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. Charles Easley

    IIt is obvious these 'boys' don't yet understand what they agreed to uphold – good moral character. Granted scouting teaches respect and defend the rights of all people, but that does not grant membership to any weird belief system that may exist by some of the 'people' out there. If you accept 'our' standards then you may apply and become a part of the scouting experience and if inclined and 'accepted' then you may become a leader. Otherwise, go somewhere else and leave us alone. I am proud of my Eagle badge and would never think of sending it back.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. huff

    BSA is a private organization founded and funded by church organizations. Why do people wish to force them to cater to their own beliefs and ideology? BSA has their own views and while I may disagree with some I strongly support their right in the USA to continue to run their organization under their own beliefs. If you don't agree with them then don't join the BSA, join something else or form your own group.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • KLARGAR

      The BSA was not founded by the church and while some troops may meet in buildings owned by religious groups the BSA is not a religious organization backed by any particular religious group. Get your head out of the place where the sun don't shine.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinker

      The Mormon church has the top leadership positions in the BSA. Explains their discriminatory policy.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. so

    Any organization has the right to admit or not whoever they want. The first amendment allows for the right of assembly–meaning they can meet with who they want. I know that this flies in the face of fairness, but there will never be a way to have a fair society.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scoutinsheepclothing

      and we have a right to complain at what we see as stupid....

      August 14, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. AceRyder

    ARe some comments on this board moderated? I've posted a serious question about the gay "choice" twice in reply to Rich and it won't post?

    What gives?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Yes, they are moderated with an automatic system that catches key words. Just try again with different wording.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Thinabout it

    Gay rights groups are just like athiests.....
    Rub it in everyones face and make sure we ALL know they are their.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • a

      Oh right, atheists don't have god rubbed in our faces every day, no sir. Sneeze and "bless you!" Sure. And some people DO care about this issue. I'm also pretty thrilled that I'm not only able to think for myself but to actually spell too.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      So Atheists and Gays should be hidden as if they're ashamed of being either? If you beleive your religion gives you the right to witness and preach to others in hopes of converting everyone, those unaffected aren't going to be expected to simply disappear from your sight.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      You mean straight people hide the fact that they are straight? And religious people hide the fact that they are religious? You have no complaints about those people being open about who they are, do you?

      August 13, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SRC

    Non-story. CNN is intent on beating this dead horse of a topic. Move on! No one cares.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • LarryB

      Translation of "No one cares": SRC in all his narcissistic glory doesn't care. Plenty of others do, however.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan I

    Another issue full of people screaming "First Amendment" when the First Amendment is in no way implicated. Yes the BSA has the right to accept who they want and say what they want. That does NOT mean they are free of consequence, disagreement or ridicule.

    How is it "unfair" that some Eagle Scouts, upset at what their organization has chosen to stand for, express THEIR right of free speech by renouncing their awards? Why should they have to stand silent and pay lip-service to the BSA's view that they, apparently, disagree with.

    The BSA has freedoms, so do their individual members. The First Amendment isn't relevent to this discussion.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Dan, I totally agree that if those particular scouts want to renounce then that's fine, it's their right. Just like it is the right of the BSA to stand on their belief.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Not a Scholar

    I find it disturbing that the BSA only choose to ban on class of sinners. They do not seem to have a problem with the fact ALL Christians are sinners. I guess it would not work that the BSA would not exist if they were fair to all sinners.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AceRyder

    For those who believe being gay is a choice, you must believe the opposite to be true, right, that you either choose gay or straight?

    I think if you believe this you must be gay. I've never considered being gay, it just doesn't ever enter my mind. There is no choosing. Those who call it a choice must be suppressing some tendancies and have an awfully closeted life.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. StrikeForce

    This is pointless...If you don't like how they run the Scouts then go form your own group, but renouncing your hard work is not going to change anything sorry to say.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frank

    CNN, just keep hiding truths that the American Peolple need to know.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    The Boy Scouts have held this same position since Lord Baden Powell organized them in 1910. They had the same position in 1930. They had the same position in 1950. They had the same position in 1970. Nobody had a problem with it back then. Why the sudden shock and outrage? Is it the scouts that have suddenly changed their position? Or is it society that has changed? Why not argue with the ones that have changed, and not those who have maintained and charted a fixed course through life?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • deathwombat

      The South had a policy about slavery in 1790. They had the same policy in 1810. They had the same policy in 1830. They had the same policy in 1850. If slavery was okay up until then, why did it suddenly have to be changed in 1863?

      You're right. If no one complains about a bad policy for several decades, everyone should just have to live with it. You have a short window to become enlightened, after which it becomes society's fault for not intervening sooner.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • RealThinker

      That's an outright lie. Pure and simple, died in the wool lie. Sorry, Baden-Powell and Lady Baden-Powell spoke about honoring and defending all people. Nice try.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Robert

    Immediately rescind all their awards,and boot them out,The BSA is a PRIVATE organization,with its own rules,and no protest,march or federal interference will change that.If Gay people want scouting,let them open their own scouting club,quit trying to force the gay way of life on everyone else,you will never be accepted everywhere,get over it,and yourselves

    August 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ryan

    I am an Eagle Scout and Proud of it. The one thing that everyone needs to understand is the freedom of speech. Every single person has a right to speak out, but groups and organizations also have that freedom. To say one group (BSA) is wrong and THEY should change their views is actually wrong and inconsiderate of the other party's views. If you are Gay and you don't like the BSA's view, then simply start your own organization similar to the BSA but allow gays in. There is nothing that says you can't do that. They are allowed to have their views and so are you....so neither one of you are right in this case. Just move on. I am tired of hearing this debate because it should be a none issue. If you don't like someones views you don't attack the person, simply shrug it off and let them have their own views instead of persisting they change their views. If you feel the BSA should change their views then perhaps it's time you change your views. Just move on and leave the BSA to their own views. If this is a major issue that our community feels is worthy then they will make their minds up and not let their boys in. Eventually they will have to change or die. Just let them have their views just like the BSA is letting you have.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scoutinsheepclothing

      I"m a scout and straight but believe it's not morally wrong to be gay.

      August 14, 2012 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. Flutterby

    This is a weird thing to say...gay people are not pedophiles. Pedophiles are pedophiles. Learn the difference, and then come back with an argument. And it has nothing to do with partisanship, either.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morgan

      That is a good point, but how many parents are comfortable knowing their sons are sharing a tent with boys who like to play with other boys privates?

      THAT IS THE ISSUE THAT GAYS DON'T SEEM TO GET.
      They think that is a good thing and don't understand why others disagree.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sailor101

      A gay man molests a male child. That is a gay act (male on male) cut and dry. Don't try to spin the argument any other way.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cocopuf

      Basically, they both target the same thing. Don't be fooled.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Absolutely all gays are not pedophiles and heck most are not. However, that is not the issue. Scouts are clearly a Judeo-Christian organization and have the right to their rules. Besides, I would hope that if there is a chance that there is any increased risk to the boys (and I'm not saying there is) that the boys safety and well-being would be considered over politics.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
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