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. Willie Hou

    I think the danger is too great to have a gay man over young boys when there desire is for them. This is the problem in the catholic church you got all these priest leading boys who are warped. I don't believe they can take that chance. That is like putting a man over a brownie troop, dangerous

    August 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. gatecrasher1

    I still proudly hang my Eagle Scout plaque on the wall and have it on my resume and LinkedIn profile. And won't remove it either.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • PraiseTheLards

      Should be helpful when you apply to work at Chi-fil-a...

      August 13, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Eagle2001

    I'm an Eagle scout. I earned the arrow of light in cub scouts. I worked harder than hell for years on the road to becoming an Eagle, and qualified for the silver palm. I earned brotherhood rank in the order of the arrow. So I'm qualified to come unhinged about this. Once you're an Eagle, you're it for life. There's no renouncing the people you helped with your project, your community service hours, or all the young scouts who looked up to you with pride and wanted to be just like you. Do you also renounce the outdoor survival skills you learned? The ability to tie a proper bowline? Are you intending on renouncing the ten essentials you keep in your car, just in case? How about your mother and father, who stood by your side at your Eagle ceremony? We all know just how hard they worked to help you get to Eagle.
    Do you really think all of that is worth giving up in a shallow political display? If you do, then you were never an Eagle to begin with; that badge is just cloth, that pin is just tin. You have nothing to renounce.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Melisa

    I guess there is not placed for you either, since discriminating and hating other people does not belong to "normal society".

    August 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SixDegrees

    I commend these Scouts for doing the right thing. This is how change will ultimately come to BSA – from within, from pressure applied by its own membership. There's already been a shift from an outright prohibition to a "don't ask, don't tell" type of policy announced just this year – a significant change, but one that doesn't go far enough.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Scoutmaster NM

    Don't worry, there are plenty of folks in leadership in the Scouts who don't like the fact that the Scouts was highjacked by the right wing back in the 80's, after over 70 years of living the Baden Powell word. We'll get back to the 'real' Boy Scouts soon enough, after we dump the partisan agenda. Scouting was, and will be again, about celebrating the 95% of what we agree on needs to be done for our boys, as exemplified by the Scout Oath and Law. Suppose the Sierra Club bought the Scouts, in effect, instead of the Mormon Church, and enforced a code that everyone had to be an environmentalist or couldn't participate. I'd be just as adamantly opposed. BSA should never have allowed Powell's vision to be lost amongst the culture wars. Untold millions have avoided Scouting because of this policy and I, as a Scoutmaster, have been clear to our sponsoring organization and all current and incoming parents that I will never follow it. My troop has gone from 2 when I took it over to over 30 (and growing) precisely because people, none of whom are gay or have a gay Scout, have been comforted the Scouts they're joining is the Scouts that goes camping, teaches leadership and doesn't teach their boys that differences are important. We're all here together. We're all Americans. We all love our children and want the best for them. We'll get this car out of the ditch and back on the road by jettisoning this policy. Might take a bit of a revolution, but I've spoken to countless rank and file leadership and you'd be amazed at the disconnect between folks like us on the ground and those in their ivory tower in Texas. Patience.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Big_D

      You sound like my son's scout leader. I was reluctant to go back after they ruined it, I am glad people like you are back in charge. This is Boy Scouts of America not Boy Scouts of the Catholic Church.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill.eskdale@gmail.com

      Nicely said, unrtunately leadship also means convincing your organization to make changes that are right. I used to be a scout, didn't much like it and left. My suggestion is that if you don't like what your organization is doing, either change it, or like me, leave.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. james

    Now what good does that do ???

    August 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. qularknoo

    immorality disqualifies them from the rank of Eagle scout, and no one should "look up to" those that support immorality.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bruce

      qularknoo – Your religion is immoral, yet you have the right to join.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Florida Bill

    Actually, whle Sandusky and ilk seem to make more headlines, if you look at the statistics, I think you'll find that most pedophiles are middle aged white men who go after little girls. Those who seem to think that gay men around straight boys creates some kind of statistical probability, should take some classes in psychology (I have a minor in it before anybody gets snide).

    August 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. yragm

    Good for the scouts that turned in their badges. I admire their conviction(s). However it doesn't mean the scouts would/should change their policies. Why don't all the pro-preachers google 'women' only activities. You'll find many activities that are available to women that don't apply to men. So again the gay agenda is not asking for equal rights, but additional ones.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rich 3

    You people have taken advantage of a good southern education...5th grade = high school grad...

    August 13, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Hobbits

    Very proud of all those that stand against injustice – you have become more than the badge.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. bill.eskdale@gmail.com

    Actually one of the biggest contributors and most conservtive sponsors is Mitt Romney's Mormon Church. Think about that.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Vinny

    This is laughable. Who gives a crap if a bunch of adults denounce a kiddy accomplishment. It's kid stuff.

    No father wants to send their son to the boy scouts if he knows there will be gays there. None.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • McAfee

      Do you think being gay is contagious or something?

      August 13, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Not even close to true. There are gay people everywhere. If you send your son to boy scouts and he hooks up with a gay boy, it's because your son... is gay anyway. He'd have gotten there eventually.

      August 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. McAfee

    Most ignorant comment yet. And that's saying something, because I've read a lot of them today.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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