Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eagle Scouts Protest BSA Policy Banning Gays

The Boy Scouts of America announced on July 17, 2012 that the organization would continue its policy of excluding individuals - both youth Scouts and parent leaders - who identify as gay or lesbian. Here’s the statement from the BSA Chief Executive:

“The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”Link to full press release

The Boston Globe on August 27, 2012 ran an in-depth story about Eagle Scouts protesting the Boy Scouts of America policy banning gays from the organization. Many Eagle scouts are returning their hard-won Eagle Scout badges. But several are organizing others using the Internet and Facebook to take more useful steps to protest the policy. The step of returning a badge is remarkable and heartfelt gesture -- my eldest brother is an Eagle Scout and I know how hard it is to gain that title. A scout must earn 21 merit badges and then lead a major community service project (recruiting, motivating and directing a number of other volunteers in the process). I have received one C.V. with Eagle Scout listed as an achievement and it certainly made me sit up and take notice. I am sure it is a qualification that makes a difference in a guy's resume for any job.

The scouts who return the badge in protest do so because they feel the Boy Scouts of America have betrayed the values enshrined in the badge: honesty, trustworthiness and tolerance, top among them. According to the Globe article,
Jerry Hegarty, the scoutmaster in Reading, said that many of his Scouts do not support the policy on gays.

“It’s at odds with some of the points of the Scout oath,” he said, and, by sending back their awards, Eagle Scouts are “exposing an archaic perspective on certain policies.”

He added: “I’m not disappointed in them. It’s to be applauded.”

Leo A.P. Giannini, who became an Eagle Scout with Troop 1 in Pittsfield in 2005, called the policy a “serious contradiction” of Scout teachings. (snip) Another scout, Bill Thomas, who became an Eagle Scout in 2003 with Troop 702 in Reading, added: “The first point of the Scout oath is “Trustworthy” and they’re not allowing people to be open and true to themselves and true to others.”

Giannini and Eagle Scout and activist Zach Wahls have created a website, Scouts for Equality, where people can share videos, sign a petition and donate. This also links to Change. org. More than 475,000 people have signed two different petitions on the site. One is a petition asking BSA to allow the Board to vote on whether they want to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders. That petition has garnered nearly 150,000 signatures The other petition, by far the most popular, has received 328, 725 signatures as of 5:30 PM EST today, and requests the BSA to reinstate a cub scout leader who was removed for being openly gay. This was Jennifer Tyrrell, a den mother from Ohio.

Many of the scout protests have showed up on social media sites like Facebook. One scout went through the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation GLAAD, which has begun collecting petitions. There is a Tumblr site, Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges. You should read the open letter there to understand how at least one scout feels about the hypocrisy in this policy. There are 150 letters so far affiliated with this site. There are also links to 8 articles from around the U.S. covering Eagle Scouts protesting the policy by returning their badges, the oldest appears to be from July 25, 2012. Another is from the Atlantic. There is another social media site linking Eagle Scouts protesting the policy on Boing Boing. The letters are both brave and heart breaking. These guys learned how to be leaders and they are leading! It's hard to count, but at least 12 letters here from Eagle Scouts sending back their badges. And the best explanation of what it means to be an Eagle Scout.

The decoration for this page is from the Tumblr site, Roger Chenard's letter and returning memorabilia. http://eaglebadges.tumblr.com/page/2 (scroll down to Aug. 13, 2012). I have to admire the heck out of these guys' principles!

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