On Monday, I published a letter from my husband, Christopher Baker, to the Boy Scouts of America. In that letter, Baker returned his hard-earned Eagle Scout award and explained that he no longer wanted to be associated with an organization that discriminated against gay teenagers and GBLT parents. By the end of the day, I'd posted six updates to that story—adding letters from other Eagle Scouts who had joined my husband in resigning from a fraternity they had loved and had worked incredibly hard to join.
The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization. The Supreme Court has said they have the right to discriminate. What these Eagle Scouts are saying is that legal precedent doesn't make the discrimination right. Overwhelmingly, they've said that it makes them sad to see the organization that meant so much to them go against the very values of inclusion that it taught them as children. As Baker wrote, "banning openly gay scouts and leaders is not a neutral position any more than separate-but-equal was a neutral position on race."
Yesterday, I received more letters from other Eagle Scouts who want the Boy Scouts of America to know how disappointed they are, and that they choose to stand with the persecuted rather than with the people doing the persecuting. In this post, you can read inspiring words from 13 Eagle Scouts who asked that I share their letters. In most cases, I've included a photo of the letter, and quoted text for easy reading. They're worth reading. These are amazing men.
Well, amazing men, and one woman. I'm starting out this collection with the letter of Dr. Julie Praus.
I received my Eagle award in 1976, at age 15. A member of Troop 28, Devils Lake, ND under the name Douglas James Praus. I went on to become a National Merit Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, went to medical school, became a psychiatrist, served for 12 years in the US Air Force, raised 3 sons, made a distinguished career as a physician. I transitioned gender in the midst of all that. I'm very 'out', and serve the GLBT population as well as the general population in the twin cities area.
I've found that being an Eagle is a member of a very select club. I've met them in universities, the military, and in medicine. They've all been of sterling character, and I've been honored to be in their company.
I read with dismay about the 'secret committee' that decided that gay scouts and leaders were not welcome within the BSA. This seems utterly indefensible and reprehensible. Do you think there were no gay or trans scouts or leaders? After a long time of reading the medical and psychological literature on this, and knowing many in the GLBT population, I find nothing to back up your decision, and must view this decision as an act of bigotry and ignorance. Please reconsider. The moral code I learned as a scout is one that I treasure to this day, and lends honor to one who follows it. I feel that this decision to exclude gay scouts and leaders dishonors the many who have served and learned scouting, and the BSA today.
Julie M. Praus, MD
The Boy Scouts have been an important part of my life in more ways than I can describe. My father was my first scoutmaster, and scouting was a family affair. I spent more summers than I can count at scout camp, first as camper, then as staff. Those summers were important to shaping who I am as a man today. After I finished college, I made the decision to go into the Peace Corps based on my Boy Scout ideals. I had, after all, just spent 4 years giving myself a degree, and it was only right that I give the next two to serving both my country and the starving and needy.
In The Gambia, I worked with two different scout troops in the local villages. One of those troops still has my old handbook as a guide. I also wrote an “appropriate technology” manual to help with the development effort, and much of the information, from basic knots and lashings to the creative low tech cooking and baking devices, were based off the knowledge I had acquired from my years as a scout. My choice to pursue my doctorate in psychology has its roots in my scouting experience. One of my mentors from scouting pushed me to become a doctor, and as a therapist, I have an opportunity to help others alleviate their suffering. The art I do, my leatherwork, would not have been available to me if it wasn't for the old scout leather kit I found in the basement, and my time at the Handicraft Lodge. I even still today carry my trusted Swiss Army knife with Boy Scout Hot Spark, just so I can always be prepared.
It is with this knowledge that you can understand how hard this decision has been for me to make. My path to Eagle Scout has been so important to making me who I am. But there is a sad reality in that I cannot continue to keep this honor and still live up to what this honor is supposed to mean.
I cannot accept the exclusion of homosexuals from the organization of the Boy Scouts of America. I am a doctor of clinical psychology who has studied trauma and sexual abuse, and as mentioned in your own youth protection videos, I know that there is no connection between sexual orientation and child predation. I also have a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Rutgers University, and I know that religious objections to homosexuality are neither universal, nor as clear cut as popular culture would like to maintain. I have been trained as a scientist-practitioner of a social science, and I know that sexual orientation is biological, cannot be taught or passed on through association, and more harm is done by forcing a person to deny innate orientation.
