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October 5, 2012 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Seventeen-year-old denied his Eagle Scout Award and kicked out of the Boy Scouts of America for being gay.

It's been an interesting 2012 for the Boy Scouts of America's national leadership. In keeping with its long-standing ban on homosexuals in its membership and adult leadership, the BSA dismissed a Cub Scout leader for being a lesbian, and shortly thereafter officially reaffirmed its position on homosexuality [previously]. In September, it was revealed that alleged molestations of boys by straight adult leaders were apparently covered up by the organization [previously], and now Ryan Andresen, a gay scout who created a "tolerance wall" for his Eagle project, has been dismissed from the organization. Some Eagle Scouts are returning their awards in protest of this year's developments.
posted by Rykey (183 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, what assholes.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


It takes so much energy to hate. Sad.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:29 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ryan Andresen's mother Karen has started a petition on his behalf at Change.org. The petition is about 14,000 signatures away from its 150,000 signature goal. I'm sure Metafilter could help fix that.
posted by BlueJae at 6:30 AM on October 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Full disclosure: Eagle Scout (for what it's worth).

It seems to me that it would be more appropriate to resign one's Eagle Scout rank in response to the secret and systematic coverup of child abuse in the BSA than its obvious, always-been-there stance on sexual orientation.

However, standing up for what you believe in is excellent (literally), and I wish these former brothers Godspeed in doing their Right Thing. I just cannot help being disappointed in the hill they chose to die on.
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:30 AM on October 5, 2012


Fuck them and everything they stand for.
posted by elizardbits at 6:30 AM on October 5, 2012 [34 favorites]


I don't understand how his scoutmaster can even get out of bed in the morning, let alone look at himself in the mirror.
posted by rtha at 6:31 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


However, standing up for what you believe in is excellent (literally), and I wish these former brothers Godspeed in doing their Right Thing. I just cannot help being disappointed in the hill they chose to die on.


You're not here to die for your country. You're here to make the other bastard die for his.

There's already an alternative to the BSA:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden-Powell_Scouts'_Association

It just needs critical mass.
posted by ocschwar at 6:33 AM on October 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Dear Administrative Body of the Boy Scouts of America:

Keep doing this shit. Seriously. Just keep at it. Make your views loud and clear. If you have decided to go all-out bigot, don't be a crypto-bigot. Don't leave it to whispers and rumors. Be loud about it. Do stupid, hurtful things like this. Because the more you do it, the more you will drive away people who want to raise their kids right, the more you will force these people to create an alternate organization where discriminating against someone from being gay is unheard of.

You've got a lot of feet to shoot, BSA, so keep at it! Hopefully, if/when the time comes that I have a son, there will be a countrywide (if not worldwide) organization that teaches kids all that great stuff scouting does, but doesn't have to excuse the awful views of the governing body.

Change is clearly not coming from within, so help us help you destroy your organization. Please.

(I'm only being half-facetious. I genuinely wish that no one would ever have to hear "we're not letting you whatever because you're gay," but if they have to hear it, it should be on the world's stage where, it is growing ever-clearer, that it reflects on the person saying it than the person being told.)
posted by griphus at 6:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [58 favorites]


I don't understand how his scoutmaster can even get out of bed in the morning, let alone look at himself in the mirror.

Did you not read it? The boy is gay, sinning against his Creator in a way that makes the god-fearing Eagle Scout status impossible to award to him. How could he get out of bed if he let this boy desecrate all that is good and right by besmirching all other Eagle Scouts with his homosexual ways? No. No, this will not stand, etc.

Not my view, obviously.
posted by jaduncan at 6:35 AM on October 5, 2012


While abhorrent, it's not surprising. Seems like the kid was in some sort of denial if he expected the BSA to not react. They've repeatedly re-affirmed their homophobic (and atheist-unfriendly) tenets.

Parents, don't let your boys join the BSA.
posted by explosion at 6:36 AM on October 5, 2012


Y'know, it always struck me as a little weird that in every TV show that involved kids, there was always some sort of Scouting organization for a few episodes - Order of the Straight Arrow or something - but it was never the actual BSA. Always an offbrand, the equivalent of a soundalike.

Lately, I'm increasingly convinced this is a good thing.
posted by kafziel at 6:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


(and surprisingly child-abuse-friendly)
posted by jaduncan at 6:36 AM on October 5, 2012


Good time for all BSA members to quit in solidarity, and all Eagle Scouts to resign one's rank.
posted by crazy_yeti at 6:39 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


One of my coworkers is trying to start a BPSA troop in the area. Apparently the child abuse scandal and continuing intolerance shown by the BSA is encouraging people to look at alternatives that might be more inclusive. Others prefer the more traditional approach to scouting which treats skills mastery as more important that running a badge mill. Considering that the Mormons pretty much dominate most BSA troops in the area I think it's also a refuge from relentless moralizing.

I continue to be shocked that the BSA simply won't get with the times when it's clear that the bulk of public opinion is largely turning against them. They probably won't ever go away but I think they are in a distinct risk of losing a constant stream of new recruits.
posted by vuron at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2012


I was in scouts as a kid. Never made it to Eagle Scout, but I enjoyed it.

Now I have a son who was a wolf cub last year. It wasn't bad, but my son has a lot of friends in our home-school group who have two moms. They want to be in scouts, but it's hard to let your kid in a group that wouldn't accept you. So my wife and I decided to make our own local non-BSA-affiliated scouting group. I wanted to model the uniforms after the Khaki Scouts from Moonrise Kingdom; we'll see if the crew approves of that.

The whole thing is really frustrating, because for the most part, the things scouting are supposed to be about are good things: respecting yourself and others and the world that we live in, enjoying the outdoors, being open to learning new things. It just pisses me off that the BSA can't get over it's stupid, stupid hangup on homosexuality. I know it's sort of an old-fashioned group, but that doesn't mean it has to have an old-fashioned attitude toward people.
posted by nushustu at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2012 [21 favorites]


Disgusting policy. Fucking jerks.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


vuron, I believe we're looking at a case where popular opinion is *not* what the BSA is using to plot the course of the Good Ship Scouting. Most people are not engaged in Scouting. You're going to listen to your volunteers, parents, and (most of all) financial donors.

If the entire country says "no" and five billionaires say "yes", most organizations tunes their hearing aids accordingly.
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:44 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're going to listen to your volunteers, parents, and (most of all) financial donors.

Well sure but if five billionaires told me to be a disgusting bigot I'd tell all five of them to go fuck themselves.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:49 AM on October 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


The article refers to violating his "duty to God," as contained in this part of the oath:

Scout Oath or Promise

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.

I would think the last two words are a better fit for why an avowed open homosexual wouldn't be a good fit for an Eagle Scout. Homosexual behavior is immoral, so it would have been a safer bet to exclude him on grounds of claiming a personal morality that is at odds with the Boy Scouts' understanding of morality. If you rest the exclusion on a nebulous "duty to God"--in whatever meaning that term might have for Scouts these days--you open yourself up to debate the issue.
posted by resurrexit at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2012


Maybe we aren't ever so far away from a world where a Ph.D or Master Electrician's license could be denied in this manner. I do lump the Eagle in there since this is a valuable thing to have on a young CV They are stealing something from him that is worth x amount of scholarship and salary down the line. There are practical damages here beyond the serious emotional harm.
posted by drowsy at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Their loss, not his - but I can't even imagine how it must hurt.
posted by hat_eater at 6:50 AM on October 5, 2012


BSA is largely dependent on Roman Catholic affiliated and especially Mormon affiliated troops. Mormons run 26,000 BSA troops and contribute 410,000 scouts which is the largest percentage. They also give a ton of financial support.

Basically the BSA is viewed as the default afterschool program by the LDS church and they seem committed to protecting their flock from the evils of secularism even if it's going to paint the organization as hopelessly out of touch and actually increase antipathy towards the LDS church in general.
posted by vuron at 6:54 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


That is a bullshit. There's no reason why a gay kid can't be an Eagle Scout. Can gays help others? Appreciate and conserve the outdoors? Skillfully deal with potentially dangerous situations? Improve their communities? That's what scouting is supposed to be about.

I will say, though, that when I was a Scout, it was basically filled with bullies and jocks who were long on making things miserable for the younger, smaller kids, and short on the values of scouting. In retrospect, I think that a lot of these kids were sort of "problem children" for their parents, who were hoping that Scouting would give them an outlet and shape them up. I made it to Scout First Class before quitting and haven't regretted it.
posted by gauche at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why does anyone want to join this organization? Even when I was a kid, it struck me as bizarrely regressive even for the seventies, like some kind of quasi-pre-military or the fast track for the Elks Club or something. Seriously, why does it even exist anymore? You can go camping and run around in the woods and have friends without going anywhere near this kind of weird stuff. Fuck 'em and be done with 'em.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:57 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Homosexual behavior is immoral

[citation needed]
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 AM on October 5, 2012 [45 favorites]


Homosexual behavior is immoral, so it would have been a safer bet to exclude him on grounds of claiming a personal morality that is at odds with the Boy Scouts' understanding of morality.

That's what they think but are afraid to say aloud. What a bunch of cowards.
posted by hat_eater at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2012


I would think the last two words are a better fit for why an avowed open homosexual wouldn't be a good fit for an Eagle Scout. Homosexual behavior is immoral, so it would have been a safer bet to exclude him on grounds of claiming a personal morality that is at odds with the Boy Scouts' understanding of morality. If you rest the exclusion on a nebulous "duty to God"--in whatever meaning that term might have for Scouts these days--you open yourself up to debate the issue.

The Girl Scout promise includes a mention of serving god, and yet Girl Scouts have no such policies against homosexual members or leaders.
posted by padraigin at 7:02 AM on October 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


You can go camping and run around in the woods and have friends without going anywhere near this kind of weird stuff.

