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. MathGenius

    105 is pretty close to 10,000. So yeah, 10,000 eagle scouts sent back medals. Give or take... like... 9,895.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • ReadingGenius

      The story says the 10,000 number could not be confirmed. There were 105 that posted on the tumblr site, but there are most likely more than that. So basically, they can't be certain how many. Nice try, though.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rickwh

    It turns out that these scouts are actually the type of boys that the BSA is trying to create. Unfortunately the BSA doesn't realize it. Having been a boy scout myself, I am very glad to see that these Eagle scouts have taken a stand on this issue. Their parents should be proud – as am I.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TiredODaCrap

    Imagine that...About 100 have renounced them, but the protester says 10,000. I guess it's good that he turned in the Eagle badge, since trustworhtiness is a part of their Law. How can one who'd exaggerate so much be trusted with anything? Shows what some will do to try to make their cause more than it is.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ReadingGenius

      You might want to READ the article again. Go slow.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • TiredODaCrap

      Which part, where it says in black and white – "Myers' figure of 10,000 Eagle Scouts can't be confirmed." Or maybe this part: "The site said that 105 Eagle Scouts had sent in pictures and letters in protest as of Friday." Don't see anywhere that his claim of 10,000 scouts was ever confirmed – but I guess you do????

      August 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      No, the article said that CNN could not verify the 10,000. CNN's journalists rarely do serious fact-finding missions, so I think I would trust the letter-writer's estimate more than the author of the article...

      August 13, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Are all those who renounce all sodomites?

      August 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Go Play with Barbies

    Man.... CNN clings to everything, anything gay... First you can't get the Chic-fi-la story to go away... now guess we gotta hear about this forever.... Sorry, not every group of people have access to everything... Does the president have $5/plate dinners for poor people, so they can feel like their part of the political process? NO... so the president of the United States discriminates against poor people... I guess all poor people should start protesting all the things they can't do because their not rich. Face it... Gay isn't normal, never was, and if you are gay, you are different. That opens you for discrimination & if you want to be an eagle scout, your gonna have to turn straight :))

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Miss Trixie

      So, if you don't like the Boy Scout values then DON'T JOIN. Membership is not a right. Go form your own club and stop imposing your beliefs on others. They can take any position they want. They are a private organization. Jeez, whine, whine, whine. It's not a regular day on CNN without the gays whining about something.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • firemedic2274

      This is clear cut discrimination, however you try to justify it. My son is 4 yrs. old, and I can tell you he wont join a group that discriminates against people. So much for me jioning with my son, like me and my father did. Good Job BSA. Good Luck, God Bless and Good Bye!!

      August 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nuffsaid.

    Herndon Graddick's comments clearly demonstrate his ignorance of what he's talking about. Denying parents the ability to participate in their children's lives? Really? No more than the school district preventing a parent from wandering in to school and teaching a chemistry class is denying that same ability. He needs a different argument.

    Britton Lense seems to think that being involved with BSA is a "right," based on his argument.

    Perhaps we need to focus less on fighting against dogma we disagree with, and more on logic?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mop

      *** Herndon Graddick's comments clearly demonstrate his ignorance of what he's talking about. Denying parents the ability to participate in their children's lives? Really? No more than the school district preventing a parent from wandering in to school and teaching a chemistry class is denying that same ability. He needs a different argument.

      You fail.
      Parent cant walk in and teach a chemistry class, true
      But at least "that" kid is allowed in class.
      See the difference ?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. peick

    Just because you stand up for your values doesn't mean you have the right values. How are values defined? You can "fight for your right to paaaarty" if you want to, but that doesn't make you noble.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andrew

    Military's gay, why not scouts? Are you paranoid?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. john

    Another story about gay this, gay that, tax returns yes or no, and on and on. How's the economy doing CNN? Why don't you ever ask Obama why he's breaking his campaign promise NOT to run for re-election since unemployment is still HIGHER THAN WHEN HE TOOK OFFICE? Enough with the stories about fringe minority groups. How about some REAL news?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mrs. M

    Why don't the gays start their own scouting group? That way they can do what ever they want to and will leave the Boy Scouts of America alone. It's clear that the Boy Scouts of America do not want them, so to make everyone happy they should just start their own scouting organization. They can then make up their own rules, badges, and uniforms.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • ReadingGenius

      Kind of like drinking from their own water fountain and sitting at the back of the bus? How does that white robe fit, Mrs. M?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      but that's exactly their point... to take away everyone else's rights.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. AceRyder

    By the way, all of the people denouncing gays as automatic pedophiles are likely the first ones to accuse priests of such things....

    August 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    All BSA pins, medals and awards are, for lack of a better phrase, on loan, to member scouts but remain the property of the BSA and may be recalled if the BSA finds the scout unfit in the future. I don't agree with BSA's stance but I do agree that it's right and proper for Scouts to return their medals to their den, pack or troop once they've become adults. The BSA can then recycle them to troops that can ill afford to buy them.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Ed

    I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14 (in 1988). While I do NOT plan to turn in my award in protest, I can understand why some other Eagles are. Those in scouting are not taught to treat anyone differently than they want to be treated. In fact, scouting teaches people to respect everyone (no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, orientation, social status, etc).

    Is the BSA's policy correct or not? I think the BSA should state the exact reasons why they have the policy in place. Is it to protect the members from predators, perceived misguided influence, predigest or any number of possible explanations.

    In my years of scouting, I do not recall any mention of this policy. I do however recall much heated debates on allowing women to be BSA scout leaders. Well today, there are women BSA scout leaders. The BSA did concede on that heated issue. How many more years will it be before they concede on allowing gay members and leaders?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • huff

      Who funds the BSA? Who founded the BSA? Your answer lies there. Its wrong to force the BSA to adopt others views. They are a private group and can believe the way they want. Don't like then don't join the BSA.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Thinabout it

    SO you would let a male and female children stay in the same barracks?

    August 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Thinabout it

    SO you would let a male and female children stay in the same barracks? No one seems to care that the 2 guys could.... get it on?

    It says i said this.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. no regrets

    I stopped at Life Scout rank. Seems more a perfect label for me- just a former scout going through life.
    Re: the gay rejection. Live and let live.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
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