After Earning Rank of Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America Tell Him He’s Not Worthy Because He’s Gay

I know it’s not news to most of the readers here that the Boy Scouts of America is a bigoted organization. If you’re gay or atheist, they want nothing to do with you.

But it always helps to have a reminder.

Ryan Andresen just accomplished all the requirements needed to become an Eagle Scout. He’s not going to get the award, though, because the BSA doesn’t think he deserves the honor:

Ryan Andresen in front of a ‘Tolerance Wall’ that he helped create for his final Boy Scouts project

Andresen recently “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,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told NBC News in a statement. “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.”

The BSA is a private organization. If they want to be homophobic and God-centric, they have every right to do that.

But public schools shouldn’t give them space to recruit members, the government shouldn’t give them taxpayer money, and the rest of us shouldn’t give them any respect.

That’s not to say people like Andresen did anything wrong. In fact, he did everything right. He’s the role model in all this.

Yet, after a decade spent doing everything the BSA wanted him to do, the Boy Scouts would do well to learn some lessons from Ryan. They would become a better, more inclusive organization if they did.

(via The Adventures of an Atheist Lutheran)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Gus Snarp

    This is proof of my biggest problem with the BSA’s stance on gays and god. Namely, that it makes a mockery of their commitment to the value of honesty. Yes, in the Scout Law “Trustworthy” comes first, but it’s clear that the BSA places bigotry (and belief in god) above honesty. Here is a young man who represents all the values Scouting claims to believe in, but because his commitment to the first of those values, honesty, is too strong they’re going to punish him. For being gay. Which isn’t anywhere in the Scout Oath or Law, but is buried in more recent administrative rules. I needed a little reinforcement of my decision not to sign my son up for Cub Scouts while all his friends are joining. Thanks.

    • Archaeopteryx1861

      I think they argue that the anti-gay thing IS in the Scout Oath:

      “On my honor I will do my bestTo do my duty to God and my countryand to obey the Scout Law;To help other people at all times;To keep myself physically strong,mentally awake, and morally STRAIGHT.”

      Caps lock my own emphasis. I think some have used this to say that gay scouts are NOT being honest when they swear an oath like that..and then be morally not-straight. It’s lame logic, but there ya go. 

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        “I think some have used this to say that gay scouts are NOT being honest when they swear an oath like that..and then be morally not-straight.”

        The problem is that most kids get involved in Scouting long before they know they’re gay (or agnostic/atheist). When they discover these facts about themselves, what are they to do? If they conceal it, they’re not being honest. If they’re truthful, they will get kicked out. (People in the comments are also unkindly suggesting that this young man decided to come out just so he could get publicity or sue. Presumably those people would have preferred he lied.) 

        It’s a no-win situation, and it contributes to making kids feel bad about themselves– they are told that homosexuality (and a lack of belief in God) is shameful and morally wrong. This is a good reason not to put your kids into Scouts from the get-go, IMHO.

      • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ trivialknot

        That part of the oath dates to around 1911, while “straight” as slang for heterosexual dates to 1941.  You can find this stuff on the internet.

        • Gus Snarp

          Thank you for covering this for me while I was away from my computer.

      • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

        Particularly lame logic, since it says “morally”, not “sexually”.

    • LutherW

      “Here is a young man who represents all the values Scouting claims
      to believe in, but because his commitment to the first of those values,
      honesty, is too strong they’re going to punish him. For being gay.”

      Not really. His project was a TOLERANCE WALL. Clearly they do not believe in that.

  • Silver_fox-trot

    Ugh, i for one cannot wait for thier older, interant leaders to go away or for thier membership to decline because of thisr practices and leave room for the more Scout-like Scouts.

    As a long serving scout myself i feel deeply ashamed about having ANYTHING in common with those assholes.

    • themanfromtallahassee

      Yeah, you really sound like someone who follows core BSA practices. Don’t let the door hit you as you leave the organization. I just can’t get over all these people who have issues with BSA and stick with the organization. Leave and form your own for chrissakes (oh…can i say that here??!!)