I disagree. Maybe it is different in places with nearby woods, but I grew up in Brooklyn, raised by a single mother. If it wasn't for a boyfriend my mom had for a few years (who was a hunter and had a cabin upstate), I doubt I would ever have seen the genuine, natural wilderness. I mean, I didn't really enjoy my time in the woods -- and I wouldn't really ever go camping of my own choice -- but outside of the scouts, I can't recall any situation from my upbringing where people went camping or had an opportunity to run around in the woods. My friends were mostly immigrant city kids whose parents worked a whole lot and didn't really enjoy roughing it when they had time off. Kids should be have an opportunity exposed to all sorts of environments, and scouting provides that for kids who want to go to the woods, regardless of whether their parents have time or want to take them there.
posted by griphus at 7:03 AM on October 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


Vuron, thank you for mentioning the B-PSA. It made me look them up. There is a chapter in Austin and now I feel like I might be able to actually share scouting with my son.
posted by Seamus at 7:05 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Er, just to be clear, I wasn't a scout, and thought it was dumb as a kid, but as an adult I can see the benefits, especially for kids raised in an urban environment.
posted by griphus at 7:05 AM on October 5, 2012


The Baden-Powel Service Association has two versions of the Scout Promise, one with God and one without. As an atheist, I like that.

Scout Promise
On my honor, I promise to do my best,
to do my duty to God and my country
to help other people at all times
and to obey the Scout Law

- or -
Outlander Scout's Promise
On my honor, I promise to do my best,
to render service to my country
to help other people at all times
and to obey the Scout Law

I am not sure what it means, but the title "Outlander Scout's Promise" is in hidden text on their website. I think I could dig going by the title "Outlander".
posted by Seamus at 7:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Didn't we recently do an article about how the BSA has been protecting child molesters in their troop leader ranks for not years but decades.

I mean, is there not a fairly stinking large pile of bitter irony here? An organization that has a proven track record of facilitating men to have sex with boys, then covering it up, kicks out boys who want to have sex with other boys (/men, eventually).

Positions on homosexuality aside, that's pretty much the definition of hypocrisy.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:12 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


How can any group that likes shorts that much hate Gays?
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 AM on October 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


In my hippie youth, I always suspected the boyscouts in their smart little uniforms to be some creepy ultra-conformist bullshit, and now I know for sure.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:17 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How can any group that likes shorts that much hate Gays?

You must have something to tell us about the UPS man.
posted by echo target at 7:17 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


He's an Eagle as far as I'm concerned. He met the requirements, and more importantly worked to make his neighborhood and his country a better place.

Most Eagles have an extra badge or two laying around, from second uniforms or those "my trail to Eagle" framed things. Maybe one of us can give him the badge ourselves? That would be one hell of a lawsuit if BSA decided to sue over it.

As for me, I'm going to look into the BPSA for my kids. It sounds like the right way to go.
posted by BeeDo at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's pretty great to see that Intel and the United Way have pulled back their support due to BSA's ignominy, and I have to believe that more and more corporate donors will decide it's not worth it to stand with the Boy Scouts if they continue to act so spitefully.

My family has done the same thing in our own tiny way, politely declining to buy our usual allotment of popcorn from the neighbor kids and explaining that we couldn't in good conscience support BSA. Locally, our boy scouts troop seems to be pretty good, and I sure felt like an asshole telling my neighbors no, but on balance I think each little stand adds up.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:18 AM on October 5, 2012


I think I could dig going by the title "Outlander".

Jamie?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:19 AM on October 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


In my hippie youth, I always suspected the boyscouts in their smart little uniforms to be some creepy ultra-conformist bullshit, and now I know for sure.

Is the point of this thread to talk about how to help this kid, or just so you have a socially acceptable place to hate on some other kids you don't like? How is that making things better?
posted by BeeDo at 7:21 AM on October 5, 2012 [11 favorites]


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?
posted by andoatnp at 7:22 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was in Scouts for years, and I had no idea there was a 'straight-humping' badge requirement.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:22 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why does anyone want to join this organization? Even when I was a kid, it struck me as bizarrely regressive even for the seventies, like some kind of quasi-pre-military or the fast track for the Elks Club or something. Seriously, why does it even exist anymore?

Because it teaches all sorts of valuable skills - not just camping/survival skills, but craftsmanship, civics, home economics. Because it fosters respect for intelligence and ability. Because it does instill a serious respect for natural environments.

And, more than anything else, it emphasizes community - the idea that we are all in this together. Community service is as big a part of being a Scout as camping is, if not bigger. (There's a reason Mormons are so big into scouting.) My two Scoutmasters when I was a Scout - one of them was a rock-ribbed Polish conservative and the other a WASP liberal, and they argued politics all the time, but by god those two men loved one another like good god almighty - they called each other "the Commie" and "the Nazi" good-naturedly (and you better believe nobody else was allowed to call them that), and they both believed to their core that we all have a duty to take care of one another. The Polish conservative quoted that Vonnegut line - "babies, you got to be kind" - all the time.

There is value in that. Scouting is a fine thing. I feel lucky to be Canadian and therefore a former Scout in a country where the national scouting organization isn't a bunch of bigots.
posted by mightygodking at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


When the BSA reaffirmed their homophobia in July I knew this was bound to happen. Their July statement was contemptible because it demonstrated that this organization that ostensibly exists solely to serve boys no longer had the best interests of its charges as its first priority. They admitted this in their own statement: their anti-gay "policy was in the best interests of the organization.” What about the best interests of the boys? What about the best interests of Ryan Andresen, who started cub scouts when he was six and whose anti-bullying Eagle Scout project is bound to make a hell of a bigger difference in this world than a couple of park benches? The BSA is taking the side of the bullies, making gay scouts get the fuck back in the closet, telling them, no, it doesn't get better.

Another thing: in one of the previous BSA threads, someone defended the BSA for their ecumenical approach to inculcating reverence and duty to god. Someone pointed out all the different religious awards that different boy scouts of different faiths could work towards, proof that reverence need not be limited to tithing Mormons, confessed Catholics, or faithful Southern Baptists. But by telling a 17-year gay boy that he hasn't lived up to his duty to his God because his God made him gay, the BSA is telling its scouts that the only reverence they'll accept comes from kneeling at Fred Phelp's communion table.

I was a boy scout. My son's best friend is a boy scout. My son will not be a boy scout. When groups like the BSA officially torment children -- and that is what they have done, tormented a 17-year-old boy (and I am not even addressing their sex abuse scandal) -- it's time to get out. Go to REI, rent some tents, and take your kids camping with a few (non-homophobic) neighbors. Teach your kids knot tying out a book. Rent a canoe at your nearest state park. Go to the library and borrow a birdwatching book. But don't join the Boy Scouts. Nothing will "change from within" until the BSA becomes a gutted shell, or perhaps a quaint regional institution wondering, finally, why they have lost their national appeal. Liberal BSA troops who think they can change or even resist the homophobia from BSA headquarters are fooling themselves. They may be open and accepting and even encourage gay teens like Ryan Andresen to take on gay-friendly Eagle projects like anti-bullying, but when Texas brings down the hammer of homophobia, they will be powerless to ameliorate the hate directed at their gay scouts.
posted by hhc5 at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2012 [26 favorites]


andoatnp: "Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?"

Well, I can't find mine, but I think I'll send it to this kid.
posted by mkb at 7:26 AM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's a shame because most of what Scouting teaches is solid, useful throughout life kind of skills. But it isn't worth supporting institutionalized bigotry. Hopefully one of the alternatives will be able to gain nationwide traction.
posted by COD at 7:27 AM on October 5, 2012


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

I'm one. Feel free to tell me what my problem is.


For an organization that supposedly hates gays, you can't get much more homo than sharing tents with boys and wearing matching neckerchiefs.

posted by dr_dank at 7:25 AM on October 5 [+] [!]

WTF? That's a disgusting statement. Are you actually trying to shame someone by calling them gay? On Metafilter?
posted by BeeDo at 7:28 AM on October 5, 2012 [19 favorites]


I earned an Eagle award thirty-some years ago, and had great experiences camping, hiking, and doing crafts in a troop filled with my nerdy sci-fi reading friends (and by some miracle no asshole bullies). If I'd ever had a son I would have discouraged him strongly or even forbidden him from becoming a Boy Scout because of their policy on gay scouts and leaders.
posted by aught at 7:30 AM on October 5, 2012


I spent a large portion of my scouting career discussing the finer point of Dragon Ball Z by the campfire.
posted by hellojed at 7:30 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The frustrating thing about this as a scout leader is that we have effectively no input to the BSA National Council which sets these rules, nor any way to vote the bums out.

And yes, our new BSA president is a LDS businessman joined on the Executive Board by David Beck, head of the LDS' Young Men organization, amongst other LDS luminaries.

Post election, I just don't see Obama (the honorary BSA president) putting up with this crap any longer, and hopefully things will come to a head.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 7:32 AM on October 5, 2012


How is that making things better?

It's not making things better except as a vent for my anger. You're right. I'll take every opportunity, of course, to support gay teens in any way I plausibly can in the outside world, and am currently glad that my son is not a boyscout. As I raise him I will surely teach him to be tolerant and accepting of all types and stripes of people, and to eschew bigotry. That's my job as a dad.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm as sickened as anyone by the current state of the BSA's backwards, bigoted leadership and the recent revelations about abuse coverups, but...
Why does anyone want to join this organization? Even when I was a kid, it struck me as bizarrely regressive even for the seventies, like some kind of quasi-pre-military or the fast track for the Elks Club or something. Seriously, why does it even exist anymore? You can go camping and run around in the woods and have friends without going anywhere near this kind of weird stuff.
Not everyone lives near woods. Not everyone's friends likes to run around in them. Not everyone's parents want to take them camping. Not everyone's parents can teach them how to handle a knife safely, build a fire, or keep from starving/freezing to death in the wilderness.

But no, you're right. The world would be better off without an organization that can teach kids life skills, and leadership and self-confidence, or foster camaraderie and a sense of community. Or god forbid give them a sense of accomplishment. Fuck all that stuff, and grown-ups who join community service organizations like the Elks and Kiwanis too. What a bunch of squares and losers.
posted by usonian at 7:33 AM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Christ, what assholes.

Fuck them and everything they stand for.


I understand people who feel this way and I don't accuse them of being wrong for feeling that. But I don't think it is productive. And I think we could all agree that this is a vital area in America where the gay-rights agenda very much needs to be productive to be successful.

