Associated Press: As dozens of Eagle Scouts resign, Boy Scouts of America ignores them

I recently posted a couple of articles featuring heartfelt letters from people who had earned their Eagle Scout awards as boys, but no longer wanted to be associated with the Boy Scouts of America and its rule banning gay scouts and GBLT troop leaders. Instead, they were choosing to return their awards to the BSA, in hopes that scouting's national organization would recognize that this rule isn't something all scouts want. In fact, many wrote about their frustration with what they see as the BSA failing to live up to the values that scouting teaches.

As of August 4, more than 80 former Eagle Scouts have sent photos of their resignation letters to the Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges Tumblr blog, where the letters and the protest they represent are being archived.

Reading the comments that have turned up here at BoingBoing, I get the sense that there are many more Eagle Scouts—and active Boy Scout troops—that also disagree with the BSA, but don't want to resign from local connections that don't reflect the national organization's bigotry. In fact, the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 scouts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is openly bucking Boy Scouts of America policy, and has been for years.

The Associated Press ran a piece yesterday looking at this dissent and the effect—or, it seems, lack thereof—it is having on BSA policy.

Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, said there was no official count at his office of how many medals had been returned. He also noted that about 50,000 of the medals are awarded each year.

Beyond the Eagle Scout protests, the Boy Scouts' reaffirmation of the no-gays policy has drawn condemnation from liberal advocacy groups, newspaper editorialists and others. In Washington state, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, an Eagle Scout, joined his Democratic opponent, Jay Inslee, in suggesting the policy be changed.

But overall there has been little evidence of any new form of outside pressure that might prompt the Scouts to reconsider.

The leadership of the Scouts' most influential religious partners - notably the Mormons, Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists - appears to support the policy. And even liberal politicians seem reluctant to press the issue amid a tense national election campaign.

Read the rest of the Associated Press story


    1. I don’t know, but there are many other youth organizations. I was in the Civil Air Patrol when I was younger and it was sort of like Boy Scouts with Airplanes.

      There are many options, and when the Boy Scouts fail, the others will fill in.

      Scouting is actually and international movement. I wonder what the international groups think of this?

      1. In many countries (for example Canada) scouting has never had an anti-gay policy. Stories like this have left many of my friends in scouting saying “That’s the Americans, not us.”

  1. Is it just me or does this demonstration seem irrelevant?  I think it would be far more significant if the existing boys in the Boy Scouts were resigning from the BSA.  These Eagle Scouts may be able to give back their merit awards but they can’t give back the extensive skill set they acquired during their participation in this comprehensive organization.  I don’t see them as giving anything up and it appears they are just feigning regret based on a social trend.

    1. You do understand, I assume, that eleven is the age of entry into the Boy Scouts? How well informed were you at the age of eleven, and how capable were you of making a decision as difficult as leaving an organization such as the Boy Scouts, especially when your parents may have been the ones who encouraged you to join in the first place?

      Besides, this isn’t simply about regret, although most of us, I suspect, regret things we did when we were younger, and, even if it’s late, try to take responsibility and improve things for the generations that follow. It’s about pressuring an organization that discriminates to try and change. The fact that the pressure is coming from former members, or, in some cases, active members, has nothing to do with “feigning regret based on a social trend”.

      But if you really think they aren’t giving anything up maybe you should read some of the letters from Eagle Scouts who have sent back their medals and try to understand how much earning those medals meant to them, and what it means to send them back.

    2.  I see where you are going, and I understand. Think of it this way, imagine the president pinning a Medal of Honor on a soldier and that soldier then handing it back saying ‘This war is unjust and immoral’. Sure he could have never signed up, or handed back his sgt stripes, but the effect of handing back the highest award carries some serious weight.

  2. Part of me wants to join these people in sending back my Eagle, but part of me is utterly convinced that it will have absolutely no impact whatsoever. Much like Qaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria, the homophobic old men running the show would rather destroy their own organization than see it change with society. They are unable to separate their egos from the group they have been hired to run, and nothing will change until they are thrown out and refuted by the next generation.

  3. the homophobic old men running the show would rather destroy their own organization than see it change with society. – Couldnt agree more legion…

  4. As a current scoutmaster, I support what these men are doing and have done.  I believe the organization can change for the better.  I would even like to see it integrated like it is in other countries.  In fact, I’m taking my first candidate Eagle for his board of review tonight.

    I will keep training boys to lead good lives, and I will continue to support scouting for all.  If the organization cannot change, then an alternative will arise.

