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. Matt

    If they want to renounce all that invested time and hard work, then that is on them. It's a little ridiculous to do that, since BSA won't change their stance on gays and lesbians anytime soon. Good for you 'former' eagles of BSA. Your ignorance shines through once again.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jim Norris

    She knew the rules, the Scouts will be supported by ENORMOUS numbers of very supportive people for taking this action. The loud few will make the news while thousands work with, volenteer and donate to make Scouring the best possible program for young men everywhere. I proudly wear my Eagle, as does my son and soon my grandson. It is just the wrong message to send to young men. It is not the forum, Scouting, to have this immoral behavior. We want strong young men with good values and moral fiber to achieve the Eagle Award, if some of you feel like throwing scouting under the bus for political attention – big deal, Scouting was good to you and you choose to reject that goodness.....

    August 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Teresa

    "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,"
    Are we AGAIN teaching our kids that they have to think what everyone else thinks or else? Why can't we still have our own opinion about anything? I personally do not want my grandchildren to be gay, but that doesn't mean I won't love them if they are. I personally don't want my grandchildren to be bi-racial, but that doesn't mean I won't love them if they are. I personally will teach my grandchildren that they can have their own opinions without fear of being ostracized. Having an opinion and being discriminatory are two very different things. People need to stop spending so much time and effort looking for reasons to make us all alike and go back to celebrating and tolerating our differences.

    August 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ash

    Pretty simple really. Don't agree with private organizations policies, don't be part of private organization. Done and Done.

    August 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. bhiner99

    The Boy Scouts are a private organization with deeply rooted religous principles. People had the right to disagree with those principles, and to chose not participate in the Scouts. But the open abuse of the organization in the media is crap. Gays and Lesbians cannot march and protest for freedom of choice, and then abuse others for their choices. Religous freedom is fundamental. You may not like it, but that's your choice.

    August 15, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Joe

    Jerry Sandusky is a good example of why gays should be kept out of Scouting.

    August 15, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • louiske

      mixing gays with pedophiles just shows your ignorance.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • irunner

      Is that you Plumber?

      August 16, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • TC

      You seem a bit confused – you must mean straight married guys?

      August 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • BloodNinja

      Well said! When the military repealed the DADT I didn't quit being a Marine, or resign my commission, because Marines Don't QUIT, neither do Eagle Scouts, so you exposed yourselves as frauds, and made my organization a lot cleaner.

      Thanks!

      August 17, 2012 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Guest

    We have confirmed over a hundred 100 word letters have been sent to the Boyscouts as protest for their anti-gay policies.

    100 times 100 = 10,000 so.....

    We have confirmed the Boyscouts recieved 10,000 letters of protests for their anti-gay policies. Spin baby spin.

    August 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Evan

    I'm an Eagle Scout, and I think that some individuals who outwardly espouse "tolerance" are the most intolerant people of all. You can't simultaneously be inclusive while forcing others to renounce their exclusive beliefs. You can't simultaneously celebrate human diversity while decrying those who disagree with your views on diversity.

    August 15, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sean74cnn

      Yeah! How dare those people be intolerant to your desire to be intolerant.

      August 16, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      By your logic, people who renounce racism are wrong. Renouncing exclusion is not inherently excluding those who exclude. They're not telling anti-gays they can't be in Boy Scouts. They're telling BSA to include EVERYONE. Supporters of gay rights are not promoting an either/or situation, the anti-gays are by saying you either need to be straight or you can't participate. Sorry, but you're absolutely incorrect in your assertion.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Standing by my Eagle award and the BSA

      A lib is a lib until you disagree with them.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Eagle '01

    Look, gays can be in Scouting- so long as they're not open about it. The policy is there because, what straight young boy wants the awkward position of knowing that the boys and leaders around him are gay? If that had been the case for me, I don't think that I or most of the boys from my troop would have stuck around, and the troop may have folded. What good would that have done anyone? As it stands, my old troop itself has over 110 eagles. It would also have been difficult to act normal toward open gays. Why do kids have to come out of the closet? Do that when you're older. And if you're smart, don't tell BSA. If you want to be a leader, be straight, or be quiet about being gay. It's not always about changing the rules. Sometimes it's actually about following them.

    August 15, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jay

    How completely stupid. These Eagle Scouts were perfectly OK with a ban on gays when they got their Eagle, but for some reason its not ok now with the EXACT SAME POLICY?

    August 15, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      I suspect that the Scouts have had their arms twisted and brainwashed by some adults w/ an agenda. Typical liberal tactics of using kids as pawns. CNN won't investigate that because it does not fit their agenda.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Dan

      Big difference is that these kids earned their Eagle at 16-18 years old. As a 38 y.o. Eagle Scout I can tell you my perspective has changed since I earned my rank.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. Davie Jones

    If it so important for gays and lesbians to be scouts why don't they simply start the gay and lesbian scouts of america?

    August 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Just Dan

      Separate but equal, right Davie? Genius.

      August 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin

    Let them send the medals back in, WHO CARES?!?! I am I supposed to have a bleeding heart because they want to give up something that obviously means SO LITTLE to that particular individual. NO WAY.

    If your a Scout, then be a Scout, not a political tool.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. John Aguilar

    This has good too far!!!!!
    People and organization have a right to not agree with the gay and lesbian community.
    I am an Eagle Scout, I will keep my badge. I respectfully do not support the gay and lesbian position here.
    I believe everyone deserves equal protection under the law, but it does not include the private Boy Scouts.
    This is my right.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. John Aguilar

    Sandusky was not straight – wake up.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mark

    Scouts, church, same thing. Hiding molestation for decades. Scouting will lose more and more members. The times are changing. I'm straight, a former lazy scout, ( I think I earned ONE merit badge, but had fun camping) never was mistreated in Scouts. Still, it's not something I would want my kid into today, it just promotes intolerance.........LIKE THE CHURCH. When Scouting becomes atheist I will support it again.

    August 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • canteen boy

      Mark, you can't "not believe" in something you hate.

      August 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
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