April 5, 2013
Chief Scout Executive
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079
First of all I would like to apologize for a poorly written letter as I have not dedicated the time deserved to fully discuss the matter at hand. However, I feel the urgency to express my concerns and opposition to the following matter is something that outweighs common formalities. I understand that the BSA has reaffirmed its long-standing ban against openly homosexual leaders, youths, as well as adults. I have also recently learned of Maryland Pack 442’s brave stance against LGBTQ discrimination, and the National Capital Area Council’s threat to rescind their membership. Reading reports that homosexuals were banned from scouting made me ashamed to be associated with the organization I once relished. I realize that this bigotry has been a part of scouting since its inception, but I was just recently made aware of it (and it disgusts me). A Scout knows how to recognize and follow good leadership. I therefore enclose with this letter my Eagle Scout medal and badge, symbols of lifetime membership in Scouting’s brotherhood. Receiving my Eagle Scout medal remains among the proudest accomplishments of my life (a rank earned by only 2% of Scouts). I relinquish this award with great reluctance but also great pride (which I will explain further in my conclusion). Scouting, for me, was a school of leadership and confidence. I remain grateful to Scouting for its many lessons, and I value the opportunities it provides for young people worldwide.
The Boy Scout Oath requires scouts to do our duty to god, country, and others. My god is one of love, tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding. Your current stance and lack of leadership is one of discrimination and intolerance. My country recognizes the rights and civil liberties of homosexual partners and is continuing to abolish antiquated legislature discriminating the homosexual community. Despite society’s continued advancements towards our civil rights and united pursuit of social equality the board of the BSA still chose to characterize homosexuals as somehow deviant. Duty to others means helping others, and doing good deeds. One’s sexual orientation does not make a person less human or less in need of care, love, and support. I feel horrible to have not realized the BSA’s views regarding this matter as it was not translated in my scouting career.
A Scout is Loyal. I do not turn my back on my fellow Scouts, friends, family, or co-workers because they may be tall or short, white or black, straight or gay.
A Scout is Friendly. He is a friend to all, not just to those sharing his particular belief systems.
A Scout is Kind. Kindness extends a hand to all, and is blind to sexual orientation.
As an Eagle Scout, I challenge you to live up to the Scout Oath and to welcome gays into Scouting’s ranks. Until then, I no longer believe the Eagle Scout status within the BSA to be consistent with my own moral duty to god, country, and others. As such, I hereby return my Eagle Scout medal and badge, enclosed in this letter.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
As an Eagle Scout who cares deeply about the future of the BSA I cannot, in good faith, remain silent about the discrimination and exclusionary policies that throw into question the entire mission of scouting. The majorities of Americans view the homosexual community as equal and continue to grow in their numbers and support in social reform and equality. Despite the fact that gays and lesbians serve openly in our armed forces, and that both of last year’s U.S. presidential candidates support lifting the BSA’s ban, the Boy Scouts continue their discrimination against gay members. This makes me question the true mission of the organization I came to love. Does scouting seek to teach our future leaders the values of love, compassion, and equality before god; or, does it seek to disprove Dr. King’s unquestionable truth, that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”? I know that I stand on the right side of history, and that someday I will see my Eagle badge when the values and honor that the badge represents is restored in the Boy Scouts of America. It is sad that the BSA does not recognize the embarrassment from their stance on the issue surrounding gay leaders and members. I can assure you that the BSA will look back on their actions 10 years from now and feel an overwhelming since of embarrassment regarding their actions. I am ashamed that you are not embarrassed now.
In case there is any question, I have included the BSA position statements in recent years. Unfortunately, this is the first time I have seen this and I am an Eagle Scout.
BSA Released Position Statements Regarding Discrimination of Homosexuals
“We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.” The BSA thus “believes that a known or avowed homosexual is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law”
“We do not allow for the registration of avowed homosexuals as members or as leaders of the BSA”
“Boy Scouting makes no effort to discover the sexual orientation of any person.”
“Youth Leadership” policy stating that: “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.
