I’M RETURNING MY EAGLE MEDAL…

August 2nd, 2012

[Updagte No. 18 on 2 August @ 2225: We can add Return My Eagle to our list.]

More updates below the fold.

This piece orginally appeared at 1659 on Tuesday, 17 July. JH

Sitting in a box on my desk is the above medal.

I have earned the highest rank in Scouting.

I am an Eagle.

No longer.

Today I’m wrapping up my medal and returning it to the small and ignorant men who have so dishonorably abandoned the American values that I came to understand were embodied in the honor.

I no longer want to have the award in my possession.

[Update No. 17 on 1 August @ 2116: Via CJ Markham -- Spielberg Leaves Boy Scout Board and Boy Scouts ignore their own laws]

[Update No. 16 on 1 August @ 1530: The San Diego Gay and Lesbian News reports, but is way behind the curve, by telling readers that "At least six Eagle Scouts from across the country have returned their Eagle Scout medal to the Boy Scouts of America" when the number is, according to CJ Markham, 76 and growing.]

[Update No. 15 on 31 July @ 12:34: CJ Markham has updated the Honor Roll below and we're now at 60+ and growing.]

[Update No. 14 on 31 July @ 0940: Meet the Equal Scouts...]

[Update No. 13 on 31 July @ 0055 from Jim Armstrong at WBZ in Boston]

[Update No. 12 on 30 July @ 1734: Our Honor Roll --

Edwin Yates Florida 1971 Returned Aug 2000
Eric Ray … 1990 Returned Aug 2000
Jeff Hess Ohio 1973 Returned July 17
John Lawson … 1973 Returned July 17
Andrew Reinhard … 1986 Returned July 17
Jim Morrison … … Returned July 18
Terry M. Perlin New York … Returned July 18
Sean McPherson … 1994 Returned July 18
Martin Cizmar Ohio 1998 Returned July 19
Leo A. Giannini Massachusetts 2005 Returned July 19
Julie Praus North Dakota 1976 Returned July 19
“Papagoose” … 1987 Returned July 20
Curtis J. Markham California 1994 Returned July 22
Peter Straub New York 1967 Returned July 22
Sean Leavitt Utah 1989 Returned July 22
Andrew Stanton … 1998 Returned July 23
Robert Paxton Wisconsin 1988 Returned July 23
Tyler Mark Palmer Idaho … Returned July 23
Christopher Baker … 1997 Returned July 23
Mark Dooley Washington 1981 Returned July 23
Rob Tornoe New Jersey … Returned July 23
Dr. Zachary Maichuk … … Returned July 23
Jackson Cooper Kentucky … Returned July 23
Ben Howe … 2002 Returned July 23
Kee Nethery … … Returned July 23
Eric Vitiello Jr. … 1992 Returned July 23
Ian Birnbaum Texas 2002 Returned July 24
Dustin Lee Oklahoma … Returned July 24
Matthew Munley Illinois 2002 Returned July 24
Karl Best … 1975 Returned July 24
William Lynch Ohio 1993 Returned July 24
Douglas Woodhouse New York 1999 Returned July 24
Barry Furns … 1964 Returned July 24
Stentor Danielson Pennsylvania 1998 Returned July 25
Nicholas Berte Iowa … Returned July 25
Robert Ross … 2005 Returned July 25
Matthew J Wright New Jersey … Returned July 25
Harry Nelson … 1997 Returned July 25
Karl Lang Pennsylvania 1970 Returned July 25
Michael B. Stansbury Washington 1995 Returned July 25
Matthew Hallion Massachusetts … Returned July 25
Steven Diamond New York 1986 Returned July 25
Amelie E. Koran Pennsylvania 1993 Returned July 25
John G. Munley Illinois 2006 Returned July 25
Kevin McCarthy Connecticut 1982 Returned July 25
Rob Breymaier Ohio … Returned July 25
Justin Rapier … … Returned July 25
Stephen A. Schuster Washington … Returned July 25
Alvin Oram … 1965 Returned July 25
Joel A. Beatty MD Florida 1979 Returned July 26
Peter Grossman California 1975 Returned July 26
Chip A. Noon New Hampshire … Returned July 26
Frank Clarkson North Carolina 1978 Returned July 26
Davis Bannister … 2007 Returned July 26
Anonymous … 2007 Returned July 27
William R. O’Neill Florida 1998 Returned July 27
Luke Stevens … 2008 Returned July 27
George Suarez … 1984 Returned July 27
Owen M. Wartella … 1994 Returned July 27
Dave Maize … 1964 Returned July 27
Brandon Balontti Pennsylvania … Returned July 28
Dr. William Van Druten California 1960 Returned July 28
Matthew Hitchens … … Returned July 29
David Carr Ohio 1969 Returned July 29
Sean Blakey Washington 1994 Returned July 30
Max Brantley Arkansas 1965 Returned July 30
Andrew White … 2007 Returned July 30
Vance A. Sloan North Carolina 1993 Returned July 30
Allen Johnson North Carolina 2010 Returned July 30
John W. Ramsburg … … Returned July 30
William J. DeVos New York 1972 Returned July 30
Dr. Mark Varnum Maine … Returned July 30
Ted Phillips North Carolina 2007 Returned July 31
Bryan D. Vierow … … Returned July 31
Joseph J. Paparone New York 2001 Returned July 31
Matthew V. Kerns Pennsylvania 2003 Returned July 31
Dr. Kenneth Hosley Georgia 1999 Returned July 31
Kyle Evans Florida … Returned Aug 1]

