More men join the ranks of Former Eagle Scout

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.

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

Zachary Maichuk

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

Barry Ferns

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,

Dustin Lee

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
Somerville, MA
former Eagle Scout of Troop 247

Matthew Munley

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.

Matthew Munley
Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Guide, Troop 388
Order of the Arrow, Ordeal Member, Lodge 40

Ian Birnbaum

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.

Ian Birnbaum
Dallas, Texas
Former Senior Patrol Leader, Troop 485
Order of the Arrow Brotherhood Member, Lodge
Aina Topa Hutsi
Eagle Scout, 2002-2012

Ben Howe

Mark Dooley

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

Karl Best

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.

Douglas Woodhouse

Jackson C. Cooper

William Lynch

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.

William Lynch
Former Eagle Scout, Troop 17, 1993-2012

Eric Ray

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


  1. As objectionable as I find the discrimination, the fact is that these people have the freedom to leave & disavow a private organization. 

    No sweeping laws needed. 
    No forced coercion through a govt agency.

    Isn’t that how a free society is supposed to function? It’s the same factor at play when Mensa,  the NAACP or the V.F.W. turn down my unqualified  applications.The point of the OP seems to come across as Good VS Bad, but is it possible to see this as a win/win?

    1. Layne, 

      This argument would make an awful lot more sense if that’s what anybody was asking for. 

      This is members of an organization telling that organization they don’t like what it’s doing. How, exactly, is that an attack on free society?

      1. No, I agree. I guess that’s the whole point, right?  Not trying to strawman or anything. 
        Free association is happening and, in this case, where the views of that organization are objectionable, they’re paying the price by losing  members and funds. 

        The same thing seems to be happening with the Catholic church (major loss of funding and historically low influx of new members/clergy), Printed News and Broadcast Television. 

        My point would be that this is the way it should happen. As opposed to the broadcast/music industry, who, when they can’t control where former customers are going, seek instead to shut down or destroy any of the new alternatives. 

    2.  There’s a little bit of a difference between being turned down for Mensa due to qualifications, and being excluded from Scouts due to sexual orientation.

    3. “these people” aren’t just anybody.  They’re Eagle Scouts.  It’s the very highest award that can be obtained in Scouting; it’s very, very difficult to obtain, and it is ultimately what Scouting (and supposedly the BSA) is all about.   An Eagle Scout embodies everything that Scouting stands for — they are the “ideal” Scout, if you will.

      It’s a very, very big deal to give up your Eagle Scout badge.   It’s quite a damning statement when the very people who are designated to embody the ideals of an organization reject that designation.   They are doing so because the BSA has left Scouting.

      I think it’s a very sad situation, but my respect for these men is boundless.  They are true Eagle Scouts.

      1. Oh, wow! You’re so right! They ARE true Eagle Scouts! We should totally design an award for them. The whole idea that the BSA has “left Scouting” and that what remains are these men of integrity and valor is SPOT ON.

        Someone should recognize them and create a medal for Doing The Single Most Influential Action In Support of Scouting. Something they can carry and be proud of, that shows they fought for the vulnerable, and at great personal expense.

        1.  An excellent idea!  They will, however, go down in history on the “right side” of compassion and integrity.

    4. I can see how you would have these concerns, what with all these Eagle Scouts calling for sweeping revisions to the 1st amendment to say “…except for the BSA, who should be forcefully coerced by government agencies using forceful government guns and also taxes.”

      1. Not a single one of these letters are addressed to the government. They are addressed from Boy Scouts to BSA. I’ve yet to hear a single person ask for government intervention. We want an organization we once belonged to, and achieved the highest rank in to reflect our values.

    5. The legal right to do something should not in any way restrict anyone’s  right to call them assholes for doing so.

        1. It’s already there: First Amendment. Right to call anybody an asshole G-U-A-R-A-N-T-E-E-D. 

          Unfortunately does not cover right to marry asshole if asshole is same gender as you. 

    6. “…the fact is that these people have the freedom to leave & disavow a private organization.”
      That’s a fact, yesiree. Is there anyone saying it’s not?

      These people have not been restricted in their ability to criticize to their hearts content, the problem is that sexual discrimination is discrimination and that’s gotta end – everywhere.

      You too find it objectionable – so object and stop making excuses for people you don’t agree with anyway. 

    7. The BSA is a pickup artist club now?  Or how is it that being straight is a qualification to join?

    8. As I understand it though, the BSA is a quasi-government organisation, with its fingers in all kinds of government pies. So as long as they’re in such a position, they most certainly should be obliged to treat people the same as any public servant would.

        1. I think yours is slightly incorrect here. It’d be hard to name a single organization that doesn’t receive some measure of Feder
          So if the Scouts/Scientology/ Code Pink or Oral Roberts U. start to claim a piece of the Federal pie, it starts being a murky picture. I certainly wouldn’t want my money going to those programs -in the form of tax incentives, grants or whatever. 

    9. Your NAACP example is incorrect. Albert Einstein was an NAACP member. And Mensa and the VFW don’t exclude membership for bigoted reasons–membership is based on abilities or achievements.

      There are cases where bigotry and religious intolerance are not allowed, even by private organizations and individuals.  For example, they are not valid reasons to refuse to rent or sell housing. I’m still undecided as far as where the Boy Scouts fit on this issue. Nonetheless, I think public assistance and interactions with the government should be suspended. The government does not need to help the Boy Scouts pass on their bigotry. Any other reasonable person should take the same stance. Let the alternatives to the Boy Scouts take on their role in our free society.

      1. Perhaps he was referring to the relevant qualification – that prospective members actually be in favour of the Advancement of Coloured People…

        I know, I know.

    10.  Why do people keep saying this as if it’s even remotely relevant?

      Layne, do you think BSA should discriminate against LGBTs?  Why do you seem to be objecting to others (merely — no coercion involved) explaining that they don’t think they should?

    1. So, Scout Troops would no longer be able to use the roads? Would they be allowed access to parks? Sheesh. That is why this argument is always a rabbit hole. The benefits of public funding are all around us and open to even bigots.

      I would just agree with Maggie (I think). Layne’s argument may be correct, it is just not relevant. The highest order of individuals in the organization are telling the organization they want the organization to change. That’s not an attack on a free society, it is a free society.

      1.  Sean Rea is not referring to Scouts driving on public highways. The BSA enjoys a lot of support from public schools and military installations. My cub scout troop met exclusively in an elementary school cafeteria, for example. According to this policy, a gay parent could not be allowed to participate in an organization that uses their child’s school to recruit and meet.

        1. That is right Bush pushed a bill that took funding away from public schools if they refused to allow BSA to recruit in them. That is wrong on so many levels

      2. Slightly correct – the last time I remember this argument surfacing for the BSA it was in regard to the blurred lines around their receipt of govt funds and/or use of public govt properties for meetings and so on. 

        I did get slightly off-topic, but the whole issue hasn’t really died down for the BSA. Their antiquated ideas of ‘Community’ are out of step  with a large part of the population. Those same positions sound especially weak given their lip-service to equality, excellence and personal achievements. 

        As valuable as a lot of their learnings are – wilderness, conservation, tinkering, science, etc. – they need to reconcile with true individual worth regardless of sexuality. 

      3. The would no longer get freebees and would have to pay for what they get. Berkley California did just that to a sea scout group from BSA. They told them they could no longer use the dock for free and would have to pay for it. BSA sued them and lost so they lost use of the dock for free. That is how it should be.

  2. I obtained the rank of Eagle in Boy Scouts as well. When I was going for my Eagle rank 16 years ago there wasn’t a big mention of gays standing in BSA. It is sad to see a great organization that helped teach me principles of caring for and respecting everyone to be so shallow. A persons sexual orientation should not be an issue for any organization, let alone scouting. it should be the love of common interests and goals that bring people together.

    1. I hope you consider sending your medal back too.  The letters above make a far better case for it than I could.

      But this gets me thinking…all you Eagle Scouts are clearly principled, thoughtful, and ethical.  But additionally you’re highly motivated, proactive, pragmatic and organized.  Why stop at disassociating yourselves from BSA…why not create an organization which truly reflects the ideals you developed as scouts?  A “Boy Scouts of Diverse America”?

      I can see many more Eagle Scouts being willing to “jump ship” if there is an existing group of their peers waiting to embrace them and perpetuate the vision of true scouting.  Maybe whole troupes would defect…

      1. Actually, that’s a REALLY good idea!
        When the Scouts were originally formed a century ago, the inclusion of religious doctrine into daily life was normal and even desirable, acting as social “litmus-test” for being a moral person. It was not unusual for a requirement that all employees of a specific company be “good up-standing Christian” as a job-requirement, for instance: Ford Motor Company. However, the laws and our collective social mores have changed quite a bit in the century since then; as being religious actually ISN’T a good analog for measuring if a person is living as a moral person or not, due to “false-equivalence” logical fallacy, and excluding people based on race, religion, national-origin, or sexual-orientation, is actually immoral and wrong, but scouting exists in it’s own insular bubble free from outside interference. 