There is no good reason to exclude homosexuals from Scouting, and no harm will befall our Scouts by ending this unjust practice. But beyond the facts and the science, there is also a deeper, more moral reason for ending this practice, and it is rooted in the Law we were all taught to follow:
A Scout is Trustworthy, and it would be dishonest for me hold onto my attachments to an organization I know is harming others with discriminatory policies.
A Scout is Loyal, and I cannot count the number of people I would be betraying by not opposing ongoing exclusion in scouts based on sexuality. My friends Mark, Gabe, Amy, Daphne, Toni, Rebecca, Dawn, Jessica, Jeff, Isaiah, and many others have taken their turns looking out for me when I was in need of a friend. My various co-workers Joe, Jack, Alix, Louis, Jerry, and Melody were important team members at one time or another, and one was even blacklisted from our organization because of this unjust rule. My childhood friends like Jason and Eric grew up with me, and have maintained friendships over the years. If I were to not oppose the Boy Scout's policy against homosexuals, I would be disloyal to these very good people in my life, people who have been very loyal to me.
A Scout is Helpful, and promoting any discrimination hurts, not helps, those discriminated against, and the society that allows the discrimination.
A Scout is Friendly, and discrimination is not friendly. And teaching scouts to discriminate does not produce friendly scouts
A Scout is Courteous, and there is no way to politely treat a person like they are less than human because of the way they were born.
A Scout is Kind, and likewise there is no kind way to discriminate.
A Scout is Obedient, but obedience is not blind. As a scout I was always told to stand up for what is right and help those in need. The choice being presented is to be obedient to an unjust rule, or being obedient to a core ideal. I choose to be Obedient to what Scouting is supposed to stand for, not an unjust bylaw.
A Scout is Cheerful. Cheerfulness is about optimism. It is about bring out the good and joy in self and others. Cheerfulness is about encouraging the morale among all those around. You cannot be cheerful as you harm others or treat them as less than human. Discrimination does not sit on the bright side of life.
A Scout is Thrifty. A scout uses his resources not for himself, but for the service of others. Were I to keep this award and ignore the harm the policy is doing, I would be acting in greed, and against the value of thriftiness.
A Scout is Brave. It would be easier to look the other way. It would be easier to support the status quo even if it is doing harm. It would be easier to shut up and just write off this injustice as the way things are. But it is brave to stand up, and risk the repercussions involved in pointing out and demanding change in the face of what is an unjust policy. As such, I am calling on you to be brave, and risk the change that will be best for all involved.
A Scout is Clean, and injustice, discrimination and prejudice tarnish the soul.
A Scout is Reverent. I have a Bachelor's degree in religious studies. The so called religious objections to homosexuality are not as clear cut as people like to believe. What is clear that the God I revere desires Justice and Love, and hatred in God’s name is sacrilege.
In addition, I swore, on my honor, to do my best to do my duty to God and my country. My duty to God dictates I act towards all people in the name of Love and Justice. My duty to my country demands I fight for the freedoms and rights of all my countrymen despite race, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I swore to obey the Scout Law, and I have shown above how I must do this to honor that law. I swore to help other people at all times, and ignoring this unjust discriminatory process is contrary to the ideal of helping others. I swore to keep myself physically strong and mentally awake, and cannot allow myself to cloud my mind with immoral justifications for immoral rules. Finally, I swore to keep myself morally straight, and standing by silently as others are discriminated against is morally bankrupt.
So it is with great sadness that I feel I must return my Eagle Scout Award, not because I am ashamed of the values of Scouting, but because I know to keep it in the face of the current discriminatory policies against homosexuality is a violation of those core values I was taught to honor as a Scout.
Dr. Zachary Maichuk
I am an Eagle Scout (1964) and Vigil Member of the Order of the Arrow (1968 or 1969). I am not Gay but that is irrelevant.
Your recent reiteration of the policy of excluding Gays and Lesbians (hereinafter “Gay”) is causing my beloved organization a lot of harm. The Boy Scouts was always about building character and honor. It can not be an exclusive organization.