  • Brian Westley

    Not that it will change the BSA’s mind, but there’s a petition (over 150,000 signers already) to have his Eagle awarded:

    http://www.change.org/petitions/boy-scouts-don-t-let-your-anti-gay-policy-deny-my-son-his-eagle-award

    • Silver_fox-trot

       Somehow I doubt that they’ll change their mind about the award and if I was him, I’d refuse to accept tainted with their bigotry in the first place.

  • Alexandra

    The bigotry in the Boy Scouts makes me really sad.  Girl Scouting was really very important to me, and it’s sad to see scouting being paired with being an asshole. 

    Though I guess that’s the reason that Girl Scouts exists in the first place.  They started out excluding girls, so girls had to go make their own club. 

    • amycas

       What’s great is that the Girl Scouts are actually more inclusive than the Boy Scouts. Of course, now there are some orgs that are “co-ed,” can’t think of their names right now (campfire maybe?).

      • Alexandra

        Yeah, I’ve been really proud of Girl Scouts and their inclusiveness!

        • very old student

           It might be usful to remember that in Old English “girl” meant a child regardless of gender, and “boy” was the word for a servant!

  • CanadianNihilist

    In Canada, we may have the same administrative principals in place but as far as I have observed they’re not enforced.
    One of mu troupes had an openly gay scout and no one cared.
    They even let in girls. I don’t know why since we have a female equivalent to every level of scouting here. As I recall it went:
    Boys            Girls
    Beavers  =  Sparks
    Cubs       =  Brownies
    Scouts    =  Guides
    And then they merge at Ventures.

    But sex isn’t the issue at hand, I kind of trailed off, My point was Scouts in Canada is not (as) bigoted as American Scouts are.
    So simple solution. Move to Canada. It’s great here. Far less theist (at least in the west coast),  Great weather. I mean if you like rain then forget about it. Also we don’t hate on the gays.  Gay marriage is legal Canada wide.

    • Silver_fox-trot

       This is true, but we still have our fair share of religious idiots. One guy in charge of federal prisons just decided to fire all non-christian chaplains. His explanation? He  said ‘the government … is not in the business of picking and choosing which
      religions will be given preferential status through government funding’. And he does this by making everyone who wants to see a chaplain go to see a Christian one.

      *Headdesk*

      I thought we were supposed to be better than this?

    • Alexandertimothy08

       Beaver? is that a canadian thing cause when I was going through, it was tiger cubs, cub scouts/webelous, boy scouts

      • Gus Snarp

        Yeah, beaver is a Canadian thing. We used to have loads of fun making fun of the t-shirts and patches that came out of Canada.

  • Live from Hee Haw Hell

    You know, this young man will probably lead a happier, more successful life than many of his counterparts because he had the courage to take this stand and be honest with himself and others at such a young age.  Much happiness to you, Mr. Andresen.  Your parents should be very, very proud!

  • Fynot29

    Get over it and stop flaunting your “gayness” as if it was normal…….it is not. It is an abomination.  Love the sinner, hate the sin……… Proud of “it’s” achievements (by parents), of course – not of the deviant behaviour…..

    • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

       Please kindly fuck yourself and die.

    • SeniorSkeptik

       The “gayness” is normal, it is the bible that is deviant.

    • nakedanthropologist

      Go fuck yourself you bigoted idiot.  That way your mom will be able to take a break.

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      If you ask me, one of the best reasons to give up religion and turn to reason is so one no longer feels the need to condemn other people’s perfectly harmless actions as “abominations” and “sinful” and “deviant.” People like you make me very glad I’m an atheist.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Unless they’re into the whole hamster thing. That’s just… ewww. The poor hamster.

    • Sergio Castro

      If you’d like to see a real abomination, go look in the mirror.

      I am proud of his achievements (not “it’s” or “its” which I think is what you were trying to type) period. Sexual orientation is irrelevant. I’m pretty sure there’s not a “Did it with a Female” scout badge anyway…

    • Brian Scott

      People, please. ‘Tis but a troll.

    • amycas

       Why is it that gay people are said to be “flaunting it” when all they did was be honest about who they are? I’ve never heard this phrase used in the same way, in the same circumstances, toward straight people.

