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Eagle Scouts divided over protest against ban on gays

A former Boy Scout turned in his Eagle Scout medal to protest the organization's discriminatory policies. WCSH's Mike DeSumma reports.

After publishing a story Thursday on Eagle Scouts who have returned their medals, badges and other regalia to protest the Boy Scouts of America policy banning gays and lesbians, we received more than 100 emails from current and former Scouts, many of them quite emotional. A selection of those messages is included here.

“I am an Eagle Scout from 1961 in Wyoming and my son is an Eagle Scout from 1995 in Arizona. We both agree with the BSA in not allowing gays into their organization. That is their constitutional right to have parameters and requirements for their membership. The LGBT community is the antithesis of what Scouting stands for. It is their right to protest and disagree. But the power of a few should not be able to change the traditions and history of the scouting movement for everyone else. It they don't like it, maybe some other group would better accept their beliefs, ideals and lifestyles.”
-- Dale Hunt, 64, Tempe, Ariz., Eagle Scout

“I am very proud of earning the rank of Eagle Scout, and I am also proud of the BSA for sticking to their guns in the culture wars. I am saddened by those who feel it is necessary to return their Eagle badge but they certainly have the right to do so while this is still a free country. The BSA is a completely private organization and is free to make a stand for their values. It is sad to see so many other organizations abandoning their values on the altar of political correctness. What part of the 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” do they not get?
-- Roger M. Devaney, 50, Spokane, Wash., Eagle Scout

Courtesy of Jad Davenport

Jad Davenport, who earned the rank of Eagle in 1983, says he sent his medal back to the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday, Aug. 2, after reading a story on NBCNews.com.

“I earned my Eagle Scout in 1983. After reading your story I pulled the badge - one of my most prized possessions - from my safe and with a heavy heart mailed it off to the Boy Scouts. … I only regret not doing it sooner.”
-- Jad Davenport, 46, Denver, Colo., Eagle Scout

“I earned my Eagle Scout award in 1965 in Iowa at the age of 14. My card is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.  My Court of Honor was attended by my parents, my four grandparents, my scout leaders and fellow scouts, my teachers and coaches, my Lutheran minister, and special friends of my parents. It was a very big deal in a small Iowa town in the mid-1960s. I truly loved my Scouting experience -- and the arduous pathway I traversed in earning my Eagle. Yesterday, I returned my Eagle award to the Boy Scouts of America. I was immensely proud of this achievement for 47 years. No longer. My children are proud of my humble gesture in returning the award. My dad, had he lived to see this, probably would have thought I am crazy. I would have assured him that it is the right and honorable thing to do -- at least for me.”
-- Steve Barghols, 61, Oklahoma City, Okla., Eagle Scout

"I achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, my career has taken me from working in the White House under President Jimmy Carter to a decade of selling computers for a very conservative Atlanta based 'good old boy' corporation. Since 1991, my life-partner and I have run an LGBT Community Center in the town of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware which is often referred to as the 'nation’s summer capitol.' In all those years, no matter how upset I may have been with the national leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, I never considered returning my Eagle Scout badge. Even though I was 'gay as a goose' when I earned it, I did in fact earn it, and there’s no way they are getting it back. I only hope other eagle scouts feel as proud of their achievement as I do of mine."

-- Steve Elkins, 62, Rehoboth Beach, R.I., Eagle Scout

“I applaud the decision from the BSA!! My opinion, if the BSA had ruled the other way ... I would be returning my Eagle Scout Award. And I am confident that my immediate family that contains 5 additional Eagle Scouts would also each consider the same action.” 
-- Steven Homer, 44, Dublin, Ohio, Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster

Courtesy of Chris Wren

“As for my personal stance with the scouts, I am torn. In fact, to see the divide publicly is one thing, but I see the divide in my family as well. My father (the first eagle in the family) is a firm supporter of the ban, he has very strict Christian views on homosexuality and frowns upon it. He is in support of the ban by the BSA. I, however, am on the other end of the spectrum. I believe that a person’s sexuality should not affect their membership in this organization. It in no way affects the boys, or the teachings of the organization, and helps support their ideals of “support your community.” I have my medal and certificate framed and hanging on my wall in my office, and many people have complimented me on it.  But with all the controversy surrounding the decision by the BSA, I have been considering turning my medal in as well. To date, I have not made a decision, because I am weighing the ramifications of my decision, but I do not support the BSA in this matter. This is a topic that has torn me deeply not only because of the organization, but because of the issues within my family.”
-- Chris Wren, 36, Dothan, Ala., Eagle Scout