In the 60's, it was thought that being Gay was a choice. After reviewing the data, that simply is not true. I have known many Gay individuals and can attest to that. So, if that is the case, how can we turn our backs on so many Gay young people? As for adult volunteers, I have never seen anyone try and force or persuade a young person to chose a Gay lifestyle. The Scouts need all the volunteers it can get.
I am hearing a lot of negative things about the Scouts because of this policy. My own son will not allow his son to join the Scouts. I have a hard time persuading him to do otherwise. There of millions of us out there who feel the same way I do. Please, reconsider this policy.
Very truly yours,
It pains me to write this letter.
I remember being six years old, sitting in the cool wooden chairs of the Washington Elementary school auditorium in Washington, Oklahoma. I sat there with all the other boys, writhing in summertime excitement, glad to be dismissed from class for an unannounced presentation. I didn’t know what the presentation was going to be about or why only the boys were invited to attend, but I didn’t care: school was recessed for the day and that was enough.
As we were told to settle down by the principal, a gentleman walked out in olive green shorts and a khaki shirt with a belt that had things hanging from it–a compass, a pocket knife, a canteen–and a hat with a wide brim. After we had finally settled to near silence, the man in the wide brimmed hat pronounced with a jolly, incredulous voice that he could cook an egg in a campfire with only an orange peel. I was intrigued. Who was this weird guy who is hanging out where fires burn and eggs might need to be cooked using no more than an orange peel? Then he told us that he learned this trick when he was our age and went on his first camping trip with the Boy Scouts. He went on to regale us with anecdotes about survival skills, honor, good citizenship, and lifelong friends, and I soaked every last story up with rapt amazement. Then came the zinger: signups were being accepted for a new Boy Scout troop right here in Washington. I couldn’t believe it. The time between getting out of that meeting and my parents picking me up couldn’t come fast enough. I needed them to sign me up as soon as possible. I joined the Boy Scouts that Summer as a Tiger Cub, one of the youngest members of the brand newTroop 247.
This was 26 years ago. Eleven quick years later, I would be standing with my father and Scoutmaster on a stage at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church in Norman, Oklahoma receiving my Eagle Scout medal in front of proud Grandparents, family, and friends. What stood between those years was the single most defining experience of my youth: my time with the Boy Scouts. While others spent their summers indoors playing video games and hardly leaving their neighborhoods, I was white water rafting, spelunking, hiking, laughing, and, most importantly, learning the values of friendship, dependability, and a respect for the diversity of people on whom I needed to rely to accomplish all of these activities.
Therefore, because of this wildly fulfilling experience, it saddens me that the BSA has decided to reaffirm its disgraceful policy of bigotry and fear mongering. When I was a Scout, my troop had a diversity of races, faiths, and, as it turns out, orientations. Not one of these qualities ever prevented me from valuing our time together or developing cherished friendships, in fact, I loved that I hung out with a group of guys who were different because collectively we were uniformly awesome, but I digress.
I’ve struggled with my relationship with the Scouts since the initial ban of homosexuals several years ago, a backwards looking, arbitrary rule that took my breath away. How could this organization from which I have profited so much turn out to be the shining, happy face of bigotry? Although bigotry is too simple of a concept. The BSA’s ban was calculated, it was a political move to make some sort of a twisted appeal to the factions of our society that have celebrated and congratulated themselves for too long under the self-applied moniker of the “moral majority.” This calculation on behalf of the BSA sickens me and makes me sad beyond words. The BSA, the organization whose Eagle Scout rank I placed above even my hard-earned Master’s degree, thew an entire faction of the most vulnerable under the bus to appeal to the bullying tactics of a vocally bigoted, increasingly discredited niche. Shame on you!
What does your “stance” say to the 12 year old boy who has found repose in the welcoming arms of the Scouts from the bullying and harassment because he is seen as different? It says to him that his difference is shameful and unwelcome. My Boy Scouts have legitimized and empowered his attackers. For shame!
