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. Cdog

    CNN, please don't forget the fact that there are thousands of Eagle Scouts who applaud the Boy Scouts of America for holding their ground when society attempts to appease all. Oh, but that story wouldn't fit into your liberal agenda!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • James PDX

      If the Boy Scouts were really holding their ground they would "respect and defend the rights of others" like it says in their handbook.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. david

    The truth is the boy scouts have always been an American Tradition silently excluding gays but taking their dues anyway. Now their just up front about it. Unfortunately they have gotten so big no one can stand up against their own misguided leaders. No one is perfect , boy scouts used to be the one place you could go and escape the cruel adult world.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. wealthcoaches

    A scout is... Trustworthy, Loyal, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

    Too bad the BSA leadership hasn't learned those values yet.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fheal

    ... and Reverent. I see these 100 never had that one right in the first place; however it's commendable they've decided to make amends in the end. Good riddance and good luck... may these young men find the error in their way.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. James Freed

    Doesn't anyone remember the lawsuits many years ago filed by the parents of scouts who were molested by their adult leaders? At the time it was "Shame on the Boy Scouts for not protecting their kids!" The Scouts took actions, specifically a model called "two deep leadership" and a policy that keeps the foxes out of the chicken coup. You can't have it both ways people.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dave

    The Boy Scouts should be commended to sticking to their values. Not everyone buys into the same values. If you do not want to be part of this value system, move on. If you are dumb enough to give up an Eagle Scout badge, you don't deserve to own it.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mo

    when will gay people accept the fact that they can not force others to accept their CHOSEN lifestyle. plain and simple.
    stop trying to force your chosen ideals on others. live and let live.
    if the scouts choose to impose certain guidelines, then let them do so... you can not force your ways down everyone's throat. and stop villifying those who disagree with your chosen way of life.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Boy Scout Then and Now

    James PDX :"Actually, it's the Boy Scouts' beliefs which are contradicting their own beliefs. You can't have a rulebook that demands you respect and defend the rights of all people if that's not what you are going to do. You have to amend it to read, "respect and defend the rights of all people who conform to our way of thinking".

    Here we are making up "rights" again. There is no "right" to join the Boy Scounts.

    But it sounds good because it makes something without any substance, like the position that gays have a right to join the Scounts, sound good when it actually is without any basis in fact, only fantasy.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kalak

    As a gay man I must say that I don't mind the BSA ban on gays. It is their right, as a private organization, it include or exclude whomever they wish. If I wanted to to start my own club of gay, atheist, men in committed relationships then I'd have every right to exclude women, people of faith, straight men, or single men, as long as I am not receiving any public money. That is part of the freedom of association we all get to enjoy in this country.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Boy Scout Then and Now

    "Wow, to be ignorant on so many levels. Is it painful? Or is it truly bliss?"

    When confronted with the truth you have two options. One, you may acknowledge reality. Two, you may attack the truth.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. never forget

    why do we appease the gay 1% ??

    August 13, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ryan

      Okay–first of all, that number is much higher...closer to 5-10%, and second–why should any organization ban people from membership based on who they love?

      August 14, 2012 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • murdoc829

      First, it's the gay 10% (at least). Second, it's not "appeasement" - it's our American duty to protect the civil rights of minorities. Or did you prefer it when only straight white men had rights?

      August 14, 2012 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. MaMeMiMoMu

    I am and eagle scout and all I have to say is: "silent majority".

    August 13, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • murdoc829

      @: MaMeMiMoMu

      I am an English teacher, and all I have to say is:

      "I am an Eagle Scout, and all I have to say is, 'silent majority.'"

      (Note: I still don't know exactly what you mean by this comment, but at least now it's grammatically correct.)

      August 14, 2012 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
  13. Morgan

    I don't approve of the gay lifestyle but neither do I believe all gays are pedophiles.

    I have a distant cousin who is gay and has spoken harshly against anyone who abuses children.

    It wasn't an act he was putting on, it was genuine.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. NUNYA

    You are such a Biggott!!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ThinkTwice

    SeilnoigileR: Thanks for your comment. However, I absolutely understand what it takes to earn the Eagle Scout rank because I did. The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. If a person once believed, for example, in the tenants of the Scout Oath (On my honor, I will do my best to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight), then ascending to the Eagle Scout rank – to me – effectively means they agree. The values of Scouting are too important for people to select when and how the organization fits their personal life choices. Those who returned their Eagle Scout badges missed the point about the organization's values and mission. Turning in their badges did not make them brave or even heroes. Rather, it simply meant they did not fully understand the unique charge Eagle Scouts are given to make our country, our communities and our families better. Thanks again for your comment.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Also an Eagle

      Outstanding. I agree completely. These 'returners' lost sight of the purity of Scouting and cheapened the award in an attention-getting effort. Shameful!

      August 14, 2012 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
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