Kudos to some Eagle Scouts

After the announcement by the Boy Scouts of America on the 17th that they’d be upholding their ban on GLBT scouts or scout leaders, some adult scouts have mailed their Eagle Scout badges back to BSA headquarters with letters of protest. BoingBoing (see the second link) is collecting photos of letters, links to more letters, and a lot of comments on the subject, most from former scouts. Many of whom are still scouts, having earned their Life Scout rank.

Despite the snarking and whining of the occasional commenter who can’t read, these are people who are and were members of BSA, supporters of BSA, scouts and former scouts who have their own sons in Scouts or intended to enroll them when they were old enough. Not anymore.

Christopher Baker (whose wife wrote the BoingBoing article) said in his letter:

As a Boy Scout I was taught that ethics are important and that when something is unethical you should stand up and say something. I was taught that it is wrong to exclude people, whether based on race, physical ability or sexual orientation. I was taught that a Boy Scout stands with those being persecuted, and not with the persecutor.

Leo Gianini said in his:

I am giving back my proudest possessions because I don’t want to have my son or daughter one day say to me, “Did you know you were a member when the Boy Scouts used to not allow gay people to join?” As an 11 year old, I remember my mother’s face contorting trying to hide the guilt after I asked her what it was like attending school in segregated North Carolina. That won’t be me.

Martin Cizmar in his letter:

I am not gay. However, I cannot in good conscience hold this badge as long as the BSA continues a policy of bigotry. Thought I didn’t know at the time, I was acquainted with a number of gay scouts and scouters. They were all great men, loyal to the scout oath and motto and helpful to the movement. There is no fair reason they should not be allowed to participate in scouting. I suspect you know this, too. As an adult, I also understand that such policy changes are fraught with complications, possibly including the defection of members affiliated with certain religious groups with dire financial implications. It’s a tough position, but a scout is brave.”

Matthew Hitchens said:

Scouting taught me to honor my conscience. Ironically, it is this lesson that will alienate not just me, but many other people just like me. I take no pleasure in this choice. Today is a sad day for me. However, the Scout Law tells me that a scout is brave. I am calling on Eagle Scouts everywhere to join me, to search their souls for that bravery and to do what they believe is right.

And from a column by political cartoonist and blogger Rob Tornoe:

Ironically, the effect of continuing this policy will be to harm the very people the BSA claim they’re trying to protect — the kids. Straight kids that chose to remain scouts will learn that it’s okay to judge people based on things like sexual orientation, and gay kids that might have benefited from becoming a scout will now be forced to remain in the shadows. 

Or even worse — these kids will move on to other organizations that are more tolerant and expose the fact the BSA has outlived its usefulness.

As you read this column, my Eagle Scout badge, the symbol of one of my proudest achievements in life, is in the mail, making its way back to Irving, Texas to Bob Mazzucca, Wayne Perry and the National Council of the BSA.

As proud as I am of my achievements, I no longer want to be an Eagle Scout if a young man who happens to be gay can’t also be one.

That’s really what it comes down to. It’s not just about GLBT people being offended — it’s about straight people who don’t want to belong to an organization that would reject their GLBT friends and family members and any other GLBT people who wanted to join, who were good, honest, hard-working people and would be great scouts. It’s like refusing to stay with an organization that won’t admit black people or Jewish people. Bigotry is bigotry, and it’s perfectly understandable that good people who are morally straight — as scouts should be — would object to bigotry, and refuse to maintain an association with a group that would reaffirm the bigotry in its rules.

It’s been pointed out in various places that this isn’t a new policy for the BSA. That’s true, it’s not. But they had a chance to revisit it, to get with the 21st century, to uphold their own code about what’s right and decent and kind and brave, and change the old rule. They’re not coasting along on bad old rules anymore; they made a conscious choice, just a few days ago, to maintain those bad old rules. This is what the national leadership of the BSA is all about, right now, in 2012.

As has also been pointed out over and over by commenters who don’t realize that nobody is arguing, the Boy Scouts of America is a private organization and has the legal right to be as bigoted and discriminatory as it wants. But at the same time, its members and former members have a right to protest, the American public has a right to protest, members of Scouting organizations from various other countries — including England, where Scouting started — have a right to point out that Scouting in their countries is fully inclusive (and includes girls as well as GLBT people) and that they don’t get what the issue is with the American branch. Expressing one’s opinion is not forcing the BSA to do anything they don’t want to do. Pointing out that they’re doing something reprehensibly bigoted isn’t bigotry, and it isn’t oppression. The BSA has a right to do what they want, and everyone else (even if the “everyone else” weren’t mainly composed of people associated with the BSA) have a right to comment.

Kudos to the Eagle Scouts who are commenting very effectively.


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Angela Benedetti lives in Seattle with her husband and a few thousand books. She loves romance for the happy endings, for the affirmation that everyone who's willing to fight for love deserves to get it and be happy with someone. She's best known for her Sentinel series of novels, the most recent of which is Captive Magic.