BSA stands for Boy Scouts of America. It’s an organization designed to mold the youth of the world into stalwart and honorable men. It’s been active for well over a hundred years, and some of the finest men the world has known have been boy scouts. Some of the worst men the world has known have been boy scouts, too. Law of averages. The boy scouts pledge is one of honor, self sacrifice, and heroism. Until it comes to gays. Then all bets are off.
I honestly believe that the concept of the scouts is a great one. I was a scout for a while and enjoyed it a lot. But there was another scout who enjoyed it even more.
This scout started early and worked hard. He dedicated himself to the standards that scouting held and rose through the ranks to earn the highest scouting level there is: Eagle Scout. To do this, he has to progress through the lower levels, earning merit badges, and acquiring the 21 merit badges required for an Eagle. He had to earn the required Eagle badges: First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communications, Personal Fitness, Environmental Science, Personal Management, Camping, Family Life, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, and Swimming or Hiking or Cycling. Additionally, he earned the nine other merit badges necessary to become an Eagle. He had been a Life Scout for at least six months; he had demonstated the Scout Spirit, and shown leadership skills in his troop; he had developed and executed his Eagle Project showing leadership and committment; and he had taken part in a Scoutmaster conference. After all these were done, he completed the Eagle Scout board of review and passed. All this was achieved before he turned eighteen. He was recognized an Eagle scout. The Scouts’ motto is: Once an Eagle, always an Eagle. He joined the ranks that included 40 astronauts including John Glenn, Walmart founder Sam Walton, NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, Steven Speilberg, Mike Rowe, and former President Gerald Ford. He had been a member of the scouts, and stood for the scouts for ten years when that changed.
This young man was working as a counselor at a BSA summer camp. He’d been struggling with the question of honesty and being true to his true nature. He was looking for a way to bring both aspects of his life together, the scouts and his personal sexuality. He went to his camp director and said, “I’m gay.” And it was over. All that he had acheived; all that he stood for was gone. The BSA took back their promise of “Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.” They took back their recognition of a young man who had only wanted to be the best person he could be, and to live life by the standards they helped instill, primarily the one of honesty. So he was honest and they weren’t.
This an extremely poignant story by itself, but it comes just as the BSA announced that they had completed a secret review of the policy of not allowing gays in the scouts and found that the policy was right and would continue to stand. In the history of the BSA, about 100 Eagle badges have been returned to the BSA by the recipients due to this policy. This is a minute amount considering that well over two million. But it does show that the ideals proposed by the scouts hold true in some cases.
Personally, I believe that the things that made this young man an Eagle scout did not change simply because he uttered two words. His camp director also believed that, but was powerless to change it. However, there is something that scouts can do. Those scouts that don’t believe this policy should exist can start being vocal with their beliefs. Change comes by standing up for what you believe. Change comes by not allowing what you believe in to be compromised. Change comes when you recognize the need for change and do something about it. Scouting embodies the best of what it takes to make a change.
An Eagle scout has formally returned his badge to the BSA citing the above case specifically. I applaud him.
I have since learned that many Eagle scouts have returned their badges. Seems to be a growing movement. hmmm.
A tumblr blog has been created for those former Eagle scouts returning their badges.