Frankly, angry, hateful remarks about the other side are pretty much exactly what they expect from the gay-rights movement. The pro-gay-rights folk of course believe the same of the anti. This creates a downward spiral. This is how things don't change.

This too may be bit ironic, for myself (a Christian) to be offering up thoughts on how the gay-rights movement could potentially be more successful in its endeavours against outright persecution, but we have a lot to learn from our nation's history in this regard. Consider MLK Jr.:

Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.

So when Jesus says 'Love your enemies,' he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies-or else? The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Another reason why we must love our enemies is that hate scars the soul and distorts the personality. Mindful that hate is an evil and dangerous force, we too often think of what it does to the person hated. This is understandable, for hate brings irreparable damage to its victims. We have seen its ugly consequences in the ignominious deaths brought to six million Jews by hate-obsessed madman named Hitler, in the unspeakable violence inflicted upon Negroes by bloodthirsty mobs, in the dark horrors of war, and in the terrible indignities and injustices perpetrated against millions of God's children by unconscionable oppressors.

But there is another side which we must never overlook. Hate is just as injurious to the person who hates. Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.

A third reason why we should love our enemies is that love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.


Clearly, the religious right isn't learning from their own history. What beautiful irony would it be for their enemies to do it for them, and beat them over the head with it?

I realize this is a very sensitive topic, but I honestly believe that love could win the day here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

Some of us are coordinating with our brother to write a combined, family letter. My badge is sitting on the coffee table as a daily reminder of the disgust I feel towards an organization that I got so much from. The troop I was in was inclusive and non-conformist. We weren't like the paramilitary troop down the street. We were kids who liked fucking around in the woods and learning skillz. Hell, I learned all of my bad habits and vices from the Scouts!
posted by Seamus at 7:35 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Seems like the kid was in some sort of denial if he expected the BSA to not react.

I know that the article said that the BSA reaction a shock, but I'd bet that Ryan knew that this was a likely outcome. The fact that his final project was a "Tolerance Wall" is a little extra "Fuck you" to the BSA.
posted by amarynth at 7:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

I'm one. Feel free to tell me what my problem is.


Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots.
posted by andoatnp at 7:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I realize this is a very sensitive topic, but I honestly believe that love could win the day here.

Hmm. Nah, fuck em. I don't need to hate people to despise them.
posted by howfar at 7:36 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Post election, I just don't see Obama (the honorary BSA president) putting up with this crap any longer, and hopefully things will come to a head.

That would be great. Previously, the federal recognition of the BSA was at least consistent with the military's rules on gays, wrong as they were. But with removal of DADT and gays finally being allowed to serve openly, it seems like awarding rank based on an organization that discriminates against some legal applicants would be flat out illegal.

(If you enlist in the Army and are an Eagle or a Gold, you start as a Private First Class instead of a Private.)
posted by BeeDo at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I don't understand how his scoutmaster can even get out of bed in the morning, let alone look at himself in the mirror.

This is the real tragedy here.

It's one thing to have a policy down at corporate central which demonizes The Other. But Scout troops are rather intimate groups. These people would have been camping together for days at a time, in fact at times their survival in the wilderness literally dependent on each other. This scoutmaster would have known this kid well, would have helped mold him during a critical time of development. This kid excelled and did everything he was supposed to. Im guessing he didn't really understand he was gay when he joined and at some point he must have come out to the troop and the internally consistent thing would have been to kick him out then and there, but I'm also guessing the scoutmaster was a coward who chose to ignore the situation until now. But to look this kid, whom you know well and helped shape, right in the eye and say, "No, you're not good enough." Wow.

The poor kid is now in the position of having a pretty solid law suit trying to force this hateful organization to "honor" him. And I think he should, for future scouts who discover themselves gay, but I personally would be too bitter and would just walk away. If I had made it to Eagle, this is the point I would turn in my badge, right here.

Isn't the U.S. president honorary president of the BSA? Couldn't Obama award him an honorary Eagle? I imagine that would look far more impressive on college applications and resumes, and a gutsy campaign move for Obama, to boot.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not in the least, BeeDo. Having been in scouts and seen their attitude on the issue up close, the irony boggles the mind.
posted by dr_dank at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2012


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

For a certain number of them the problem is surely homophobia. For others I suspect it is more complicated.
posted by elizardbits at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2012


>Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots.

Maybe your problem is that you're quick to judge other people. People may decide to retain their Eagles for lots of reasons; returning them isn't going to change BSA's position for reasons cited uptopic anyway (ie, the degree to which they're heavily subsidized by anti-gay religious bodies), and Eagles earned 10 or 20 or 30 years ago come with valued memories of service, friendship, personal growth, and challenges met.

So, right, obviously no valid reason to keep the award. Clearly, all those who do so are closet bigots. /whatever

As for mine, I'd seriously consider sending it to this kid if I had any idea where it was.
posted by uberchet at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why does anyone want to join this organization? Even when I was a kid, it struck me as bizarrely regressive even for the seventies, like some kind of quasi-pre-military or the fast track for the Elks Club or something. Seriously, why does it even exist anymore? You can go camping and run around in the woods and have friends without going anywhere near this kind of weird stuff.

One of the biggest a-ha moments for me came when I was reading a feminist writer of color who liked hip-hop (no, wait, this is relevant!) and she said when white feminists asked her how she could listen to "that" music - so sexist! - she said that she loved hip-hop, that it was a genre and a culture she'd grown up around, that she loved the artistic and political things of which hip-hop was capable....she didn't want to leave it, she wanted to fix it. She wanted an anti-sexist, womanist hip-hop and why should she have to leave something she cared about rather than fight to make it better?

This clarified so much for me (I think I read it on the Crunk Feminist Collective site but I can't seem to find it) partly because it reminded me of how I feel about science fiction and its associated artistic and political communities.

If you love an institution that has a fucked-up element, it's only reasonable that you might want to struggle within it to change it rather than just get out.
posted by Frowner at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [25 favorites]


Scouting has sadly fallen victim to the culture wars, and any parent in the know should balk at the prospect of allowing such an organization to participate in the 'growth' of their child. Ryan was a scout from a very young age, and that he was ultimately simply thrown out of the organization shows the real face of religious intolerance.
posted by gallois at 7:40 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW: here are some famous Eagle Scouts.

It appears as though several of them are members of Congress or another type of elected official (albeit a large majority seem to be of the Conservative nomenclature) so it shouldn't be that hard to get in touch with them.

Outside of the large number of astronauts, there's really only three people on that list that I'd like to hear that they've taken a stance against this sort of thing, and considering that one of them actually stumps for the elephantitus party I doubt it'll happen any time soon. (That's right Mike Rowe, I'm looking at you. Calling out the bigots for being bigots is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.)
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:41 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


allkindsoftime (and Martin Luther King Jr.) said everything I wanted to say, except much clearer and peaceful than I seem to be capable of saying it this morning. So I shall bow out, take a walk, and try and relax.

Love shall win the day.
posted by BeeDo at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny to me how this issue is prominent again. It was more than 10 years ago that the film "Scout's Honor", which detailed the BSA's discriminatory policies and actions, made the film festival rounds. The protagonist of the film, Steven Cozza, was a 13-year-old scout who went on to co-found an inclusive scouting organization called "Scouting for All". Unfortunately it looks like that group effectively ceased operating a few years ago. I hope the new attention to the issue results in some lasting change this time around.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:43 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Boy Scouts are primarily a warm up for the Army. Platoons and squads and hierarchical command. We didn't actually dig trenches, but the winter camping, the folding shovels, the canteens and mess kits, would come to look mighty familiar to many scouts in later years. They would play taps while we learned how to fold a flag into a tight triangle, like you would for a dead soldier.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2012


[Folks, if you want to have this conversation on MetaFilter, you need to acknowledge that there are many different sorts of people in the world, not all of whom are going to respond to situations in the same way. At the point at which you start calling people names because they don't agree with you, you need to step out of this thread from this point forward. Thanks. Let us know if you have questions.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You must have something to tell us about the UPS man.

A gentleman never tells, sir! Modesty forbids! (Not that there is a merit badge in modesty...)
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:45 AM on October 5, 2012


It appears as though several of them are members of Congress or another type of elected official

And also David Lynch.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:48 AM on October 5, 2012


Hi. I'm an Eagle Scout who hasn't returned his badge. When the BSA reaffirmed this policy over the summer I literally was up half the night looking through my Eagle Scout project scrapbook in tears.

Having been a scout I know that this policy is enforced differently depending on the troop a scout belongs to and the national organization's reach is only as long as the local groups let it be. I checked with my council and it is one of those who have a nondiscrimination policy that they adopted several years ago and which is supposed to allow gay scouts and leaders to participate regardless of what the national organization says.

I'm not currently involved in Scouting, but once an Eagle, always an Eagle and I had always hoped my boys would join the Scouts. I've kept a big box of my old scouting paraphernalia so I could share my experiences with them as they grew up into scouts themselves. Even if the local troops they could join have disavowed the national policy, I still do not think I could let them join. It breaks my heart to have to do that.

I've carried my Eagle Scout card in my wallet since I earned it nearly 20 years ago. I'm pretty convinced that I owe everything I have in my life to having been an Eagle Scout. That helped me get into the college I attended, where I started dating the woman I would eventually marry. That card has been weighing heavier on me and despite what my local council's policy is, I am increasingly embarrassed to be associated with this organization.

Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots.
Maybe my problem is that I earned this badge through a lot of hard work and along the way I actually made a difference in my community and why should I let the bigots take that away from me? The badge to me is as more a representation of what I did to earn it than the organization I earned it from.
posted by Jugwine at 7:48 AM on October 5, 2012 [53 favorites]


I was volunteering at a phone bank for gay marriage here in Washington state the other week, and overheard one of our (better-spirited) callers talking to an elderly woman with a number of questions. All I heard him say was, "Yes, I have heard about the parades." In many ways, that was how the previous generation saw gay people in public. I, for one, couldn't care less to judge people based on how much fun they have at a parade (or, like Louis CK, assume that if you have a parade, you must be doing something right), but folks of a certain generation found that expression disconcerting or uncomfortable, for whatever reason.

