In July 2012, the media reported on an apparent explosion of Eagle Scouts returning their Eagle Scout Award medals to the national offices of the BSA in opposition to its discriminatory policies. This was not the first time that Eagle Scouts
have taken such action to object to the BSA's exclusionary policies. Scouting for all has a page which lists the names of those Eagle Scouts it knows who surrendered their Eagle Scout Award medals in protest. Below are some news articles about a few Eagle Scouts.
A dramatic protest by some Eagle Scouts: Dismayed that the Boy Scouts bar gays as leaders, some members return their prized Eagle badges.
By Gwen Florio
July 18, 2000
Kevin Peter is an Eagle Scout. His older brother is an Eagle Scout. And Peter had
hoped the time would come when his son, Ben, now just 2, would join scouting's elite.
"But no more," Peter, 36, of Mount Airy, wrote in a letter. Two weeks ago he took the letter, packaged it with his Eagle badge, and shipped it back to the Boy Scouts of America's headquarters in Texas - in protest.
This month, some Eagle Scouts around the country, both gay and straight, have returned their badges to the Boy Scouts as testament to their unhappiness with the
Scouts' policy of barring homosexuals from serving as leaders. That policy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28.
It is not clear how many Scouts have taken this step. One group monitoring the action says several hundred Eagle Scouts have done so. It is a dramatic statement: the Eagle rank is the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts, held by the likes of former President Gerald Ford, film director Steven Spielberg, and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley.
But Peter no longer wishes to be part of that group. Nor would he want his son to join.
"The reality is that there are a lot of gay men in this country," said Peter, who is straight. "If you're coming up as a leader and you're thinking that gay men don't have a place in society, then you're not going to serve your country well."
About 4 percent of the million Scouts active in this country are Eagle Scouts.
Achieving that rank, said Peter and others, was one of the most meaningful events of their lives.
"I remember vividly standing on the stage of a public park arena and having my mother pin the badge on my chest," said the Rev. Gene Huff, of the moment in 1943 in Chickasha, Okla., when he became an Eagle Scout. The leadership qualities he learned in scouting helped him to become a Presbyterian minister, Huff said by phone yesterday.
Those qualities, he wrote in the letter sent with his returned badge, did not include prejudice.
"I was not taught by scoutmasters of former years, even in Oklahoma in the '40s, that morality and intolerance could be joined," wrote Huff, 72, of San Francisco.
The Boy Scouts insisted - and the high court agreed - that as a private organization, it can set its own standards for membership and leadership.
"We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law," the organization said after the court ruling.
Since then, the group's headquarters in Irving, Texas, has received "quite a few" Eagle badges from Scouts unhappy with the decision, said Gregg Shields, national spokesman for the Scouts.
Shields said there was no way of knowing just how many badges have been
returned. There are hundreds of local Scouting groups around the country, some of which also have received returned badges, he said. Huff, for instance, sent his to a local chapter.
Scouting for All, a group in Petaluma, Calif., formed to persuade the Scouts to adopt antidiscrimination policies for gay Scouts and leaders, said it had received "several hundred - up to a thousand" e-mails from Eagle Scouts who say they had have returned badges.
Scott Cozza, the group's leader, said Scouting for All discourages the action. "We believe the Boy Scouts of America don't deserve the Eagle badges," he said. "They're not practicing what a good Scout should be."
The group is organizing a national day of protest at Boy Scout offices on Aug. 21.
"But for some people," Cozza said, returning their badges "is the ultimate form of
protest, and we have to totally respect that." Scouting for All's Web site - www.scoutingforall.org - suggests that Eagle Scouts who want to turn in their badges send them to the national headquarters in Texas.
The Family Research Council in Washington, a conservative group that supports the Scouts' right to bar gay leaders, decried the move to return the badges.
"I think it's sad that they would do that," said Rob Regier, a policy analyst for the
council. "They've bought into the false notion that this is a new civil rights movement."