  5. There will be greater shame on the BSA as time goes by. And they’ll deserve every speck of it. 

  6. First, American jurisprudence is not based on the bible. We have separation of church and state. Our law is supposed to be based on our constitutions and reason. The Prop 8 case in california clearly showed there were absolutely no rational basis of marriage discrimination.

    Secondly, can we be adults and admit that every group of christians cherry pick the bible. Hell, the first two stories are contradictory stories of the creation of the planet.  We ignore parts we find inconvenient (shell fish, mixed fibers), make up parts that aren’t in the bible (arguably hell), and change what different parts mean. To claim the bible in infallible is to claim your interpretation of the bible is infallible, which is basicly to claim you are God yourself, and unerring. 

    1. Defintitions on what constitutes a marriage are so based on religious ideas in general and for Western countries the bible in particular that it’s not even funny.

  7. I’m not sure why they don’t change their policy.  It’s seems pretty obvious that the founder of the Boy Scouts was a closeted gay trying his hardest to be ‘not gay’ (and creating a whole organization to support that ideal).  Or maybe this is keeping in that tradition?  If they acknowledge it, the whole raison d’etre comes apart, and the Scouts will then have to disband?

  8. I tried this as a reply to another comment that was since removed, giving me an error message, but I’d still like to throw it out there:  

    I’m not surprised that the BSA is trying to ignore this, but it doesn’t make this protest irrelevant.  Returning the physical item is still a very powerful statement, and if it makes a young Boy Scout think, “Hey, if this Eagle Scout thinks being mean to gay people is wrong, then maybe it really is wrong, even if [insert bad influence] says it’s O.K. to treat them poorly,” then it’s a huge deal even if the BSA never changes its official policy.

  9. I’m glad you mentioned that Northern Star Council in Minnesota has been open in their acceptance of GLBTs. It cuts deep that the organization I was part of is (in my mind) morally deprave, but the Council I was in is on the front line of bucking that trend. Hopefully more councils will follow.

    Also, the spokesman’s statement that 50,000 Eagles are awarded a year is very dubious – that would mean that there have been 2 million Eagles in the last 40 years. The Scouts were founded in 1910. The 2 millionth Eagle Scouts was awarded in 2010. The Scouts are rapidly losing members. The numbers just don’t add up. 

    1. The numbers just don’t add up.

      You’re assuming that the same number were awarded annually in 1972 as are awarded in 2012. We’ve gained more than 100,000,000 in those 40 years.

      1. This document details some per-annum Eagle numbers:

        1912: 23
        1922: >2,000
        1927: >4,500
        1932: >9,200
        1933-1938: 7,000 per year
        1939: ca. 10,000
        mid-1950’s: >14,000
        1963: >27,000
        1982: 25,573
        “today”: >50,000 per year

        By 2009, 2,000,000 Eagles.

  10. Well I suggest not signing up your kids.   Boy Scouts may stigmatize itself out of existence before long.  Being associated with the Boy Scouts may  no longer become a bragging right, in fact it may become a mark against your kid.  There are alternatives, hell why not create an alternative.  Let the churches have their Boy Scouts meetings right after sunday school.

  11. Our local organization is in fairly open defiance of the BSA’s anti-gay policies. We just kind of ignore it and do our best to run an organization that is reflective of our (progressive) community and its values. Everyone should be aware of and wear the rainbow knot on your uniform.

    In discussing this with other adult leaders, one of the dads pointed out that the LDS and the Catholic church between them sponsor about half the local organizations in the country. Rumor is that the LDS has threatened to withdraw all of its troops and packs if policies excluding gay leaders and scouts are rescinded. That would be a pretty devastating blow to an organization that has already been seeing declining participation over the last 20 years.

    It’s tough to admit, especially for an atheist like me, but the BSA was, for decades, an unquestionably Christian organization. And these conservative religious sponsors still hold inordinate influence over the national organization, even as the rest of the country moves on.

  12. If they give out 50k a year and only 80 people turned them in…nothing will change any time soon.  Fuzzyfuzzyfungus really hit the nail on the head.  If you have an organization of people that believe homosexuality is immoral you need to sway the majority of that organization if you want to see any change.  And really you can’t change until it’s a vast majority or you risk the whole thing exploding and half of your organization quitting in a rage.  Beliefs are tricky things to mess with.

