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. pork&beans

    One day, racist, bigoted organizations like the BSA will be a mere memory.
    One day...

    August 14, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jerry

    Good! I am sure other more deserving Scouts can enjoy and cherish those returned medals. Boy Scouts, stick to your "guns." We are REALLY, REALLY proud of your organization!!!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. allenwoll

    If the BSA wants to practice a restrictive policy that is their right, provided that they meticulously eshew the acceptance of ANY benefit from the public purse, usually found in the form of the free use of facilities.

    The issue of the payment of taxes may also arise - It is time that churches pay property taxes !

    August 14, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    Isn't it about time for another "victim" class to emerge? The gay thing is getting tired. It's time for some other minority group to step into the spotlight for a few election cycles. Isn't that what this is really all about, after all? Every few election cycles a new group of "victims" becomes the center of attention, then they and their cause fade into obscurity while another group becomes the opressed du jour. The champions of tolerance and equality are a fickle bunch – they lose interest and move on quickly. Wonder who it will be next? Jamaican Satanists? Quadriplegic Guatemalans? White men named Ted who have an odd number of toes but are married to Asian lithographers with eating disorders?

    August 14, 2012 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. AlienShark

    It should go without saying that no one should tell you what to do behind closed doors. I respect people's right to their privacy and I think that whatever they do is between them and their Creator. However, I don't feel that they should prance around in front of a group of other people's children, especially when it is a private organization of parents who's leadership is against it. If you want people to have respect for your lifestyle, than you should have respect for other people's lifestyles as well. If someone else's desire is to work hard and teach their children their religious and moral values, (which conflict with your own) and they set up a private organization in which to do so, who are you to infiltrate and tell them they are wrong and their teachings aren't good enough so you are going to prance around in front of their children. You want to live your life and keep your privacy, I respect you, if you want to use someone else's children to make some point I am vehemently against you. You have to give respect to get it.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. AlienShark

    you have to give respect in order to get it.

    August 14, 2012 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Solitaire

      What on earth does that mean, :"prance around on other people's kids?"

      August 14, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. AlienShark

    You have to give respect in order to get it. Why prance around on front of other people's kids if they don't want you to. I respect people's right to do what they like in their private life, but why force it on people's children when they have completely different teachings than you?

    August 14, 2012 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Not all gay people prance, just like not all straight people act masculine and not all intelligent people use their brains when commenting on blogs (hint hint).

      August 14, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Solitaire

      And what on earth do you think they are forcing on other people's children??? Are you under the impression that gay scout leaders come to meetings in full drag? What are you implying?

      August 14, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. lovemygirl

    105/10,000 Hmm, hardley worth mentioning unless you have an agenda.

    August 14, 2012 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. furrycatherder

    Big_D - It isn't the Catholic Church, it's the Mormon Church that seems to have taken over the BSA.

    August 14, 2012 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      No, the LDS church did not take it over. The population of America has abandoned it. The LDS Church will begin their own program to develop their youth if the BSA allow gays today and later any other special interest that does not contribute to their, the LDS, purpose for the organization. Personal experience- a gay guy does nt distinguish, from my experiences, between a 16 year old and a 20 year old. In his rather their minds they understand the feel good and so should be allowed to experience what the gay guy can do for him. My experience.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • jm

      Scouts have a right too ban whoever they want.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. k smith

    August 14, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    They don't want adult leaders who are gay responsible young boys. Neither do I want gay men responsible for my sons. It's not like they are protesting gay marriage here, or anything. I won't be giving up my eagle. Private organization. If you don't like it, don't join.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • fatal42

      Maybe they should start the Gay Scouts of America, & not allow normal people to join !!??

      August 14, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tdmitchell

    I seriously don't know why people argue about this. No one in my family was a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout. My life didn't suffer for not being part of this organization. I think it serves very little purpose. I didn't need therapy because my parents didn't sign me up. Really. If you don't like how an organization runs, don't be part of it. Start your own chapter, if you prefer a different structure. Anything. Just. Stop. Arguing. It is senseless. They have made their decision. Move on, folks. Start up your own organization.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim

    It's so sad that a group of intolerant, judgmental old men at the national organization level has to interfere with one of the most rewarding and fun experiences of a boy's life.

    August 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kathleen herron

    Seems that the Boy Scouts are just a training ground for Adult bigotry

    August 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. steve

    As an Eagle Scout, Vigil Honor member of the OA, and a BSA summer camp staff member for 7 years, I am ashamed that the organization that I devoted so much of my youth to is so intolerant. I will not give back my Eagle because I earned it. However, I completely disagree with the BSA's policy in this area. Of the handful of gay friends that I have, 75% of them were "closet gay" boy scouts who went on to get their Eagles. In fact, I had no idea they were gay until years after we had all gotten Eagle. And when I finally found out this fact about them, it made me question my own stance on the subject (as I had previously argued in favor of the policy while in scouts). It also made me realize that these people who I had grown up with and who were some of my absolute closest friends, that I never really knew them. After years of friendship with them and then learning this very significant fact about them, I realized that the BSA's policy had really hindered my friendships. And it made me reconsider things I had said to them before not knowing who they really were. As of today these friends are even closer to me because we can now be honest with each other. The best thing I learned from this is that, gay people ARE NOT different from straight people when it comes to achieving success for themselves. They put in the same amount of hard work and time that I did to earn their Eagle. Only they had to do it while hiding who they are, which is totally wrong. I stand by my fellow scouts/friends but I also still stand by the opinion that everything else in scouting makes it a wonderful program that I truly loved. So sad that one bigoted policy can do so much harm to something so good.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
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