When we say to people, “If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one,” we cannot turn around and say the Boy Scouts MUST award Ryan Andresen his Eagle Scout Medal. The common phrase could actually be tuned around to say, “If you don’t like the policies of the Boy Scouts, don’t become one.” [If you are already upset, please keep reading.]
I personally won’t join a club that excludes black people, women or homosexuals, but the law gives private organizations the right to exclude people based on these and plenty of other criteria. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Boy Scouts overturn their policy, but if we truly believe in liberty and justice for all then we have to allow groups like this to exist no matter how much we disagree. Why, you ask? Why don’t we just make a law that mandates that everyone love accept each other? Sadly, my lovelies, that may sound great but it really isn’t. #1. Outward rules don’t change hearts. Love does. The Holy Spirit does. And #2. If we start denying rights to private groups your group may be next and whoever is in power can make you do that which is against your conscience.
Does that mean people shouldn’t speak up if they disagree? Of course not. In fact, the site Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges (thanks Alise Wright) features the letters of men who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout who have returned their badges and medals in protest of the policy in question. These letters are amazing and you owe it to yourself to check them out. In the mean time here is a small excerpt from a letter by Kyle Tiemeier:
I cannot bear to support an organization that endorses such profound intolerance and discrimination. The very values the Boy Scouts of America helped me develop—integrity, service and commitment to my fellow man—are what lead me to be ashamed of my affiliation now. You will find my Eagle Badge enclosed in this letter.
I sincerely hope the Boy Scouts of America will reconsider its policy toward homosexual members. I look forward to the day when I can once again be proud to be an Eagle Scout. When I have my own boys, I hope they will have an opportunity to be part of the inclusive, tolerant organization that I know the Boy Scouts of America can become.
I was also moved by this one by Dr. Erik Melchiorre
The Boy Scouts of America still discriminates against atheists, women, and gay men and boys. Even the US Army has moved beyond this level of discrimination for each of these groups. These are not the scouting values I grew up with, and I don’t want to be associated with bigots.
Returning my Eagle Medal and writing this letter was not any easy thing. I have agonized over this decision with my wife and daughters for several months now. The problem is that when I was a scout in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a troop of scouts of European, African, Sikh, Japanese, and Chinese ancestry; with fellow scouts whom we knew were gay and others who were atheists; with women helping in leadership roles; this was the “big tent” of scouting as I knew it. Originally, I felt that returning my Eagle would dishonor the memory of this unique experience that made all of us such good men. But now, I realize that it is the Boy Scouts of America who dishonor this memory.
I admire these men for taking a stand on this issue coming from inside the ranks. As Alanis Morissette asked, “Isn’t ironic, doncha think?” These men are standing up to their own organization based on the values taught to them by the very same organization.
I will say this, Ryan Andreson’s Eagle Scout project was worth doing even if his award from the Boy Scouts never comes. It is a “tolerance wall” which he built to deter bullying in school. The wall features tiles painted by elementary school students. You can see a picture of it here.
I do understand and support the legal right of the Boy Scouts of America to deny this young man the rank of Eagle Scout; however I pray that they will be motivated to extend the love of God (whom they wish to honor) to all and not to exclude others based on their perceived unworthiness. God says that humanity is worth everything, not just all of us, but EACH OF US.