Boy Scout Denied Eagle Scout Status Because He’s Gay
So, Ryan Andresen has been scouting for over a decade now and has earned tons of badges, learned countless skills, served his community and others in need and above all had a wonderful experience with his friends and memories to last a lifetime, but the one event that was supposed to be the culmination of all of that has been robbed from him and his recent memory is now filled with rejection instead.
He has met all of the requirements for an Eagle Scout but has been denied this great honor which he earned because of a technicality: his sexual preference. (Warning: personal opinion on it's way). Now, as a former scout myself I can safely say that the experience for me was a social outlet and one intense goal-oriented project after another that I lived for week to week. It was nice to feel like you belonged to a club, especially when you can proudly wear your uniform and decorate it with pins and badges you've earned, not to mention adding cool survival tips and nifty day-to-day skills to your bag of tricks that you learned 'by accident' while you were having fun.
Now, decades later my kids want to join the scouts and I'm sitting here writing this baffled because I'm about to sign their registration forms and I don't see a box anywhere on it with 'Are you gay? Check Yes or No'. Both of my kids are drawn to it because it looks like fun and when I asked my girl why she wanted to do it over Girl Scouts, she replied with "The Boy Scouts do cooler stuff, Dad!" Zing! Can't argue with her there! But if they join now what will they be up against either first-hand or through their scout mates as they get older? At such a young age (or any age) do my kids need a lesson in how cruel the world can be, after all this isn't the first time this organization has made headlines in the negative sense. Ryan's finding that out exactly how cruel now and from one of the last places he'd expect it, people he thought of as friends. But thankfully, his real friends many of which he doesn't even know are standing up for him, some by turning in their hard-earned Eagle pins and over 350,000 people have signed an online petition that his mom started pleading for the Scouts to make an exception for Ryan.
After all, isn't that really what scouting should be about anyway? Discovery? You're learning about nature and physics and neat stuff to do with your hands but really in the end it's all about YOU, or at least it's supposed to be. But God forbid you discover something about yourself that scout leadership didn't intend or would rather you ignored. So, the standard response is to make you feel as if you're out of line, weird or rebellious and then shun you. Anyway, I digress. Here's what the Boy Scout leadership had to say so support their position:
"Recently, a Scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout Counselor that he does not agree to Scouting's principle of "Duty to God" and does not meet Scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation. While the BSA did not proactively ask for this information, based on his statements and after discussion with his family he is being informed that he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting. Belief in God is the foundation of scouting's strong, continuing commitment to encouraging moral, ethical and spiritual growth. It is the position of the Boy Scouts of America that no one can reach their full potential without belief in a higher power."
Now, granted it is their right to have a position and to uphold it legally, personally and publicly just as young Ryan has but this seems once again like a situation where the letter of the law has transcended the spirit of it and Ryan and others are being victimized. I must say scouting to me was not about religion at all and serves instead as a positive experience for both boys and girls to have, that is until you grow up, find out about sex and decide to take a different path than the one that the mainstream Christians in charge of the Scouts would like to steer you away from. Our country was founded on principles of freedom from any kind of oppression, especially the religious kind and this is the Boy Scouts 'of America' right? So why aren't they being very American? Similar in ways to what our forefathers experienced under their former English masters, that same attack on our freedom still exists on our own soil hundreds of years later although much more subtle but just as deadly to our spirit. It begs the question of what have we learned? Since when did the flag on the left become more significant than the one on the right?
Ironically, Ryan's Eagle Scout project was about raising awareness for bullying which he no doubt had experience with before his mentors accidentally gave him the perfect example of it in the adult world. Perhaps Ryan's scout leaders should take a lesson from the young people they're trying to shape and earn for themselves the most important life merit badge of all, the one on equality.
See Ryan this Thursday morning (10/11) on Ellen.