ask that the BSA consider the opinions of the more than 10,000 other Eagle Scouts who have now done the same," wrote Ray Myers on a Tumblr site called Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges.

Protesters have posted letters and photos of their Eagle badges and medals that they've sent to Robert Mazzuca, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America.

The Boy Scout national headquarters said it doesn't have an exact count of medals returned recently. "But we have received a few," wrote BSA spokesman Deron Smith in an e-mail to CNN. "Although we are disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle rank, we respect their right to express an opinion. While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy."

Myers' figure of 10,000 Eagle Scouts who've sent letters of protest can't be confirmed, but Smith said the number is closer to that reported by the site 105 as of Friday.

Like many others who posted on the Tumblr site, David Peck, 33, of Vernon Hills, Illinois, described his decision to renounce his Eagle honor as "heartbreaking."

"Children need leaders to look up to and depriving these kids of potentially great ones because of the adult’s sexual orientation is wrong," Peck wrote.

Related story: Obama disagrees with BSA gay ban 

It's not easy to become an Eagle Scout. Only 5% of all Scouts earned the Eagle Scout rank last year, according to the group's website. To make it to Eagle, Scouts must earn 21 merit badges and serve in a troop leadership role as well as plan and complete a community service project. Traditionally, Scouting's highest rank has benefited college applicants and job seekers as a sign of a hard-working, goal-oriented character.

After becoming an Eagle Scout, Daniel Kane said he felt guilty for remaining with Scouting because he deeply disagreed with its policy on gays and lesbians.

"I reminded myself that my scoutmaster, in an incredibly courageous moment, had announced that he would never enforce the ban," Kane wrote in an e-mail to the Boys Scouts' National Executive Board. "I convinced myself that I had earned the rank, deserved it, and, since I was straight, was not breaking any rules by accepting it."

Kane said in the e-mail that now he's grown older, "I have not been able to conveniently ignore my conscience." He then wrote that he was renouncing "all affiliation" with the Boy Scouts of America.

One of the Tumblr posters, Ben Bedford of Springfield, Illinois, wrote that the policy conflicts with his idea of what it means to be a "sensitive member of the human race." Forfeiting his cherished award, Bedford wrote, "shall be my final act as an Eagle Scout."

The protest is the latest sign of unrest in the century-old organization after its announcement in July that it would not change its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."

The organization said its leadership had reached that decision after a nearly two-year evaluation and would take no further action. A resolution that had sought to change the policy asked to let local Scout units determine their own standards. "Scouting believes that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to achieve the life-changing benefits to youth through Scouting," a statement said.

Herndon Graddick, president of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, responded to the ban, saying, "How long will the Boy Scouts continue to bully young gay Americans into hiding who they are and hurt children of gay parents by denying their parents an opportunity to participate in their children's lives?"

Opinion: Scouts should end its ban on gay members

Eagle recipient Britton Lense of Walworth, New York, posted on the Tumblr site that the ban violates rules outlined in the Scouting Handbook, which he said calls on Scouts to "respect and defend the rights of all people."

He wrote that he hoped the Boy Scouts "will reverse their decision and in doing so return the badges to those who are standing up for what they believe in."

Related story: Scouts feel mom's wrath

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Filed under: Gay and lesbian • Protest
soundoff (1,089 Responses)
  1. Eagle4Ever

    I am proud of those who really understand (and KEEP) their Eagle award. It means more than this squabble. To those who returned it-perhaps you didn't really understand the meaning when it was given to you.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      I'd say they understand the ideas of respect for all a ton better than you. I wonder who's more deserving...

      August 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      I'd say they understand it a lot better than you.
      Now go stuff your face with some more Chick-fil-a and quiver in frustration as the civil rights movement continues to step forward despite your efforts to the contrary.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Jones

      Well said. I am not an Eagle Scout, but now I look up to those who are, even more.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Todd

    The real problem is that most scouts really don't know if they are gay, until their mid-late teens, when they are almost eagle scouts anyways.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ligaya

    to end all of these protests and confusions my take is why not establish another branch of scouts, the gay scouts of america where all gays and lesbians can join and establish their own rules and code of conduct.Its like joining a family, if the family you want to join has set house rules and anyhting and you can abide with them then join but if you dislike and disagree with them then don't go but never insist that they change their rules because you are different. Look one that fits for you. Peace to all. be tolerant.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • moveon

      your answer is segregation? Sounds familiar, why is it that I don't think it will work..............

      August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ben

    Well I want to join the girl scouts but they wont let me either.

    Is this a real article?

    I should also join a Catholic church and require they give me communion even when I'm not Catholic.

    Are you whiners beginning to see how dumb this "protest" is.

    All the guys who got medals and are now returning them...did they not know this rule was there since the beginning of scouts?

