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. McAfee

    YEEHAW!!

    August 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. BSArules

    Hahaha, you think pretty highly of yourself, for a guy who trolls the CNN boards on a 2 week old article.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gurgi

    They don't like the BSA's policies, then get out of the organization. They should not have joined to begin with. Give back their medals??? Good. Good bye and good riddance.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gurgi

    Well said.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BSArules

    Keep repeating that stuff to yourself. It usually helps to believe what you say hahaha. This is the internet, chances are your not half of what you say you are, yet you are quick to assume you have more then a life then I? For all you know I've got 4 Olympic medals and am living it up right now, bet your life would still be wayyyyy better then mine. I wish people like you understood how much i appreciate you guys. Laughter really is the best medicine, and you guys are always something to laugh at.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Denver Scout Dad

    What you fail to realize is that it's not the Gay community that is getting louder. It's the American community. 50 years ago people like you said the same thing about black people. 100 years ago they said it about women.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. magnum12

    Gays should have their own organization and call it GSA.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. SteveD

    Whats with the Vodka advertisment behind the Gay Den Leader... now the Gays want to push Booze and thier
    sick agenda onto the BSA... good Lord no wonder the BSA has taken the stance they have.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • cynthia

      Oh, for crying out loud, it's obviously an event that is partially sponsored by Kettel, as well as other companies, and not a product endorsement by any inidividual. You take the time and you'll see just about every event in LA has multiple sponsors, usually at least on alcohol group. Dang, you are amazing in your fanatic ignorance.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. reasonablebe

    good for these boys.. I commend them, they are more mature than the folks running boy scouts. why would BSA (we always called them American Spaghetti Boys– ASB) add another insult to boys already having a difficult time? When will the ABA and AMA stand up and say a person cannot help or control the characteristics they are born with?

    August 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Displeased

    I see the scouts taught you to be a good little soldier of god. Now keep fighting and hating those who are different, just as the scouts taught you.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bruce

    Went will the Scouts stop discriminating against people they don't like!

    August 13, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sam

    Its a free country and if these kids want to give it back that is fine. They can always start another organization.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin in Florida

      These are not kids giving their medal back. I am 57, an Eagle, and am considering returning my medal. Discrimination, in any form, is wrong. Didn't we learn that in the 1960's, just as South Africa did in the 1990's?

      August 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mister Jones

    I would absolutely NOT want that chick to be a den mother for my son. In no way, shape, nor form. I don't care how nice she is, or if she makes great cookies. Just from the looks of her, there are a great many things that she and I would disagree about. And I would not want her, or anyone who chooses her lifestyle, to influence my son. This shouldn't be up for debate or discussion. At the same time, if some guy had a 8" purple mohawk, and a bunch of metal crap in his face, I would not want him anywhere near my children. And if I signed them up in a PRIVATE organization that echoes my core beliefs and values, then I should feel confident that they are not being left in the care of someone I would not approve of. My kids, my choice.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • oj

      Your core beliefs and values include discriminating against those who are different? And bullying? You don't want all other children to have the same opportunities to learn leadership and skill sets?

      August 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Colin in Florida

      One word: bigot.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Deb

    One more reason Girl Scouts kick Boy Scouts ass! No discrimination, they accept everyone...you don't even have to be a girl!

    August 13, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    Let them go. The organization is better of without them.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
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