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Back in the Summer, I told you about a movement among Eagle Scouts, some of whom have been sending back their awards — in effect, resigning — in protest of The Boys Scouts of America's discriminatory policy banning gay, bi, and trans scouts and troop leaders, as well as atheists.
Here's a great example of the people those men are trying to stick up for: Ryan Andresen is 17, he's been in Boy Scouts for over a decade and has completed all the Eagle Scout requirements, including working with younger kids on a tolerance/anti-bullying project for his community service requirement.
But Andresen isn't going to get to be an Eagle Scout, because he's openly gay.
The Boy Scouts of America sent a statement to several news organizations, including ABC, in which they say they didn't inquire about Ryan's sexual orientation.
"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."
In an interview with Yahoo! News Ryan said that his scoutmaster knew he was gay.
"He had been telling me all along that we'd get by the gay thing," Ryan told Yahoo News. "It was by far the biggest goal of my life. It's totally devastating."
Check out a Tumblr collecting nearly 200 Eagle Scout resignation letters from adults who no longer want to be associated with an organization that would deny a kid something he's worked hard to achieve simply because that kid is gay. (Again, the BSA is entitled to its opinion on this matter. But its members are also entitled to express their disgust with that opinion.)
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.
Earlier this week, I posted a couple batches of letters from grown-up Eagle Scouts who chose to resign their hard-earned, elite awards in protest of the Boy Scouts of America's policy banning gay and atheist scouts and troop leaders.
I'm still getting letters in the mail. These things are coming in faster than I can update the posts. Which is why I'm very glad that several former Eagle Scouts have taken matters into their own hands, starting a Tumblr that can play host to all these letters, and all the ones going forward.
Burke Stansbury put the site together. In his own resignation letter, he wrote:
I am not proud to be affiliated with an organization that excludes people based on their sexuality. Many of my closest friends are gay, lesbian, or transgender and it pains me to think that I invested time in an organization that prohibits their membership. It's a shameful, bigoted policy. Plain and simple.
I'll be contacting people who have sent me letters recently about whether it's okay to forward their emails to Burke. And if you'd like your letter to be archived on the Tumblr, there's an easy-to-use submission form right on the site.
Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges on Tumblr
If you aren't familiar with American Boy Scouting's Eagle Scout award, it might be a little hard to explain how important this story really is. Eagle Scout is a big deal. For one thing, it takes a lot of work to get the position. A scout has to earn 21 merit badges and then spearhead a community service project that they organize and manage themselves from start to finish. Add to that the fact that most kids don't stay in scouts through high school anyway, and you end up with the award representing a relatively small and elite group. Since 1911, about 2.1 million men have earned an Eagle Scout award. And it has serious implications once you graduate high school. There are scholarships. Eagle Scouts who enlist in the military after high school can start off with a higher rank than their peers. The adult Eagle Scouts I know have told me that they've gotten interview call-backs or even job opportunities because the award was on their resumes. Basically, it's more than just this medal you pick up at age 17. For many men, it's a lifelong position—and one that demonstrates a commitment to serving others and caring for the community.
So when Eagle Scouts start returning their medals to the Boy Scouts of America, that matters. Especially when these men are making this decision because they think it's the best way to demonstrate the values of being an Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America bans participation in scouting by openly gay, bisexual, or transgender kids and bans GBLT adults from serving as scout masters. Legally, that's their right as a private organization. But that doesn't make it the right thing to do. Since the BSA doubled down on that position on July 17, I've seen letters from numerous Eagle Scouts who have sent their hard-earned awards back to the organization.
The letter pictured above was written by my husband, Christopher Baker. He mailed off his medal on Saturday. You can read the full text below.
Read the rest