    Belief is really all that matters, not facts.  You are talking about a quasi-religious organization.  It doesn’t matter how many scientific studies or popular surveys or anything else you throw at them.  To them being gay is immoral and no one is going to change their minds.  A tiny subset of Eagle Scouts or popular media pieces or even the court of public opinion are not likely to sway a strongly held belief.  It would have to come from within. 

    I wouldn’t expect anything for a few dozen years at minimum.  Beliefs like this don’t change fast.  They change with generations.

    My question, though, is:  Is it illegal for them to exclude homosexuals?  I know there are various laws about it for jobs but for clubs and volunteers I have no idea.

    1. If they give out 50k a year and only 80 people turned them in…nothing will change any time soon.

      Untrue. They receive a great deal of governmental, quasi-governmental, corporate and public support. A small number of Eagle Scouts willing to publicly renounce BSA policies may undermine the BSA’s support base and push resources to non-bigoted groups, which could in turn cause the BSA’s base to overthrow the leadership.

      1. There’s also the fact that it’s only 80 so far. And that’s only as many as we know about. I doubt that those who’ve posted their letters online represent the total number who’ve done so. I didn’t think to put anything online when I got rid of my medal some time ago. And the trend hasn’t necessarily stopped either.

        Besides, as I understand it we’re basing the “80” number on what the Boy Scouts of America organization itself is reporting. The leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have demonstrated repeatedly that they’re not all trustworthy.

  13. Except that some people believe that orientation is not a matter of morality, but of nature. To the extent that is an accurate belief (i.e. that at least some people are born gay), judging those people based on their homosexuality *is* bigoted.

  14. It’s not about moral behavior, it’s about discriminating against people because they were born different from you. That’s bigotry. 

    The debate isn’t about whether something is moral or not. It’s a debate between the evidence that whether you are gay or straight as nothing to do with morality and everything to do with how you were born, and the people who keep insisting that this is a debate about morality. 

    Your sexuality is a fact you are born with. What you do with it is the moral question. But that’s not what anybody is debating. And, in fact, there are plenty of straight people with horribly immoral sexual behavior. 

  15. Yes, and there is also a debate about eating shellfish.

    This is 2012, and most people recognize that same-sex relationships are not immoral. It is the bigotry that is immoral. And yes, it is bigotry. I’m sorry that word offends you, but that word has a meaning and it applies here. The only debate that remains is whether a parent wants their child to join a bigoted youth organization or a more open and diverse organization.

    Please note that the Girl Scouts are a Christian youth organization and they don’t try to stigmatize gays. Why do the Boy Scouts have to?

  16. Some christian churches consider it immoral. Some christian churches also considered slavery appropriate and segregation. Christianity is not unchanging, nor unerring, or homogeneous.

  17.  I and my scout are Christian, you do not speak for us. My scout got his Arrow of Light last night. It requires him to be moral. Nothing is more moral than speaking out against those would use the Word of God to hurt people. I am the proud parent of a North Star Council scout.

  18. While I disagree with churches, especially the Roman catholic one, on many things, their position seems to be that homosexuality may be something people are born with, but that’s their test from their god. Harmful, but not bigoted.

    What I don’t get: When there are so many qualified troop leaders resigning, people who invested so much time and deviation, why don’t they form their own organization? Free scouts of America has a nice ring to it. I’d sign in my son they’d go easy on the religious stuff.

  19. Just to clarify, are you honestly suggesting homosexuality and carjacking are morally equivalent?

    You can sugarcoat is by putting words like “presumed” in parentheses or calling it “[im]morality”, but you seem to be arguing in favor of prejudice because you consider homosexuality equivalent to crime.

    If that’s really what you think–that is, if you really think homosexuality is a crime–perhaps you should do some research before commenting further.

    As for whether the BSA can or cannot accept homosexuality, at least take the time to read the article. As noted “the Northern Star Council, which represents 75,000 scouts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, is openly bucking Boy Scouts of America policy, and has been for years”.

    Clearly there are divisions within the BSA that have no problem accepting homosexuality.

  20. Trick is, ‘The BSA’ isn’t actually capable of believing anything apart from its members, it isn’t sentient itself or anything.

    Clearly, the official position of the BSA is a weighted average of its members’ opinions; but it has no existence except as a derivative of its member population. At present, the conservative wing of the outfit clearly holds the cards on at least one, possibly both, of the ‘weighted’ and ‘average’ counts(quite possibly assisted by a relative dearth of otherwise equivalent competitors, and a certain amount of only sometimes pressing the issue); but that is just a population change away from no longer being true.