Kevin Peter sees it that way, though.
He said the Scouts' present policy "creates a hostile environment for gay men. It creates a misperception among Scouts anywhere that . . . gay men are not people to have around."
Peter said Ben's godfather is gay - and an Eagle Scout. "I would not have agreed
to have this gentleman as my son's godfather if he were not a good role model," he said.
He brought Ben with him to the post office the day he mailed back the badge. "I didn't think anything of it until I pushed the package across the counter," he said. "Then it hit me."
He had always, he said, kept the badge close to him, in a box in his desk. "It was a personal touchstone for me," he said.
And now it is gone.
Commentary: A father and his son give back their
Eagle Scout medals
By: Frank Edward Allen
St. Paul Star Tribune
September 24, 2000
Few public-service groups in our country enjoy the prestige of a federal charter. One of them is the Boy Scouts of America. Earlier this month, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill ridiculed a few fellow lawmakers for suggesting that the federal charter of the Boy Scouts should be revoked.
Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah called the suggestion "an attack on the fundamental values of America." Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia said those who made the
suggestion "truly ought to be ashamed." House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas compared the idea to declaring "open season on the Boy Scouts."
Barr, whose adultery was made public last year, is hardly in a position to assign shame. Armey would seem to argue that certain groups are above criticism and that a federal charter is forever. And Cannon would appear to believe that discrimination is one of America's "fundamental values."
For three generations, scouting has been important in my family. Breaking such a strong bond, as I did recently, is a painful act, but I had to do it. A few weeks ago, I surrendered my Eagle Scout medal and asked for removal of my name from the Eagle Award Registry.
My father became an Eagle Scout during the Great Depression. Leadership and survival skills learned in scouting saved his life several times as a Navy officer in
the Pacific during World War II. In the 1950s, my dad became a scoutmaster and my mom became a Cub Scout den mother. I became an Eagle Scout in 1962. My eldest son became an Eagle Scout in 1993.
I have cherished the honor of being an Eagle. For nearly 40 years, my Eagle medal has had a prominent perch at home, reminding me constantly of so many happy, profound, character-shaping experiences. For all that time, the spirit represented by
this medal has nourished my belief in unselfish service to neighbors and strangers, to community and country. For all that time, I have considered scouting remarkably effective in helping adolescent males become good men.
But now, scouting has lost its moral compass. Current leaders of the Boy Scouts of America pervert the meaning of "morally straight" in the Scout Oath. They wrongly
equate "morally straight" with having a "straight" or heterosexual orientation. I reject this false equation and the official Boy Scout policy of hostility toward men and boys who are gay. My own orientation is heterosexual. I am "straight," but I refuse to be narrow.
Like other Eagle Scouts, I have tried to become a citizen, in the best sense of that term. Decorated Navy officer in the Vietnam era. Staff assistant in the Executive
Office of the President in a time of crisis. Fourteen years as a senior writer, an editor and a bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. Sunday school teacher, Little League baseball and youth soccer coach, Scout troop adviser. Supporter of many other community-service and charitable groups. Elected member of a local public school board. Mentor to troubled young people. Caregiver to a terminally ill parent.
My eldest son, Zachary, is a citizen. When a fire destroyed our church, he helped restore it by designing safe playground toys and then gathering a crew to build them. That effort was his Eagle Scout project. As a youth, he also worked in soup kitchens, promoted a recycling network in his township and volunteered for organizations that ease suffering among Amish children with rare genetic disorders and among adults from all backgrounds with diseases that have no known cure.
Zack graduated from high school with high honors. At Stanford University, he held down several part-time jobs, helped bewildered young people strengthen their sense of self-worth and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Now he manages a growing organization in the nonprofit world.
Zack surrendered his Eagle Scout Award, too. He is gay, and he sees no place for discrimination or prejudice among the ideals of the Boy Scouts of America. I stand
up for him, now and always. He is a fine person, a man of character and empathy. Character and empathy are what matter. Being gay or straight is not a measure of a person's worth.