I get emotional thinking back to the joys I had with the Scouts. The Summer camps, spending time with my Dad and friends, the hours of exploration and the feeling of having friends who understood me. And it hurts to know that at the conclusion of this letter, I will have refuted the organization under whose umbrella all of this joy was possible. But then I think of the couple who love one another and have dedicated their lives to the purpose of serving one another and the pain they must feel at having respectable organizations publicly say that not only are they not welcome in the organization, but their love is an abomination. I think about this and I know that my pain in refuting the Boy Scouts is significantly less by degrees. This knowledge does not make my rejection of the Boy Scouts easier, but it does tell me that it is right.
It is with hope that one day the Boy Scouts of America will find their purpose that I quit the organization. Know this: I am hopeful things will change, not because they are politically calculated, but because they are right. In the meantime and under your current disgraceful policies, I return to you my Eagle Scout credentials. My medal is a couple thousand miles away in a box in my parent’s house, so I do not have that to return to you, but please accept my membership card instead. As you can see, it’s well worn. I used to carry it in my wallet and enjoyed showing it to people.
Dustin Robert Lee
former Eagle Scout of Troop 247
I attained the rank of Eagle Scout on a date I will never forget, 02/02/2002. I was one of six friends who reached Eagle at the same time in Mundelein, Illinois. It was such a significant occurrence in our small suburban town that we made it into the newspaper. We grew up together, starting as Cub Scouts, where my mother was the den leader and the other five boys’ parents were all leaders in some fashion.
The six of us followed each other throughout scouting. Though one of us drifted apart from the others, the connections forged in scouting has kept us close, sticking together through all manner of events, both happy and sad; each of us taking turns leading the group in our own way. To this day, the five of us are close friends, attending each other’s weddings and those of our friends; maintaining strong friendships, supporting each other through the good times and the bad.
Unfortunately, it’s now with a heavy heart that I must do what time and the strain of the world tried so hard to do: I must break from my brothers; my lifelong friends. I can no longer stand with them as a proud Eagle Scout. Though I will retain the values, morals and skills that scouting has taught me, I cannot, in good conscience, remain an Eagle. That honor has been corrupted by the BSA’s blatant discrimination and bigotry.
The BSA’s policy of “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals” is not a practice in line with the teachings of the Boy Scouts. Instead, this is the practice of bigots. Scouting taught me to stand up against the unethical and that it is wrong to exclude someone for any reason, whether it be race, religion, gender, sex, physical ability or sexual orientation. I was taught to stand up for those who need my help. I am a straight man and I choose to stand with those whose voices you choose to suppress and ignore.
I am relinquishing my Eagle Scout medal and patch to the BSA’s care because the honor the rank holds has been tainted. The rank of Eagle no longer holds meaning when it is backed by an organization that represents such bigotry and contempt for others. It is my hope that, one day, the BSA will see its mistake. On that day, I will proudly stand as an Eagle Scout once again.
Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Troop 388
Order of the Arrow, Ordeal Member, Lodge 40
I attribute my curiosity, my morals, and my self-reliance to the principles that I learned in scouting. Being a scout gave me purpose as a youth, and I have never regretted my years of service.
Due to the actions of your board on July 17, however, I have come to regret my continued association with the BSA. In no uncertain terms, I say to you gentlemen that you are cowards. By continuing to remove dedicated leaders and aspiring scouts from their positions because of their homosexuality, you are weakening scouting and causing trauma and isolation to the most vulnerable boys in our community.
When I was a Cub Scout, there was one boy in our pack who had been born with a cleft palate. Due to his speech impediment, he spoke rarely and quietly. Naturally, the rest of us teased him and made him an outcast until our pack leader sat us down and explained things. He impressed upon us this boy’s desperate need for friends and inclusion. He made sure that we knew that excluding others, no matter the reason, was completely unacceptable and against every law of scouting and brotherhood.
I want you to think about the boys you are casting out of your organization, and I want you to wonder how many of them need support while their families, their schools, and their churches turn their backs on them. I want you to think about the pain you are causing, the depression you are enabling, and the suicides that you are contributing to. I want you to recognize your weakness of character as you fail in your duty as men to protect the powerless.