        The Boy Scouts of America is, in effect, OBSOLETE, and should be replaced by an inclusive organization that reflects today’s modern social mores, while at the same time adhering to scouting’s original goals and ideals.

        Imagine a cicada, which is apropos as it’s summer, shedding it’s skin to become something new, but yet the same, in shedding this obsolete religious dogma, becoming something new, but yet the same.

        1. As an Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow member I would love to see more alternative scouting groups, and would consider volunteering for one after college, but I also don’t want to give up on the idea of the BSA catching up with the times.

      2. There are tons of alternative and independent scouting groups out there. I’m sure a lot of them would appreciate a huge influx of Eagle Scouts, or a larger umbrella org to fit themselves under.

  3. Nice, both for the stands on principle and for the statements of what the Scouts had meant to each of them.  I really liked the letter that went through each of the principles in turn…

  4. These are all fantastic, but I especially like Mr. Maichuk’s careful explication of the Scout  Law.

    Once at a troop meeting my fellow Scouts and I were asked if we thought there should be a thirteenth part of the Scout Law, and what word we would choose. Over the years I’ve given that quite a bit of thought. I’ve come up with and discarded various words because they seemed to be synonyms of words that were already part of the Scout Law.

    I think I’ve come up with one, though, that should be added: A Scout is tolerant.

    It seems like tolerance would be a direct result of many of the qualities already listed in the Scout Law, but because of the absence of tolerance among the highest members of the Boy Scouts of America it needs to be explicitly stated.

    1. Nice. But then, that word always makes me itchy.

      How about “embrace”? After all, we’re all just people.

      1. But tolerance is a discipline. Its a conditioning that is crafted and processed and something in a situation you might not agree with, and your opinion yea or nay does not matter.
        Tolerance is apt because it is accepting something that may be different from you, does not infringe on anything you hold dear in a way to harm you, but you acknowledge their right/privilege to be as equal as you.

        I feel tolerance is a very libertarian philosophy.

        1. The word tolerance has overtones of “I’ll hold my nose and forbear from having you arrested, but you still fill me with disgust.”  It’s not a positive word in LGBT history.

          1. Yeah, it’s a hard word for us to hear.  It’s fine as a starting point I suppose, but most of us would prefer not to be tolerated by society.  We would like to be accepted, welcomed, celebrated.  :)

            The word “tolerance” is a really twitchy one.  I don’t tolerate people who are different from me; I value the differences.  In some cases I oppose those people, if the differences are that, say, they think I shouldn’t be allowed to hold hands in public.  I’m not going to be tolerant of that kind of bigotry, I’m going to go ahead and be nice and judgmental.

          2. Chely Wright, a country music artist who came out as lesbian a couple of years ago, had something pretty insightful to say about tolerance. “I hear the word ‘tolerance’ — that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I’m not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be ‘tolerated’. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated.”

            Tolerance is certainly better than intolerance, but shouldn’t a Scout aim higher?

    2. Sadly, people will come along and claim that being tolerant means you have to  be tolerant of the BSA’s anti-gay policy. Tolerance can be a bit easily twisted around. How about “inclusive” which has the definition of “not excluding any particular groups of people.”

      1. I like that, but I can see “inclusive” being twisted just as easily by the same people who insist that “tolerance” means I have to tolerate their right to be intolerant.

        People who claim that “tolerance” means their right to hate, exclude, harass, and assault others is just as valid as my desire to see everyone treated equally aren’t really asking for tolerance. They’re claiming intolerance as a virtue.

        1. If you want to use the word “tolerance” for anything please do keep in mind that it has a bunch of negative connotations for LGBT folks – historically and in the present.  For a while it was presented as the best we could hope for, which sucks.

      2. I always thought of acceptance. “I accept your differences, I accept your decisions/choices.” While that can be used to excuse (not explain) the BSA’s standing, I felt it should have been a part of it.

    3. How about compassionate? I’ve always like compassion over tolerance. I tolerate pain. I try to feel compassion for people.

  5. I really hope the BSA is keeping these medals and letters filed away for when they inevitably change policy. These people deserve it.

  6. Note that the Boy Scouts also deny membership to agnostics and atheists; they interpret “a Scout is reverent” to mean that the scout believes in God. It would have been cool for, for example, Zachary Maichuk to remember this discrimination as well instead of just describing how “reverent” he is.

    1. Exactly, all this rabble rousing over gay exclusion is awesome but it is certainly interesting how it’s still open season on atheists and no one is terribly bothered by that.

        1. Um, once or twice is a lot? I’d almost read them all before I came to a mention of “undesirable” religious affiliations

          I think this is a huge point. Gays are what, 10%? In the US, the proportion of atheist/agnostics is pretty grim, but it’s still something like 25%…

          And we are talking about institutionalised insanity here, after all.

        2. It’s not just atheists, it’s any religion other than Christianity. My troop was very open to other faiths, but we met in a church, and once a year we participated in a church service as a way of giving back. Many of the people in my troop attended that church, and when I did my Eagle project, it was a project at that church. As a Jewish scout, I was always uncomfortable with it, even though my troop was very respectful of my beliefs. It’s just something that’s always there, hanging over your head. I don’t like that it implies you need any religion, but specifically Christianity, to have morality.

      1. Exactly, all this rabble rousing over gay exclusion is awesome but it is certainly interesting how it’s still open season on atheists and no one is terribly bothered by that.

        Are atheists allowed to get married?  Do atheist spouses automatically get health care benefits from their husband/wives’ job?  Do surviving atheist spouses get retirement benefits?  Are atheist spouses denied the opportunity to sit by their loved ones when their dying in the hospital?  Do they have no say over what’s done with their remains?

        In other words, would you like to clarify your definition of “open season”?   Because open season on LGBT people means denial of equal rights at every level of society, widespread violence with police collusion and unequal treatment before the law.

    2. Joe, many of the other letters mentioned that. Zachary Maichuk was specifically referring to official Boy Scout traits, laid out in the handbook. And he’s talking about his experiences and his beliefs. He doesn’t deserve your anger here. 

      1. I am going to interject here and say facing being ostracized for being an atheist or agnostic IS something to be upset about.  Unfortunately, living outside of a big city in more rural areas it is a huge source of division.  

        We pulled my son out of the local scouts troop after we figured out we weren’t welcome.  My husband was a scout leader and did not feel comfortable at all leading the religious sections of the requirements.  My aim here isn’t to detract from someone else’s fight.  It is my opinion that it is insensitive to weigh one over another.  

        Also, I notice in your share of the article posting there was never any mention of the religious component of the BSA’s discrimination.  While that wasn’t what was recently ruled on in court, I do believe it is relevant. 

    3. Right now, GLBT equality is a substantial social point of contention.  This follows decades of focused, dedicated work on the part of many in the gay community, and by and large they’re winning.  When the BSA chose to reaffirm their policy now, in the midst of all this noise about DOMA and Chick-fil-A and JC Penney, they chose to make a stand that I think is on the wrong side of history.  

      In that light, I pulled out my Eagle Scout medal and mailed it back last Monday: gay rights are the social issue of our time, and it infuriated me that the BSA chose to come down where they did.

      You’re right that atheists are discriminated against — it’s practically impossible to get elected, as one.  All I can say is: organize.  Cause the change.  It’s not going to get done otherwise — look at what the gay community did (and the black community before that, and so on) and learn.

    4.  I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being an atheist.  It is the same fight.  Intolerance is the opponent.  We don’t need to be angry at people who focus on one injustice or another; they go hand in hand. 

      & for that matter…lots of them do mention the religious intolerance.

    5. I wanted to chime in on this as well, Maggie uses the phrase ” values of inclusion that it taught them as children” in reference to the scouts. But having spent the vast bulk of my childhood deeply involved in scouting I can’t say that was ever taught that (despite my den leader mother’s best efforts to shift things in that direction). Tolerance maybe, often the grudging kind but never inclusion or acceptance. I was then and am now an atheist, and coming from a not particularly religious family I felt deeply judged and excluded. Especially as I grew older and started to more openly express my religious doubts. The handful of Jewish scouts in my town felt similar. Much of scouting is built around and target to a specific type of Christian Faith. I was openly criticized (sometimes by scouting officials) for the type of Christians my family were, our level of involvement in our church, and later for my open questioning and discomfort with the faith based aspects of scouting. Even achieving certain important ranks and awards explicitly involves religious projects or involvement. I felt far more welcome in my families church (even as vocal atheist) then I ever did in scouting. Hurray for Episcopalians I suppose.The fact of the matter is that BSA is a conservative and largely Christian organisation. The fact that few of us experience or view it as such is a testament to the people involved. But the central organization (and its founder) have always hewed to a conservative and Christian viewpoint politically and socially.There are a number of alternative scouting groups out there, some are just blanket inclusive the way the scouts have never been. Others are specifically for LGBT, Atheist, Jewish, or African American kids. Perhaps all these resigning Eagle Scouts would like to get involved with these groups or form similar ones. The thing these groups lack most are experienced people and awareness. 

