Eagle Scouts Honor Integrity Through Protest

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In the years since they graduated from middle school, several of my former students earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. I was proud of them. I read their stories in the local paper and was inspired by the various ways in which these young men improved our community. Each time, their accomplishments and selflessness impressed me. Earning the highest rank in Boy Scouts of America is an admirable achievement.

In the decades since BSA was created, millions of boys have gained knowledge and skills that build confidence, self-sufficiency and integrity. I don’t want to vilify the entire organization because they openly ban gay members and leaders. I don’t want to dismiss an organization that has clearly done so much good because of this single policy.

My first reaction to learning about the ban on gays in the Boy Scouts was disgust and outrage. Later, when my head cleared, I realized that I was truly disappointed.

Limiting participants excludes scads of boys and men, who could benefit from the program, and in turn, help others.

As an advocate of tolerance, equality and accessibility, I devoutly believe that every person has something meaningful to contribute to the world. The Boy Scouts agree. The Scout Oath says:

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.

In protest against this policy, dozens of Eagle Scouts have handed back their medals, the ultimate symbol of a young man’s hard-earned efforts. Returning their medals is an act of integrity. It can, in no way, erase the accomplishments, knowledge and caring spirits of these current and former scouts. If their gestures show anything, it’s that “morally straight” means doing what an individual believes is the right thing, even when it is unpopular or difficult to do so. In my book, that’s an even higher accomplishment than Eagle Scout.

Sofen is a middle school writing teacher in New Jersey.

Comments

The BSA was founded on

Submitted by erick on 4 October 2012 - 12:27pm.

The BSA was founded on principles of the Judeo/Christian tradition. As such it is entirely appropriate for them to exclude those who do not share these values.It is also a matter of safety for the boys.Those who are offended by such values ought to seek other organizations that fit their beliefs.Your definition of "morally straight" is based on a human feeling subject to change. Theirs is based on an unchanging eternal one, the Holy Bible. Thank God for an organization that will stand up for it's principles and not cave to the politically "correct" gestapo. Sincerely,erick amthor

Erick, I don't mind the Boy

Submitted by Ben Beck on 13 November 2012 - 11:27am.

Erick,

I don't mind the Boy Scouts being a religious organization if they call themselves one. I do mind that they are in the public schools. EIther they are a hate group and do not belong in our schools or they are a religious group and don't belong in our schools. What message are we sending to our LBGT students and staff when we allow the BSA on the campus?

Ben, The B.S.A. has a long

Submitted by erick on 1 December 2012 - 6:20pm.

Ben, The B.S.A. has a long history of helping boys grow into men of good character. The Constitution was never intended to exclude organizations with Judeo/Christian values from public schools or other public domain. The so called "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. The term comes from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Baptist minister. Jefferson and his contemporaries had a respect for if not a solid faith in the usefulness of the Bible and faith in God to preserving freedom and cultivating civility and responsibility in American society. The message is: this is our organization's code of behavior, you are free to join us and abide by it or not. It is called "freedom of association" and is a long held American tradition as well as a right guaranteed by the first amendment. I am sure LBGT students and staff can form their own clubs.