Acts like this are how members of my generation are introduced to gay issues in public life. The symbol of gay adoption for us are gay couples who want to adopt or foster at-risk or homeless teenagers. The symbol of gay marriage is a 75 year old couple who have been together 50 years. And the symbol of a gay Eagle Scout is someone who's jumped through all the rigorous community service hoops necessary to get that award and still doesn't get it because of the kind of person he's attracted to or knows he'll one day love.

If you wonder why my generation, conservative and liberal, religious and otherwise, are largely tolerant and supportive of LGBT causes, that's probably a good reason.
posted by Apropos of Something at 7:49 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't need to hate people to despise them.

Yeah but you do need to not love them.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:51 AM on October 5, 2012


You still get to keep your memories and experiences and life lessons even if you send in your Eagle Badge as an act of protest. It doesn't change who you are and what you accomplished to stand up to anti-gay bigots.

Eagle Scouts talk about how much they learned and how it molded them into such a good person, but apparently they can't take a difficult action to show their opposition to the disgusting bigots that are running the Boy Scouts.
posted by andoatnp at 7:55 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Eagle Scouts talk about how much they learned and how it molded them into such a good person, but apparently they can't take a difficult action to show their opposition to the disgusting bigots that are running the Boy Scouts.

If you acknowledge that it's a difficult action, then why are you accusing them of being weak if they don't do it?

How about YOU go earn an Eagle Scout badge and return it to make a point if you want that to happen so bad?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 AM on October 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


There's already an alternative to the BSA:

Another alternative to the BSA is The Woodcraft Folk, which originally developed in opposition to some of the militaristic elements of Scouting.
posted by jonp72 at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2012


Why do we always think we can judge or even understand other people's motivations? Why do people have to commit a certain approved act in order to confirm that they fit in?

I hate the policies. My badge is going back.
BUT I can still believe that someone who doesn't send the badge back may agree with me and may in fact be doing more to effect a policy change than I am.
posted by Seamus at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another alternative to the BSA is The Woodcraft Folk, which originally developed in opposition to some of the militaristic elements of Scouting.

WHY DO ALL OTHERWISE-WORTHWHILE HIPPIE ALTERNATIVE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE SUCH STUPID FUCKING NAMES AAAAAAAARGH

I bet they don't even know that painting lightning bolts on soap box derby cars make them go faster
posted by mightygodking at 7:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


For an organization that supposedly hates gays, you can't get much more homo than sharing tents with boys and wearing matching neckerchiefs.

WTF? That's a disgusting statement. Are you actually trying to shame someone by calling them gay? On Metafilter?


I think it's telling that you automatically assume that calling someone gay is disgusting.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:01 AM on October 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

For a certain number of them the problem is surely homophobia. For others I suspect it is more complicated.


I can see both sides, actually. Discounting people who actually support this homophobic policy, does one return their badge to mark their protest, or does one keep it with the idea that the movement itself is better than the bigots running it? Do you write off the movement entirely, or remain within it in hopes of bettering it?

I don't know what the answer is.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:01 AM on October 5, 2012


WHY DO ALL OTHERWISE-WORTHWHILE HIPPIE ALTERNATIVE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE SUCH STUPID FUCKING NAMES AAAAAAAARGH

How about "Swiss Family Awesome, Son!"
posted by griphus at 8:04 AM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


No give it a completely bland name like Junior Assistantence Rediness League so no one is the wiser and then it's all knife throwing and tactical posionings lessons.
posted by The Whelk at 8:09 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was in scouts as a kid. Never made it to Eagle Scout, but I enjoyed it.

Word.

I was disappointed that I never got to share that with my son - I found the anti-gay stance of the BSA repellent.

But those days when I was a Boy Scout... some of them were the best days of my childhood.

It's a shame they have to be so blockheaded and backwards about this.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:11 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apologies if this was linked and I missed it, but does anyone know anything about Scouts for Equality? It was started very recently by an Eagle Scout whose parents are lesbians. It sounds like it's picking up where a number of defunct organizations left off.

I've only looked at the website briefly, but what I like about it so far is it seems to embrace a range of strategies, from returning medals to collecting videos from scouts and parents to encouraging other organizations to drop financial support and sponsorship to providing tools to petition your local Council to adopt an inclusive policy.

I have my own preferences between Malcolm and Martin, but I think there are compelling arguments for both, and maybe even a compelling argument that we need both in order to get anywhere. So I appreciate that they're embracing a variety of tactics, both sending the message that the BSA policy is unacceptable, and encouraging local leaders to adopt new policies from within.
posted by jhc at 8:12 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about creating an independently administered award, called, say, The Blue Heron Badge? It would be given to any scout that qualifies for or receives the Eagle badge, with the additional requirement of a tolerance project.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:14 AM on October 5, 2012


I'm a brand-spanking new Girl Scout troop leader. Don't have a kid, just doing it because I like the Girl Scouts.

I was at my first Service Unit leaders meeting last night (a service unit is a regional collection of troops in regions like mine that are too big to be overseen by the regional chapter), in a relatively conservative area of town (LOTS of Catholics), and one of the things brought up by a Cadette (6th-8th grades) leader was:

"How can we make sure that we are a safe place for LGBT issues? I don't know much about it."

Which, though a pretty ham-handed way of broaching the subject, was pretty awesome. Here's a group of ladies, who even though they have no personal experience being gay, and quite possibly have never had a gay friend in their lives, care enough about being inclusive that they're asking other people for help if--not because, but if--they should ever have a gay scout.

And there were also cupcakes.

The Girl Scouts rock. BSA makes me sad.
posted by phunniemee at 8:15 AM on October 5, 2012 [58 favorites]


Some day down the road, he'll be getting his Eagle.

I'm reminded of Jung's book "Answer to Job". Jung's answer was that Job's morals were superior to God's.
posted by Twang at 8:16 AM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


My personally selfish problem now is that just like every time I pass a Salvation Army kettle bell ringer, I now have to tell tables of popcorn selling more-or-less-innocent boy scouts that I don't support bigoted organizations.

This makes shopping suck. Fuck You BSA. And Fuck You Salvation Army who helps poor people but then shits on gays.
posted by RedEmma at 8:19 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


No give it a completely bland name like Junior Assistantence Rediness League so no one is the wiser and then it's all knife throwing and tactical posionings lessons.

Future Thieves' Guild Of America
CAMPING AND SHIT ASSOCIATED WHATEVER
posted by griphus at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's a complex equation with regards to Eagles and the choice to keep/return/destroy their Eagle stuff.*

However, I will say that lumping all the people that keep their already-earned Eagle Scout badges into one pile/theory with phrases like

Maybe your problem is that you want to affiliate yourself with hateful anti-gay bigots.

is unhelpful and untrue, at best. It's similar to saying that the problem with US taxpayers/citizens is that they want to affiliate themselves with warmongers and greedy industrialists. Sure, an Eagle could turn in his badge, just like that US-ian could move to Greenland or Norway or Switzerland or England. But it's just not that simple or easy and to say that someone has to break ties or else be labeled as someone who actively desires an association with bigots does your argument no justice.

*I'm not an Eagle, I did Cubs but for various family reasons that was the end of my experience with them.

On preview:

I checked with my council and it is one of those who have a nondiscrimination policy that they adopted several years ago and which is supposed to allow gay scouts and leaders to participate regardless of what the national organization says

I didn't even know about different chapters having policies such that the following can be true, so yea, like alot of things in the world: It's complicated.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:20 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Girl Scout promise includes a mention of serving god, and yet Girl Scouts have no such policies against homosexual members or leaders.

It's also worth noting that the official Girl Scout stance on the Girl Scout Promise is that you can insert any word you want in place of god--faith, beliefs, values, etc--and even just flat out not say it at all.

And because there is a lot of focus on equality and inclusion in the Girl Scouts (which means that religion really has to take a back seat), there is also a separate faith-based award that girls can earn on their own if they want to show their devotion to their religious views. Because freedom of choice and all that.
posted by phunniemee at 8:21 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think it's important for people that have a connection to scouting to understand that you can support scouting without continuing to support the BSA. The scouting movement is bigger than BSA and it's well worth your time to support alternative organization that don't make exclusionary policies a central hallmark to their platform.

I can understand a desire to reform the organization from within but seriously though the BSA leadership has uniformly condoned a blatant exclusionary policy for decades despite continuing changes in the US that indicate overall support for more tolerant policies.

Even if you love what scouting was I think it's important for people to make their voices heard by choosing to reject this sort of exclusionary policies. Anything less seems to be a rejection of the idea that a scout must be a friend to all and a brother to every other scout.
posted by vuron at 8:25 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Frankly, angry, hateful remarks about the other side are pretty much exactly what they expect from the gay-rights movement. The pro-gay-rights folk of course believe the same of the anti. This creates a downward spiral. This is how things don't change.

Things have changed so much just since I came out (been about 20 years now) that it's amazing. "This is how things don't change" strikes me as rhetoric and not an observation of reality.
posted by rtha at 8:25 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Christ, what a troop of assholes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:25 AM on October 5, 2012



Who are the Eagle Scouts that haven't returned their badges yet, and what's their problem?

For a certain number of them the problem is surely homophobia. For others I suspect it is more complicated.


Hi, another Eagle Scout.

I considered returning the badge upon hearing the news (and about the badge returning). To me, personally, it seems too much like I would be attempting to take the attention from the people who are truly wronged. I don't really feel that others are doing this--they (for example) could have possibly had such a visceral reaction such they could do little else. But that reaction--it's not really me. At least, not yet. I'll rail against these practices, certainly.

Perhaps, too, some feel like the organization can yet be salvaged. There are doubtless countless people in it who are wishing for more inclusiveness. Personally, I suspect otherwise; it just seems that these discriminatory viewpoints are fairly pervasive given the leadership and demographics.

