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. Mister Jones

    How many of you would be OK with a guy being the troop leader for your daughters Girl Scout troop? What about a guy like Joe Francis or Charlie Sheen? Or what if you didn't even know that much about him, but he drove a real stylish van with the windows blacked out? No? Not so comfortable with that idea? That is the same revulsion I feel looking at the picture of that woman. Just like you wouldn't want a skeevy guy spending quality time with your daughter, I don't want a fat lesbian having any developmental influence over my son. I don't care how "butch" she is, she still isn't a man. Can not be a man, and never will be a man, no matter how short her hair is, or how much she refuses to wear a skirt or makeup.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      I do believe something called a "background check" (required by all who work with children in pretty much every organization) would keep someone like Charlie Sheen from ever being associated as a Scout Leader of any variety. As for this woman in question, she is a Cub Scout Den Mother. She is working with 3rd to 5th graders, not older Scouts. I would have no problem with her as my child's den leader.

      August 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver Scout Dad

      You seem confused. The BSA policy does not exclude women from leadership roles, only gay women. Straight women will also 'never be a man', so I'm afraid you have a problem with current BSA policy in that you'd like them to be even more restrictive. Also, BSA goes to great lengths to train it's leadership to never allow a boy to be alone with just one adult. This is just good sense, regardless of affiliation. I would have no problem with an openly gay Den Leader, and I am not repulsed by the woman pictured. What I am repulsed by is the BSA policy against gays and atheists. The BSA has a right to make it's own policy. I have a right to speak out against it. It seems to me it's the BSA council that needs a lesson in leadership.

      August 14, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bromley Jennette

    One of the required Merit badges for earning the Eagle is Family Life. The interpretation of the requirements for the badge is open ended. There is no BSA driven suppression, demand or emphasis on gender or gender roles.

    August 14, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BSA_go!

    The BSA is a private organization that has the right to make its own rules, period. It doesn't matter what side of the issue you are on, they are not obligated to change their rules, if you don't like it, move on.

    August 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver Scout Dad

      The wonderful thing about being an American is that I do not have to move on. Instead, I will exercise my right to speak up. The BSA has every right to make its own policies, and I have every right to voice my opposition. If you don't like it, move on.... or become involved!

      August 14, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Raj

    One of my dearest experiences was cuddling up in the pup tent with my chums, and doing stuff, if the scout master only knew!

    August 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ThinkTwice

    As the saying goes in Scouting: Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle. And, while I am not 100 percent sure about this, it is highly likely that just because someone turned in their Eagle Scout badge, melted it down, threw it away, etc., their name is not crossed off some list. In fact, their names have already been recorded in a master record of Eagle Scouts for eternity. It isn't actually something you can truly, physically give back. You might give it away in your mind, but as far as Scouting is concerned, you are and always will be an Eagle Scout. Badge or no badge.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. zkiihne

    Boston Minuteman Council is the only council to allow gays into Scouting.

    August 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marco Luxe

      A scout regional council in MN is also inclusive.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Marco Luxe

      And the Lord Baden-Powel council in NY/PA is also inclusive.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. rollon

    BSA should be able to do what they want in making policy. And gays can turn in their badges in protest. Now lets move on and continue to make the BSA a stronger organization.
    Gays should start the GBSA and have lots of fun!!

    August 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samuel Santiago

      Are you suggesting that every single person who renounces their Eagle status is gay?

      Garbage. Would I be black just because I spoke out against racism? No, I'm white.

      I'm also straight. That does not keep me from recognizing when when something is, in my view, wrong.

      The BSA really didn't consider the reality of their official "no gays" and how it clashes with what many (including their best and brightest, i.e. the Eagle Scouts) believe the Boy Scouts stand for.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marco Luxe

      They'd be no need for a GBSA if the LDS would form its own LDSBSA, which is what they threaten to do if the national office lifts the ban.