    6. One fight at a time @boingboing-ca460332316d6da84b08b9bcf39b687b:disqus , one fight at a time.

  7. I am an Eagle scout and I disagree with this policy.  If I knew where my medal or anything else is I would send it back (they were all lost in a move some years ago and I never went out of my way to request replacements, but the BSA has found me for donation requests).    

    The one thing that seems to be missing  from this discussion is that the two largest group supporting the BSA are the Catholic Church  and the Church of Later Day Saints(Mormon) both oppose GLBT causes.  Also the leadership of the BSA is generally heavily weighted toward those denominations. 

    Years ago when I earned my Eagle I had to have an extra round of interviews because a Mormon elder happened to ask specifically about my religion, which I believe is no-ones business, but it fell under the auspices how are you Reverent to your god.  At that point I almost walked away, instead I stayed and answered truthfully for that time in my life.   During this process I learned of these policies and wrote a letter of condemnation for any policy that hurt scouting due to the leaderships religious beliefs. I called out specifically the exclusion of GLBT scouts and leaders and of atheists or non-traditional religions. That would have been around 2000. Since that time I have not given any money to scouting or its causes and have openly discussed my distaste for these rules.

    1. The one thing that seems to be missing from this discussion is that the two largest group supporting the BSA are the Catholic Church and the Church of Later Day Saints(Mormon) both oppose GLBT causes.

      Scouting is moving from Leave It To Beaver to Christian Madrassa Movement.

  8. Fabulous.

    Boy Scouts of America will now become a cultural touchstone.  It will be exulted by conservatives as “pro-America” and for its “family values” and rejected by liberals as “bigoted” and “on the wrong side of history.”

    I agree with the liberals.  But even though I was never in scouting, it’s sad to see something that was once lauded and commendable as simply another political pawn and punchline.  It will mainly be the place for boys who come from “traditional” families.

    Well, they’ve brought it on themselves; the organization will never be the same.  Congratulations, losers.  I hope you’re happy with your family values.  There’s a lesson in all this.

    1. Boy Scouts of America will now become a cultural touchstone. It will be exulted by conservatives as “pro-America” and for its “family values” and rejected by liberals as “bigoted” and “on the wrong side of history.”

      You know, that’s been pretty much true since Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were still touring.

  9. Boy Scouts helps boys grow into men – literally.  Going through puberty in an organization that penalizes ‘coming out’ with expulsion creates confused and dishonest scouts who happen to be gay.  The more they love scouting and want to stay, the more dishonest they have to be.

    This policy does not keep gays out of scouts.  It keeps gay scouts in the closet.

    Boy scouting was a wonderful and formative part of my life.

  10. These are all incredible, awesome, heart-rending letters.  If there is anyone in that organization who can read piles of these and not see where the right path is, there is no hope for the BSA.

  11. I am proud former Girl Scout.  I was a member as a kid and a leader for many years.  Our organization is not afraid of “homos.”  Pity the BSA are such cowards compared to the girls.

    1.  Well, girls also have cooties according to the BSA and co-ed anything is certainly frowned upon, so you can’t put much stock into them.  I’m certainly looking at alternative organizations for my young’un.

  12. I was inspired by this article to write my own letter to the BSA Executive myself:

    July 23, 2012

    BSA National Executive Board
    1325 Walnut Hill Lane
    PO Box 152079
    Irving, TX 75015-2079

    To Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive and the BSA National Executive Board,

    As a former Senior Patrol Leader of Arvada, Colorado Troop 999, an Eagle Scout, and a Vigil member of the Order of the Arrow, I never thought that there would come a time when my affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America would become a cause for shame.  Sadly, that moment arrived last week when the Boy Scout leadership announced that they would continue the policy of excluding “open or avowed” gay scouts and scout leaders.

    The Boy Scouts of America should be a vehicle to promote tolerance and understanding, not bigotry.  I’m very sorry that the National Executive Board has chosen to pursue this shameful policy, and I’m sorrier still that I will be unable to allow my own children to benefit from the many positive aspects of the Boy Scout experience that I enjoyed until such time as BSA sees fit to take a stand for equal rights and inclusion.


    Mark Bearce

  13. I hope Mr. Mazzuca or somebody close to him is carefully preserving these letters and medals.

    When the day comes that BSA leaders recognize their terrible mistake, they should offer these medals  back to their rightful owners with an appropriate apology not just to these Eagle Scouts but to all Scouts who have been dishonored by their institutionalized bigotry.

    1. Do you honestly feel, the BSA has the personel available to tag, record, & store all this material?  I hope I’m still around when that day comes.

  14. Reading these letters gives me a lump in my throat. Thank you.

    Can all of these images and transcripts be archived somewhere? Archived somewhere more than scattered across a few BB posts, that is? I think it would make an awfully powerful site, especially arranged as they are here — you have to keep scrolling down and down to see all the letters, it makes you see how many and how noble they are.

  15. As an Eagle Scout ’74-’79, I can’t tell you how dissapointed I am in the BSA. It was, in a world of bullying and chaos, the one escape available that provided a unique camaraderie. When this issue came up years ago and involved the United Way, I was so disgusted, I threw my entire box of Scouting memorabilia in the trash. (including uniforms and awards) The only thing I regret is not sending it back to headquarters!

    1. Exactly Joe – in my experience, Scouting collected a lot of the misfits and outcasts and gave them exposure to things that were interesting and far reaching – whether that was entomology or wilderness  survival. 

      It’s embarrassing that an organization so centered on individual achievement and involvement in the community, chooses to remain hopelessly bogged down in Judeo-Christian dogma. As if all the various, wonderful states and towns in our country could ever be so easily pigeon-holed.

  16. I read them all. Simply heartbreaking. There are some amazing men (and women!) out there, doing the right thing. Makes this ex-Webelos tear up to see such combined courage. I hope they all get their medals back when BSA finally changes its tune. Along with an apology. And another medal. Thanks for sharing these, Maggie.

  17. There are alternatives to the Scouts for kids to learn leadership skills. The Civil Air Patrol cadet program is a good example. It teaches aerospace education, discipline, and leadership skills and doesn’t discriminate against atheists or LGBT members.

  18. As a teacher in the public school system, I’m horrified that the BSA is still allowed to come to my school and recruit.  I teach gay kids.  I have gay coworkers.  We have gay parents in the community.  I hope they start speaking up and get our system to do the right thing and tell the BSA that they are no longer welcome to recruit in our schools if it means leaving out people they find icky.

    1. In the 90’s a lot of schools kicked them out due to the fact that religion is a requirement of scouting.

    2. Several years ago there was a bill proposed in Congress to take federal money away from schools that refused use of their property and facilities by the Boy Scouts because of the BSA’s discriminatory policies. (I don’t remember the year exactly, but one of the Senators for it was Jesse Helms.)

      I wrote to both my Senators asking them to vote against the bill. Only one, Fred Thompson, replied. He told me, “I believe the Scouts do an important job.”

      He said nothing about the value of schools, although the fact that he was willing to take federal money away from schools that didn’t want their facilities used to promote intolerance says a lot about how much he valued schools.

      I hope parents in your community speak up as well. The Boy Scouts may choose to exclude specific parts of the community, but any organization that promotes prejudice is acting contrary to the purpose of public schools, which are there to serve everyone. 

  19. I am an Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow. I started a Cub Scout Pack at my son’s elementary school so he and his classmates could enjoy the benefits of Scouting. We were an inclusive pack, all were welcomed to join. We had scouts and leaders representing the diversity of our neighborhood. However, we were harassed at every turn by the two gay parents of eligible scouts at our school, whom we had asked to join the pack, because they felt the national stance against gay participation in scouts would somehow make them unwelcome in our pack. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Pack leadership all felt that this family’s participation would strengthen the pack, and repetedly assured them of this. I felt that their refusal to join, indeed, to act in opposition to a program that was helping so many at our school, was every bit as bad as some national stance that has no effect on the boys in scouting.

    Scouting happens at the local and district levels. At no time was there ever any issue with anyone joining our pack. I never met a scout leader, professional scout, kid or parent who cared one bit about a child’s or parent’s sexual orientation. Indeed I find it bizzare that an adult would ask about a minors sexual preferences.

    I will not be returning my Eagle Scout award, it is mine and it was earned in a time before national politics and devisive behavior was so prevelent. But I will be writing the national headquarters to express my dismay that a formerly fine program is so behind the times. I spoke with my elderly parents about this and they feel the same way. In fact, I can find no one who isn’t disgusted with the behavior of the national leadership.