Nor is being gay a "choice" or a "preference" or a "lifestyle." Being gay is an orientation. Like being left-brained or right-brained, right-handed or left-handed, being gay or straight is a fundamental part of a human being's natural makeup.
Does God favor only the right-handed or the left-brained? Does God favor people with certain skin colors or hairlines while rejecting people who have others?
The Supreme Court of the United States upholds the legal right of the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But a legal right isn't always a moral imperative. The Supreme Court protects the legal right of free
speech for the Ku Klux Klan, but such protection does not constitute moral approval of the KKK's hateful discrimination against Catholics, Jews and blacks.
For almost a century, the Scout Law has inspired American boys and young men to develop good moral character. The Scout Law declares that all Boy Scouts should be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. But how does discrimination against boys and men
who are gay uphold the Scout Law? What is loyal or helpful or friendly or courteous or kind or brave about prejudice? How does the teaching of discrimination and prejudice to boys and young men help them become trustworthy? How does it help them develop a sense of fairness and justice?
Finally, how does the practice of discrimination and prejudice show reverence? Aren't all children God's children? Didn't Jesus teach that we should love and
respect our neighbors and treat them as we would want to be treated? Would Jesus want to be a scoutmaster today?
-- Frank Edward Allen, of Missoula, Mont., heads the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. He was a reporter and editor for the Minneapolis Star in the late 1970s.
I shed A tear For the Organization I was Once Proud Of
July 1, 2000
To: Roy L. Williams, Chief Scout Executive
This letter is to inform you I have sent my boy scout sash to Mr. Grant Frey at Western Alaska Council of BSA. It is a sash which I've kept and treasured for over 40 years. Sewn on the sash are merit badges and the pins for Star Scout and God
and Country. As I remember, I was the first Lutheran in the state of Maine to earn the God and Country award.
Decades ago I misplaced or lost my high school graduation ring, my yearbook and even the accumulation of years of medals I won in swimming competitions. I've often remarked that this treasured scout sash represented some of the best experiences of my youth. Summers at a boy scout camp on Sebago Lake, Maine,
weekend camping trips and the weekly troop meetings which taught me leadership, crafts and outdoor skills.
Today I am experiencing tears and feel undescribable disappointent in your organization. Today the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5 to 4 to allow your organization to prohibit leadership by gays. The news also implied that your organization might be able to prohibit openly gay youth from participating and assuming leadership roles.
Your organization's news release of June 28, 2000 reaffirmed your right to maintain standards for membership and leadership as a private association. "We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law."
As a result of your belief and this landmark decision, I am returning my sash to protest your organization's position. It is apparent by the the court's decision a
private, not for profit organization such as yours has a right to exclude leaders based on sexual orientation.
As a mental health professional, I know the repercussions your victory will ravage on our gay youth and our talented young gay leaders. I know suicide rates among gay teens, which are the highest, have a basis in our cultures ostracism which you have succeeded in perpetuating. I know harassment and hate crimes are the results of such a decision.
Your organizations victory perpetuates unimaginable casualties and denies hundreds of thousands of youth a right to safely and openly participate. These beautiful gay youth and gay leaders are our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our brothers and sisters . The harm your organization has inflicted on them strikes deeply and painfully in my heart and the hearts of those of us who love our gay friends and children. The homophobic position and fear that your organization has
perpetuated upon gay leaders and youth is unconscionable.
Your organization and its leadership have spoken. It has taken an anti-gay stand, won the battle, and I hope will discover it has lost the war. Years from now, I suspect the shame of this decision will be not be forgotten. Your organization will be seen in a light no different than we now see the KKK or remember George Wallace standing atop the steps of destiny.
I pray that those of us who have loved this organization and object to your position will:
1. Withdraw support of the Boy Scouts and as a symbol turn in their sashes to their regional Councils as a symbol of this withdrawal. 2. Closely monitor your organization, object to any type of community or governmental support including funding and services. 3. And withdraw our children from the organization and/or
encourage our own children to not allow our grandchildren to participate in a homophobic organization.