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Are you one of those jesus people? You’re seriously not normal. The combination of rampant self-delusion and brittle hatred for everything that’s not about your pretend friend in the sky leads to some severely deviant thinking and behaviour.

  • Erp

    Couple of thoughts:

    1. Strictly speaking Ryan denies he has any problems with Duty to God
    2. It seems the BSA has not only denied him Eagle, they’ve kicked him out of the Scouts

    Now the BSA has kicked out youth who have refused to say Duty to God and they’ve kicked out adults who are known to be gay or lesbian but they’ve hemmed and hawed about whether they kick out youth who say they are gay (or lesbian [girls can join Venturing]) but are not necessarily sexually active.   Their most recent statements in July seem to say yes they do kick out such youth (though prior they seem to indicate that youth would not be kicked out though they couldn’t hold ‘leadership positions’ [a requirement for the higher ranks of scouting]).    If they’ve thrown in Duty to God as something else he has violated then they might be trying to obscure that they are discriminating on orientation and not actual sexual activity (the godless are worst than gays?).   So what aspect of Duty to God has he violated?  Is being gay or lesbian so immoral that even supporting them is a violation of Duty to God?  Or has he indicated he doesn’t believe in the Christian God or a personal God? 

    • amycas

       Maybe they think his being gay and being honest about it shows that he is against the “Duty to God” part.

    • The Other Weirdo

       I imagine the sky would fall if someone to suggest they change “Duty to God” to “Duty to Humanity”.

  • amycas

    Concepts like “Better” and “Inclusive” are mutually exclusive to the BSA higher-ups. Sad, I know.

  • Mdwelch27

    They’ve got a problem with the gay kid, but not with the hundreds of pedophiles that they actively covered for.  Unfuckinbelievable

  • lokicleo

    Hey, I just learned that if you join the army as a BSA eagle scout, you automatically enter at a higher pay grade.  There is a girl scout equivalent. Anyone know if there’s an equivalent program available to gay boys?  

    • Erp

       As far as I know Campfire does not discriminate and has the Wohelo Award though from the description it is a lot harder than either Eagle or Gold.

  • Erp

    I’m also wondering how much action we aren’t seeing.  The scout master seems to have changed his mind so was he pressured or did he see an insurmountable obstacle ahead that he didn’t want Ryan to face?   Note that the Scout master signing off is not the final step in getting Eagle.   The scout still has to face a board of review which is made up of people from outside the troop but within the district; if the scout master knew that someone on the board had negative opinions on gays (and the Eagle Scout project on anti-bullying might be enough to tip district people off that Ryan was possibly gay and to ask the Scout master or strongly hint or get themselves on the board). 

    Another possibility is that people within the sponsoring organization of Troop 212, Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church, put pressure.  The sponsoring organization is responsible for choosing (or removing) the scout master (though the BSA can veto).   Some sponsoring organizations are very hands off, some aren’t, but the power is there.  The church itself is Presbyterian Church of the USA which has a reputation for being on the liberal side (they lifted a ban on gay and lesbian clergy in relationships in 2011  but not by overwhelming numbers) though that hides huge disparities amongst and even within individual congregations.   Moraga falls on the conservative side in regards to gays.  To quote from the 2010 Denomination Relations Plan “The pastors
    believe, and Session has concurred through a series of actions, that
    Scripture is clear and uniform of its statement of homosexual behavior
    as a sin.” (but they love the sinner) and they mentioned but rejected the idea of leaving the PCUSA.   

  • http://www.trans-cendence.blogspot.com/ Joann Prinzivalli

    I would hope that Ryan and his mom reach out to one of the Baden-Powell scouting organizations that operate in the United States:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baden-Powell_Scouts%27_Association

    This Britain-based organization has scout troops in several states and supports scouting in others.  

    There is also the California-based BPSA-US:

    http://bpsa-us.org/

    Perhaps Ryan could join or organize a local chapter, and perhaps he can be credited with his project already completed.