    I will never be ashamed of the hard work and service I did to help others, earn the rank of Eagle Scout, and attempt to bring scouting to a new generation of boys and families. But I am ashamed of the failure of the national leadership to recognize that their anti-gay stance is destroying the very fabric of scouting; it dishonors all who have worked so hard to make scouting a proud and lasting part of their lives.

    1. This is exactly why so many people are shocked whenever the BSA  organization’s views become a news item. There are great people in scouting, and a large number of them deliberately ignore or work around the exclusionary and divisive  policies, or are even unaware of them.

      But the fact remains the larger Scouting organization can cut any funding you might be getting, deny scouts from your pack official membership, prevent your pack from participating in official scouting events (or even eject you once your already there). They’ve even sued alternative or independent scouting groups for using official BSA materials and uniforms. 

      You might want to consider more formally cutting ties. There could be an awful lot of heard break for those kids, and legal or financial trouble down the road.

    2.  Sounds like you’re being pretty judgmental of the decision of those parents not to participate or let their children do so.  Have you ever been the victim of discrimination?  If not, I’d suggest you’re not in a position to judge their decision.

    3. However, we were harassed at every turn by the two gay parents of eligible scouts at our school, whom we had asked to join the pack, because they felt the national stance against gay participation in scouts would somehow make them unwelcome in our pack.

      Sounds like they were getting uppity. 

      Or maybe they just didn’t want their children to join an organization knowing that there’s a pretty good chance that they would be humiliated and forced out if even one single person decided to complain to your national leadership.

    4. Would you want your son or his classmates to wear the uniform of an organization that discriminates against you, regardless of whether the local pack leadership is accepting?

  20. Seems the comment I was trying to comment on has since been removed. Bringing up the tired old argument that organizing showers at camp makes it impossible to include people who might be attracted to each other [for a refutal of this, come see how we do it in camp in Sweden! Oh wait, the BSA banned participation in the Rover Moot in Sweden because of all the girls…], included this nugget:

    «Scouting has been around for 100 years and has always been the same.»

    Oh please.

    Scouting has continuously developed in the 100 years it has existed. For one thing, it has spread far beyond the British boys group it started as — it spread to many countries (including the US; or did you think you invented this?), and it spread from a boys only activity to include girls as well.

    And as it has spread, and aged, scouting has changed. The JOTA was a fundamental scouting experience of mine; and certainly was not around 100 years ago. The JOTI was _invented_ while I was active myself.

    And even if you choose to ignore the extent to which inclusivity and activities have evolved with scouting’s aging; there is continuous debate — all over the world — about how to best capture, respect, and reflect the initial values. Suffice to say, not everything Baden-Powell originally wrote is today accepted as even part of scouting’s fundamental values.

    As a particular example, Baden-Powell originally wrote
    «No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws.»

    This has — in the BSA — developed to an interpretation that requires a scout to seek out his spirituality, an interpretation that does not, in fact, deny membership to, say, Hindu and Buddhist children.

    Scouting develops. It always has, and it will keep on developing.
    The BSA however, repeatedly proves itself an embarrassingly stodgy conservative movement — even within scouting itself.

  21. I’m just popping into say that I am so impressed with these letters and hope you will continue to post more. 

  22. I read this as a father of a young boy.  This article makes me admire the men who went through the experience of achieving Eagle scout status.  Obviously, these were quality individuals who thrived and grew within the environment of the BSA.  I have no doubt they would have been fine without the BSA but I do think the BSA’s structure, social setting, and activities helped nurture the sense of who they are in a positive manner.
    In light of this awful policy which I disagree with, I wonder what to do with my son.  I want him to experience a childhood where he can get the best of what the BSA can offer but not have to acquiesce to the worst of its philosophy.  As it stands, I can’t in good conscience enroll him in the BSA but a big part of me thinks he has to lose out on great opportunities for growth by not being part of the boy scout experience – so I am torn.

    1. I just wrote, addressed and stamped a letter that says as much.  I want my son to feel the same pride and adventure that I felt in the Boy Scouts, but I also want him to know that intolerance is unacceptable.  

      Right now, the BSA is saying that the parents of scouts are on their side — If more letters said otherwise (and if they thought it might affect membership), then they might reconsider.

    2. There are alternative and independent scouting groups out there you can look into (or start). The classic approach is just to use BSA materials without sending any cash to, or formally joining the organization. But BSA has a habit of suing unaffiliated groups who use their materials. Likewise buying uniforms books and the like financially supports them. 

    3.  Get together with other parents and take your kids camping, do projects, whatever you want.  You’ll probably like it more since you’ll be more involved with your kids in the process.

  23. As an Eagle Scout myself, I feel sorrow.

    Sorrow that my fellow Eagles feel the need to take such action, and sorrow that the BSA has made decisions that caused them to feel this way.

  24. Hello All,

    Sending in your Medals is not the answer. The solution to this problem is for these fine men to become involved in Scouting, again. Change all ways happens from within an organization. These former Eagle Scouts should volunteer on the council, regional or national level. They should share their ideas, and ask for change.   
    I am the proud father of two Eagle Scouts. I am still involved in Scouting by helping young men become Eagle Scouts. It is very rewarding.
    All to often I see these young men earn their Eagle Rank and then leave Scouting. They enjoy telling everyone they are Eagle Scouts or former Eagle Scouts.  All “real” Eagle Scouts need to get involved.  

    1. I think you missed or didn’t read letter after letter of these young men who described that they later went on to hold positions within the BSA, were Scout Leaders, and were active within BSA for years. Some of whom considered becoming professional Scouts. And they KNOW the rewards of involvement.

      Changing from within tends to require gaining positions of power, and slow change over years, depending on small groups of influential people, and in that process you often create factions. Creating factions within any group is often detrimental, and leads to expulsion by force, rather than by choice. You forget, this latest decision was made by a secret council – not a democracy or with input from their many troops and troop leaders. |

      Often with large organizations, especially ones that depend on money and volunteer work, the lost of money and volunteers is a bigger wake up call than infighting within the ranks. Infighting can always be blamed on sour grapes. A public campaign, with the best of the best refusing to participant in discriminatory practices is protest and raises public awareness.

      I taught classes for Girl Scout Troops as part of an educational center, and was incredibly impressed with their programs and the great values in leadership and perseverance they imparted on the girls. I fully plan that when I have children, any girls I have will have the choice to participate in Girl Scouts. But I will not be allowing any young boys I have to be in the BSA, until it ends it’s discrimination against non-hetero and atheist/agnostic peoples. I will find another organization to offer them that values the diversity of human existence.

    2.  Nah, you won’t break thru the religion barrier to the uppermost levels.  Better off launching your own organization, or joining one of the tolerant existing ones.

    3. I think you are going to have to change the minds of the Catholic and Mormon churches first.  Either that or start bankrolling the BSA by yourself.  Our best bet is to quit and join an independent organization.  Then we wait to see if God changes his mind about gay people when he starts talking to the next Pope or the next Thomas Monson.    You never know, according to Mormons, God changed his mind about black people in 1978 and decided they were finally ready for his teachings. 

  25. I think renouncing Eagle is a bit rash. Personally, I think we should work to change the organization from within. I don’t agree with everything our government does, but I’m not about to renounce my citizenship over it. The optimist in me would rather work to improve it.

    Perhaps Eagles should become more actively involved in the organization and try to change the culture. Maybe there is a way to leverage the status of the rank. I feel like there’s a conversation we should be having with them, and quitting feels like leaving the room just to get the last word.

    1. Maybe there is a way to leverage the status of the rank.

      that’s what they’re doing. If after trying to get the BSA to change for a decade or so, the leadership reaffirms its commitment to bigotry, there’s not much that you can do but go on strike, which is what these Eagle Scouts are doing. Change from within has failed.

      1. I’m not sure there was an earnest, collective effort like we’re seeing with these letters. Something like a petition for Eagles might be appropriate. I’d sign it, but I’m not ready to renounce my Eagle when there’s still hope for the organization.

        1. There should be a petition that states you want the policy to be changed and why. You will not support the BSA with your leadership or $$$ donations until they do.  If an Eagle wishes to renounce their membership they can, but more importantly their voice needs to be heard.  It is only through volumes of numbers that change will come about in an open forum everyone can readily see~ no secret committee of 11.. Right now they are saying the majority of their members agree with the present policy..I don’t remember anyone asking me and I have been a member/volunteer for fifteen years. You also should be sending this letter/petition to NESA. CHANGE.ORG

  26. The only thing that I find disturbing is how many of these men say that, as a straight guy with no sons, they hav e no stake in the issue.  I am an Eagle Scout (& Vigil Honor) who worked five years at a Boy Scout camp.  Consequently, I have a lot of gay Eagle Scouts as friends.  One summer there I had both an employee and a Program Director who are gay.  I do have a damn stake in this; they’re fine, upstanding people who don’t deserve to be discriminated against by an organization they still love so well.