What the news *does* do, though, is confirm that I've made the right choice in keeping my boys out of the organization. On reflection, denying them new members (and veteran adult leadership) is going to hurt them a heck of a lot more than sending back bits of metal and fabric.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Other alternatives to Boy Scouts:

Earth Scouts
Spiral Scouts (Note: religious affiliation with wiccan / pagan group, but open to all faiths / non-faith)
Camp Fire USA
Navigators USA (Note: religions affiliation with Unitarian Universalists)

My kid started begging me to join Boy Scouts a while ago (because the neighbor kids he plays with are in Boy Scouts, and he wants to go camping with his friends) and I keep telling him "We don't support groups that discriminate against people like Grandma," and he agrees that we shouldn't, but he's still very sad about it.

Luckily I recently discovered a local Earth Scouts group, and I hope we can join that instead.
posted by BlueJae at 8:27 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're not here to die for your country. You're here to make the other bastard die for his.

There's already an alternative to the BSA:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden-Powell_Scouts'_Association

It just needs critical mass.


I found several mentions of a single group, in Tarrant County, TX (which happens to be where I live), no current references, web site, information, etc. I think they are defunct. :(
posted by Doohickie at 8:32 AM on October 5, 2012


It's also worth noting that the official Girl Scout stance on the Girl Scout Promise is that you can insert any word you want in place of god--faith, beliefs, values, etc--and even just flat out not say it at all.

Yes, and our leaders always remind the troop of this each year. My family is Unitarian Universalist, so I have one kid who skips the word "god" and one who says it with a capital G :)
posted by padraigin at 8:34 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you were an Eagle Scout and want to express your reaction to this heinous behavior be sure to let them know:

National Office

Boy Scouts of America
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
972-580-2000
posted by mareli at 8:35 AM on October 5, 2012


I think what BSA is doing is deplorable. However, I have to wonder if getting rejected from one's Eagle Scout award and putting that on a resume might bring recognition in a way that creates more opportunities. He doesn't want to work for bigots, I'm sure. And those who aren't bigots would think this kid is extra awesome for almost making Eagle Scout and getting rejected because he was out in high school.

(That does not make what is happening okay. And, OMG, I think we should take down the BSA. What they are doing is deplorable. I just thought of the student from Quebec who renounced his university degree recently and how that will probably create more opportunities for him than if he had just accepted the degree. And I wondered if that might also happen for others. The problem, of course, is that this boy is still not shielded from bigotry and the only people who will recognize his Eagle Scout qualifications are non-bigots and etc.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:37 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Baden-Powell Scouts Association lost a lawsuit to the BSA in 2008 (I think) which decided that they could not use the term "Scouts".
They have changed the name to the Baden-Powell Service Association.
Here is their website.
posted by Seamus at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm kinda glad that there is an organization like the Girl Scouts that seems to be much more open to GLBT scouts and is much more open to non-Christian or even non-religious membership. I have no idea if my daughter will be interested in Girl Scouts when she's older but I would have no problem supporting that organization even if it meant pushing those evil little boxes of cookies on friends, family and coworkers.
posted by vuron at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2012


I also mentioned this in the last BSA thread, but be sure to contact your state Scouting office and indicate that they can make create a positive affirming place for all sorts of boys through their own statements and policies. I had a decent email exchange with the VT scouting people who really seemed not only not that clued in by what was going on with this sort of thing at a national level, but also why someone who was not gay (not that I mentioned it) would care. I like to think that having a decent and polite exchange with them and indicating that there are some chapters who work towards inclusiveness and change from within.
posted by jessamyn at 8:41 AM on October 5, 2012


I used to think that 4-H was strictly for farm kids raising calves or something, but I was wrong. Kids can still do that, but they can also participate in 4-H's Environmental Science & Alternative Energy and a bunch of other stuff. They seem to do camping things. They seem to not care if the kids believe in god or not. They seem to not make a deal of anyone's sexual orientation. Their pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world!

So if people are looking for an alternative, you could do worse than check out your local 4-H.
posted by rtha at 8:44 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think I could dig going by the title "Outlander".

Jamie?


Claire was the outlander.
posted by caryatid at 8:48 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just posted this on my facebook, but I'll copypasta here as well because it's valid:

So...I'm an Eagle Scout, for what it's worth. That's not something I typically brag about, or even generally mention because I don't hold much truck with Scouting or most of what I once believed to be my "scouting family", if for no other reason than my own selfishness---when I needed them they weren't there for me. That's sad, because those are some of my fondest memories and were people who were, at one point, people I believed to be my family.

So I see stories like yesterdays about Ryan Andresen being denied his Eagle because he recently came out as gay, and therefore doesn't fall in line with the "duty to God" requirement.

I still know the entire oath and law, by heart. I think they're forgetting the "loyal, friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, and BRAVE" points of the law. The goal of scouting is NOT, in my opinion, to impose a rigorously conservative viewpoint on life. It's to create individually capable, strong, morally conscious individuals with strong ties to their troop, friends, families, and communities.

I've considered sending back my patch several times---and I'm sure nobody would care, but it's actually become a crisis of conscience for me. I can't fathom that some people believe that what actually matters in scouting is sexual orientation above all else, or that somehow excluding folks is the morally appropriate thing to do, the thing that MEN do, or the thing that LEADERS do.
posted by TomMelee at 8:53 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Seconding 4-H as the alternative. I dabbled in both as a "tween", and ended up liking 4-H better - although both organizations were pretty loosey-goosey organizationwise in my community. But I was prouder of the blue ribbon I got at the 4-H fair (woodworking! I made a set of bookends!) than I was of my merit badges in scouts.

And the 4-H summer camp was WAY cooler.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:57 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


even if it meant pushing those evil little boxes of cookies on friends, family and coworkers.

I would also just like to say something about the evil boxes of cookies. :)

It costs $12/year to register as a Girl Scout. Troops also have dues (used to pay for earned badges, snacks, materials, supplies, and trips). The dues for my troop are $10/scout/year. Right now I have 8 girls. The $12 goes to the Council to pay for insurance to cover the girls' meetings, trips, whatever in case someone gets hurt, and pays for the organization to actually have people, y'know, running the organization. We also recommend that the girls at the very least get a sash ($6) on which to put the badges they earn, and it makes it easier if each girl has their own guide book ($20) so they don't all have to share mine.

Added all up, that comes to a little less than $50 out-of-pocket cost per year per girl. Less than $30 if you don't buy the book. Only a smidge over $20 if you get lucky and the council donates your troop some off-size sashes they have in stock. That's not a huge amount of money, but my troop is in a poor neighborhood, and that $20 is actually a barrier to entry for some girls.

But, hey, it's ok because GSUSA offers financial assistance. If the troop leader applies for it, girls (or, since they're minors, the parents) who ask for it can join the troop for free (and don't have to do a single thing themselves, which is awesome because no one is singled out for being poor). It's all on the honor system.

HOWEVER (and this is where the cookies come in), if at the end of the year your troop has not participated in either the Fall Product (HAPPENING NOW, FOLKS! CONTACT ME IF YOU WANT SOME CANDY AND I'LL HOOK YOU UP WITH ONE OF MY GIRLS!) sale or the Cookie sale, but you DID apply for and receive financial assistance, then your troop won't get it next year. You have to demonstrate that you're actually putting in some effort in order to receive the benefits. (Which makes sense, right?)

So when you see kids out there with the cookies and the nuts and the candy, and you're all "ack not again!" remember that we have to do it. Believe me, we'd love to spend more time earning the cool badges or doing fundraisers with things we make ourselves, but you've gotta do what you've gotta do.

That said, the sales programs really focus a lot on teaching financial planning/responsibility and math skills to the girls (a lot more today than when I was a scout), which is a really fantastic, important thing. The cookies aren't totally evil! :)
posted by phunniemee at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


Wow. And apparently I am now The MeFite Who Talks Too Much About Girl Scouts.
posted by phunniemee at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


So when you see kids out there with the cookies and the nuts and the candy, and you're all "ack not again!"....

There are actually people who wish they had LESS opportunity to purchase Girl Scout cookies?....

That.....that doesn't compute.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:01 AM on October 5, 2012 [14 favorites]


Another Eagle Scout who hasn't returned his badge. As I suspect has been said before (though not in this thread, that I've noticed), 99% of scouting is local. What the national organization does has very, very little bearing on going for a backpacking trip or learning to climb or figuring out how to set shit on fire in the most dangerous way possible (pressurized blue butane fuel canister, by the way). If the troop is full of homophobic jerks, then it's a problem, and obviously one shouldn't put a kid in there. If the troop is not full of hate, then it is still a problem, but a different sort of problem, and one with a less black-and-white calculus.

As for alternative scouting organizations, or going independent -- this is a great concept but I worry about how it works in practice. I mean, there's a lot of knowledge that gets passed down over time (from older kids to younger, from one generation of the troop leaders to the next), plus the tempo of an established organization can sometimes be a lot higher than for something you have to partially make up along the way. Plus the structure of scouting is really helpful for some kids (myself included).

As for why I haven't returned by badge? I'm certainly conflicted but I deeply appreciate the love of the outdoors that my scouting troop gave me.
posted by genug at 9:02 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. And apparently I am now The MeFite Who Talks Too Much About Girl Scouts.

I'll forgive you if you send me a box of those thin mints.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:02 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chausette, I was thinking along similar lines. Surely there's a small silver lining in that this kid is going to have an awesome subject for his college app essays.
posted by amarynth at 9:03 AM on October 5, 2012


On reflection, denying them new members (and veteran adult leadership) is going to hurt them a heck of a lot more than sending back bits of metal and fabric.

I am an Eagle Scout as well.

I have serious doubts as to how sending back my badge and saying 'I don't want to be an Eagle Scout anymore' will really impact the worldview of bigots like those in the BSA administration.

One of the things you hear over and over again when someone gets their Eagle is 'Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.' Scouts who get their Eagle almost always phrase it as I am an Eagle Scout. It's not something that elapses or fades or goes away.

So, I am an Eagle Scout. I believe that I represent the best Scouting has to offer.

And when I talk to the boys selling popcorn outside the supermarket or selling wreaths door-to-door, I can say that I am an Eagle Scout, I can establish myself as someone they aspire to be one day. I've been where they are.