      The official youth organization of the Mormons is BSA. Each ward MUST have troop regardless of local interest, thus the LDS has more troop, as than any other religion. It is with this clout that they control the BSA national office, and it is the LDS prophet Monson who is pulling all the strings. [look up scouting in the Deseret News or in other LDS publications]

      Let the Mormons honestly separate from BSA, so they can enforce their relgion tenets in their own organization, but leave the BSA with the real ability to follow the Scout Law that is open to diversity.

      August 15, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Spencer Medvick

      The different between doing what you are able to do and what is easy and what is right to do is part of what scouting should be teaching. No one disputes the ability of BSA to make this rule, but you seem to question the rights of those who complain about it.

      August 15, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. srm

    This article is horribly one-sided and biased. Great journalism.

    August 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris P

      I agree. But typical of the biased, racist and hypocritical CNN news agency.

      August 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |

    Gays already have their very own organization – the Democratic Party. Leave the Scouts alone.

    AND 100 returned their Eagle medals? Wow – so insignificant it does not even merit mention. And CNN wonders why their ratings have tanked. Be Prepared – yep, that's my motto.

    August 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • michael

      50,000 Eagle Scouts per year and only 100 turned their badges in. hmmmm say there are 1,000,000 eagles scouts. This means .01 percent of 1 percent turned in their badges. Why is this news??????

      August 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hockeymatt

    I earned my Eagle with 3 silver palms many moons ago... The camping trips, life lessons, friendships and accompanying skills via the merit badges are something I am glad I grew up with. I later went on to serve in the US Marine Corps and currently am self-employed. All that personal success can be attributed to mentoring adults that help young people when we were teenagers and if I had a son or daughter I would encourage them to be in the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
    I also remember that we had one gay adult leader in our troop and it was never an issue. Not for him and not for anyone else. On the other hand, it was also helpful that our adult leadership focused on mentoring young boys to become young men without worrying about the religious side of things. I guess that focus on learning, thinking and taking up personal responsibility helped me realize that it was not worth my time to believe in a celestial dictator anyway. Kudos to the secular boy scout troops out there!

    August 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. life scout

    obviously the scouts who gave back their eagles have forgotten the scout oath. im very disappointed in them. BSA should stand their ground and not allow this bullcrap to affect their program. I see alot of comments here from people who obviously have no idea what the scout program is about, i have no doubt if they had been thru the program their opinion would be much different.

    August 14, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samuel Santiago

      These grown men have every right to renounce their Eagle status. None of us are bound by something we did as youngsters. Take it from someone who was in Boy Scouts (Troop 109, Philadelphia). Sometimes I felt our black and pink neckerchiefs were gay. Should we have banned those too?

      August 14, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      Why would their opinion be different? How would going through the program make it clear to people that no gays should be allowed in BSA?

      These are serious questions that I do not see answers to on this page.

      August 15, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Runes77

    "one of life's most cherished achievements" ?

    How old are Eagle Scouts? Aren't they still considered "boys"? Good golly, I'd hope they would aim to accomplish greater things in their other 60-70 years of life.

    August 15, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Democrat Heaven

    Man, even the poor BSA can't get a break from the deviants. What a shame that a disgusting life style shows their true colors and does so at all costs to everyone else. Would you folks really want your kids be watched and supervised by that thing up above. America is sick and pathetic.

    August 15, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Alex

    I'm glad to see that those outraged by this are organizing a private protest and even renouncing their membership and awards. It's great to see a private organization working through issues with the private citizens that make up their membership. This is far preferable to the fascist municipal governments trying to force the Boy Scouts out over a personal belief.

    August 15, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Silent Majority

    I am one of many who support and laud the Boy Scouts of America for their unswerving position on this issue. This organization, along with its members, have donated hundreds of thousands of hours of community service annually, including food drives, community improvement projects and civic awareness programs. I would love to see the media do a better job of covering the substantial impact for good that this organization is having upon the lives of young men.

    August 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
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