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. Scoutinsheepclothing

    I'm a scout and don't give a rats asz about what our policies are and what the scouts stand for. Half the boys in my troop having come out of the closet yet. It's so obvious that there gay but it's the parents of the boys that are in denial. Sad. Anyhoots my goal is to attain Eagle and I have no qualms about saying some meaningless oath in in the interest of attaining my goal.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • dc

      Is dishonesty part of your goal?

      August 14, 2012 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
    • MAC

      I'l sit your Eagle Board and fail you since you have no intention to Do Your Best at upholding the Scout Oath and Law in your life which you are charged with when you recieve your Eagle Badge!

      August 14, 2012 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    S/B 'two women'.
    And yes, Baden-Powell was gay.
    But don't let the facts get in your way of ridiculous suppositions, George.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Aboveboard

    Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are not legally emancipated from their parents or guardians because their age is 18 or younger. Parents set the rules for them. Bring them up to date about new laws that affect the adults that Scouts will become. Choices

    August 14, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. gdaym8

    Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

    August 14, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • AusieSceptic1

      you closet australian

      August 14, 2012 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lee-Anne

    While I find their view a bit hard to understand, I also understand that the Boy Scouts are a religious organization. If they don't want gay people in their organization..I guess that is their freedom. Flat out. It is their freedom. I disagree with them totally, but I also respect their right o have their religious rights. We can't force our views upon others just because we don't find the politically correct.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • gdaym8

      Exactly!

      August 14, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      I'm so sick of this excuse. We do not have to respect bigots. Especially ones cowardly enough to hide behind religion as an excuse.

      I'm a former scout myself. Stopped at Star Scout. Almost wish I'd made Eagle just to melt the worthless medal down.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
    • JDPerez

      Lee-Anne, you nailed it.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • MAC

      Scouting is not associated with a specific religion but part of the oath is Duty to God and keep myself morally straight, and the Law's 12th point is a Scout is Reverent but that means beliving in a higher being no matter the religion.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • ColorMaven

      Boy Scouts operates under what they claim is a non-sectarian Declaration of Religious Principle. As a result, must it not recognize all religious organizations on a level playing field? If so, there are many churches out there that are happy to welcome members of the LGBT community in the spirit of acceptance and a "loving god." Why are the beliefs of those churches trumped by those who rigidly exclude? I know an Atheist who is a Boy Scout. He didn't lie about it either when examined by the Eagle Committee. While some wanted to exclude him, the majority of the committee felt that his definition and explanation of his beliefs were in line with the tenets of the above-mentioned Declaration.

      I applaud the former Boy Scouts who have returned their Eagle Scout awards in order to "respect and defend the rights of all people." Scouting, no doubt, taught them much but their ability to walk away from scouting over this issue shows what good men they truly are.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Kenny

      If they were just a religuos (sic) or private organization then fine do what you want, but they receive government backing.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. MOCaseA

    As an Eagle Scout I support their decision, and will be joining them in returning my medal. This does not however retract or end the fact that I am an Eagle Scout. As a member of the LGBT community, even after earning Eagle Scout, I have been banned from participating in the Scouts, teaching the younger generations those things that scouting taught me, and supporting our local Scouting groups. The BSA are falling behind the times and are slowly getting edged out by other groups (Oak Scouts is a rapidly growing one) whom aren't making political, or religious, stands in their organizations policies. The scouting manual is explicit in it's stance against discrimination and social prejudice. That the BSA are ignoring their own rules is hypocrisy at its worst.

    August 14, 2012 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • JDPerez

      You said it yourself, it's a religious organization. It's their choice. "Falling behind the times"? Because it doesn't fit in your personal criteria? You mentioned the Oak Scouts so you shouldn't have a problem fitting into their organization.

      August 14, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. SwissWarrior

    Boy Scouts – One of the last bastion against the forces of Lucifer. Great these boys gave back their eagle award they did not deserve them

    August 14, 2012 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    I'm an Eagle Scout, and I have no intention of returning my Eagle Award. I applaud the BSA for keeping themselves morally straight and not giving in to the LGBT bullies trying to force their lifestyle choices on everyone else. Despite what the politically correct media keeps telling us that gays are normal people who just happen to be gay, my personal experiences are gays have mental problems and are in need of help just like alcoholics or drug addicts. They are too flamboyant or have an angry chip on their shoulder, which detracts from the ability to lead. They need to fix themselves before they can be good role models for young boys.

    August 14, 2012 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • BRIAN

      Michael, how many of your straight Scout friends have been driven to suicide by the constant abuse of their peers - abuse you apparently approve of by your knee-jerk rejection? You know nothing of bullying. And your opinions on being gay are diametrically opposed to every medical and psychological finding. You are clinging unreasonably to an archaic fear despite every enlightening opportunity. Face it, sir: you are a bigot. You can defend your prejudice all you want, but a Cub could see through it.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Cocopuf

    I wouldn't want my child to mix with gay kids simply because it will make them kids think that it is okay to be gay. It is a behavior problem and nothing else.

    August 14, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. Cocopuf

    It is abnormal to think that gay people are normal in my view.

    August 14, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. bluntstick

    Too bad I and the other tens of thousands of Eagle Scouts that actually earned the award are keeping it. BSA is a PRIVATE organization that means they get to make their own rules, not bend over and take it. It is not religious, anyone that thinks it is a religious organization is foolishly applying their own ideologies, and over looking the fact that it is simply a private club that some people are not welcome in. Like for instance women, should they be allowed in? Bottom line is with the recent pedo scandals in the catholic church BSA leadership doesn't feel comfortable having openly gay leaders, because there is a small chance that "something" might happen. Then where would all you do gooders be, I'll tell you trying to get sanctions or even shutting down BSA because they let someone around a child that was "questionable".
    BSA IS A PRIVATE ORGANIZATION, they can do whatever they want and guess what if your not an active member you don't get a say. The number of scouts "returning" their badges is pitiful in comparison to the hundred's of thousands of active scouts and millions of former scouts. Like less than 1% but that doesn't get people to read your story.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kyle

    I am an Eagle Scout and proud of it. The funny thing is there are plenty of openly gay folks in BSA. It is what it is. As long as they are not taking advantage of their roles i have no problem with it. But this whole situation as been blown out of proportion. It is BSA's right as an American non-profit group to say who is in and who is out. Just as it is the Morman church's right to not allow certain people in their churchs. The media can write all the article they want, nothing will change with BSA's stanse. Sorry if you don't like it, but you don't have to be appart of it in the first place.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. J. Moura

    This is one of the reasons I refused to join the scouts or any other such group. This kind of policy is shameful and how it is allowed to be enforced it beyond me. I understand and fully support the right for someone to have their own opinion on gay people, and even if that opinion is not in favor of them, but when it becomes discrimination, that is when somthing needs to be done.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Charles W. Skinner

    Another sad attempt by the few to use "social engineering" to LIE about their numbers. These efforts (like the "Stop Rush" and "anti Chick-Fil-A" protests) attempt to VASTLY inflate their importance by manipulating the appearance of their tiny numbers to appear larger through zombie re-tweets and use of "sock-puppet accounts." While they claim to be thousands strong, there are truly only a small handful.

    If these individuals were not going to live by the Scouting Code, then they should not have joined the Boy Scouts in the first place, or should have withdrawn. Their "public statement" is nothing more than grand-standing hypocrisy.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Caron

    Boy Scouts = Nazi Youth. Boy scouts teaching intolerance??? That's really sick! And these people are comfortable with their decision to ban gays?? Disgusting.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
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