[Update No. 11 on 30 July @ 1136: Via Adam Harvey -- Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges]

[Update No. 10 on 30 July @ 0831: From the belly of the beast, Cincinnati, Ohio...]

[Update No. 9 on 27 July @ 0517: For personal reasons I'm no fan of Change.org, but I'm making an exception for informational purposes to: Boy Scouts of America: Reinstate Cub Scout leader who was removed for being gay.]

[Update No. 8 on 26 July @ 2012: Boy Scouts: “A few” returned medals A "few?" Yeah, right.]

[Update No. 7 on 25 July @ 1647: Boing Boing Part II is up.]

[Update No. 6 on 25 July @ 1622: Jim Armstrong from WBZ TV Channel 4 in Boston wants to speak with an Eagle there who has taken part in the protest. He can be reached at the station: 617.787.7236, on his cell: 617.438.7336 or via tweet: @jimarmstrongWBZ]

[Update No. 5 on 25 July @ 1231: From Time magazine -- Eagle Scouts Return Badges in Protest of Gay Ban]

[Update No. 4 on 23 July @ 1826: I may join Scouts For Equality.]

[Update No. 3 on 23 July @ 1457: Our newest fraternity has attracted the attention of Boing Boing. Please read all the comments (149 and growing). I am in tears, I am still part of a proud and honorable fraternity.]

[Update No. 2 on 23 July @ 0509: More Eagle Scouts join our newest fraternity.]

[Update No. 1 on 20 July @ 1305: Apparently I'm part of a movement and in good company.

Below is how Martin Cizmar responded.

You can follow Cizmar's story on Twitter...]

32 Responses to “I’M RETURNING MY EAGLE MEDAL…”

  1. Tyler Hurst says:

    Should I send back my Cub Scout uniform with Webelos badge? That’s as far as I got.

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Good afternoon Tyler,

    First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion. We build our communities with our conversations.

    Second,you have to act as your conscience demands. I suppose it depends upon how much scouting meant to you.

    In addition to attaining the rank of Eagle, I was also an adult Scout leader, a brother in Alpha Phi Omega and an adult staffer at a scout ranch in Northern Colorado in the ’70s. (I declined my nomination for Order of the Arrow, but that’s another story.)

    Being an Eagle meant a lot to me.

    Do all that you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  3. Glenn I says:

    ah, integrity, principles. Good for you.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good evening Glenn,

      Thank you for stopping in, for reading and for sharing your good wishes.

      I’m interested to know: where do we go from here?

      Do all you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  4. Mary Jo says:

    Geoff, you worked hard for that badge. Little did you know there were haters running the Scouts organization. Running it then and running it now. I’m proud of you for sending it back.
    Tyler, send yours back too! Who wants any part of a group like that?

    • Mary Jo says:

      Taking it back, I don’t know if haters were behind the curtain 35 years ago when you got your Eagle Medal. We’d need gay folks who were scouts back then to tell us their stories.

  5. Jeff Hess says:

    Good afternoon Mary Jo,

    Thank you.

    In 1974, just a year after I had earned my Eagle rank, the Boy Scouts faced another challenge: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints would not allow an African American boy to become senior patrol leader (the top scout leadership position in a troop) and the Boy Scouts of America went to court to force the Mormons to reverse their policy.

    I was proud to be a scout and an Eagle that year.