“Although I didn't get to Eagle Scout, I was a Boy Scout in my teen years and earned many medals. It is a good organization for boys to belong to while growing up. They help build good values and leadership. I support their decision on the gay ban. The Boy Scouts have a strong tie with religion.  It doesn't mean the church or the Boy Scouts wouldn't help a gay in need, just that they don't support that life style. I feel that it is a person's right to return their medals, but it is a shame to turn in symbols of your own personal achievements. But I don't think a person can be a leader in an organization without supporting the policies of that organization.”
-- Randy Arrington, 54, Oklahoma (hometown not specified), Boy Scout

“It pains me to see so many Eagle Scouts returning their badges, but it brings me some relief to know that they are receiving such attention for doing so. Although I still struggle with that decision, I have chosen to keep my badge and speak out as a current Eagle Scout. I am proud of my accomplishments as an Eagle Scout, but I am ashamed of the affiliation that it has with BSA. Their policy tarnishes what so many have worked so hard to achieve, and, some day soon, I hope that they will end their policies of discrimination based both on sexual orientation and religion.”
-- Justin Bickford, 32, Gainesville, Fla., Eagle Scout

 “My 14 yr old son was to become a Life Scout at his next advancement. After he heard about the vote and the ban on gays, he said that he was done with the Scouts. This was his own decision and his reason was simple: 'How can I be a member of a group that says that I'm supposed to accept and help everyone....well everyone who isn't gay. It's not cool to change the rules so you can get what you want.' Losing Scouting is a very sad event for our family, but I think my son has already learned how to be: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent and he will have no problems living to help serve others....regardless of their race, creed, color, and sexual preferences. Returning his badges is one thing but choosing to cut his ties with the organization because he wants to stand for what he believes in, makes me proud! No longer yours in Scouting.”
-- Amy Francis-Bacon, 42, Cedarburg, Wis. Her son is Ethan Francis, 14.

 “I received my Eagle back in 1969 along with several palms. I've forgotten a lot in the years since, but many of the pledges I still remember. One of which went: 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. Sounds to me that a lot of those that said this pledge did so without meaning it and therefore did not deserve the award in the first place.  Doing my duty to God and keeping myself morally straight then meant and still means the same thing; regardless of how some chose to try and change it to fit their current ideas and desires.”
-- Eris Gilliard, 59, Orlando, Fla., Eagle Scout

“As an Eagle Scout of 17 years, I am seriously considering sending my badge back as well. Boy Scouts have been hijacked by people who have an agenda.  As a father, I have been struggling with what to do when my son reaches the age to become a Tiger Cub. Boy Scouts teaches some valuable life lessons and skills that no other organization out there can touch, but I can't willingly let my son be guided by the misinformed. Four parts of the Scout law are helpful, friendly, courteous and kind. Boy Scouts of America violates these four points by allowing intolerance within their ranks. It's hypocritical and sickening. Eagle Scouts are the "elite" product of what Boy Scouts of America can produce. It is our responsibility to represent the face of the organization and to lead by example. I applaud fellow Eagle Scouts that are taking a stand against Boy Scouts of America.”
-- Kevin Deal, 31, McKinney, Tex., Eagle Scout

“I'm also an Eagle scout, doggone proud of earning it, and doggone proud of the Boy Scouts of America for continuing their stance against gay membership in the Boy Scouts. I've been involved in the Scouting program for over forty years, why do I continue to volunteer as an adult leader - because I believe in the values taught by Scouting! We need more groups and individuals in this country that aren't afraid to take a stand in favor of traditional, time honored values. I, like thousands of others, was more than happy to participate in the "Chick-Fil-A" appreciation day yesterday to show my support for a business that has taken a stand in this matter, a stand that I believe is the right one. Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not anti-gay or homophobic, etc., nor am I deeply religious ..... but I believe in traditional makeup of a family, meaning a mother and a father that are married and living under the same roof, raising their children to be responsible adults.”
-- Darrell L. Brock, 55, Daytona Beach, Fla., Eagle Scout

