To Robert Mazzuca, Wayne Brock, Wayne Perry, and the BSA National Executive Board:
While reflecting recently on my Scouting years, I realized two very important things: the first is that among my personal, educational, and professional accomplishments, becoming an Eagle Scout in 1991 is still the one in which I take the most pride. The second is that my Scoutmaster is the person from my youth who has most influenced who I have become - teaching me by example about integrity and doing what’s right, even if it’s not popular or easy.
What I find now, over twenty years later, is that I cannot in good conscience stand by and retain my affiliation with the Boy Scouts as you exclude from your membership boys and men who are gay. It is the very lessons I learned as a Scout that compel me to discontinue my affiliation.
Enclosed is my Eagle Award, which I return to you.
As with most who are returning our Eagles, this is gut-wrenching for me. In addition to my sadness in returning something I worked incredibly hard for, my Eagle Scout Court of Honor holds particular personal significance - it was the last important family event my Mother was alive to see. When she was buried, I chose to include in her casket the Eagle mother pin I had pinned her with five months earlier. At this moment I regret that inclusion; I can only hope that a policy change will alleviate that regret in the near future.
It saddens me that my son - who just turned one - will not be a part of the very organization that had such an impact on me, as my family will not be a part of any group that perpetuates discrimination and injustice.
While you may be within your legal rights to maintain this exclusionary policy, I believe you will find yourself on the wrong side of history. For an organization that cites “character building” as its core mission, it seems like the BSA has taken the easy way out, not the courageous position that truly would have been in support of the values I learned as a boy. Your stated reasoning for continuing this exclusionary policy presupposes that the involvement of gay boys and men necessitates in-troop discussions regarding “issues of same-sex orientation” — it does not; in all my years of Scouting we never discussed issues of two parent families, issues of divorce, issues of religion, issues of race, or issues of anything else that our very diverse troop membership reflected. We focused on leadership, integrity, resourcefulness, citizenship, the outdoors and other topics. Your logic is flawed and has at least the appearance of being disingenuous.
I need to wait for you on the right side of history. I have watched with pride as my fellow (former) Eagles have taken a stand, and quickly realized that I needed to as well. Watching events from the sidelines runs counter to my core values and my own inaction has put my integrity at risk. I hope you understand how strongly this elite group must feel to be compelled to take this stand for inclusion and step away from an organization that has meant so much to us.
Please reconsider your position on this matter. Any policy of discrimination and exclusion is wrong, and particularly shameful from an organization whose intent is to build character and leadership in young men.
Lee M. Berger
Former Eagle Scout
Senior Patrol Leader, Troop 601, Columbia, MD
Brotherhood Member, Order of the Arrow, Nentico Lodge