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. RW

    Good for these Eagle Scouts for standing up for what they believe in. Part of the Scouting program is developing good character and they are showing it with their actions. There is disagreement on the issue, which is fine. They are choosing to act out their disagreement with this action – a peaceful yet powerful protest of the BSA policy. I think it's very honorable.

    August 13, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. sqeptiq

    "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.

    I wonder how they can work together if Scouting won't let them in the door. This statement is disingenuous at its core.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. MDNC

    I'm Gay and I'm an Eagle Scout and I'm absolutely not returning my Eagle Badge. I want nothing to do with the current right-wing hate mongers that have occupied Scouting for the past 20 years but they are not the Scouting leaders who inspired me to work hard to get my Eagle Award and they cannot hold a candle to the men of my Troop who worked so hard to promote a sense of leadership, tolerance and fair play in every boy in our Troop.. I will speak out loudly against the current regime and do what i can do as a private citizen to expose them for what they are but my badge was hard earned and it celebrates the true leadership, respect, tolerance and honor of the men who inspired me some 35 years ago

    August 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bugler

      MDNC. Good, it seems you learned something through the Eagle Badge. Your persistent efforts will hopefully pay off in the future to change and improve the organization.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. reader10

    I thought Eagle Scouts are smart.Boy Scouts are for boys.
    A Boy Scout leader in pink dress?

    August 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Blondie

    The right wing comments about gay equateing paedophilia are tired and discrediting to their campaign. The right wingers who say this make the entire GOP look like a bunch of redneck bafoons.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JD West

    The LGBT community is very good at being hypocritical about this and other issues. To them, if someone disagrees, they are hateful and protest them in order to hurt them. However, they are allowed to spend money on what will push their agendas forward to the point that they get their way. Why can't others do the same? If the BSA doesn't allow gays in leadership, then let that be okay. Devote your attention and energy in disproving their beliefs, rather than showing how negative and spiteful you can be when you don't get your way. Change the image people have of you and things may change. Those who give up their Eagle Scouts awards should be celebrated more for what the BSA taught them in being independent, rather than not agreeing with a so-called biased policy. And give respect for their beliefs, and you will see the same.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      Wrong, any protests are not meant to 'hurt them" but to bring attention to what they are doing? How is returning your badge you already earned "hurting" the boy scouts exactly?

      August 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Exactly what "gay agenda" are you talking about? Equal rights? GOD FORBID!!!

      August 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • allotrope

      I wonder how many said similar things back when repealing Jim Crow laws was a "controversial issue"...?

      August 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Jones

      Well said.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Colorado Eagle

    Why are folks only busting on the BSA? What about the girl scouts... they don't allow men to run troups where as the BSA allows women. The girl scouts are much more restrictive yet comes under no pressure to change as the BSA. For those longing for equality, start with the GSA.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • McAfee

      They sure do have men leadersin the GSA.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Cool

      Don't be ridiculous. Unfortunately there are no plans on merging BSA and GSA as one Scouting association as it should be, following the examples of other scouting associations who already are co-ed in Canada, Israel (they've been the first co-ed Scouting association in history), Latin America and even the UK.
      The good thing is that lots of BSA leaders want to have a co-ed program instead a boys-only; but Mazzuca and the Mormon mobsters that are in BSA are against that. Sad, but true.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PraiseTheLards

    The Goy Scouts also exclude Atheists and Agnostics...

    August 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. cold up north

    Reading all the post on here is comical, both sides belive they are right but yet your both so wrong. The hole point in this gay VS straight is personal like and dislike, some people are ok with gays and some are not, this doesent mean the people who dont agree with the gay life style are bad people as the gays would have it and also it doesent mean that gays are bad people as the straight would have it. Each and every one of us have a right to our own option but both sides think theres is the only one. their will never be a time when all of you stop fighting about who is right. Let childern be childern try not to put issues on them they cat under stand let them grow up and form their own option. all of you are only hurting the kids. by the way I am straight and I dont care for the way gays shove it in our face non stop where I like some one or not doesent matter I am nobody just like all of you.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      The difference is one of exclusion. One group is trying to exclude the other. Therein lies the problem.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Someone needs to shove a spell-checker in your face...

      August 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Air Force MSgt

    Just because some Boy Scouts return their medals does not mean the Boy Scouts should change their long standing values. They can do what they want. Mabe they should go join the Girl Scouts now. The Boys Scouts still have their values in place. WAY TO STICK TO YOUR CORE VALUES BOY SCOUTS!!!!

    August 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      except for the one about respecting and defending the rights of ALL people. Guess they are not sticking to THAT "core value" eh?

      August 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. DavefromIllinois

    Perhaps I am wong, but I see those who support this action against the scouts as hate-mongers themselves. Can they not respect another's religious beliefs? By condemning and declaring the scouts to be hate-mongers aren't these groups showing little if any tolerance for others beliefs?? Perhaps if gay and lesbian groups want to start their own version of the scouts then they can, it is a free country right?

    August 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      How exactly does wanting a group NOT to exclude people equate to "hate mongering" exactly? Noone is asking the Boy Scouts to exclude right wing bible thumpers or anything. Your logic fails.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dave Otto

    This is what happens when you teach character – some people get the message and show it. Bravo. I made it to Life Scout and was in the Order of the Arrow. I didn't have the drive or the support to go further. You guys are saving scouting from itself.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    You want a Gay Scouts of America, then go make one. Let the Boy Scouts of America and thier boys be!

    August 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stan S

    II agree with you 100%, if you don't like the BSA, make your own gay BSA, and we'll see how many parents will feel comfortable handing their kids over to you!

    August 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Stan S

    The gay community has shown ZERO Tolerance for anything that is not paralleled with their beliefs. But they expect us to tolerate them. Maybe if they show some tolerance to us, we will return the favor.

    August 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meh

      Stan, what on earth are you talking about? Seriously man. No one is NOT tolerating anything about you. What people have a problem with is people that EXCLUDE others. What part of that dont you understand? There is no one calling for the exclusion of anyone like you.... period.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
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