My Eagle Scout Pin does not shine as much as it used to

Yes, the Boy Scouts of America is a private club and as such, has the right to exclude from membership anyone it chooses for pretty much any reason it wants. It doesn’t even have to be consistent. The Supreme Court ruled this was so a long time ago.

But it bothers me that they exclude gay people from participation.  The official policy is “While the B.S.A. does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the B.S.A.” 

They also exclude atheists because, they say, that to be a proper scout, a boy must have a belief in some higher power. In the strictest sense, this would exclude many eastern religions, but they do make accommodation for them.

All of this is based on the scout oath and the scout law, which are as follows:

Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scout Law
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Gays, they say, are not “morally straight,” and atheists, because they do not believe in God, can have no duty to God and, bizarrely, they believe that this means they cannot be reverent.

Perhaps this is due to the large percentage of troops sponsored by churches. There were about 2.7 million scouts (a decrease from a high of 4.2 million in 1988).  413,000 (15%) are LDS, 287,000 (11%) are Catholic, 371,000 (14%) are Methodists, and 108,000 (4%) are Baptists.  These groups all oppose same sex marriage and most do not consider gays morally straight. Two other main-line churches, Lutheran and Presbyterian account of 247,000 (9%) of scouts.  In total, these six religious organizations account for over half the scouts in the country.  If we were to look further, I would guess all religious organizations sponsor closer to 2/3 of all scout troops. In the LDS church, scouting is very intertwined with the spiritual development of boys and the LDS church is so important to scouting that there are special rules for LDS troops that do not apply to others.

The stances against gays and atheists bothers me a great deal. I was in scouting from age 12 (when we joined the LDS church) until age 18.  Order of the Arrow, Vigil Honor. Just before my 18th birthday, I became an Eagle Scout. I have been an Assistant Scoutmaster and a Scoutmaster. Three of my four brothers are Eagle Scouts, and the one who did not get it was, in my, opinion, possibly the most deserving, and he was a Scout Executive for some time.

It was through scouting I became very familiar with denominations other than LDS, because the Fort Smith LDS church did not have much in the way of a Scout Troop, and we became affiliated with one sponsored by a Catholic Church.

I cherish the Eagle award I have, signed by the President of the United States, the Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, even though at the time, it was Richard Nixon and it was signed shortly before he resigned.  A picture I clipped out of a magazine of Gerald Ford in a Boy Scout uniform while he was President was framed and on the wall for years.

I learned about honor and respect and duty and have tried to live by the scout law, but I fail often.  They are ideals to strive for, principles worthy of trying to uphold. Lord Baden Powell put together a good organization, one I feel is being diminished by conservative right-wing and evangelical religious principles.  I do not remember this being an issue when I was a scout.

Followed to its illogical extreme—where everything seems to go these days—I can see Buddhists and Hindus being excluded, the Muslims, because the right wing knows none of them have a duty to America or to God as they define God.

All this is fine and good for Scouts, because they can include or exclude anybody they want. The issue is my response.  It is not my nature to ignore this. Is my obligation filled with this writing (I will make sure it gets the BSA)? Should I renounce my Eagle and if so, how best to do this? Or is there something else more effective? Please post comments to this and give me your opinions.

5 thoughts on “My Eagle Scout Pin does not shine as much as it used to

  1. As a former Life Scout in the Greater Western Reserve Council’s Troop 99, I find the BSA’s policies regarding the LGBT community to be completely at odds with the goals and ideals it tries to embody. The BSA is supposed to encourage diversity and acceptance. The secret vote and the discrimination it supports goes against nearly everything scouts are supposed to stand for.

    It is unTrustworthy – Does it really need to be explained how a secret vote from a secret committee is untrustworthy?
    It is unLoyal – The BSA is turning its back on probably thousands of individuals dedicated to its cause and mission.
    It is unHelpful – To itself and the people it is discriminating against. If this continues the BSA will destroy itself.
    It is unFriendly – Discrimination is always hurtful and never justified.
    It is unCourteous – The BSA is being neglectful and disrespectful of the people voicing their opposition to its damaging policies.
    It is unKind – It reinforces a terrible fallacy that gay people are unfit to even be part of the BSA simply because of who they are.
    It is unObedient – The BSA needs to take responsibility and honor its commitment to ALL its members and volunteers.
    It is unCheerful – Hate and discrimination brings happiness to no one.
    It is unThrifty – The BSA is squandering the good reputation is has built for the last 100 years.
    It is unBrave – If the BSA had the courage it tries to instill in its members, it would discuss its policies openly and stand up for what is right.
    It is unClean – This hate will leave a black mark on the BSA that will be difficult to wipe away.
    It is unReverent – The description of Reverent in every Scout Handbook for the last 40 years: “…He respects the beliefs of others.”

    Rick Bond
    Life Scout
    Troop 99 GWRC ’96-’03

  2. In answer to your question, I’m posting the same thing I just posted on the Scouts For Equality Facebook page:

    I am the proud mother of three scouts. I am Woodbadge trained and I have held the positions of Den Leader, Assistant Cubmaster, Cubmaster, Camp Program Director for over 400 scouts in my District, and I trained most of the Den Leaders in my District for three years. Currently, my family is spending 2 years temporarily residing in Sydney, Australia where I am now a leader with the Scouts of Australia. As a scout of the world, I would like to point out that the BSA is the only National Scouting Organization of a free nation that has such an intolerant policy. The World Organization of the Scout Movement, umbrella organization for the BSA and every other National Scout Organization, has no such policies. Even in the UK, where scouting was founded, they allow homosexuals to join scouts because they believe that intolerance is inconsistent with Baden Powell’s values. When we return to the U.S. in one year, we will continue to be a part of the BSA.

    I believe that the BSA CAN move forward and fall in line with the rest of the WOSM, but it will not happen if those of us who are offended all quit and allow intolerance to take over. I will stay with the scouts and hope that I can be a part of a movement toward equality and tolerance, despite what unnamed panel members at corporate have to say.

    I offer you this quote from Lord Robert Baden Powell and the link to a video on the WOSM website as evidence that scouting is meant to be all about tolerance and cooperation despite our differences.

    “Our patriotism should be of the wider, nobler kind which recognises justice and reasonableness in the claims of others and which lead our country into comradeship with… the other nations of the world. The first step to this end is to develop peace and goodwill within our borders, by training our youth of both sexes to its practice as their habit of life, so that the jealousies of town against town, class against class and sect against sect no longer exist; and then to extend this good feeling beyond our frontiers towards our neighbors.” ~ Lord Robert Baden Powell (founder of the Scout Movement)

    1. Thank you for comment.

      I know staying and fighting is the right answer, but it just saddens me what has transpired. I pretty much have decided I will not relinquish the award unless it makes a difference. If this were so, Baden-Powell would approve. I will consider how to make my voice heard.

      Thank you very much

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