My Eagle Scout resignation

 August 21, 2012

BSA National Executive Board
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
PO Box 152079
Irving, Texas 75015-2079

To the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America:

I really did not want to write this letter. In fact, I have been putting off this letter for over a decade now, but the board’s recent affirmation of its discriminatory policy has finally convinced me to do the right thing.

The problem really began my last couple of years of high school, the last few years of my Scouting career, as I slowly realized that I did not believe in a higher power. Though I would not be willing to apply the term “atheist” to myself until years later, I knew that my beliefs would not be welcome in the Boy Scouts. It did not seem fair to me that I would be considered an immoral person simply because I did not believe in a god. I felt like a good, ethical person, and Boy Scouts had helped instill those very ethics into me. I couldn’t see how my religion, or rather lack thereof, could change that. I knew that I should stand up for my beliefs.

But… I had joined Cub Scouts when I was seven with the express goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. Scouting had become such a big, such an important and meaningful part of my life, that I couldn’t bear to lose it. So I hid my beliefs away, and hoped no one would ask.

I earned my Eagle badge in July 1999 and was officially awarded it the following November. Around this time, I became aware of the court case involving James Dale which, I was surprised to learn, started in my own council: Monmouth Council, New Jersey. The following June, when the decision was handed down, I was working as the Nature Director at Quail Hill Scout Reservation, Monmouth Council’s official Cub Scout camp (my fourth and final summer working there.) Prior to this, I was unaware of the BSA’s policy against homosexuals, perhaps because I could not imagine why in the world such a policy would be in place. Though it did not affect me personally, this policy still struck me as a gross injustice. I heard a few unsubstantiated stories of Eagle Scouts returning their badges in protest, and I knew that I should join them. I knew that I should stand in solidarity with those unfairly excluded, and renounce an organization that, to me, appeared to be betraying its own core teachings.

But… the Scouts had given me so much. Leadership skills, when I am anything but a natural leader; confidence in my abilities, when I am too often retiring and full of self-doubt; a love of the outdoors; innumerable skills that I continue to use in my everyday life; and so much more that I can’t even begin to list. And when I finally earned my Eagle Scout badge, it was (and continues to be) one of the proudest achievements of my life. Deep down, I couldn’t bear to give it up. So I didn’t. Oh, I would talk about how unfair the Scouts’ policies were. I wrote college essays, blog posts, and would discuss it strongly whenever it was brought up, but I also made excuses for my continued association. “It’s such a good organization, and can provide so many valuable things.” “They’re on the wrong side of history, and will realize it sooner or later.” “Their actions don’t affect what I achieved.” Somehow, I thought that maybe if I just waited long enough, the Boy Scouts would come to their senses. So I kept my badge, and the title of Eagle Scout.

The announcement of July 17, therefore, was a great disappointment to me. A decision was made in a “secret council” – which seems hardly trustworthy – to strongly reaffirm its exclusionary policies. I realize that on some level this must have been hard for you, for all of you. After all, some of the BSA’s most major donors and supporters are religious organizations with strong stances against homosexuality and, naturally, atheism. The Scouts would stand to lose that support and a great deal of money if they were to reverse these policies. While this may be true, it pains me to see that the National Executive Board is not brave enough to choose the right way over the easy way.

In a way, then, I want to thank you. I want to thank you all for reminding me what it really means to be a Scout, and what values I should truly be holding dear, for I too was taking the easy way. It was too hard to give up something so important to me, which had so much of an impact on making me that man I am today. Unfortunately, I can no longer call myself an Eagle Scout when that stands for an organization saying that I am immoral because I always try to do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do, and not because a deity told me to. I can no longer claim to be proud of an organization that says that two consenting adults having a loving, caring relationship that is a danger to absolutely no one is wrong for such insultingly vague and rationalized reasons as being “unclean” and “not morally straight” just because of their gender. I can no longer in any way stand with an organization that so blatantly goes against its own professed values, values that I try to live my life by.

I really didn’t want to write this letter. I wanted the Boy Scouts to be better than this. Unfortunately, you have shown that not to be the case. Thus, it is with a heavy heart that I return to you one of my prized possessions, my Eagle Scout badge and medal. Hopefully, you will one day be trustworthy enough, kind enough, and brave enough to do the right thing. When that day finally comes – and I do hold out hope that it will – I will once again be proud to call myself an Eagle Scout.

Robert N. Vary

Former Senior Patrol Leader, Troop 358, Freehold, NJ
Former Den Chief, Pack 152, Jackson, NJ
Former Brotherhood Member, Order of the Arrow, Na Tsi Hi Lodge 71
Former Eagle Scout, 1999

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