    Plus, on a slightly more self-serving note, it’s a pain in the ass to always have to specify when people find out I’m an Eagle Scout, “Yeah, but I’m not one of the bigoted ones!”

  27. I can thank the Scouts for so much – I can survive in the wilderness, I can tie knots, I’m honest & upstanding and I’m ALWAYS PREPARED. To think that if I were openly gay then (I sure as shit am now) I’d be excluded is disheartening. That I was molested by 2 older straight boys (after weeks of standard issue abuse; both are still ostensibly very heterosexual and still complete pricks) only serves to double the  irony: the key argument is that dirty, unnatural homos will molest the other boys – yet I fell victim to non-homos. It hasn’t really affected my life; I don’t resent the BSA (wasn’t their fault, I was too timid to speak up) . But every time I hear THAT argument (that there’s a fine line between my love of my husband and pedophilia), I want to punch the speaker in their smarmy, ignorant mouth.
    BSA is a private organization, I fully support their freedom to set whatever standard they want. But realize this is on par with rejecting black folks or the deaf or redheads, and there is a strong objection to this kind of opinion. Both of my brothers-in-law are eagle scouts, one of them has a cub scout son. He’s taking the opposite tack, that he can affect change from within the organization. Also very admirable.

    1. Well said. 
      And a good illustration of the value much of what you learn as a scout VS the hypocrisy of the formal organization. 

      I tend to think that’s the worn-out, falsehood that the organization relies on to justify refusing membership to gays/atheists/etc – “they’re the unseen lurking menace to our youth!”. As if being gay or not believing in God precludes being an upstanding person.

      I imagine this is what Catholics feel every time they have to hear a sermon on how homosexuality/abortion is EVIL…delivered by a guy who’s boss decided to cover up and facilitate the sexual abuse of children. 

  28. I first learned about Eagle Scouts returning their medals this morning when a man I went to high school with posted his letter on Facebook. I think it is amazingly courageous and I respect him all the more for doing so. Just a short while ago, a post appeared on Popehat that was written by an Eagle Scout who wants to work within the BSA to change its policies. I thought it too was an admirable and courageous post.

  29. As an Eagle Scout myself I think it’s important to point how how every scout’s experience is unique and things change drastically from council to council, troop to troop.

    My time in scouting was right around the time they first took this official stance and I can guarantee you no one in my troop believed in it. We had discussions about it, but we all agreed it was the stance of the national body, not us as a troop.

    I’d never give up my Eagle Scout badge because for me it’s not a symbol of some faceless national organization, it’s a symbol of some of the best times of my life spent working hard with some of my best friends. I earned my award locally, on my terms. The BSA proper just signed the certificate.

    1. It’s much the same way for my rank. My troop was very similar to yours, Jeremy. That’s one of the reasons it was such a difficult decision to make. 

      For my part, however, I feel the need to separate myself from the symbols of the rank because of their ties to the national organization.

      1. I was also part of a troop that rolled its eyes and ignored this directive. However, the national executives still hold a lot of power here. Even with the best intentions of the local troop leaders, should anyone have complained about a gay scout or leader, the troop would have been forced by the national organization to remove that person.

        This is also about appearances. Even if a local troop is quietly tolerant, gay scouts will be (and should be) reluctant to attempt to join the BSA. Specific, private tolerance is great and I encourage it, but general, public intolerance is not acceptable.

    2. As I commented elsewhere, I was in scouts shortly pre-official stance, and similarly it wasn’t an issue for our troop. When I read about it later, I actually thought, “whoa, where did this come from?”. Agree with Ian though. Before national took the official stance, individual troops could quietly ignore policy without difficulty. But now that national HAS taken a stance, participation even in a good rogue troop quietly endorses the national position to anyone who doesn’t know you’re the “good kind of boy scouts”.

      I was pretty active in campus Christian ministry when I was in college. Though I am confident I never participated in that was anti-gay or anti-non-Christian myself, I now know I unwittingly supported some of the “less friendly” positions of the parent organizations. Because, how are people who don’t know you to know you are the ‘good kind of Christian’ and aren’t going to hate on them.

      Notably, this just makes life that much harder for gay Christians. But that’s another topic.

  30. At one time scouts meant leaving no one behind. Now it seems like only the chosen are welcome. My boys were in scouts, even my autistic son, and they were proud. Now the pride is gone. I would not want my grandchildren involved with a biggoted group, geeze they might as well join the KKK, Skin Heads, or the Nazi groups. So, so sad.


  31. My children were members of scouts, even my autistic son. We were military and scouts were the only constant in their lives. We moved on an average of every 2 years for 20 yrs. Scouts gave them the balance they needed. Now I would not want my grandchildren to join as it has become currupt, biggoted. The children might as well join a cult like the KKK, Skin Heads, or Nazi. This is so sad and imagine what they are teaching the children. My grandson is at the right age and he does not have this to look forward to like his father did. We as parents and grandparents have the responsibility to see that our children are not poisoned by hate and biggotery

    Jacqueline Moslander, Paul’s mother

    1. Interesting point especially since this policy is not something new and was the same position the BSA had when your sons were members.  Scouting is pretty much the same as it was then.  The only real difference is that BSA has been pushed by the gay community to publish the policy.  I find it a bit hard to believe someone who ever saw benefit in Scouting is making the comparison to the organizations you list.

      1. “I find it a bit hard to believe someone who ever saw benefit in Scouting is making the comparison to the organizations you list.”

        She’s not alone.  I was a scout, but discouraged my son from joining by explaining why.  I too see them as a smoother version of the KKK, at least at the upper levels.  They’re just better at hiding their bigotry.

  32. Speaking as a queer with no connection to scouting whatsoever:  damn, this is touching.  I teared up.  That there are these people who so clearly see discrimination against my community as a problem that cuts so deeply that they’ll make what is, to them, a truly personal sacrifice…  well, it’s beautiful.

    Moments like this I know we’ll win – legal rights, acceptance, safety when we walk down the street holding hands, protection from brutality.  I just know we will.  Not because having some former Eagle Scouts on our side means so much by itself, but because our cause is so clearly morally right.  People with compassion will be on our side; people who love justice will be on our side.
    So we’ll win.

    1. Exactly what I thought, but you said it far better than I ever could.  Thank you Maggie Koerth-Baker for telling this story and Christopher Baker for inspiring so many others to act.  It is a balm to my heart after so much bad news.

  33. I do applaud what these
    Eagles are doing. I also applaud some of the commentators who say they will be keeping their Eagles and working WITHIN the BSA to help change those views. Scouting was a wonderful time for me in my youth, and is something that I very much hope my boys and girls can participate in, so I very much hope that BSA moves to keep up with its own laws; a Scout is helpful, friendly, courteous, and kind, and discrimination is none of those things.This Marine, small business owner, and gay man thinks that his kids won’t be joining the BSA; I’ll either enroll them in an alternative scouting organization or find something else.

  34. I was briefly a co-ed Cub Scout in the early 1970s and was proud to be a Scout… at the time. Now I am ashamed of the organization I belonged to so briefly, for their stance on LGBT issues and on religion. My son considered Scouting in his own time, but when I explained that you are required to be a theist and straight, he just said “never mind”. I’m very proud of that boy…

    1. Was it anti-gay back then, though? When I was in scouts in the 80s and early 90s, I don’t think homosexuality was EVER discussed. And religion, well, it was explained that you had to have some sort of faith, but there were religious medals for everything from unitarian universalism to zorastrionism, and our local leadership was pretty relaxed on the issue.  It wasn’t until after I left scouting, in my point of view, that they got all anti-gay and anti-atheist.  So, I’m not ashamed of having belonged. I would only be ashamed if I still belonged today. And only then if I were reinforcing those bad teachings instead of ignoring or protesting them.

  35. As I scrolled through the pictures above I noticed something interesting.  I don’t see one picture of an Eagle Knot being returned.

  36. I know people are born gay, but they are not born sexual.  As puberty gives us a ‘sexual’ orientation, there is a lot of confusion going on in a young boy’s life to put to whom he is attracted to into context.  A six year old Tiger scout cannot be “openly gay” even though they may know that they are marching to a different drummer.  Once a scout has finally figured out their sexual orientation, it is too late for them not to love Scouting.  That my friends, is tragic.

    But, I feel I need to speak up FOR Boy Scouts for those unfamiliar with what it means to succeed in scouting when done right.  It means being a teenager who can set goals for themself and achieve them.  It means an eager desire to learn about many, many things.  It means overcoming physical adversity and not give up.  It means having learned to live by principle.  A Boy Scout Eagle or a Girl Scout Gold means something to a hiring manager who is a fellow scout.  If there is an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise), find a scout to keep you alive.

    I suppose I have to give my “street cred” for saying this.  I was Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Scout Master of Troop 6, an Ordeal member of Order of the Arrow Lodge 413, and camp counselor at a Boy Scout Camp (all in Arkansas, late 70’s through early 80’s).  More importantly, I have taught many camping skills to my daughter’s Junior Girl Scout troop. 

