Moraga, California — A Boy Scout troop in California is challenging the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America to award an avowed gay scout with Eagle rank despite the organization’s policies prohibiting membership of openly homosexual scouts.
Bonnie Hazarabedian, chairman of the Boy Scout district review board for the Moraga area, says she approved 18-year-old Ryan Andresen’s Eagle rank application and sent it on to headquarters to defy leadership on its stance.
As previously reported, in July of last year, Andresen notified his Boy Scout troop that he was a homosexual, and requested assistance as he was being teased at school. According to the Boy Scouts, Andresen also advised the group that he does not accord with the organization’s Christian faith, although he believes in a “higher power.”
“This scout proactively 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,” said Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, in a written statement. “Agreeing to do one’s ‘duty to God’ is a part of the scout oath and law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank.”
Not being aware that he would be refused, Andresen constructed an “anti-bullying tolerance wall” at a local middle school for his final project to earn the Eagle Scout ranking, which contained a mosaic of 288 ceramic tiles that listed various acts of kindness. However, Andresen said that he was later notified through his father that the troop would not give him the ranking because he announced his sexuality to leadership. Andresen’s father, who had joined the troop as chief administrator, immediately resigned.
The Boy Scouts of America says that it does not prohibit those that struggle with same-sex attraction from becoming members, but rather only bars open homosexuals from the group. Its current policy reads, “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, 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.”
Last year, the organization unanimously reaffirmed the policy after placing it under official review.
Spokesman Deron Smith told reporters this week that Andresen’s application never reached the national headquarters because it was intercepted by the chief executive of the local Boy Scout council.
“The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council, but it was not approved because this young man proactively stated that he does not agree to scouting’s principle of ‘duty to God’ and does not meet scouting’s membership requirements,” Smith explained. “Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle.”
Hazarabedian said that she had attempted to put the application through anyway because she believes the current Boy Scout policy is “out of the dark ages.”
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who serves on the executive board of the organization, has vowed to overturn the ban on open homosexuality in the Boy Scouts. He is poised to become president in 2014.
The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1909, and was created to mirror the British Boy Scouts, founded two years earlier by Sir Robert Baden-Powell.
“Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity,” wrote Baden-Powell in a 1917 publication entitled Scouting & Christianity.
John L. Alexander, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America, also echoed this sentiment.
“The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God,” he wrote. “The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe, and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings is necessary to the best type of citizenship and is a wholesome thing in the education of the growing boy. … The Boy Scouts of America therefore recognize the religious element in the training of a boy, but it is absolutely non-sectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.”