 “I believe that the decision on Lesbians and Gays was wrong for many reasons. I have read a lot of resignation letters from Scouts, most of which were very moving and elegant. Many of them explained their decision using the Scout Law. Mine is very simple. A Scout is reverent -- We are all God’s creatures. I earned the Rank of Life -- I could not pass the swimming merit badge hence no Eagle. I have been active at the Unit, District, and Council level for many years and was recognized with the Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor. I am also a member of the Girl Scouts having served on the local Council Board of Directors as well as assisting my wife with her troop. My son earned Eagle and my daughter earned her Gold Award. My wife was a Girl Scout Leader throughout my daughter’s journey. We have been a Scouting family for many years. I recently resigned as a Boy Scout and from all my current positions.  I believe there are many others who are not Eagle who have also taken the same position.  I believe that Scouts and Scouters voting with their feet is the only message that will make a difference in policy change. It will happen someday; the sooner the better.”
-- Robert Walters, 64, Charlottesville, Va., Life rank

“I am an Eagle Scout from 1990 and am very proud of my time in the Scouts and what that time was able to do for me as a person. … I am very much in support of gay-rights and continue to be disappointed at BSA's choice to ban gays. I really do wish they would change their policy, as many other groups have, solely in recognition of society having changed since the organizations' founding. Just because they as a private organization can make this choice doesn't mean they have to, and it doesn't do any good not to be open. BSA leadership must know this. To me the policy runs counter to everything I learned from Scouting and my interpretation of the ideals I spent so much time memorizing and living by. I also think that it will contribute to a downward trend of participation in Scouting because people won't want to be actively affiliated with an organization that discriminates. That makes me sad. … I won't be turning in my medals. That is because I earned them with a clear conscience by working with leaders who weren't bigots and taught us what it meant to be free, e.g. not using our freedoms to restrict the rights of others. Eagle Scouts are a rare breed and many have gone on to great personal heights because of the experience. I think the BSA policy dishonors us all. Pressure to disassociate from the organization runs the risk of marginalizing the Eagle Scout honor and when that happens Scouting is finished. I hope the BSA comes to its senses soon!”
-- Jason Phelps, 39, Londonderry, N.H., Eagle Scout

“I am a currently registered scouter, and have been involved with scouting for the last fifteen years. The BSA is a private organization and has the right to establish their own policies. Those wishing to join a scouting program that includes homosexuals can easily do so by joining Adventure Scouts.”
-- Jim Brown, 49, Dallas, Tex., two sons and son-in-law are Eagle Scouts

“Until I joined the Boy Scouts, I had never excelled at anything in my life. But I loved scouting; I loved the camping trips, the outdoors, canoeing, the entire experience. And I did well in it. … By the time I started high school, I had changed. I had served successfully in leadership roles, I had earned the highest rank in scouting, and not coincidentally, I became an excellent student with nearly straight A marks. I had self-confidence, and I am convinced it was primarily my experience in scouting that set me on a course of success and achievement that continued long past my scouting days. … It was not until long after my scouting days were over that I learned gay people were not allowed to participate in scouting. I was very disappointed to learn this - I felt that BSA was clearly failing to live up to the high ideals of the organization that had been instrumental in shaping the person I had become. I felt a sense of shame that BSA was taking a stance that I regarded as discriminatory and immoral. I see no benefit at all, only harm that has resulted from this misguided policy. I believe the BSA has fallen greatly in stature and esteem is a direct result of how they have handled this issue. Most of all, I am saddened at the impact the policy has on gay youth, who have a hard enough time coping with a world that condemns them for just being what they are. These are exactly the kind of boys who would stand to gain the most from the positive, character-building experience that scouting could be for them. Instead, BSA's stance only serves to reinforce the notion that it's OK to discriminate against gay people, that gay people are somehow less worthy than the rest of us. I find such thinking appalling.”
-- Eric Last, 53, San Bruno, Calif., Eagle Scout

“I must say that I am appalled that anyone who has earned the rank of Eagle Scout not to mention any scout would even think of allowing gays to be a member of the Boy Scouts of America. I am a firm believer that people can choose whatever lifestyle they want but if they choose to be gay then they should be ready to take whatever consequences that stem from that decision.  …  The bottom line is an organization that is founded on teaching young boys to be responsible young men should not allow gays to be a part of that process. The choice to be gay is theirs to make but then accept the consequences.”  
-- Arthur F. Schultz, 52, Newberry, Mich., Boy Scout 

“Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, offered his Scouts these words in 1945, which would become his final message:  “Try to leave this world a little better than you found it.” Given the wisdom and compassion he evidenced, and his high regard for all living things, I imagine a call for respect, understanding, and the eradication of prejudice and bigotry were implicitly contained in his message."
--  Vance A. Taylor, 60, Madison, Conn., Boy Scout

If you are a current or former member of the Boy Scouts and would like to share your thoughts on the membership policy, you can email the reporter at miranda.leitsinger@msnbc.com 

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