    And, I don’t know why I need to say this, but I am straight, and I ended up leaving Scouting because girls seemed far more interesting at the time!

    1. A Boy Scout Eagle or a Girl Scout Gold means something to a hiring manager who is a fellow scout.

      One of the many reasons that institutional bigotry in scouting is heinous. Unfortunately, being white rather frequently means something to a hiring manager who’s a fellow caucasian, too. We don’t general talk about racism or cronyism as positive things, but apparently it’s A-OK to make preferential hires of people who were admitted to anti-gay clubs.

  37. As an Eagle Scout myself, I watched the disastrous shift to the far right the BSA took during the latter half of the 80’s. The then Chief Scout Executive, Ben H. Love, ruined my regional Eagle Scout banquet with a rambling, hate filled rant accusing NAMBLA of posing as a civil rights organization. I don’t have my Eagle patch with me, just the medal, so I will return them both along with my shirt and merit badges when I can get them from back home.

  38. I am inspired and shall join the ranks of Eagle Scouts standing up for what is right.  I started writing my letter to the  BSA and teared up at all the fond memories that scouting built.   Perhaps standing for what is right we can create change.

  39. I am an Eagle Scout, earned in 1991, and the Cubmaster of my sons pack. I could not disagree more more with the decision that the BSA has made and find it difficult to be part of an organization that discriminates. However, I will be keeping my medal and continuing to lead these boys in the way I was taught and believe.  If I were to step down and return the medal I worked so hard to earn these kids, my kid, may end up being lead by someone who believes the hateful things the BSA has decided to support. These are young, good kids who deserve better then this and the pack they are part of will never discriminate or exclude anyone that wants to be part of it. The ignorant, hateful leaders of the BSA who decided to continue their discrimination will someday be gone and replaced by those ( those that have decided to fight and express their disappointment) that have compassion and follow what scouting is supposed to represent. I will keep my medal and continue to teach the true values of scouting and someday, hopefully soon, the BSA will realize its mistake and what it has done. In the meantime I will not let the kids in my pack who are to young to understand the significance of this decision be affected and hurt by the ignorance of the current leaders of the BSA.

    1. And what will you do if one your scouts turns out to be gay and someone complains? Will you watch him be expelled or will you dissolve the pack? And either way, do you think that he’ll be hurt and humiliated by the experience?

      Children aren’t political cannon fodder. You’re risking the happiness of gay children by participating in an organization that’s taken a stand in favor of hatred and discrimination.

      1. Scouting is bigger than the BSA. He’s taking a stand to fix the things that are going wrong in a local chapter of an organisation (local = American, in this case), rather than abandoning the entire idea.

        Kind of like Americans who disagreed with the invasion of Iraq didn’t all emigrate from America out of protest. I haven’t seen a mass exodus of anti-abortionists to Chile, either. Maybe those people still believe in changing their own country? Or are they all hypocrites? Note that Iraqi children aren’t political cannon fodder, either.

      2. I will deal with that situation when and if it happens. I cannot abandon the kids that are involved now and have them miss out on the true skills and lessons that scouting can offer.  My son has made many friends and loves the things we do as a pack, I cannot take that away from him now over an issue he is to young to comprehend.

        I became the leader to make sure that there is no discrimination (this is not a new BSA policy against homosexuality), hazing, or overbearing leadership in our group. Scouting is supposed to be fun and all about the kids and learning. 

        Your comment about using gay children as “political cannon fodder” is out of line and is what the current membership of the pack would become if I were to suddenly quit.

      3. Agree that children should not be cannon fodder. I hate it when people use their children to make political statements, whether I agree with those statements or not. But I do think this is a good way to put the BSA to the test, so to speak. My experience with the BSA is that is not so strictly hierarchical as all that. It’s a local organization first, and it’s unlikely the BSA even has that much insight into individual groups. Mind you, this may be something that varies throughout the USA. I can certainly imagine some troops being authoritarian, because you see the same sort of variation among churches (i.e. between extreme local autonomy vs national conformity).

    2. Keep up the good work and don’t leave American Scouting to the idiots.
      Scouting in other (western) countries doesn’t discriminate against homosexuals. If decent people leave the BSA, only the idiots will be left – and it will be very hard to do something about those idiots at the WOSM (World Organisation of the Scout Movement) level, as we probably cannot expect the Iranian or Libyan scout organisations to officially accept gay members at this point in history. They will, however, “go with the times” when things change in Iran or Libya.
      If you leave the BSA to the idiots now, Scouting in America will get stuck in the past for a long time. Probably until it becomes feasible for the worldwide scouting organisation to force *all* its member organisations to accept gay members. Which will be after homosexuality has been decriminalized everywhere, including the most homophobic parts of Africa. I’m still hopeful for the future, but I don’t expect to see that in my lifetime.

    3.  Or you could continue to run the same program, but sever connections to the national BSA.  They don’t hold a copyright on camping, etc.

  40. I will start this post by saying that homosexuality is natural and an be as healthly as anything else. I think this resignation/protest and good, just as John Kerry was his Purple Heart. At the same time I am very committed to scouts, I have 2 boys in cubs, one about to move into Boy Scouts. I am someone that is in the system hoping for change.

    As a libertarian, I have mixed feelings. I believe in freedom… That means free speech, but that also mean sometimes people can say whatever they want no matter the same result, at the same time I also think that freedom allows people/groups have the right to include or exclude whoever they want. Sadly, that is the can be a price of freedom for those that are excluded same as those that hear speech that is hurtful to them.

    I think the policy is wrong, it partially based on homophobia, religious righteousness, and saving face for an organization that has shame for pedophiles taking advantage of children. I am hoping for change while remaining in the organization. I think this is how many feel during the election cycle.

    1. I am hoping for change while remaining in the organization.

      That’s a euphemism for I am going to do absolutely nothing because it doesn’t affect me directly. The organization has made it quite clear that it intends to side with bigotry. Nothing will change that as long as people like you continue to do nothing about it. The Eagle Scouts who have sent in their awards have taken a principled stand; you are just skating on privilege.

      1.  You’re right.  
        Any advice for those that want to see the policy change without giving up scouts?

        1. As a former scout, I’d say “just do what you want at the local level.” Scouting is really a local and community organization and when I was in scouts there were already significant differences from troop to troop in the way things were run and the emphasis placed on different aspects of scouting. Granted, this was in the North East US; other regions may have different cultural levels of respect for authority, so this may be more or less easy to do — this is something that varies regionally throughout the US.

          1. As a former scout, I’d say “just do what you want at the local level.”

            And when a single disgruntled parent rats you out to the national leadership, what do you do? Expel the gay scout? Dissolve the group and explain to everyone that you’re doing it because of the gay scout? You’re playing with lives here.

          2. I’ve thought about this some more, Antinous, and I’ve changed my mind. I agree with you. I was allowing myself to be biased by the fact I really only have good memories of scouting, and was thinking in the back of my head, “no one in real life would be mean enough to do that to a kid.” But, other people’s experiences, to say nothing of court cases and news events, suggest the contrary. That people ARE that mean in real life.

  41. As a matter of interest, this is part of the Scouts Canada policy on gay scouts:

    “Adult volunteers as persons in positions of trust with our youth. As such, they may find themselves in a situation where a LGBT2Q youth is disclosing their sexual orientation in confidence. The young person is likely to be very nervous about speaking to someone about their sexual orientation. There are a number of things you need to consider when a young person approaches you.

    Listen! If it is not appropriate to discuss the matter there and then, be sure to fix a time that is convenient so that the young person knows when they can discuss the matter with you. Make sure that you are talking in the correct environment. Conversations should be confidential but with other adults within hearing or sight.
    MOST IMPORTANTLY: re-assure them that it is OK to be LGBT2Q and a Scout”

    1. I was familiar with the acronym LGBT, but this is the second time I’ve seen it with the Q added at the end and the first time with the 2. What does the 2 and the Q stand for? I guess I’m behind the times.

      1.  “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit and Queer”Two-spirit appears to be a Native American thing, so as an Easterner myself, I’m also behind the times.

      2. “LGBT2Q” is an acronym referring to various communities of sexual minorities in our society. Other forms of this acronym may be seen.
        L = Lesbian: A woman who is sexually attracted to other women.G = Gay: a person who is sexually attracted to someone of the same sex, more commonly refers to men.B = Bi-sexual: a person who is sexually attracted to both men and women.T = Transgender: Appearing as, wishing to be considered as, or having undergone surgery to become a member of the opposite sex.2 = 2-Spirited: A term that describes indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of the many mixed gender roles found traditionally among Canadian First-nations indigenous groups.Q = Questioning: a term used to refer to people who are exploring their gender, sexual identity and, sexual orientation.