  • funkotron

    I’ve spoken with a parent with many years of boy scout experience, first as a father who volunteered a lot, and now slightly higher up in the volunteering food chain.  Anyway, he claims that there is a lot of dissent within the organization, and that at the local level (at least in LA), they basically don’t follow the rules about discrimination against gays (not sure about atheists).  Further, that the high level leadership are all old dudes, and once they retire, policies will change. 

    Personally, I think it’s time to give up on the Boy Scouts, I certainly won’t support the financially or with volunteer time.  But I’m glad to know there is at least internal dissent.

  • IanGlazko

    I am an Eagle Scout, and I support many things that the BSA does.  This is not one of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/riley.smith.39794895 Riley Smith

    there is this person i know who is atheist/agnostic and he is an eagle scout what should i do  

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      If he wants to stay involved, tell him to keep quiet. The BSA has no problem kicking people out if they are discovered to have the “wrong” beliefs or orientation.

  • JT

    I think most adversaries of the BSA approach their stance on homosexuality and atheism with more poison and prejudice than it’s worth. If they want to have those positions on those topics, that’s their choice, and nobody should attack them for that as they are a private organization. If schools and the government choose to help them, that’s their choice too. Now, if he told his scoutmaster that he disagrees with scouting’s “Duty to God” requirement for Eagle, then he does not meet the requirements for the Eagle rank because requirement 2 of the Eagle rank is, “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life.” and part of the scout oath is “To do my duty to God…”. Therefore, he does not meet all requirements of the Eagle rank and cannot attain that rank, regardless of his status as homosexual or not.
    Myself, I am a proud Eagle scout. Some may stop reading after that statement, but I ask you to hear me out. Scouting has made me a better man through all the challenges I faced and the camaraderie that helped me through tough times. It helped me meet many friends and let me help other scouts in need. It has made me more physically fit and has given me countless opportunities to improve my community. I have built bridges and helped the homeless, and I have helped my church and my school through service projects. The scoutmasters are not pedophiles, regardless of what the media would have you believe, and they have helped me learn about many areas of life (i.e. getting merit badges) that have aided me since then.
    If you sincerely believe, then, that the BSA is an evil, bigoted organization that protects pedophiles and crushes dissent of its ideals of hatred within its ranks, then I pity you.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      If the BSA treated blacks and Jews the same way they treat gays and atheists, there would be no doubt that it is a bigoted organization.

      It’s unfortunate because there are many good families and nice young men involved in Scouts. My own younger brother was a Cub Scout in the late 80s. No one seemed to care that our family wasn’t religious, and no one told my lesbian mom that she couldn’t be the assistant to his Den Mother.

      If the BSA wants to discriminate as a private organization, then that is their choice, but they should be aware that they will face condemnation for doing so. And they need to quit whining about not getting free perks from the government or special access to children in government schools. If you’re going to discriminate, don’t expect the government to help you.

      • JT

        I agree partly. The BSA doesn’t really expect government help (rightfully so), but I can see why they wouldn’t turn down whatever they’re offered.
        However, racism and homophobia are different matters entirely. One might as well argue that stealing money is analogous to stealing babies in that they are both precious to someone, but that would not make both crimes equal.

        • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

          Well, I wouldn’t expect the BSA to turn down free perks. I think most of the criticism in that regard has been leveled at the government. What’s problematic is that government doesn’t see anti-gay and anti-atheist prejudice as sufficient to deem an organization unworthy of encouragement or promotion. However, if an organization denied membership to most other minority groups, you can bet your bottom dollar they wouldn’t be allowed reduced rates on government property or recuitment opportunities in the public schools. You can imagine the uproar if it was suddenly decided that Muslims weren’t welcome.

          As for racism and homophobia, I’m afraid I don’t see how they are any different. How is saying “you’re black, so you can’t join the club” different from saying “you’re gay, so you can’t join the club?” The person is being excluded either way. Arguably, it’s worse for gay kids in the BSA because they’re not refused outright. Most of them join when they’re too young to know their orientation. Then when they do realize they’re gay, they’re kicked out if they dare to come out of the closet. How awful to pour so much time and energy into an organization only to later be told that “their kind” isn’t welcome.