August 22, 2012
BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079
Dear Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, and the BSA National Executive Board:
My name is James Kleven. I earned the rank of Eagle Scout on March 23rd 1992. It was and remains one of the proudest days of my life.
It is with an awful combination of sadness and conviction that I return my Eagle Scout medal and request that my rank be retroactively revoked. As a man who is gay, I cannot continue to call myself an Eagle Scout given the BSA’s recent decision not to amend its membership criteria.
I took an oath to be a person of honor, perseverance, duty, and service. I pledged to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. Scouting instilled in me a sense of camaraderie and the responsibilities of leadership. It taught me respect for nature, for others, and for myself. It made me proud to be the person I was becoming. The memories and experiences I have of troop meetings, camping trips, services projects, merit badge requirements, and awards nights are too many to count. They helped form the bedrock of who I am as a member of my community, as a citizen, a friend, a son, and as a man.
I left the Boy Scouts when I was sixteen, grappling with the conflict between my sexuality and the BSA’s ban on openly gay members. Though I regret that I was not brave enough then to be honest about my reasons for leaving, I realize now that no young man should be forced to make that awful decision.
I thank the former Eagle Scouts on the Tumblr site: Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges. Their actions have humbled me. By putting a sense of duty to others and self over a policy of exclusion and fear, they do an honor to the rank which they have already forfeited.
I urge you to reconsider your decision not to amend the BSA’s membership criteria. You are helping to form young men of conviction and strong character and then excluding them from your ranks for being true to their conscience or honest about their sexuality. If you cannot find a way to rectify this injustice, on behalf of these young men and loyal Scouts, I demand that you resign your posts of leadership and responsibility.
James S. Kleven
Former Eagle Scout