  42. My nephew, cub scout & staunch defender of gay rights at 9 years old (he considers his gay married uncles to be “cooler than Tony Stark could ever dream of being”, truquote and a sad comment on the fact that when we visit we’re usually wearing sunglasses & drinking), has declared he will leave the cub scouts if they BSA doesn’t “shape up already”. His eagle scout dad is proud. I don’t want him to leave something he enjoys so much on my account, but the kid has principles. I’m proud too.

  43. Thank you to all the brave men and women who have seen through the bigotry that has been codified by this organization.  There is absolutely no excuse for this agenda – other than for creating divisions between people.  Rather than following the success of the scouts by leaving people to learn about others through dialogue and interaction, this quiet bigotry is now being institutionalized within this group to warp the minds of the young boys being sent to this organization to learn how to become better members of society.  

    In another part of the world a similar device has been used, madrasses are schools that teach using islam as their basis – using religious indoctrination as a guide on moral purpose and how to practice in society.  These schools have been used by the Taliban – using fear and bigotry – to twist the minds of poor boys and young men in the middle east and other parts of the world. 

    Whether a madras or a boy scout troupe – there is nothing more evil than twisting the minds of children to become the misguided pawns of depraved people who try to drive wedges into society, demonizing others as a method of turning people against each other.  No matter your opinion of religion or teaching – any religion or teaching used to justify denying, oppressing, or removing human rights – is evil.

    The US has long opposed oppression of others, yet, within it’s heartland, there are those who are trying to do the very same thing to our youth that has been done in the middle east to their youth.  An attack on any minority is an attack on EVERY minority – and we’re all in the minority depending on how you define a situation.  There is no high ground in debasing society – Enough is enough!!!   

    My sincerest thanks to these Eagle Scouts for standing up and declaring their rejection of this policy and the agenda behind it.  I wish the best to all who stand up to the evil of abusing people – whether from within governments – or in private organizations that paint themselves with the brush of high moral purpose.  We must stand!

    Thank you

  44. It’s interesting to me some of the debate going on about this subject.  I’ve never been any sort of scout but I do remember when I used to see them walking down the street thinking “wow, these guys are cool”.  20 years later, I’m saying the same thing here and now.  Although some may try to make the situation complicated, in my perspective it’s not.  Discrimination and segregation in any form isn’t acceptable.  We all know that, we all have fought wars to prevent that, whether politically or militarily.    The logic of denying “gay scouts” is sending a clear message like many have said “you’re different” which as a nation of people we’ve spent decades and more fighting to be treated the same.  

    I really am not trying to judge, but to share a perspective of someone “outside” the scouts looking in.  The BSA isn’t a small group of nobodies but in fact a representation of freedom and the American value, good people values.  To openly discriminate against homosexuality is also giving a “green light” for others to follow suit.  I’m honestly disappointed as to how values can be taught and then openly these values get shot down by the same organization who values them.  I’m glad to see the scouts themselves not sitting silent to this form of oppression.  That’s a real scout

  45. Scouting is an international movement.
    I am a scout master in Austria(Europe). I also happen to be an atheist. It’s no problem over here. I’ve also known openly gay volunteers in the Austrian scouts. I’ve never heard any discussion about it.
    There are also scouts in Saudi Arabia. I am glad to know that despite all differences between our countries, I have brothers in scouting there. I *accept* them despite our differences. I am pretty sure they don’t accept gay or atheist members. I can’t accept that, but I can *tolerate* that. Tolerance is less than acceptance, but it is a much harder virtue. If we weren’t ready to *tolerate* differences in scouting, we wouldn’t have the world-wide movement we have today. I hope that Saudi culture will evolve in the future, and I am confident that Saudi Arabian scouting will change along with it.
    And finally, as you know, there are scouts in America. America was probably ahead of Austria as far as gay rights are concerned (and maybe slightly behind as far as acceptance of Atheism is concerned). American culture has already “evolved”, but the BSA has refused to change. This, I find hard to *tolerate*.

    If you let the BSA become irrelevant and switch to “scouting-like” replacements, that would be a very sad thing. There are only five countries in the world without Scouting, and it would be sad for a great country like the USA to join them…

    So, Americans, and especially American Scouts, please TAKE BACK scouting!

    P.S.: If you have something bad to say about the BSA, by all means do so, but PLEASE be careful not to omit the “of America” part. People in other parts of the world do read English, and it gives Scouts worldwide a bad reputation on the internet if you are sloppy about this.

  46. Maggie and Former Eagle Scouts,

    I can not convey with words (as there are none so adequate) how deeply moved I am.

    I am a 46-year old, single, gay male.

    At the tender age of 6, I too attended a meeting at my grade school, open only to the boys, with all the excitement and eagerness of youth. As I listened, I not only was fascinated, but became VERY enthusiastic at the prospect of a life in the Scouts!

    I knew the “recruiter”. He was the father of one of my classmates. We had such a tight-knit community, he was able to acknowledge everyone in attendance on a first-name basis!

    At the conclusion of the meeting when it came time to grab my memebership application and run home and get signatures for enrollment . . .

    I experienced discrimination for the first time in my life.

    At the time I didn’t know such a big word – – and I wasn’t even sure that it had a name (as I’d never experienced or felt it), but I was personally SHATTERED in my own recognition of what was being said and done to me simultaneously.

    As I place my hand on the stack of applications to grab one of my own, this man (who up to that point I trusted and knew), SLAMMED his hand down onto the stack and said,

    “Charles. Scouting isn’t really for you. I’m sure you’d hate to join and then find you don’t fit in. Perhaps your parents might get you a membership to the “Y”.”

    I could feel myself turning red and tearing up as the remaining boys rushed passed me, grabbing their applications and excitedly heading home.

    I braced myself and vowed not to let this man see me cry.

    He said, “You run along now. I think we both know that’s best.”

    At dinner that night, my sister (who had heard about the meeting from a boy in her class that was a Scout) mentioned, “So . . . are you gonna sign-up to be a Scout?”

    Everyone else at the table stopped and stared at me, waiting to hear the “whole story”.

    I said, “Nope.” and stuffed my mouth with mashed potatoes knowing I would not be able to say anything else.

    I could see my mother and father look to one another, then to my sister, then to each other again.

    Nothing more on the subject was ever mentioned again.

    Thus began a life of ostracism, fear, confusion and loneliness that would last until, at age 18, I moved away to college and never went back.

    Thanks to that experience, today I am an attorney for the ACLU.

    I will die fighting for the denied, the excluded, and the disenfranchised.

    I MUST as there are still so many of us out here.

    Please keep posting these testaments of human progress as you recieve them.

    Evolution simply isn’t fast enough!

    1. That’s a really interesting thing to have found.

      SOMEONE was sloppy with some dirty laundry there.  I mean, it’s pretty much what happens behind the scenes in such situations, but the cold calculation involved might startle some people.  

      I do believe it deserves to be made public.

      1.  I love the way they list inclusiveness as a BSA ‘thing’ then a couple of slides later elaborate on how they’re going to exclude people.

        Irony, much?

        Oh. Wait. This is America ;)

  47. It is extremely sad that a few Eagle scouts turned in the symbol of their hard work and achievement due to a policy set by the BSA. It would make more sense to continue to “Lead By Example” and keep the medal while promoting a GBLT friendly atmosphere. I know of 2 outstanding gay Scout leaders in my town and they are examples of how a Scout should act. My son will continue to stay in the Scouts and learn by example from the leaders in our area – some of which are gay. Turning in your medal is a bit like running away and not facing the problem.

    1.  No, turning in their medals is a pretty concrete example of telling those in charge “if this is what you want BSA to stand for, I’m not going to be a part of you.”  They are directly facing the problem and openly stating how they feel about it. 

      In no case that I have seen are any of them stating that they will just stop trying to solve the problem, they’re saying “We’ll be encouraging others to go elsewhere with their scouting needs.”  Which is exactly what I’ll be doing with my kids, even though I was a BSA member myself.

      Running away and not facing the problem would be putting their medals on a shelf in the closet and telling everyone they’ve never gone camping in their life.

      1. My ex-husband worked with a lot of manufacturing companies that had an environmental impact. He used to feel that it was better to be the person inside the company helping to figure out a way to eliminate mercury from the manufacturing process than be the person standing outside with a sign saying, “This company sucks. This company uses mercury. Boycott this company.” But, really, I think it takes both types to make a change. I think that the person standing outside with the sign goads the person on the inside to focus on an issue that otherwise could be ignored. 

        Another example: I really don’t like PETA’s tactics but I will give them props – their antics have made companies aware that people care about how animals are treated.  they have instigated a lot of good changes. The people at companies that raise animals or use animals for testing have had to step up because they know people are looking at them.

        I think with the BSA, the policy will change because of both the people who are sending their medals back and those that are staying in and making their voices heard inside.