    Do all that you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  6. Thanks, Jeff. I’d guess that being an Eagle Scout including teachings/experiences that would in fact inform Eagle Scouts to give up the Eagle Scout achievement esp. in situations like this. It’s not something I’ve been a part of and you may recall that when one of my kids started into the Boy Scouts, I was torn. However, he only chose to engage with it for two years and I’m glad because I don’t think at this point I’d be able to let him continue.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good afternoon Jill,

      Thank you for the heads up on the Boing Boing addition.

      Just as I am honored to have served in the United States military while at the same time being deeply offended by our last three presidents, so too do I continue to honor the institution of Scouting — I think there is no greater experience for a boy — while feeling outraged by the hijacking of my fraternity by narrow minded bigots.

      In 1974, only months my own honor court, Scouting took a principled stand against the bigotry of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which refused to allow the elevation of a black scout to the highest leadership position, Senior Patrol Leader, in his troop, and forced the Mormons to back down and changed their policy.

      My hope is that again Scouting will do what is principled and right.

      Do all that you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  7. mordicai says:

    As someone who was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being an atheist, I want to say thanks. I was kicked out when I went up for my Life, so I didn’t make it to Eagle, but the discriminatory practices of the organization that was so central to much of my youth make me sad. It is good to see people taking a stand against them.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good afternoon Mordicai,

      First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion. We build our community with our conversations.

      Religion was not a big deal in Troop 216. I don’t remember any of my peers being even remotely demonstrative about religion and while I earned my God and Country badge, I was already of the opinion that no one’s god had any particular standing. You believed what you believed and that was fine.

      Do all you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  8. [...] Many others have posted their letters of protest online, with their missives calling attention to buzzwords like “ethics, “morals” and “equality,” traits that many of these renouncing Scouts say they learned in Boy Scouts, many wondering if the organization indeed supports these standards. [...]

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good morning friends,

      I’m stunned to realize I live in a world where ethics, morality and equality are buzzwords.

      Do all you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  9. Lisa says:

    Hello, Jeff –

    This is an action that requires a very strong commitment to ideals and ethics. I commend you for your continued support of what is right, and I am proud to call you Brother.

    Regards,
    -Lisa

  10. Jeff Hess says:

    Good morning Lisa,

    Thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion. We build our communities with our conversations.

    I don’t see what my brothers and I have done as particularly strong, we’ve done what is right and that’s part of what we learned to do as Scouts.

    My Scoutmaster, Gary Wilson, would expect nothing less of me.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  11. Daniel Brock says:

    Mature adult heterosexual men are not permitted to take young girls on outings for good reasons. It stands to reason, then, that it may not be in the best interests of the organization or the children if adult homosexual men take young boys on an outing.

    It is not about bigotry, it is about not getting sued and about protection for children.

    We all know that most men would not take advantage of children, male or female, but rules are made because of the few who would take advantage of the situation.

    It is regrettable, that the issue is called bigotry, when in fact is is simply “making sure that children are safe”.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good afternoon Dan,

      First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion; we build our community with our conversations.

      So all those mature adult heterosexuals taking part in Girl Scouts, Indian Princess and 4H activities are? What?

      Bigotry is bigotry and that is not to be found in either the Scout Oath or Law.

      Do all you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  12. bruce cinko says:

    Seriously? Can’t be scoutmaster cuz the gay guy might also be a petifile? Wow. With that kind of logic… just wow…. you just put all gays in the same category of petifiles…!? You sir are an ignorant scumbag.

  13. Jeremy says:

    I think I’m going to do this. I earned my Eagle Scout award in the 80’s, and I probably should have done this long ago. I live in San Francisco; I have many gay neighbors, friends and co-workers, and used to live in the Castro. There’s no good reason for me to keep this award when the organization I used to love simply does not want to include gay folks.

    I was active in the scouting movement for many years, working at multiple summer camps in Oklahoma, and was a member of the Order of the Arrow in Oklahoma as well.

    My suspicion is that returning my Order of the Arrow sash would send an even bigger message to the leadership of the Boy Scouts, as that award is even more difficult to get than the Eagle scout award.

    Now I have to find my medal!

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good afternoon Jeremy,

      Thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to enter the discussion. We build our communities with our conversations.

      Several other scouts have mentioned their OA sashes as well. I’d be interested to hear more on your perspective on returning the sash.

      Do all that you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  14. [...] that it was “less than 10″ as of late last week. I count Martin Cizmar, Rob Breymaier Jeff Hess, thirteen or so here, and nine more here. Plus a bunch more in links I haven’t the time to [...]