    Pressure, in a direct sense, isn’t hugely efficacious in changing an organization’s mind; but any pressure that changes the minds of enough of an organization’s members more or less necessarily changes the ‘mind’ of the organization.

    It will be interesting to see whether the strong religious-right tilt of the BSA is enough to counterbalance the general ‘kids these days just can’t get excited about the gay menace’ trend.

  21. First, “time and deviation?” Autocorrect is hilarious.

    Second, if you really believe that some people are essentially genetically gay, that is a level of “sin” to overcome not inflicted on anyone in the post-Emancipation era. Frankly, it makes no sense. Also, it is bigoted.

  22. Isn’t the position of the Catholic Church essentially St Paul’s? All sex is sinful because of the relationship between sex and death. Sex makes us mortal. Salvation comes through Christ. Marriage may partially redeem sex for procreational purposes. But the Catholic Church vacillates on the subject of predestination, so who knows what they really think, anyway.

  23. If some people are born gay, their homosexuality is not a matter of morality. It is a matter of biology. If it is a matter of biology it is not two opposed ideas of morality, but rather, discriminating against people because of a condition of their birth. Make more sense?

  24. For at least one example of “relativism” see your own claim that  homosexuality and carjacking are equivalent.

    That claim is pretty earth-shattering in its ignorance.

  25. As has been pointed out by more than one person, the axioms are not moral v. immoral, but born this way v. immoral. So, the real question is whether there is a study or evidence that will convince the “immoral” crowd that “born this way” is accurate.

    Frankly, if you admit that many gay people are born gay, I don’t know how you treat orientation as a matter of choice. Makes it kind of look like skin color . . .

  26. When we reason, even about morality, we usually have some axioms as our starting point.

    No we don’t, and that is the problem.

    The two main branches of non-theist ethics (Kantian ethics and Utilitarianism) start from axioms about duty and good will (for Kantian ethics) or utility or happiness (for Utilitarianism). These axioms are pretty straight-forward and not particularly controversial. Both Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics would conclude that bigotry is wrong and that same-sex relationships are okay.

    Theist ethical systems don’t use axioms, they use a guidebook like the Bible to tell them what is right or wrong. I’m not going to condemn the Bible, because it has a mini version of Kantian ethics written into it in the Second Testament. But it also allows a lot of hateful and immoral actions, like slavery and rape. The key is to know where the Bible is ethically wrong (slavery and rape) and where it is a good guide (the Golden Rule).

  27. Yes, from a Christian perspective sinning against God is immoral, but not all Christians believe homosexuality is a sin.

    To make the blanket claim that, from a Christian perspective, the two are equally immoral is insulting to a lot of Christians.

  28. Meh. “Sinning against God” is not applied consistently for that to be a serious public policy argument. I mean, you can’t ignore huge parts of the Bible and argue for policy based on the other parts. If you’re doing that you’ll need to stand before God alone when the time comes.

  29. @ChicagoD:disqus Kantian ethics was inspired by the Golden Rule, but Kant thought that was incomplete and expanded it.

  30. Interesting that even as a Devil’s advocate you keep treating homosexual behavior as a “tendency” rather than genetic. If it is genetic, not acting on the “urges” would be like not acting on being born white. It just is what it is.

    Whether ultimately the genetic link is proven may be an open question, but if you know any gay people who “decided” to be gay one day, you know at least one more than most people do.

  31. @ChristianConvey:disqus “I’m simply trying to state what I think a Christian response would be, and where I think the most productive area of debate lies in this issue.”


    How about you don’t put words into other people’s mouths?

  32. @ChristianConvey:disqus Ah, but here is where the orthodox Christians have a problem. We may all be born with sinful impulses, but I am aware no other class of sin that is (potentially) genetically coded. It would be reminiscent of condemning black people to slavery as “Sons of Ham.” Not at all similar to resisting the urge to act immorally within the context of your biology (like cheating on a partner). 

  33. Lets not forget the golden rule:

    All who curse their father or mother must be put to death.  They are guilty of a capital offense.  (Leviticus 20:9 NLT)

  34. No, it doesn’t. Straight women are welcome in BSA’s adult leadership. I know you’re snarking. Just sayin’…

  35. I was referring, more specifically, to the actual scouts. Eagle Scouts themselves have always belonged to an exclusive group based not just on ‘merit’ but also on being born male.

  36. I just read up one the English usage of bigotry. I fell victim to the closeness (no doubt the same root) of the German bigot, which as a more specific meaning of applying contradicting  rules. I withdraw my objection.  

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