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. mark

    So this article proves that intolerance goes both ways.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      Um, you seem to have difficulty grasping the difference between a policy excluding people and protesting that.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • will

      ...no

      August 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tesul

      Explain how returning his Eagle Scout award is intolerance.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaintn

      How do you figure that Mark? Protesting an archaic discriminatory policy is in itself discrimination? Now that's some odd logic if I've ever seen it. Actually, that's laughable.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Southern Guy

      I only made it to first class. An Eagle Scout puts in a lot of work for that honor. To do this must have pained them greatly, and BSA needs to listen. That's a lot different than the BSA deciding to discriminate.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • jqent

      What, intolerance of intolerance is "intolerance?"

      August 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      The last battle cry of the bigot.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • debbie338

      So what you're saying is that intolerance should be tolerated. Before the Boy Scouts allowed blacks, would you have said the same thing about proponents of integration who protested the BSA?

      The real underlying question is how far we should go to be tolerant of groups that practice intolerance. I don't have the answer, but it's not as cut-and-dried as you seem to think.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • NSL

      Mark, can you explain your comment. I don't understand it.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam W

      You keep using that word.

      I don't think it means what you think it means.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. YBP

    The church, the GOP and the boy scouts. Any men's club today that takes a vocal anti-gay stance has skeletons in its closet. Yes, its closet.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • will

      rofl...

      August 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigHwasdemo

      Just because you're gay doesn't mean everyone else is gay, wants to be gay or wants to associate with gays, get over yourselves. Talk about haters!

      August 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill Hartzell

    And we wonder what is wrong w/ our country? May God have mercy on our souls..........

    August 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh

      God have mercy on us???????????? Which god????????

      August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Robert

    Why would anyone want to belong to an organization that does not share their same values? What's wrong with starting the GSA: Gay Scouts of America?

    August 13, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      Actually the question is what's wrong with trying to get an organization, that claims to have values, to abandon its policy of hate. People like you prefer segregation. Much like racial segregation policies. IOW. you're an Archie Bunker type bigot.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      And we can have the conservative scouts of America and the liberal scouts of america and the protestant scouts and catholic scouts and hindu scouts and the disabled scouts and the black scouts and white scouts and latino scouts and asian scouts and the athletic scouts and the nerd scouts..................

      August 13, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      Just because he does not agree with Chaos he is a bigot....Laughable liberal....Your response is why we will never get along and civil unrest is coming. The man was right. If you don't like the Boy Scouts don't join or start your own group. Nothing Archie Bunker about that.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liberally Challenged

      This is a great idea! The GSA (Gay Scouts of America) should definitely exist. Then, they could be around those who respect and value their beliefs. How is this a bad thing?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dave

    I am an Eagle Scout and currently an active adult leader. I had a conversation with our District Executive regarding this topic. I can say with confidence that their are leaders within Scouting that do not agree with this policy but handle it internally and have voiced thier concerns and displeasure up the ranks. My main concern are individuals like Herndon Graddick that resorts to name calling and other sleazy tactics, i.e. "How long will the Boy Scouts continue to bully young gay Americans" All these years and I never thought of Scouting as a bunch of "bullies". Scouting has grown and evolved over the past 100 years. It tries to remain current to remain relavant. It is a private organization that no one is bullied to join. I believe this policy will change someday but, please refrain from becoming a bully to force an organization to conform to your train of thought. Those kinds of people scare me more than an organization that stresses the morals and values that Scouting does.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      Meanwhile, thousands of kids that could enjoy the scouts as I did are excluded or forced to hide who they are, even outside of scouting, if they wish to participate. There have always been gay scouts and they have almost always had to hide who they are. This ruling puts pressure on local leaders to enforce the ban whether they would have just let it go in the past. I grew up in a small town in Florida and only found out some of my friends were gay after High School(Yes, I was in denial about a couple of them). It really opened my eyes to the pressure and fear they lived with for so many years. And yes, they had been boy scouts. Too bad their enjoyment of it was tempered by the fear of being found out.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Well said Dave. I say the start their own group that shares their way of life.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Truth

    I am an Eagle Scout and I have a question for those who returned their awards. These rules have been in place and where in place when you were awarded Eagle Scout. Part of being a Scout is to tell the truth and live honorably, so did you lie the entire time you were in Scouting? If so you are returning an award that you never earned or never should have the honor to touch let alone wear.