“we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA. “
I would ask and challenge the BSA to be more forthcoming about their strong opinions cited above. If they truly feel that these beliefs are just and important enough to risk Eagle Scouts disassociation with the organization, then why would they just not include these in the Scout Law? I am a former Assistant Scout Master and Eagle Scout. This is the first time I have seen these statements. That alone should tell you that these convictions are not representative of the scouting population.
Gandhi once said,
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
I couldn’t agree more. I know that I can only honor my own beliefs and personally uphold the twelfth scout law by standing up against injustice to the fullest of my ability. In retribution, for not taking action sooner, I plan to make my feelings public. Despite the growing understanding and acceptance of my beliefs, I am prepared to stand up to any resulting opposition. This expected backlash is nothing compared to the injustice already inflicted on the homosexual community and others by the lack of leadership from the BSA board members which have not represented the beliefs of the scouting population or at the very least the consensus of the Eagle Scouts.
Just as jean shorts, slavery, Hitler, the KKK, and fanny packs became unpopular, I feel that it is only a matter of time before the BSA eventually changes their stance. At that point - preferably sooner - I would ask that any individual step down and resign within the BSA who has spoken out in favor of the BSA’s current discriminatory membership requirements.
I vow to petition other Eagle Scouts to make a stance on this issue. I don’t care to influence their beliefs. All I ask is that they make a stance one way or the other and not sit idly by. Also, I will ask the same of other scouts who have just been awarded the rank of Eagle Scout.
In conclusion, I said I would explain my new since of pride despite my overwhelming feeling of disappointment the BSA’s board and lack of leadership. In some strange way I have never been more proud in my life to be an Eagle Scout. Like a boat, your two happiest moments are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. I was overwhelmed with pride when I was awarded the rank of Eagle Scout, because I really felt like I earned it and it was something that a very few number of Scouts achieve through there Scouting career. The pride in my achievement was never greater until today. Ironically, this is the day that I no longer believe being an Eagle Scout is consistent with my moral duty to god (our creator not to be defined by others), country, and fellow people. As such, I hereby return my Eagle Scout award. I feel proud to have had an opportunity to implement and practice what I learned as a Boy Scout on a path to achieve the highest rank that scouting has to offer - the rank of Eagle Scout – and to use those morals and values to stand my own ground for god, country, and fellow men – even in the opposition of that same organization which bestowed upon me these very ideals. I have not talked to other Eagle Scouts regarding this issue; however, I have never felt a closer connection to other Eagle Scouts than I do today. I believe there are other Eagle Scouts, such as myself, who are ignorant as to what is going on with regards to the conduct of the BSA and their opposition to change an injustice within the organization that should have been changed long ago. Once other Eagle Scouts become more informed I have no doubt that they will take similar actions. In conclusion, I take pride in the fact that I am part of this select group of individuals. I take pride in knowing that this group will be the driving force to hold the BSA accountable for their actions before and after the BSA decide to change their policies. The Eagle Scouts who achieved the rank through their own self determination and drive rather than the pressures of family and others, largely consist of men that are our true leaders in society today and represent, by large, the true ideals of the BSA even in times of uncertainty. These are men of action. These are men who are part of the solution and not part of the problem. These are men who will become involved in problems that are not being solved, whether or not their involvement is welcome. Mr. Brock, I believe you are soon going to see these individuals holding you and others accountable for your lack of action and resolve as a BSA leader and representative. The true award of an Eagle Scout lies within the individual and not an organization. I am thankful that I will retain this moving forward. I challenge our youth in Scouts to achieve the ranks of Eagle Scout. My position today is not meant to discourage. In fact, I feel that it is more important now for our youth to aspire to achieve this hurdle in life. It is through this journey that our youth will learn what being an Eagle Scout is about. It will not be easy and often unpopular in times like these. However, you will come to realize that leadership is not about recognition and often not rewarded on the surface. It is a reward that is recognized within ourselves and it is our duty as Eagle Scouts to stay vigilant as leaders moving forward through life. Please accept my Eagle Scout medal and badge as a token not only of my pride as a Scout, but as a token of my pride of the Scouting ideals – two things I now find to be mutually exclusive.
Hamilton W. Foster
Former: Eagle Scout, Member of the Order of the Arrow, Assistant Scout Master, Chaplin Aide