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. huff

    klagar, prior to 1913 the BSA was not a full fledged organization. It was a loose group of individuals with a common goal. In 1913 the LDS provided large funds to form a full fledged nationwide organization now known as the BSA. You are correct, they do not nor never did teach religion as part of scouting but their founding values and rules are religion influenced. They have every right to have the views they do. They are a private organization and can have the views they desire in their membership. Don't like them then don't join but the right is theirs to have.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. JB

    They are welcome to return them. That is their right. As an Eagle Scout, I will proudly wear it, support future boys in their efforts to earn it, and support the BSA's right to maintian their policies.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flutterby

      And people will have the right to keep their children away from an organization that embraces that policy, while hiding their pedophile leaders because they are outwardly straight!

      August 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      I concur JB. I took earned Eagle along with Quartermaster Sea Scout back in the summer of 1973.

      Scott
      Cornhusker Council
      Ship 464 (Disestablished)

      August 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Charles

    They don't deserve their awards.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackson

      Why? Because they dare to have a difference of opinion from you? Wow, tolerant much?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Charles,
      If they earned it, then they "deserve" it. However, they also have the right to turn it back in if they so desire.

      Scott

      August 13, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      They don't deserve the Eagle award? Excuse me, anyone who says this is strictly ignorant of the regulation to *be* a Boy Scout, and to earn the Eagle Scout award. There are a set of criteria. This is not an opinion of deserving nature. You perform x, y, and z, you *deserve* the Eagle scout award. There isn't some clown who sits on high to deny this.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Charles

    Wrong.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    I won't be giving up my Eagle because a private organization does not agree with the lifestyle choice, or bans them from their organization. It would be interesting to know how many of the folks that supposedly gave up their Eagle actually did.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • tokencode

      It's not a "lifestyle choice", people are born that way. You are essentially supporting something akin to denying black people adminission to an organization and history will judge you as such.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. huff

    Donna, the BSA is a private organization not government run nor regulated.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flutterby

      Seems to be very little regulations when it comes to leaders who molest kids, this is true.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • donna

      Huff, Yes, and? What has that got to do with my comment?

      August 13, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ThinkTwice

    For all the folks who returned their Eagle Scout badges: good. Clearly, you probably shouldn't have been awarded the badge in the first place anyway.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • SeilnoigileR

      The award is earned by the scout – how dare you say 'they shouldn't have been awarded the badge'? You have no clue what it takes to earn it and likely couldn't have done it yourself either. What an ignorant comment. It's amazing how many here also conflate 'morals' with someone's orientation. Xtians have no monopoly on morality, but apparently a controlling share of hypocrisy. It shouldn't even be an issue – why do so many seem to think one tiny portion of a human being's existence somehow trumps every other aspect of life? You seem to think that orientation is the only defining part of a human being's life – except, of course, for you.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Grumpy

    It's good that the BSA does not give merit badges for tolerance and respect as they apparently teach neither. Kudos to the young men who returned their Eagle Scout awards!!!

    August 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Greg

    I applaud the BSoA for doing what they feel is right in the face of some people complaining because they disagree. Those that disagree with the policies of the BSoA are free to start an alternative scouting organization, and run it by the rules they see fit. Then people could make a choice as to which to participate in – and the number of people involved in the new organization would directly proportional to its relevance. This could be done right now – at this very moment. So, why do the complainers simply complain instead of starting their own scouting organization? Because it is less work to complain?

    August 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Half-Baked

    Im kind of surprised that there are enough kids actually going thru with this since you cant accomplish it on a phone or other portable entertainment device but rather having to actually go outside and do something.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. 666

    luv open minded people.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Flutterby

    Sure...like the pedophile leaders in place now.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Vasya Bricklyn

    10,000 Children Of The Internet who say they do something= 105 grown adult people who live in the real world and do something about it.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. toofarawayfromboston

    My father was an Eagle Scout and I have to say that it was one of his proudest achievements – and he had many. I am so proud of these men who are standing up for what is right. For some of us, turning in that medal is not a big deal, but those of us who know what it meant to earn it, well... it's huge. Thank you, all, from the bottom of my heart.

    August 13, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tim

    The Boy Scouts are a *PRIVATE* organization. Why do so many people feel it is *their* right to tell a *PRIVATE* organization what its membership rules must be?

    Those who think they have a right to tell others how they must believe while, at the same time, whining about others trying to tell *them* how to believe have to be some of the most delusional people on the planet.

    ]If you don't want someone else telling *YOU* who your friends must be then don't try to tell others who their friends must be.

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