I am asking Mr. Frey to have the courtesy to hold my sash, and any others that will be sent, until such time that the current policy of discriminating against gay leaders and gay youth is stopped. I would also hope that leaders in your organization sympathetic to gay leaders and gay youth withdraw their volunteer support and withdraw their children.
At every opportunity, I will ask like-minded colleagues and friends to return their sashes to regional council offices until your organization stops this tragedy of rejecting qualified openly gay youth and adults as role models and leaders.
Meanwhile, I grieve for family members, friends and the millions of children who will suffer the repercussions of your organizations position.
Leon T. Webber, III, D.Mn., LMFT
Former boy scout and boy scout supporter
CC: Anchorage Daily News, Michael Carey
United Way of Anchorage, Dennis McMillian
Western Alaska Council (BSA), Grant Frey
Mark Sauerbrey of Oakdale is a former scout leader who left his position because he is gay. His son is still a Cub Scout.
Jon Tevlin / Star Tribune
August 4, 2000
When Cub Scout Pack 22 took its place in St. Anthony Park's July 4th parade in St. Paul, some of the dozen Scouts noticed that their friend Austin Granger was missing.
In fact, Austin was watching the marchers from the curb with his parents, Adam
Granger and Renee Bergeron. "As I watched them march by, I was glad my son wasn't among them," his mother said.
The Boy Scouts of America won a major victory in June when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 that it could exclude Scout leaders who are openly gay.
Weeks later, at the urging of his parents, 9-year-old Austin quietly quit the Cub Scouts, leaving behind his best friends, the parades and the camping trips to northern Minnesota.
In its case, the Boy Scouts of America argued that an openly gay person was inconsistent with the moral values it is trying to teach, and that as a private organization it has the right to exclude whom it wants. The courts agreed. And parents and scouts who also agree don't have an issue.
But for people such as Austin Granger's parents, the question looms: What's the right thing to do?
According to scouting officials, the court's decision triggered a small but passionate response from those in scouting who disagree with the national organization's position banning gay Scout leaders.
At least two Scout leaders in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis have resigned. A Northfield Eagle Scout, now a professor, recently returned his pin, badge and sash, saying he no longer wants anything to do with scouting.
At the same time, one gay former scoutmaster has allowed his son to remain in the organization, reflecting the deep conflict many parents face between their personal values and their affection for the scouting organization.
So far, most parents and Scouts have decided to stick around. The summer camp sessions remain filled, and according to Kent York, spokesman for the Indianhead
Council, which oversees St. Paul Scouts, the issue is not a prominent topic among campers. "It's not really being discussed at that level," he said. "That's not to say there aren't people with deep feelings about it."
York said he has received calls and mail from people since the decision. "It's been pretty mixed," he said. "People who are critical have been more likely to write. One
person sent us $100 because he supported the court decision."
Some scouting officials say they think they will hear more about the issue this month as the annual recruitment drive begins.
Experts say how parents deal with the issue will have an effect on how those kids perceive and handle ethical decisions in the future.
Pauline Boss, a professor in the Department of Family and Social Science at the
University of Minnesota and a family therapist, said parents of scouts should weigh the costs and benefits of belonging to the organization, and ask themselves, "Do I want to have my kids belong to a group that espouses this philosophy?"
Randy Cohen, who writes an ethics column for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, recently tackled the subject. The issue is not that tough, he wrote. "That
scouting has a legal right of free association does not clear you of this obligation [to quit]," he wrote.
Cohen, who said he received an unusually high volume of mail about the column, most of it negative, said he also thinks that parents who claim they can do more to change scouting from the inside are kidding themselves.
"I fear that if the civil rights movement relied on such sympathizers, we'd still be
living under segregation," he said in an e-mail.