    August 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • moveon

      Maybe the point is that as the G&L community is becoming more and more accepted, the scouts starts to look like the slave owner that doesn't want to give up his slaves (a very very bad position to be in btw)..................It's also very odd that a group that pride's itself on service and serving humanity equally is so bent on hate and division. Sure, it's their right to their own opinion but they also have to acknowledge that this is the road to bigotry and how kids are raised hating others for no other reason but it's what they are taught.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Scott

    Along with two others, we were the only non-Catholics in our Boy Scout Troop back in the mid-70’s; we were Protestant. We endured endless hazing: I was shot at with a BB gun rifle just above the eye at close range by one of the Scoutmasters' sons. One of his other 5 boys poured boiling water on my arm because he thought I had stolen his pot tongs (I didn't, and he later found them). The skin melted off, leaving me with a permanent scar. His father said it was my own fault and ordered me to apologize to his son for stealing his pot tongs. I eventually dropped out of Scouting altogether after the three of us wrote a letter to national BSA to tell our story of religious discrimination and never received a reply.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      I will never let my son join today's Scouts. I did it, it was okay, and maybe it added a little character to my formative years. But now I have friends with Scout-age children and hear nothing but horror stories about the hazing, foul language, the failure of leadership, and the reluctance of the Scout leadership to remove the kids causing these problems.

      Scouts have changed with the times, and not for the better. These young men returning their medals is probably the best thing I've heard about the Boy Scouts in some time.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • moveon

      Hmmm, you take a national organization that tolerates hate and division and you expect that on a local level it is any different. To me they are like a mini-KKK and as they try and stick to their philosophy of discrimination so will society and eventually it will be viewed as a bad thing to be a current or former scout.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GEORGIA HEARN

    they aren't honest men to start with they take the scout oath but don 't honor give the medals back dhut up go form yuor own bands leve our boys alone

    August 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      People such as yourself are why the world thinks the average American has the intelligence of a hamster.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GEORGIA HEARN

    they weeeeren't honest in the fisr place give back the medals form your own band leave boy scouts allone

    August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      "Leave Britney allllllllone!"

      August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    If one doesn't like the tenants of the BSoA, one shouldn't ask to join it then.
    Being a private organization, they have that right, just as every parent who disagrees with it has the right to go elsewhere.
    It really IS so much ado about nothing.
    If they take government money, well, that is a whole different story.
    They certainly do need to reign in the cover-up over pedophile leaders; acting as if their morally superior and affecting a cover-up is reprehensible.
    Vatican knows all about that, don't they?

    August 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      They *do* take gov't money in the form of discounted/free land access. Lands that require taxpayer dollars to upkeep.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Percy

    Now they need to follow through and do the right thing,please resign from all scouting activities immediately ;-)

    August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Calvin

    Gay people are just haters. And so are the minions following them.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • McAfee

      "Minions". Heh heh.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dav

    Boy scouts of America just another hate organization,maybe they should merge with the kkk or blackpanthers

    August 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      It is an Evangelical Christian (hate) organization. Why do you think troops are associated and sponsored by churches. It used to not be so rabid Christian and more about fun and camping, etc. but now it's more of another way to indoctrinate kids.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver Scout Dad

      You way overstate the case. These topics generally are not even discussed in any kind of BSA activities or forums. This is not what BSA is about. The BSA is about helping youth achieve their potential. I would agree with you, however, that on this metric they fall tragically short, as noted in my post below.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      To Dav – How is the Boy scouts of America just another hate organization?!? They are a private organization! They have the right to set whatever parameters for membership they want. They've NEVER hidden the fact they were not supportive of the gay lifestyle! Instead of WHINING about it, why don't you just shut up and start your OWN PRIVATE organization? Most importantly, though, you really need to shut up! We're all SICK of this nonsense! Start your own organization and make it a requirement to be gay if you want but, really, just SHUT UP!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill Connelly

      I support BSA's right to say and do as they deem fit for their organization.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gurgi

      The only hate I have seen comes from the gays.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Patrick

    Just because you have not returned your award, does not mean that you agree with BSA' policy on GBLTT. I am very against the "policy" they are using, and hope that they "progress" into the 21st Century. I worked very hard for my award...overcoming a troop/scoutmaster who refused to approve my project/sign off on my award. Advancement within the troop was usually based on popularity. I made Eagle w/o being invited into OA. I had to appeal the Eagle to the council, and reviewed by a team of Eagles, who approved me with no reservations. I'm now working with GSUSA with my daughter, and passing on scouting knowledge.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. larry5

    The gay lobby is very noisy for such a small group. As usual there will be legislation based on the noise level.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      Right, maybe the lobby is small, but the fact that the majority of Americans support marriage equality makes that point kinda moot.

      Scratch that, completely moot.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jason Shapiro

      "Noisy?" Are you kidding? Where is the "noise" when someone protests bias and discrimination? Is it "noisy" to expect that the Boy Scouts follow their own Handbook that talks about "respect and defend the rights of all people?" They are either liars or hypocrites – either way they are wrong.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really

      Agree 100 percent. For such a tiny group of people, they sure make a lot of noise and waste tons of time and money for the rest of us. OK, OK, so they've been beaten, killed, etc for 1,000's of years.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maya

      Anyone who is legally treated as a second class citizen is justified in being noisy.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Tim Allen

    This Eagle Scout will never give up his badge. And to those that can and have, deep down you were never an Eagle Scout.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      Yeah, the people who follow the idea of respect for all certainly don't deserve an award from a bigotted organization!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver Scout Dad

      Then I would suggest that as much as becoming an Eagle Scout is a good thing, it could be something better.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fuzz Duzz

      I'm betting that the first line on their resumes state that they are an eagle scout..........MT gesture

      August 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kane (different Eagle Scout)

      So if it comes down to it, you would rather keep your award than stand by what's right? Glad to see you have your priorities in order.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. moveon

    You didn't read the article at all did you.................please learn to read before commenting.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
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