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. RichJM

    If you don't like the rules get out. return the award and stop bashing people who don't agree with you. start your own gay scouts and see how many kids you get to join.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. brian

    so by that logic we should condemn all catholic priests, all dentists, all police officers etc because of any incident is an indication that the rest of the group is the same.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Weasley

    never forget, every person who says a gay individual is a pedophile is likely a pedophile himself. Yes, it's a ridiculous generalization, but there you are. And the number [of gays] is likely greater than 6% of the population, not that facts are of any interest to you.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dalton

    This thread right here is why the scouts are returning their medals

    August 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. George

    Ask yourself: Would you allow your pre-teen/teenage daughter to go on an overnight camping trip with male scout leaders? Same thing, but worse: no one would think to protect boys from boys/men.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. BrentR

    Turning in their Eagle awards is the right thing to do since they don't believe in morality they were given to the wrong people to begin with.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mark Blade

    Scouting has always been about being straight. Scouting has not changed. People who join scouting want to associate with straight people, that is their right – my right since I am in Scouting. Call me what you want, but I prefer to have associations with straight people, not gay people. I know gay people, I don't hate them or anything, but on the other hand, I don't want to associate with them. Its a choice. They certainly don't have to associate me, that is their choice. Not everyone I have I met in this world would like to associate me. We all have rights to associate with whoever we want. As for Scouting, since when does it have allow gay people into the organization? Does every organization have to allow gay people to join? Why?

    August 14, 2012 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
    • pattysboi

      Realize that you have indeed met and worked with gay people, you just didn't know it.

      August 14, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Another Brick in the Wall

    Shame on CNN for declaringing one loudmouth as news. This is an unsubstaniated story and should be traeated as such.
    It should have found its way to the verticle file and not the front page. But it fits the "narative" so we will treat it as real. Shame again CNN.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. RationalMind

    Standing up against discrimination is NOT a form of intolerance. It simply isn't. If something is unjust, taking a stand against the injustice is not a form "intolerance." This is such a kindergarten-level viewpoint, it is laughable.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. pattysboi

    You are COMPLETELY incorrect. Deal with it, and grow UP.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. pattysboi

    Um, you DO know that Lord Baden-Powell was a gay man, don't you? Have mommy show you an encyclopedia.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. andrew

    "No fooling around in the tents or any place else while you're at a Boy Scout function." That should be the rule for all scouts, straight or gay! But no, instead, we've a truckload of big old fat hypocrite bigots making up the rules the way they want them, and to hell with everybody else! No fooling around with people's lives, bigots! Mind your own GD business and keep your pushy, long, nosey-nose out of everybody else business, before it's YOUR closet gets yanked open!

    August 14, 2012 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
  13. yepyep

    also return the uniform and good riddings.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. banasy©

    Oh, good Lord, gay men don't want to be women any more than gay women want to be men.
    But I'll bet you have some pawn of to women that makes you hot and bothered, don't you?

    August 14, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. yo yo

    American society is so fake and hypocritical. I'm sure that most of the people here who appear to defend gays are closet biggots. I don't trust anyone anymore, BS is the rule, not the exception.

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