  15. Michael David says:

    I was a Boy Scout and both of my sons achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, so I know a bit about Scouting. I appreciate your conviction, but I cannot help but be glad that you (and others who choose to return their medals) have done so. If you don’t agree with the Boy Scouts decision (which I do wholeheartedly) then you really have no business keeping the medal. The more Eagle Scouts that disagree with the Scouts position on this matter that return their medals, the better (IMHO).

    Unlike others I do not believe that any homosexual scout leaders would be a molestation risk. There is no correlation between being homosexual and being a pedophile. However, being openly homosexual (and believing this is right) definitely conflicts with the values of Scouting. The Scout Oath includes the phrase:

    “To do my duty to God”

    If Scout leaders are to do their duty to God, then they cannot be actively (and continually) sinning against God and promoting such sin with Scouts. The Bible is clear that the practice of homosexuality (not simply being homosexual) is a sin. Therefore being an openly homosexual Scout leader would conflict with this oath, it’s pretty much that simple.

    Thank you for having the courage to return your medal. Since you fundamentally disagree with the Boy Scouts’ position, it’s really for the best that you return the medal. Any homosexual Eagle Scout (or any Eagle Scout that disagrees with this position) really should return the medal. It’s best for both parties.

  16. There are more people returning than you have listed; you are not alone. One of my best friends returned his Eagle Scout medal (with a strongly worded letter) about 10 years ago in protest of the anti-gay policy.

    Girl Scouts have never discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. So your conscience is clear if you want the cookies.

  17. [...] Previously: I’m Returning My Eagle Medal… [...]

  18. [...] The small and ignorant men who have so dishonorably abandoned the American values that I came to understand were embodied in the honor of earning the rank of Eagle Scout are losing to the boys who understand what Honor really is. [...]

  19. NotCrooked says:

    Let’s clarify that it’s a ban against OPENLY gay members. Sexual orientation is and should be a private matter. There are no merit badges for sexual education, and the BSA states that their organization is not the platform for the gay agenda and their leaders are not professionals regarding sex ed/counselling on those matters.

    It seems pretty hypocritical that any gay would have or plans on joining, and alternately not leave the BSA. So, disagree away and go form your own organization. My beliefs are keeping young boys away from talking about these private matters and keep the focus on merit badges and camping.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good morning NotCrooked,

      Your choice of name clearly suggests that you believe that LGBT scouts are crooked. That is a dangerous message and one that supports ostracizing and bullying of the other. At the extreme your belief is one leads to physical injury and even death for boys and young men who are different from your fantasy of the perfect world.

      Is it the scouts that you don’t want talking about private matters or are you, as I suspect, an adult who feels uncomfortable talking about sex and sexuality and thinks that if we don’t talk about such private matters they don’t exist?

      Sexual orientation is not a choice and our boys (and girls) will be what they are regardless of what we feel comfortable talking about.

      As adults, as mentors and specially as role models, we have a duty to do all that we can to create a clear path for our youth to traverse the rocky terrain of adolescence and become strong, healthy members of our society.

      Ignorance, bigotry and prejudice only serve to make that journey more difficult; we must remove the boulders, not place more in the way.

      Do all you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff
      Troop 216 Honor Court, Marietta, Ohio, 5 September 1973.

  20. NotCrooked says:

    Bullying is BTLG trying – through coercion, bigotry, and bullying of their own – to get a private organization that does not support open discussion about sex. I’m just saying that I agree that the BSA is not the time, place, nor platform for discussing those matters.

    I do not mind talking about sexual topics with my children (open, but private) – letting them make their own choices.

    Sexual orientation is a made-up psychological abstraction for those with ‘certain feelings’ (i.e., an emotion). While while being black, Korean, male/female are classes of people.

    BSA states that that want their scouts to challenge their rules if the disagree, but once they give up their badge they give up that right within the organization.

    There are a lot of people who think they are diverse because the are gay and/or ‘know’ someone that is.

    • Jeff Hess says:

      Good afternoon NotCrooked,

      If you truly believe that sexual orientation is a made-up psychological abstarction, then we are not having a conversation based on reality.

      Do all that you can to make today a good day,

      Jeff

  21. NotCrooked says:

    Jeff,

    When I say NotCrooked, I simply mean ‘straight’. That does not mean I’m some religious-minded, gay hater (which I’m not). All, I’m saying is that the BSA as a private organization has the right to enforce the policies it choices, and should not be ostracized by those who do not agree.

    What you imply is that someone that doesn’t agree with your stance cannot be a “good” role model unless they discuss this supposed “modern” take on sex ed, and that regardless of that persons own beliefs (whether based on religion or not).

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