And when I explain that it's not their fault (because it's really shitty to have some adult judging a kid when they don't have any kind of personal agency when it comes to nationwide policy), but I can't contribute to their cause... well, I think that goes a lot further towards having an impact on Scouting as an organization.

I am an Eagle Scout, and that's something the BSA leadership should be afraid of.
posted by mikurski at 9:06 AM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'll forgive you if you send me a box of those thin mints.

I will BUY ALL THE THIN MINTS if they come out with lactose-free ones.
posted by griphus at 9:06 AM on October 5, 2012


Even if I become lactose-intoerant like my father did later in life, I will just go ahead & hurt myself once a year.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:08 AM on October 5, 2012


There are actually people who wish they had LESS opportunity to purchase Girl Scout cookies?....

There are two people right now at my work who have daughters in Girl Scouts and it is MADNESS here during cookie time. Heidi ran out of Thin Mints the first day last time!
posted by rtha at 9:09 AM on October 5, 2012


It hurts everyone around you too, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:10 AM on October 5, 2012


Someone needs to unclog their invisible toilet.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kind of a false flag I guess, but for me the "local vs. international offices" argument is "meh." It's like saying "Man that Chick-fil-A guy is a hater but damn those sandwiches are delicious." Either you care about it, or you don't. You carry the banner of the organization and what it says it stands for, or you don't.

Again, I am Eagle. I was a cub and one of those dweeby webelos who got every single pin plus all the leaves. I was SPL for 3 years. I'm BSA Lifeguard, Brotherhood OA, was a drummer and a grass dancer and part of the ceremonial team. I worked at camp, taught lifesaving and canoeing and rowing and swimming, caught fish with my bare hands and still rely on my sweet woods-skills to this day. (Just the other day I lit a fire with my homemade charcloth and firesteel) My local leaders never said much of anything about gay this or homo that, but that doesn't matter, because the organization itself DOES, and I'm not OK with that. The Organization prides itself on producing MEN, and it's got an effed up definition of what that means.

They also receive Federal dollars, so eff that too. I have no moral objection to a private club setting its own rules on who can join---but the moment public money is given, that goes away, period.
posted by TomMelee at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


Your sexual orientation should never be an impediment to achieving your dreams. That applies to everything in life, including an Eagle Scout Badge.
posted by Kokopuff at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2012


I'm not a Boy Scout (wrong gender!) but have an anecdote to share. My late stepfather was a Scout during the early days of American scouting and his uncle was a leader on the regional, if not national level. His uncle was also gay. In those days, it was accepted that some boys would bond more strongly with other boys and that some straight boys would also be precocious sexually regarding women.The Scouts decided to encourage "purity"regarding sexuality. I don't know if a Scout still promises to remain pure, but it was part of the oath at one time. My stepfather's uncle was part of the leadership that helped implement this policy. It must have been difficult to be a gay man in the early 1900s and he may have felt this was an extremely progressive move on the part of the organization.
The Boy Scouts need to move with the times, like they did a hundred years ago.
posted by pentagoet at 9:12 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder if there would be so much vitriol if the reason he was denied his Eagle Badge was because he was an atheist, which the BSA is also wildly against.
posted by Leezie at 9:13 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


via the Empress...

How about YOU go earn an Eagle Scout badge and return it to make a point if you want that to happen so bad?

no shit. or even tell us about all your righteous civic contributions...going back to age 11. I've got a pretty long list (yep, Eagle here). How 'bout you, Captain Self-Righteous?
posted by j_curiouser at 9:23 AM on October 5, 2012


@andoatnp seems really invested in seeing all unrepentant Eagles as bigots. That doesn't seem to be a halpeful position.

@TomMelee seems to miss the degree to which the national office can't really control the agendas of local groups. Suggesting that people who continue to participate in explicitly anti-discriminatory local troops somehow don't care about the issue seems pretty wrong to me.
posted by uberchet at 9:25 AM on October 5, 2012


You carry the banner of the organization and what it says it stands for, or you don't.

Well, kind of. I mean, do you support every single policy position of your chosen political party? Of your employer? Of your country? If you do, I hope you understand that's a luxury not everybody is able to afford.

There's a tension, right, between remaining pure to your own conscience and trying to work change from within. If everybody who thinks that this is a dick move from the BSA and the local troop leaves scouting, then the only people left will be people who support this kind of discrimination.

I don't by any means want to say that people have to get involved in Scouting in order to change this. It is certainly possible that is a fool's errand, and some people's conscience will compel them not to have anything to do with the BSA. Those people should listen to their conscience, just like everybody else should, too. But I think it's an oversimplification to say of every single person who belongs to an organization that they, by default or definition, support every single thing that the organization does. There is such a thing as loyal dissent.
posted by gauche at 9:27 AM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Considering that the Mormons pretty much dominate most BSA troops in the area I think it's also a refuge from relentless moralizing. [...] I continue to be shocked that the BSA simply won't get with the times when it's clear that the bulk of public opinion is largely turning against them.

I think these two points are not unrelated. Scouting, in large part, has been subverted by people whose motivations are -- at least partly -- religious in nature. It's not hard to imagine them deciding that keeping the organization "pure" is more important than how it's perceived by the public, or even ensuring its survival into the next generation in general. And you can't argue, in any rational or meaningful way, with religion.

It's sad, because I was a Scout and really enjoyed Scouting (at least up into highschool, when it became an extension of the football players clique). My troop was inclusive and secular. The guys running it mostly did it out of nostalgia for their own youth, I think. The whole thing had a very nice trans-generational continuity aspect to it; we had canoes and stoves (and hell even some tents) that were old enough for the scoutmasters to have used them when they were boys. Scouting was just one of those things that had been around, seemingly forever.

But I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't want to encourage my kid, if I had one, to be part of the program; as nice as many individual, local troops may still be, the national organization has clearly gotten overtaken by some very hateful people. And I fully expect the BSA as an organization to collapse in the near future, or at least become a shadow of itself -- if it hasn't already, which is certainly arguable.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:30 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about YOU go earn an Eagle Scout badge and return it to make a point if you want that to happen so bad?

The point I am making is that people should distance themselves from a bigoted organization.

I'm not sure what point you're making by telling me to join that bigoted organization.
posted by andoatnp at 9:31 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another Eagle Scout here. Their policy is wrong, and as I've said many, many times: all of the gay men and boys I knew as a child were through the Scouts. Knowing them made me a better person.
posted by ColdChef at 9:31 AM on October 5, 2012


I wonder if there would be so much vitriol if the reason he was denied his Eagle Badge was because he was an atheist

...have you ever met any enthusiastic atheists?
posted by jaduncan at 9:39 AM on October 5, 2012


CONTACT ME IF YOU WANT SOME CANDY AND I'LL HOOK YOU UP WITH ONE OF MY GIRLS!

Another great thing about GSUSA as opposed to BSA is that there is no opportunity for me to make an unpleasant joke about sexual exploitation when you say this.
posted by howfar at 9:41 AM on October 5, 2012


Mommas, don't let your babies grow up to be Boy Scouts
Don't let them tend campfires and hike with leader louts
Have them join Earth Scouts or Y*CA Guides or Baden-Powell and such ...
posted by tilde at 9:42 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, first, I DO know about how much effect national organizations have on downstream membership, and the answer is: exactly as much as they want to.

You either condone behavior or you explicitly forbid it. Having done nothing but work in non profit my entire professional life, I am *keenly* aware of how correct leadership works.

I also don't think the comparison to elected officials is fair. We all live under government. Do do not all live as boyscouts.

Lastly, you are correct that the change MUST come from inside, but it must come VOCALLY. It will require troops to say "If you release him, we all quit." It will require existing eagles to be activists, voices for change within the organization. Just being idle and saying "I'm opposed to the policy but I like my badge" isn't good enough for me---why say anything at all? In my view, quiet dissent is the same as implicit approval.

(Of course I'm a social rights activist by profession now, so I realize my views aren't exactly mainstream. Lol.)
posted by TomMelee at 9:49 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


As to returning your badge, this is a complicated decision for me. Years ago, when I lived in Austin, the local council kicked out a friend of mine who was an adult leader, an Eagle Scout, and gay. I sent a letter of complaint to the national office with a fabric Eagle Scout patch. I had dozens of uniforms and therefore dozens of patches. It was a symbolic gesture.

But my Eagle Scout ribbon? It belonged to another Eagle Scout--my great-grandfather. And it was pinned on me by my Scoutmaster--my dad, who is no longer alive. It is a constant reminder of all the fun I had as a young Scout and all the hard work it took to earn it. And that's why I won't give it to anyone--unless the Scouting program changes it's discriminatory policies and I can give it to my own son. Nothing would make me happier.

FWIW, this is me as a young Eagle Scout. And this was my proud father.
posted by ColdChef at 9:57 AM on October 5, 2012 [31 favorites]


And for the record, if Scouts would have had such a hardline stance on homosexuality back in my days as a Cub Scout, surely this picture would have gotten me kicked out. (But strangely enough, not this one.)
posted by ColdChef at 10:02 AM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Girl Scouts needs a boy's auxiliary!
posted by vespabelle at 10:04 AM on October 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


In related news: Scalia says outlawing “homosexual sodomy” is a no-brainer

The highest court in the land, people.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:08 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


FWIW: As someone who has done recruiting/hiring/interviewing in the past, if someone put that they earned their Eagle badge and then turned it back in because they didn't agree with the organization, all other things being equal I would have no qualms ranking that person higher than someone who just listed that they were an Eagle Scout.

Making a clearly difficult decision and then taking a stance can be just as important (if not more so) in the business world as completing a series of goals that very few can complete. They each provide a significant insight as to the makeup of that person.

Caveat(S): Former scout, not Eagle, have no intention of supporting the organization either financially or allowing my children to attend. I also own a camper, and we camp multiple times a year, often with friends. But I probably would look into some of the other organizations listed here. (So if there are others, keep em coming.)
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:10 AM on October 5, 2012


The point I am making is that people should distance themselves from a bigoted organization.