As a Tiger Scout, Cub Scout, Webelos Scout, Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Order of the Arrow Brotherhood member, I learned that what is easy is not always right. Something is not moral just because it is legal. You may have convinced the Supreme Court that your bigotry is lawful, but you will never convince me that this policy is anything but dishonorable negligence in your role as leaders.
One day, I am sure, the Boy Scouts of America will stop turning aside the boys who need it most. Until that day comes, I will be ashamed to have my name associated with yours. Remove me immediately from the ranks of Eagle Scouts, and find enclosed my Eagle Scout award. Until you begin to live by the values of inclusion, kindness, and civility that you espouse, I refuse any association with the Boy Scouts of America.
Former Senior Patrol Leader, Troop 485
Order of the Arrow Brotherhood Member, Lodge
Aina Topa Hutsi
Eagle Scout, 2002-2012
With this letter I am returning my Eagle Scout medal, badge, scarf, and merit badge sash, thereby relinquishing all previous and current association with Boy Scouts of America.
I act in solidarity with all gay boys, fathers, and mothers who will no longer be allowed to participate in this organization and its activities which I, as a boy who was not yet even considering his sexual orientation, was accepted into and benefitted from.
I act to prevent the indoctrination of assumedly heterosexual boys and families who might accept BSA’s current ruling as anything more substantial than sanctioned ignorance (at best) or institutionalized homophobia (at worst).
Reflecting upon the Scout’s oath which I was led to memorize and repeat--and believe--I recall that bigotry and discrimination are not included in said values. As a Scout I was educated, via multicultural-appearing pamphlets and rank-advancing service projects, to appreciate and embrace diversity. I was expected to recite “with justice and liberty for all,” then acknowledge a Christ portrayed as all-accepting by stating the Lord’s Prayer in conclusion of every troop meeting. Given this “moral” education and current BSA policy, a hypocrisy exists with which I cannot ethically accept or abide in any way, shape, or form.
Until this egregious and antiquated policy is reversed, I will only speak of BSA with direct and legitimate criticism. I will not deny the discipline, skills, and solidarity I gained as a Scout. However, until these experiences become available to all youth and families, I remain a Former Eagle Scout.
I am quite proud of my effort and accomplishment achieving this rank circa 1981, and I tremendously appreciate the support of my parents, leaders, and community in this success. Thanks to all of you! I am no longer and not at all proud or appreciative of Boy Scouts of America. Rather, I am sad, disappointed, disgusted, and taking great umbrage.
I imagine questions my own son--almost five years old--might ask when he learns an enticing club from which I, his father, joined and retired, categorically rejects and denies some of his friends and community members for sake of whom and how they love. The tough answers I will give, so long as this letter speaks in vain and intransigent prejudice persists, will unfortunately enlighten my boy (be he straight or gay or otherwise) to the ways of this culture in it’s very poorest inculcation.
For myself and my inclusive family, Boy Scouts of America now serve to represent the sick and ailing shadow of American society rather that the optimistic shine I was sold on as a Tenderfoot, honored for as an Eagle, and expected to uphold as the contributing member of society I have since become.
Mark Dooley, Former Eagle Scout and Senior Patrol Leader Troop 301 Hutchinson, KS
MA Clinical Psychology, Master of Environmental Studies, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Child Mental Health Specialist, Certified Sexual Assault Services Provider, WA State Approved Clinical Supervisor
I was very active in Scouting in the mid 1970s in my council in XXXX. I held all possible positions in my troop XXX. I was on the staff of Camp XXXX, was a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow and served as lodge secretary. I earned 24 merit badges. In the years since my youth I have served as a merit badge councilor and have assisted local troops in other capacities.
It was with a great deal of pride of accomplishment that I earned and was awarded the Eagle Scout award in 1975.
But it was with a great deal of disgust that I heard of the Boy Scouts of America’s recent reaffirmation of their anti-gay policy.
I have known of this policy for some time, and each time it was in the news I hoped that the BSA would take the opportunity to revisit the policy and to do the right thing, to change the policy and make the BSA an inclusive organization that would welcome all boys and leaders, regardless of sexual orientation.
Well, you had the opportunity, and you blew it. You could have followed the lead of other youth organizations that have recognized the needs of all those who could be served by the otherwise excellent programs that develop skills and confidence in young men. But you did not.