For the Bergeron-Granger family, the decision to ask Austin to quit the Scouts didn't come easily. Bergeron is a former member of the Girl Scouts, where she learned many positive things, including the importance of volunteering.
When the courts announced the decision, Bergeron and Granger were frustrated and mad, and sat Austin down for a talk.
"I mentioned the names of several people we know, and told Austin they could not be Scout leaders," Bergeron said. "He understood why we wanted him to quit. I feel strongly about the issue of not discriminating against someone on the basis of who someone loves. We didn't think we could let him be part of an organization that does.
"I expected more resistance. That said, even if he did resist, we probably still would have removed him."
Until Austin didn't show for the parade, few knew of the family's decision to leave scouting. Bergeron said she did not contact any other parents because she didn't want to imply that they should quit.
"I realize this is a very individual and private decision, and I didn't want them to think I was being judgmental about their choice to stay," said Bergeron, who did not
seek media attention, and declined to let her son be interviewed for this article.
Blaine Thrasher, the leader of Pack 22, tried to persuade Austin's parents not to make him quit.
"I do understand they are doing it for their own reasons," he said. "It's a shame we're going to lose Austin. We enjoyed having him."
Thrasher said he has discussed the differences in sexual orientations with his 9
-year-old son, Drew. Thrasher said he wouldn't stop his son if he wanted to quit over the decision.
"What kind of bothers me, is that this is not Austin's decision," Thrasher said. "It's a decision made by his parents." But I know some would debate whether that kind of decision could be made by a kid that age."
Boss said that kids should be part of the discussion on whether to remain in
Scouts, but that she favors the parents having the ultimate say.
"I may be old fashioned, but I think giving children too much choice at a time when their cognitive abilities and experience don't allow them to make the best choice is not wise," she said. "I think 10 is certainly too young to make a good decision on this issue. Parents carry out the executive function in a family; this is not a
democracy. As they get older, it can become more of a democracy."
But do parents who remove their kids because of their own beliefs do a disservice to the kids?
"We do that all the time," Boss said. "We make value decisions for our kids all the time, from what day care and high school they will attend, to what their first group of friends are like. That's how parents teach their kids values."
Mark Sauerbrey, a former Oakdale Scout leader who is gay, let his son, Aaron, decide whether to stay in Scouts. "Do I want him to be in scouting? I don't know," Sauerbrey said. "But he's 13, and I think it's something he should decide."
Aaron has been exposed to gay issues ever since he learned that his father was gay four years ago. Sauerbrey resigned as a leader "because we have a great
troop, and I didn't want to cause trouble for them."
He thinks the Scouts will be better -- and more likely to change -- with kids such as Aaron inside the organization. "That said, I commend those who stand up for what they believe by quitting..
"At some point Aaron may decide to stand up and say, 'Look what I've done for scouting, and it's time to change,'" Sauerbrey said. "Or maybe he'll say he can't be
a scout anymore. Ultimately, I just hope he makes the decision that's right for him, whatever that may be."
Returning the badge
Justin London, a Carleton College professor in Northfield, attained Eagle Scout rank in 1975, an accomplishment of which he is still proud. So it was difficult when, shortly after the court's decision, he sent his Eagle badge, sash and pin back to the national organization.
"It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter following the recent United States Supreme Court decision," London wrote. "I agree that a private association such as the Boy Scouts of America must retain the right to set its own standards for membership and leadership. But in light of the standards the Boy Scouts have chosen, I find I can no longer honorably consider myself to be a Scout."
"In a way it was an easy decision, because I so strongly disagree with the Scouts' position," he said in an interview last week.
John Judd, a scout leader in south Minneapolis, also disagrees, but he will remain in the organization and has counseled others to remain as well.
"My view is that it's an imperfect world," he said. "Institutions are imperfect just like
people are. I hope I'm never confronted with the issue of homosexuality in the Scouts, of having to enforce the code, because then I'll have a decision to make."