When the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy of excluding openly gay members last week, it couldn’t have known that the decision would spark its highest-ranking members to defect. Yet a growing number of adult Eagle Scouts have been returning their hard-earned badges to the organization, along with heartfelt letters of protest.
In June, the Boy Scouts said it was reconsidering its anti-gay membership policy after one Scout presented officials with a Change.org petition bearing more than 300,000 signatures in favor of changing the policy. Though the organization said it would review the policy as a formality — with no plans to actually change it — the recent decision to uphold the standard was nevertheless a blow to many.
Since then, grown Eagle Scouts — the highest rank attainable in the Scouts — have renounced their Scout awards, which are badges earned at age 17 after many years of dedication and community service. One such Scout wrote about his decision in a letter to the New York Times:
My adolescent experience as a Boy Scout was an indispensable and joyous journey, and I shall always treasure it. Camping every summer taught me skills — including interpersonal understanding of diverse and often feisty individuals — that were foundational.
Therefore, it is painful yet necessary for me to renounce my Eagle Scout award and my membership in the Scouts and its affiliated Order of the Arrow. I can no longer be an “alumnus” of a group that has reaffirmed its bigotry.
Many others have posted their letters of protest online, with their missives calling attention to buzzwords like ethics, morals and equality, traits that many of these renouncing Scouts say they learned in Boy Scouts, many wondering if the organization indeed supports these standards.
With a growing flurry of Scouts renouncing their awards, we only wonder if America’s most famous Scout might follow suit.