    You can be a Boy Scout and not support the BSA's policy on gays, that is your right. But to return your awards out of protest of an organization that had that policy when you joined is nothing more than ignnorance and cowardice. A real Eagle Scout who is against the policy would work from the inside to change the culture. That is what an honorable person, let alone a true Eagle Scout would do.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • george smythson

      well said... too many folks want to make choices with their lives and not have to deal with the consequences that follow.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      First, people's feelings on the subject are allowed to change. It's simply rhetoric to label anyone who doesn't hold the same views at age 15 as they do at age 30 a hypocrite.
      Second, you are assuming they understood all of these issues when they were scouts. It wasn't always in the spotlight.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sane and Logical

      @The Truth – – Eagle Scouts are 17 years old. They follow what their parents tell them to follow. They earned th ehonor of being an Eagle Scout just like everyone before them did. As we mature, almost all humans realize they did something in their past that does not mix well with their current beliefs. These admorable men decided to remain honest and true to their beliefs and returned the badge. It is only symbolic. It doesn't lessen the fact they accomplished something most scouts won't do. It means they have matured and realized their past mistake of supporting the scouts for so long.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth-worshiper

      Wow. This is an outstanding statement. I love this observation.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mo

      i have a friend (high school friend) who was an eagle scout..i was an athlete in high school. he put (into scouting) as much time as i put into sports (and i played 4 sports in high school). he lived scouting; and for that i had tremendous respect for him.
      seems these eagle scouts who returned their awards are just mad that they did not get their way. seems to be the modus operandi of the gay community...if they don't get their way, they get mad and start calling everyone a devil.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • pattysboi

      So, "truth", you claim that you know everything? Well, guess what? TRUE Scouts would realize that to discriminate against a gay scout or leader is wrong. Maybe you should go back to Cub Scouts and work through ALL the steps again.

      August 14, 2012 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. Nick

    Private organization and can do what they want. Don't like it too bad start your own group and only let in who you want......Way to go BSa don't bow to pressure!

    August 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. WIlliam

    I'm an Eagle and giving the medal back doesn't erase that you spent years earning it, as though you suddenly become a non-Eagle.

    They're free to disagree with BSA politics as is anyone...but I'm not sure I understand what this proves. Sort of like like giving back a high school diploma...you still show as graduating from that HS.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      "I'm not sure I understand what this proves."

      Obviously your grasp of what symbolism means is poor.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chaos

    >>>tactics, i.e. "How long will the Boy Scouts continue to bully young gay Americans"<<<

    Its a legitimate question. The Scouts are the ones with segregationist policies. That's the bad conduct.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigHwasdemo

      It looks like the gays are the hate mongers on this comment board. Leave the little boys alone perverts.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  10. cajr

    first of all some kid under 18 shouldnt be considered smart enough to understand gay or not and let alone some parent abiding by that. when you turn 18? fine its your choice as an adult.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chaos

      >>>some kid under 18 shouldnt be considered smart enough to understand gay or not<<<

      obviously you're not smart enough to realize that that's utter nonsense. What next? You didn't realize you like girls or guys until you were eighteen? Riiiight.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom-ay

      understand gay? they understand straight, i'm sure they can understand gay... probably more than you.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Will

    After reading this article, I have a few questions for those who want BSA to change their policy.

    Why can't you start your own organization?

    Really, tell me why? What is stopping you?

    One hundred and one years ago there was no boy scouts in the United States, someone saw the need and the organization was form and started.

    Are gays and their supporters incapable of taking on such a task? Does being gay make one unable to establish a youth organization structured in a manner acceptable to their shared beliefs?

    Tell me why they can't. Or really, why they won't.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      I don't care if they change their policies. But, if they don't, they will not have my respect or my patronage.

      They can be perceived like the KKK, along with everything that entails, if they want.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      seperate but equal? now, where have i herd that before?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Why can't the Gay people start your own club?

      Or the Lesbians start your own troop?

      To Will – I think Gay and Lesbians want to be recognized as "normal" so badly that they want to make all
      this club – troop stuff so much drama. If they are let "in" then this furthers their belief that they are "normal".

      August 13, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver Scout Dad

      I'm not Gay, nor is my son that I'm aware, but I don't want a shadow BSA. I want a BSA that lives up to it's ideals. I want a BSA that teaches leadership and universal values of civic responsibility, duty, honor, honesty, compassion, etc., regardless of my genetics or beliefs. If enough people believe as I do, the BSA will change, as it did when it finally accepted black youth. You can ask your questions, but they are the wrong questions. One day maybe you will understand that.

      August 14, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. KD

    I am raising my children to respect and embrace diversity. The boy scouts are openly discriminating against a group of people. I won't allow my children to be a part of an organization like this. There is no way today that any group could discriminate against a specific race or religion, this is no different. The fact that issues like this still exist are sad.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarkinFL

      John,
      Only if your son is gay also. And attracted to the other boy. Is that what you are really concerned about perhaps?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • cobra

      I would not my kids even close to yours, they are already bigots and you teach them well.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard

    Way to go men!

    I'm proud of you!

    August 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    I wonder how many of those who returned their medals will continue to include this honor on job applications and other places where it benifits them.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Probably none.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. j

    Good riddance. Those so called Eagles flunked the integrity test.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • muaparc

      Standing up for what they believe in is flunking the integrity test to you? I'd say sitting quietly by disregarding their conscience would be flunking an integrity test or is that you believe that people who don't think like you have no integrity?

      August 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • McAfee

      How?? By showing they have some???

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