Today I am returning my Eagle Scout medal because I do not want to be associated with the bigotry for which the BSA stands.
I had at one time considered a career as professional Scout. I have looked upon the principles that I learned as part of the Scout Oath and Law as ideals to guide my actions. But in the years since I left active participation in Scouting I have learned that being Loyal, Courteous, and Kind to my fellow humans includes being tolerant, accepting, and inclusive of others despite their differences. Bigotry is not part of anything that I learned from Scouts — but that is what you are teaching to the young men in your program today. Shame on you for doing so.
While I recognize that the BSA is a private organization and has the right to include or exclude from its membership anyone it wants to, this is an organization that I no longer wish to have anything to do with.
Jackson C. Cooper
Lynch had this today about his letter, posted below: "I am not an activist (and in fact, even lean a little to the right of center), but after reading what many of my fellow Eagle Scouts have done since the BSA announced their decision, I could not in good conscience sit idle. I made an individual decision to return my medal to the organization until such time that the policy is reversed. Included with my medal was the attached 2-page letter which took me nearly 4 hours and many tears to write."
Recently, I was disheartened to learn that the BSA has made a national executive decision to continue a long-standing policy of exclusion towards persons of “undesirable” religious affiliations and sexual orientation. This policy is unjust and wrong. I feel that I MUST take a principled stance and join my fellow Eagle scouts in returning my medal (enclosed).
I earned the rank of Eagle scout in 1993 through Troop 770 in Winston Salem, NC and Troop 17 in Enon, OH. It was an arduous process that didn't end until a few months before my 18th birthday. Most of my peers had long since moved on, as I longed to do so myself. Scouting was tough, but I loved it. I buckled down and finished my last merit badge and service project because I'm no quitter. But I feel that I must quit now. Earning the Eagle scout honor was very hard-won personal victory, especially for a small boy who would rather stay inside and read comic books than be outdoors canoeing and camping. It was tougher than MBA school. It was tougher than starting two businesses. It was tougher than the martial arts I would take up as a twenty-something. But scouting wasn't tougher than Engineering school and scouting wasn't tougher than helping my wife through her own dark times early in our marriage. It certainly wasn't tougher than writing this letter.
However, without scouting, I don't know that I would have been tough enough to do any of those things. Scouting taught me to get out of my comfort zone and do things I did not believe I could do. Scouting taught me that anything is possible if I believed in myself. Myself, not a magic being.
Perhaps my greatest achievement in scouting was possibly saving the life of a fellow scout during the summer of 1987 or 1988. On one of our many hikes at that vast reserve of Camp Raven Knob in the western NC mountains. There were probably about 30 of us on the hike, and for some reason, I was walking at the head of the group that day. A juvenile copperhead snake was crossing the trail and I don't think anyone else had spotted it. I put my arm up to stop the boys behind me and the counselor came forward and tossed it into the woods with a stick. I had learned that juvenile copperheads were the most dangerous, because they hadn't learned to control the amount of venom injected with a bite and would inject far more than an adult. The boy next to me (or one of the others) may well had been bitten if I hadn't stopped the group.
No one can say what would have happened that day if I had been excluded way back then but possibly because I was there, we do know that no one was bitten in my group. The fact of the matter is that scouts look out for each other, just as I know that you and the executive council must believe that you are looking out for today's scouts by continuing the policy of exclusion against gay and atheist boys and men. Unfortunately, I believe this policy is anachronistic for the 21st century and the anonymous, closed-door methods that you have chosen to review this policy are a further stain to the BSA organization. What was once known as the most wholesome organizations of America is now seen as one of it's last bastions of bigotry.
I cannot in good conscience continue to allow myself to be associated with an organization with such seemingly divergent views from my own, not to mention inconsistent with the fundamental values that I learned in scouting. As an information security consultant, I see everyone's dirty laundry. It's critical that I maintain my own credibility and trustworthiness. It is my belief that I can no longer do that by maintaining an association with the Boy Scouts of America.