And the point that eveyrone else is trying to make to you is that there are many different ways to do that, aside from just the one you're flogging.

I'm not sure what point you're making by telling me to join that bigoted organization.

Because you seem hung up on the idea of BSA getting a whole mess of returned Eagle Scout badges as if that is the only form of protest available. And if you want something done that badly, hey, the best way to get anything done is to do it yourself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The highest court in the land, people.
That court has always had it's ups and downs.

Remember, we eventually needed not one, but three amendments to allow all adults over the age of 18 to vote. They've also decided that segregation was a good thing, and that due-process was not really necessary.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:18 AM on October 5, 2012


I have twin girls, so in a way, I don't feel like I have anything to fight with. Fortunately, it looks like I don't have to worry about this bullshit with Girl Scouts (linky):
From 1991:

As a private organization, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. respects the values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude into personal matters. Therefore, there are no membership policies on sexual preference.

A 2003 position statement:

We recognize the basic human rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. All citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, have the right to housing, employment, and to be free from violence and harassment.

Inclusion in October of 2011:

In regard to a local troop’s rejection of a transgender 7-year-old child, the Girl Scouts of Colorado stated publicly, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.” The decision sparked a boycott.
posted by disconnect at 10:21 AM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


God used to be bigoted against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals but has recently seen the error of His ways. BSA are behind the curve.
posted by lathrop at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


...have you ever met any enthusiastic atheists?

Hah, at my Unitarian Universalist Church as a kid.
posted by Jahaza at 10:47 AM on October 5, 2012


I regret that I could only send back my Eagle badge once.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:53 AM on October 5, 2012


Maybe my problem is that I earned this badge through a lot of hard work and along the way I actually made a difference in my community and why should I let the bigots take that away from me? The badge to me is as more a representation of what I did to earn it than the organization I earned it from.

many people work hard for their communities and do not need membership in an organization (or recognition, even) to do so. what is it they lack that will be taken away from you? your experiences cannot be undone. what you're claiming is not about the organization is all about the organization.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:00 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is no Them, only Us. It's easy enough to realize; what's harder is staying mindful of the fact beyond one layer of abstraction.
posted by Mooski at 11:02 AM on October 5, 2012


So this kid gives scouting his all from age 8, and they reward his dedication by telling him he's a bad person and throwing him out. Why aren't they listed as a hate-group yet?
posted by gallois at 11:05 AM on October 5, 2012


And, more than anything else, it emphasizes community - the idea that we are all in this together.

I think you forgot to add, "except for the gays."
posted by caddis at 11:43 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's right Mike Rowe, I'm looking at you. Calling out the bigots for being bigots is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.)

I wouldn't like to Mike Rowe for that. He has appeared with Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.
posted by SuzySmith at 12:50 PM on October 5, 2012


288 kindness tiles on that wall, and not a damn one of them from Boy Scouts.

Makes me kinda glad my boys thought their cub scout master was a dick and quit.

(Although they did look cute in their uniforms.)
posted by BlueHorse at 1:06 PM on October 5, 2012


I wouldn't like to Mike Rowe for that. He has appeared with Mitt Romney on the campaign trail.

Once, in 1969, for 20 minutes. Wait, wrong site.
I didn’t want to be rude – I was a guest, after all. But I was not there to publicly endorse him. Obviously, I would need to clear up the whole thing on stage, but Governor Romney beat me to it.
posted by tilde at 1:06 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


[If you do not want to imply gay people are pedophiles, do not lead with a glib joke that does so. This is not an area of discussion with a lot of room to maneuver.]
posted by restless_nomad at 1:08 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whew, the whole Mike Rowe thing made me very sad, now it only makes me somewhat sad.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:13 PM on October 5, 2012


ColdChef, what a great story and a great family heritage. I just wish there weren't a cloud over the organization that you all worked so diligently with to obtain that badge. Love the pic of your dad--he looks so happy.

And I'm here to second 4-H. It's the cat's pajamas. You can get awards in EVERYTHING imaginable.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:13 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


wolfdreams01 - I think it's partly that but it's also partly that 69.4% of BSA units are chartered by a faith based organization. 37,000 units are sponsored by the Mormon church. 11,000 are sponsored by the United Methodist Church, whose General Conference recently struck down legislation to become more LGBTQ friendly. Even more units may not be chartered by a church but do get support or free use of space from one. There are more statistics here. BSA will resolve its issues with homosexuality when the religious organizations on which it is dependant for support do.

BSA membership is steadily declining, arguably due at least in part to the organization's retrograde attitudes regarding gays. I think there is a lot of fear within the organization's top levels that taking a more progressive stance on homosexuality would force a schism that will cost them 45,000 units and kill the organization. You might think that's for the best, but the BSA's own leadership never will.

I am an Eagle scout and have personally been very conflicted about returning my badge. I haven't made up my mind yet about what to do. On the one hand I find BSA's official stance on homosexuality awful and wrong, not to mention cowardly. I'm not wild about their position on atheism or for that matter their problematic history of racial descrimination either. Hell, I could go into the fight about pacifism in scouting that followed the first world war but that would be way too much of a derail.

On the other hand, like others who've commented, my local, personal, experience (even if it wasn't all positive) with scouting had a tremendous impact on who I am as a person, and I sometimes find myself feeling that I will be damned if I'm going to take my bat and ball and go home and leave the BSA to become the private province of retrograde bigots who will inevitably (to my mind) preside over an organization retreating into irrelevance as society more broadly accepts homosexuality. So I don't know what to do yet.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:20 PM on October 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Technology giant Intel Corporation recently told NBC News that since Jan. 1 it has required troops and councils to sign a document verifying that they comply with their non-discrimination policy in order to receive donations. The United Way of Greater Cleveland, which last year gave nearly $100,000 to the Boy Scouts of America, Greater Cleveland Council, recently said under its new diversity policy that the local chapter would no longer qualify to receive such funding.

More like this, please. Returning badges probably won't help, but choking the money stream may.
posted by Mojojojo at 1:34 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find the actions of the BSA deplorable, but I'm not sure if I would forbid my kids from joining the local chapter. Ultimately, at some point, I wonder if at some point such a decision is more about me, and less about giving my kid the opportunity to partake in boy scouting. Provided they're a local chapter not actively discriminating (a few above mentioned chapters that have an acceptance policy), I'm not sure telling my kid no is in their best interest- particularly if the local chapter poses no issues.
posted by jmd82 at 1:39 PM on October 5, 2012


I've spent the whole morning stewing about this. There's just no way I would allow my boys to participate in Scouting at this point and it's only now that I realize how pissed off I am about this. Some of the greatest experiences of my childhood were because of scouting and it sucks that my kids are going to go without that. I was never an Eagle Scout, but I came close (I would have made it all the way if I hadn't discovered sex, drugs and rock and roll 2 merit badges and a service project shy of Eagle. Rock and roll ruined and saved my life). I recently came across my old merit badge sash and I think I will mail it tomorrow along with an explanation of why my 2 boys will be joining the Woodchuck Hippie Alternative Scouts instead.

Boy Scouts of America
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
972-580-2000
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:39 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love what this kid did. I love that he came out when he did-- he could have kept quiet long enough to get the badge-- I love that his project was a "tolerance wall." I hope he can take some time to enjoy the accomplishment, despite this messed-up organization's refusing to recognize it.
posted by BibiRose at 1:46 PM on October 5, 2012


The BSA throwing their weight around like this, greedily, can keep them powerful in the relatively short term. The current leadership gets to be really fucking important; it's their organization, and they can elevate or repudiate their members' personal achievements if they want to.

But what's a better gamble for the BSA right now to maintain (at least!) their current level of influence and, let's not forget, their private financial support? Do they bank on a majority-straight constituency to consider gay-friendly policies to be so so crucially valuable that these constituents will work to grow the eminence of the Boy Scouts of America in return? Because it's sure not going to be worth it for the BSA to double-cross their anti-gay bedfellows just to break even. Even if it does increase the long-term risk of a slow slide into eventual irrelevancy. I wish I could see a less-cynical way to view their current strategy.

The BSA is only still powerful because there is still a critical mass of people for whom it means something important to specifically be a Boy Scout rather than a member of another Scouting organization. Someday, this organization will be a quaint vestige of another time and will earn little more than a shrug, but right now, BSA is a widely-accepted and still-valued unit of cultural currency. I'm not pointing an accusing finger at those who maintain a personal emotional investment in their own experience as a Boy Scout, though, I've got nothing but sympathy there -- the BSA is massively betraying the trust that they cultivated in children.
posted by desuetude at 1:52 PM on October 5, 2012


"Zach Wahls* launches petition asking UPS to drop its funding of the Boy Scouts of America: 'When asked by a reporter at The American Independent if UPS will continue to donate now that Boy Scouts of America have reaffirmed their policy, UPS spokesperson Kristen Petrella said "This decision has not and will not impact The UPS Foundation’s decision to provide funding to BSA although we evaluate each funding request on an individual basis."'"via
* -- Zach previously on MeFi.
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on October 5, 2012


I would have made it all the way if I hadn't discovered sex, drugs and rock and roll 2 merit badges and a service project shy of Eagle.

That actually sounds like it could be 2 merit badges and one service project in a more enlightened BSA.
posted by Killick at 2:43 PM on October 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am trying to figure out which one would be the service project.
(too many possible jokes . . .)
posted by Seamus at 3:07 PM on October 5, 2012


Here's what I wrote upon joining "Scouts for Equality."

"While not directly LGBT-related, when I was a young scout - 14, I believe - my best friend and I were denied our Environmental Science badges at the week-long scout camp that summer as retribution for a scandal which literally was simply that:

1. We asked our Env. Sci. counselor what Wicca was.
2. He answered, without promoting it in any way.
3. Some scout from a different troop overheard and got angry.
4. Said counselor was fired.

Both my friend and I worked like hell through the regional office to finally get our badges (and both of us attained Eagle rank) despite his dad being our Scoutmaster and mine being the District Chairman, because we didn't want any favoritism at play.