  48. I’m not an Eagle Scout, and I don’t have children.  My only interaction with the Scouts is at chicken barbeque fundraisers.  It’s heartwarming to watch the kids taking orders, making change, and delivering chicken with a sincere “have a nice day”.  They’re having fun and learning responsibility.  There’s such a sense of excitement and joy.  The chicken is great too, but the best part of the event by far is seeing how proud the kids are.

    Last time, I wondered how many kids were being denied this experience, and how many feel unwelcome even if they are part of the group.  So many kids have been hurt by this policy throughout the years, both by being excluded from scouting, or by being denied some terrific role models whose sexuality didn’t meet BSA’s strict standards.  It saddened a usually enjoyable experience, and it’s been simmering in my mind ever since.

    I can’t stop supporting Troop 152, that just doesn’t feel right.  A letter from me (a lady who can sometimes use help crossing the street) probably won’t carry much weight, but I wrote one anyway, and am encouraging my friends to do the same.  If the BSA gets enough letters, maybe it will help them do the right thing.

  49. wow these are wonderful, brought me to tears really.  I was a Den leader for years and one year we had a boy with mental and some physical disabilities and I was never so proud to be part of scouting as when we bent over backwards to accomodate this boy.  He was so enthusiastic and proud to wear his uniform, more than any other scout, it was one of the few places he felt accepted and had friends.  It was hard at times but he was just part of the group and you all worked together, the other boys also learned important lessons there too.  To see the scouts continue this silly policy that has no basis behind it is saddening, I think many gay youth would benefit from the structure and strength one gets from that type of group acceptance. 

    Given the choice to do good and help or to spread fear intolerance and hate it is too sad that they choose the latter.

  50. I’m not sure why we should concern ourselves with the internal particulars of this religious parody of a military organization, other than that such things exist at all.  Similarly, I don’t really care what the Roman Catholics, the Mormons, or the Ku Klux Klan do, as long as they don’t bother other people.  I suppose they, like the Boy Scouts and many other religious organizations, could be seen as a form of child abuse, but here the cure, intervention, is usually worse than the disease.  One must settle for hoping that at least some of their victims will escape from them without permanent damage. 

  51. When I first read about BSA’s recent ruling, I was unsurprised at the content but upset that the organization discussed their decision behind closed doors. I pushed it to the back of my mind. I am an Eagle Scout, but have not done anything scout-related since I moved to attend university a year ago.

    However, it has always troubled me that I dedicated so much to an organization in which, as a non-theist, I was supposedly unwelcome. In my old troop, we never had to hide: I received my Eagle as an open non-theist (although I needed to articulate how I embodied “duty to god” without worship) and I knew two Eagles from my Troop who were openly gay. But outside our troop, at council and national events, summer camps and the like, it was clear that some of us weren’t wanted.

    Reading these letters has made me realize that the incongruence between my troop and the organization with which we were chartered is not something I can continue to ignore as I did just a few years ago. I will always cherish the lessons I learned and people I met in my troop. Four years ago, I section-hiked 150 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in a week with other members of my troop, an adventure I never would have sought on my own.

    But while I will always appreciate the times I had in my troop and speak well of them, I cannot in good conscience do the same for the overarching organization. I don’t have my scouting things with me in my small apartment. But when I visit my parents in a few weeks, I intend to add my voice to the others who choose to remove their association with the BSA.

  52. An organization has the right to determine what mõres to adopt. The boyscouts have a right to exclude athiests and members of the gay/lesbian community…

    I also have the right to send my eagle badge back, which is what I’ll be doing tomorrow. I’m proud of my achievement, not the organization.

  53. I’m an Eagle Scout myself.  When I earned it (in 1981) there was no talk of the LGBT, etc movement.  I am now an adult leader in a Boy Scout Troop to which my son belongs. 

    I’m also exceedingly fortunate that our local council here in Minneapolis has essentially told National to “stuff it” when it comes to this particular policy.  The spokesman for our local council was recently quoted in the paper saying that we will continue our policy (started ten years ago) of allowing all young men to join if they so wish, and to include anyone who wants to be a leader.  Not every council agrees with National – and while I’m sure a majority do, I’m glad that my council is choosing to be a leader on this issue.

    When I read these letters of men returning their awards, I knew just exactly how painful it was for them to write – being an Eagle Scout is a great deal of who I am, whether I tell people or not.  I strive to live by the values I have been taught by the Boy Scouts – but I’m also well aware that some of the people running the BSA these days are idiots.

    In my personal opinion, the best thing that an Eagle Scout who is unhappy with the current policies could do would be to stay involved in the movement, and to tell the young boys they work with that everyone – EVERYONE – has value, and the right to exist and belong – and eventually, some day, some of these young men will be involved at the highest levels of Scouting and will make the change that has to happen.   Most of the current leadership of the BSA are former Scouts – and that means from the district executives – the first-level “paid” folks that work with us volunteers – all the way up to Mr. Perez and Mr. Manzucca.  If we invest the time in training our youth today, maybe some day soon they can make a positive difference.

    Scouting isn’t what happens in a boardroom in Texas.  It happens in countless parks and in homes and in the out of doors and in the hearts and heads of the kids.  Very few of these kids will have any sort of meaningful interaction with anyone at or from National – we’re where the rubber hits the road.  I’m hopeful enough of us will make a difference so that, some day, we’ll be able to look back at this as a particularly shameful, but educational period in our history.  If we can’t, then the Boy Scouts themselves will be synonymous with the KKK and other bigoted groups of history.

    I’m posting this under my real name, even though I fully expect that one or more of the less tolerant leaders of our local Troop might eventually find it and call into question my suitability as a leader.  Why would I do something so “stupid”?  Because maybe it will inspire some kid to do something brave, and not do something “stupid”.   There’s been too damned much pain and anguish because of something that people are born with – and that needs to stop.

  54. I returned my Eagle back in 2008 because of my issues with the BSA National policy.  At that time, I was Den Leader and Cubmaster for my oldest son’s Cub Scout Pack. I had proposed a non-discrimination policy just for our local Pack and called the local council to run it by them.  I was told in no uncertain terms that if we did put in place such a policy our Pack’s charter would be revoked.  This prompted a long discussion with the Council rep about the meaning of Scouts, the wider Scouting movement, the promise and the law. After finding out that I was an atheist, he told me that I was not the kind of adult leader the BSA was looking for and to find another organization to get involved with.

    So I did.

    I’m currently the Nat’l Commissioner for the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA –  We’re a traditional style Scouting association and are dedicated to providing Scouting to all youth and adults, regardless of gender (yes we’re co-ed at all ages), sexual-orientation, religion or no-religion, or any other differentiating factors.  Scouting was a very important part of my growing up and I learned many things from those experiences.  But after myself, and others, have been fighting the BSA for decades over their membership policies with absolutely no progress (which the BSA clearly restated in it’s unanimous decision last week to continue the policy) I decided to take the only leverage I had to make changes, my membership and my money, and go else where.

    I would encourage all my fellow Eagle Scouts who have made the sincere and hard thought decision to return their Eagle to BSA National to check out our program and Association.  We could use the help and enthusiasm of experienced, concerned and morally upright Scouters such as you to help us get off the ground and spread the word about an alternative.  

    A lot of former Scouts and parents won’t let their children participate in BSA scouting because of their policy decisions – and rightfully so.  But they should have an option available to them for pursing Scouting, maintaining their integrity and setting a forth-right example for their own children. 

    We can make it happen if we work together on something worth supporting!

    I’m more than happy to answer questions or comments about the program as well, so get in touch with us through the contact portion of our web site or via our Facebook page –

    I’m touched by all of the Eagles setting examples like this. Continue Scouting…

  55. Think about it. You are teenager, attracted to the male sex. Soo ! you join a group of all males. If I was a teenage  male, attacted to females, should I not be allowed to join  a group of females and be allowed, the same treatment and access to activities(dressing room, tents,shower ETC. as a female group member.  I would not want my daughter in that sistuation at camp.
    Now I think if a group, was make up same sex attracted persons, then that would be OK.

  56. I’d appreciate some feedback.  I’m running a cubscout pack, and am very disappointed in the decisions the national council is making on discrimination, but its not clear to me at all what to do about it.  In Massachusetts, and I’m sure in many other communities across the country, we have written positions of non-discrimination.  Its not clear what national could do about this, even if they wanted to.  It seems clear that these Texans (they’re based in Texas) have made the calculation that its worse to alienate conservative Christian churches than to alienate individuals concerned about discrimination.   Apparently there’s push back against this from local BSA organizations, but I’m not privy to what’s going on.  Its not clear to me that walking away from local organizations with written policies of nondiscrimination is helping reform BSA, and it seems unfair to the kids in our pack.  Any information or guidance is appreciated.

  57. For those who say there should be a non-discriminatory alternative to the BSA in the US, there already is: the Baden-Powell Service Association is a co-ed Scouting group that does not discriminate based on sexual preference or religious belief (or lack thereof).  You can learn more about them at

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