Effective immediately, I will no longer refer to myself as an Eagle Scout. Although it brings me great sadness to acknowledge this separation, what makes me even more sad is that you would no longer have me, a self-identified atheist for most of my adult life, as a member anyway. Having no children, I have given little consideration to continued scouting involvement for the past 20 years, but I would like to think that I have much to offer the younger generation in terms of skills and experiences. Yet the Board would deny us both because of who I am.
Although I consider it to be a vary small part of who I am, being an atheist is still very much a part of who I am and influences many of my decisions, both conscious and unconscious. On that note, I would like to say that I believe the decision to continue the exclusion policy was wrong not only from a moral perspective, but also from a rational one. If you desire to change the attitudes of persons of “undesirable” religious affiliations and sexual orientation, would not the best way to do that be to include them and try to set a “better” example? Or is the Council so terrified that there might be something to be learned by counter example of the “undesirables”?
Furthermore, it seems that the Board rejected the obvious compromise of allowing the exclusion policy to be implemented at the unit level, rather than at the national level. It's my understanding that this reflects what is actually happening in practice in most areas today anyway. All I can say is that I know my adult life would have been different, probably in negative ways, if not for my time in scouting. I believe that everyone has something to contribute. The exclusion policy not only denies the experiences that I had to other decent human beings, but also diminishes the experiences of those who are included.
I appeal to you to reconsider the exclusion policy of the Boy Scouts of America. If you do, I think I would like to come back to scouting.
Former Eagle Scout, Troop 17, 1993-2012
It's worth remembering that this is not a new movement. This policy has been around for a long time ... and Eagle Scouts have been resigning all along. Eric Ray sent the Boy Scouts of America this letter in 2000.
As an Eagle Scout, I feel I must make my voice heard about the Boy Scout policy on discrimination. For years I remained silent on these issues mostly because they did not apply to me. However, one of the most important principles in a constitutional society is that the denial of civil liberties to one group is a threat to the liberties of all groups.
Initially, I was most concerned specifically about the policy banning atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers from the BSA. While I certainly had religious beliefs when I became an Eagle Scout in 1990 at the age of fourteen, I have since moved away from organized religion. I find it deeply troubling that today I would not even be eligible for membership in the organization simply because of my agnosticism. So am I no longer to be considered a "moral" person because I do not subscribe to a literal interpretation of religious scripture? I would submit to you that it is not I who has changed, but rather the Scouting organization that has not lived up to its own values.
Recently, I have become interested in the Scouting policy of banning homosexuals as members and leaders. I suppose one of the reasons this had never gained my attention earlier is the fact that such discrimination is not mentioned anywhere in BSA handbooks or policies! I had mixed feelings about the recent Supreme Court decision of Dale vs. BSA. While I agree that a private group does have the right to determine its membership criteria, I believed that the principles embodying the Boy Scout organization would preclude it from hiding behind such protections.
It is truly a sad day for me when the Boy Scouts of America is placed in the same category as a White Supremacist organization such as the KKK. Despite my years of happy membership in the organization, I am now ashamed to be a member. While I disagree strongly with the BSA becoming a discriminatory private organization, rather than an inclusive public accommodation, I believe that the organization has the right to become what it wishes. However, in order be consistent with remaining truly private, the BSA must now voluntarily completely separate itself from government assistance, whether this be direct financial support from the United Way, associations with public services such as fire or police departments, subsidization of campgrounds at military installations, as well as the symbolic position of head of the BSA held by the President of the United States.
To accept government assistance while discriminating against entire classes of citizens is to violate the principles of honesty and integrity which the Boy Scouts hold so dear. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this situation is the expulsion of Boy Scout members simply because they vocally disagree with BSA discrimination policy. Such activities are the antithesis of democratic principles.
Thinking people can disagree on such matters, but to eliminate opposition is the act of tyranny. To this end, I am enclosing my most cherished possession from Scouting, my Eagle Scout badge, as an act of protest. While I'm sure such commonplace actions are of little consequence, I would hope that you would consider just one thing. The Boy Scouts of America organization was created for its members. If the Scouts themselves leave it, then what is left?
Eric S. Ray, Eagle Scout
Read the original post, featuring a letters from my husband and six other men, plus links to more
Join Scouts for Equality, an organization founded by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls.
If you want to write to the BSA, here's the address:
BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.