At 14, you often accept the reality you are given. We saw this whole deal as being "not fair," but we didn't understand at the time how wrong it was. We were punished for asking a question, the counselor lost his job for answering it in a straight-forward manner, and the way we finally earned our badges was not through overturning a wrong decision but rather by serving proper penance for our "wrongdoing."

I also know a man, of my parents' generation, who was denied his Eagle at his board of review for admitting to being an atheist. I understand that the Boy Scouts of America is an organization with religious underpinnings, but it is also, and this is important here, one of inclusion... most of the time.

In my years of scouting I knew Jewish Scouts, Catholic Scouts, Protestant Scouts, Muslim Scouts, a Jainist Scout, Hindu Scouts, and a few Mormon Scouts. I served as Senior Patrol Leader in two separate troops and both in conservative parts of the country and neither would have stood for discrimination because that's not what scouting is about. It is about learning, about fellowship and community and service and outdoorsmanship and skills for a better life. And no one is exempt from learning those skills.

I want to ask this older man's old reviewers which religion he should have adopted for his review? Which God should he have prayed to?

I want to ask the bureaucrats in my former council what separated nature-worship from the myriad other world-religions they welcomed, such that asking about it was cause for scandal and punishment.

I want to ask the current leadership if they seriously plan to just turn the BSA into an adjunct organization of the LDS, accepting all faiths but restraining the scouting "morality" to that which reflects Mormon doctrine.

And I'd like to ask how they can look at themselves in the mirror while oppressing LGBT youth and dedicated adult leaders while at the same time covering up actual child molestation.

I have not yet returned my Eagle Scout badge. I earned it and it means too much to me, but I may yet. I'd rather see the BSA become an organization I can be proud of again, rather than a hate group.

I am proud to be an Eagle Scout. I am ashamed of the BSA."
posted by Navelgazer at 4:39 PM on October 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Remember, we eventually needed not one, but three amendments to allow all adults over the age of 18 to vote.
posted by Blue_Villain


Nitpick: All adults who aren't convicted felons.

You may require a fourth for them.
posted by RobotHero at 6:29 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interestingly and ironically, one of the assistant scoutmasters of my troop, an Eagle Scout, who was convicted of molesting a child in my troop still enjoys the title of "Eagle Scout" while more principled people have disavowed their affiliation over their exclusion of gay people. It's so sad that the BSA is on the wrong side of history.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:51 PM on October 5, 2012


Hi. I'm an Eagle Scout who hasn't returned his badge.

Let me tell you about my Dad's Silver Beaver award ceremony. It was held in an immense banquet hall, filled to overcapacity. There was one adult leader in the regulation shorts and knee-high-green-with-red-trim-socks there, sent reluctantly by the Council. There were men in olive-drab BDU pants and jeans and dockers and formal slacks over wool socks and Serious Hiking Shoes from up and down the eastern seaboard. High Adventure scoutmasters who understood the leadership and dedication it took to crank out Eagle after Eagle after Eagle, under intense scrutiny from not only the BSA but local politicians... all the while organizing one campout per month, year round, rain or shine - snow or clear - freezing or broiling - and one high-adventure trip per year. Climbing a mountain in Maine in February. Canoeing a hundred miles along the Adirondacks. 20-mile tune-ups for a 50-miler in the desert.

Survive that, and you still had to earn the damn merit badges, and prove to both your peers and the adults you had mastered the material. I had one adult that my Dad brought into the troop sign off one of my merit badge forms, a blue cardboard dealie, without looking... "A scout is honest. I trust you when you said you did this."

I hadn't done it. I went back and did it, and explained to the same adult how I didn't do it in the first place. He smiled and said, "A Scout is Honest."

If my Dad found out, I never knew. That was the kind of outfit he ran... my brother and I got no special favors.

I wasn't there, I wasn't invited... but...

A little kid I held in my lap when he was a scared and abused newcomer to our troop, someone my Dad took a personal interest in because he was so wild and untamed and written off, someone who went on to be a top Medic in Iraq, a hero without fear...

...when he was lowered into the ground at the Church our Troop was a part of...

Nope. NOPE. This badge is MINE. I have EARNED it. The adults around me WORKED for it. They are working NOW, to make sure no Scout who has honorably earned his Eagle will be denied it.

Grab a paddle, find a canoe. Make sure you run for a leadership position in the Council and the National Leadership. Fight. Win.

So, let me tell you, to hell with the Council leadership. To hell with the National leadership.

Lead them, don't you dare let them lead you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:02 PM on October 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


What's the BSA's stance on shrimp?
posted by neuron at 10:10 PM on October 5, 2012


I want to thank all of you who have sent me private emails about how proud and happy my dad looks in the photo I linked above. Scouting has meant a lot to my family. The current national policies are wrongheaded and will fall in time or else the program itself will crumble. Discrimination and hate will not last. They are disappearing daily.

As many others have pointed out, Scouting on the local level is often very different from Scouting on a national level. Change will come and it will come from within.

And if I may, I'd like to share another photo with all of you. A photo from my Dad's funeral. It was a rainy day and the church was small, but when our procession turned on the road headed to the cemetery, Scouts lined both sides of the roadway, flags in hand. Paying tribute to my father. A flag-bearing Scout, every ten feet. For several miles. It's something I'll never forget. Dad's Honor Guard.
posted by ColdChef at 10:15 PM on October 5, 2012 [14 favorites]




It seems to me that Ryan Andresen earned his badge. The BSA leadership (in several echelons) has failed him, and has done a disservice to scouting.

Why turn in your Eagle Scout badges? You earned them. It would make more sense to lobby within your troop to correct social injustices than to walk off in a huff. If you can be thrown out of a troop for expressing your honest opinion in reasonable way, then make them do it with all the bells and whistles that go along with such a move. I believe the goals of scouting are worthwhile, and ought to be defended, not rejected because of the actions of those who don't seem to understand honor, service, and loyalty. Andresen has set a good example. Integrity sometimes is expensive.

Certain allusions in this thread to scouting as a preparation for military life are bothersome to me, but only because of their implied disapproval. If they simply meant that scouting encourages teamwork and dependability, and teaches basic bivouac skills, mapreading and orienteering, then, yes, it does resemble military training. Scouts are not typically taught to kill.

Not all scout troops are the same. For a while, I worked for the US Forest Service as a back-country packer. One of my routes involved packing for a wilderness ranger. Almost every year we had to counsel one of the local scout troops about putting their encampments across a trail, too near the water, and so on. It was enough to make a man weep, to see such clusterfucks in a scout camp.

I was a Boy Scout. Our troop had better supervision, and we learned good woodsmanship. Gay rights and racial issues didn't come up in the 1950's. Our troop had kids who were white, black, Latino, and of Japanese and Chinese ancestry. Not all of us had uniforms, but we all had the scarf, hat, and clasp, and we knew the scout oath. We had maybe ten books to pass around to thirty-odd kids. Our equipment was donated by parents. I was too poor to pay my dues for the first year, but the scoutmaster didn't seem to notice. Every year we went to the high country in the Sierras for at least a week. We had to break the troop up into two units to do this, because we didn't have enough adults who could make the trip: the parents had to work, and they didn't get summer vacations. We were short on merit badges, but we had a lot of good times.
posted by mule98J at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2012



Once, in 1969, for 20 minutes. Wait, wrong site.

I didn’t want to be rude – I was a guest, after all. But I was not there to publicly endorse him. Obviously, I would need to clear up the whole thing on stage, but Governor Romney beat me to it.

posted by tilde at 4:06 PM on October 5 [1 favorite +] [!]


Thanks, Tilde. That makes me feel much better about Mike Rowe.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:05 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks to ochswar (above) for the pointer to the Baden-Powell Service Association

"Adults joining the Rover section, whether with an existing group or as a Lone Scout, have the option of joining as a Lifetime Member for $100. This is a commitment from joining Scouters to BPSA and traditional scouting program here in the US; and these kinds of Lifetime memberships help the BPSA fund and promote its program nationwide."

I'll do that.
posted by hank at 10:41 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't return your Eagle Scout badge to the BSA; send it to Ryan Andresen; he earned it.

ColdChef, I love the pictures of you, your Dad, and your Dad's memorial tribute. You can do your best to try to educate the BSA that their intolerance and lack of knowledge is hurting them. If they were educated about male homosexuality, and understood the distinction (chasm) between male homosexuality and male pedophilia, they could learn to protect the boys in their care much more effectively. But they haven't chosen to learn, and the exodus of progressives leaves boy scouting much worse off. It's not a group I would choose to have any influence over my son. You have girls; they're lucky, Girl Scouting is inclusive, progressive, and a lot of fun. One reason I'd like to have added a girl to my family is to have had the scouting experience with a daughter.
posted by theora55 at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]




"[Matthew] Kimball, via a Facebook page [has] called on other Eagle Scouts to give their pins to Andresen after the teen’s story emerged last week."*
posted by ericb at 3:43 PM on October 9, 2012


Ryan Andresen will be on Ellen this Thursday (October 11).
posted by ericb at 3:46 PM on October 9, 2012




Baden-Powell Service Association

"... $100.... is a commitment from joining Scouters to BPSA and traditional scouting program here in the US; and these kinds of Lifetime memberships help the BPSA fund and promote its program nationwide."

Done.

Supporting BPSA I hope makes the point of not simply rejecting BSA but supporting a better approach.

I asked whether BPSA can accept transfer of a dusty old Eagle record from BSA to BPSA, which might make the point better than returning the physical material to whoever's taken over the BSA. Waiting to see what I learn about that.

The one person BPSA's membership map shows near me is also identified on his own blog as doing something conservation-related for the local BSA council, so I'm still scrutinizing what exactly is going on here.
posted by hank at 10:41 AM on October 18, 2012




Secret Boy Scout files show abuse cover-up:'Confidential files compiled since 1959 show US youth organisation covered up officials who allegedly molested children.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:19 AM on October 20, 2012


I would really like to see all this shit get aired out, quit the bullshit, gays /= child molesters (funny how BSA is totally against one and kind of ok with the other). BSA, if you can fix all this crap, you could still have this anarchist hippie's two sons, and a pretty decent assistant scout master to boot.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:39 AM on October 20, 2012




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