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No longer an Eagle Scout

After reading these letters, I was inspired to write my own. My Eagle Scout badge is heading back to BSA headquarters in tomorrow's mail. I have a ton of respect for people who remain in the organization and work for change from within. But as someone whose skill set does not include "working with youth," this seems to me the most impactful thing I can do.

BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079

Dear Mr. Bob Mazzuca and the rest of the BSA Exective Board,

It is with deep regret that I read of the Boy Scouts of America's reaffirmation of its policy of excluding gay men and boys from participation in the organization. (I presume that the policy also excludes bisexual, pansexual, queer, and transgender individuals as well.) Scouting was an important part of my life, culminating in earning Eagle rank in 1998 through Troop 41, Palmerton, PA. Being an Eagle Scout has been my proudest accomplishment. Scouting helped me to become a man of integrity, and I have carried the values I learned in Scouting throughout my life. And it is precisely because of those values that I cannot abide the BSA's affirmation of discrimination.

I learned that a Scout is:

Trustworthy: How can a member of the BSA be worthy of a gay or questioning boy's trust? If you knew someone would throw you out of their organization if they found out who you loved, would you trust them?

Loyal: Many gay boys and men have dedicated countless hours to Scouting, building close relationships with other members. For the organization to reject them for being open about who they are is the ultimate disloyalty.

Helpful: The BSA is in an enviable position to help boys learn self-confidence and respect for others as they go through the difficult process of growing up. Growing up includes learning about one's sexuality and relationships with others. But instead of helping boys wrestling with their identity, the BSA intends to shun them.

Friendly: A friendly person welcomes others, unless he has reason to think they will harm him. A friendly person does not make his friendship conditional on some irrelevant and harmless fact, such as his friend's sexual orientation.

Courteous: There is no courteous, polite way to tell someone that their sexual orientation makes them ineligible to enjoy the benefits of Scouting. Wrapping irrational, unjustifiable discrimination in pretty words does not make it courteous.

Kind: Kindness requires honesty. It is not kind to ask someone to hide who they are and who they love.

Obedient: If a Scout has a duty to be obedient, then his leaders have a duty to lead wisely, or else they forfeit his obedience. Leading boys in the direction of discrimination exploits and betrays Scouts' obedience.

Cheerful: Being comfortable around gay people makes me happy. Fearing gay people, not being able to include them in things I'm doing because my organization doesn't want them, makes me sad. It's as simple as that.

Thrifty: Just as a Scout should be efficient with his money, so should the BSA be efficient with its resources. Yet by excluding gay men from leadership, the BSA is throwing away the skills and enthusiasm of countless men.

Brave: We live in a deeply homophobic society. Scout-age boys in particular face huge pressures from media, adults, and their peers – leading to a tragically high rate of suicide. To support gay boys and men in their struggle is brave. To join the chorus calling them unwanted, unnatural, and sinful is cowardly.

Clean: To be clean, one must be able to recognize what is, and is not, dirty. For too long, gay men and boys have been told that their desires and their practices are dirty. The BSA should be correcting this falsehood, not encouraging it.

Reverent: The BSA is a non-sectarian organization, accepting Scouts from a wide variety of faiths. More and more religious communities – from Episcopalians to Wiccans to Reformed Judaism – are recognizing the equal dignity of all people regardless of sexual orientation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, of which I was a member as a scout and where Troop 41 met, recently voted to allow ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.

The BSA cannot condemn homophobia while still rejecting the membership of gay men and boys. Any Scout, even a heterosexual one like myself, who is mentally awake and morally straight cannot stand for this discrimination. For years I have been hoping that the BSA would change its position so that I could be proud to be a Scout again, but it seems that is unlikely to happen. I therefore resign my Eagle rank and return my badge to the BSA.

Stentor Danielson
Formerly Troop 41, Palmerton PA


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put, and it makes me just want to cry.
I would have added that toxic, intolerant attitudes are dirty.
There's an organization called "Spiral Scouts" that you can Google, and they have some sort of an honor for men who choose to un-Eagle themselves over this mess.

3:04 PM  

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