Another person has taken a stand against the Boy Scouts of America’s controversial anti-gay policy. And this time it is one of their highest members. On Friday, Hamilton Foster, a Charleston, South Carolina native, Eagle Scout, former Assistant Scout Master, and Chaplin Aide, released to the press a letter he sent to Wayne Brock, the Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts. In it Foster renounced his Eagle Scout rank, sending in his medal and badge, and condemned the organization's stance, saying, “Your current stance and lack of leadership is one of discrimination and intolerance.”
In his letter he calls out what he sees as hypocrisy between the Boy Scouts’ current stance of gay participants and the Scouts Oath. In particular he states,
“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.”
The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the Boy Scouts were exempt from state anti-discrimination laws. As recently as 2012, the organization affirmed its anti-gay policy saying, “that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.” When individual troops have decided to go against the national organization’s policy, they have often received pressure to stop, such as Pack 442 of Clovery, Maryland. The Cub Scout pack adopted a non-discrimination policy but quickly changed it after pressures from national organization.
In his letter, Foster claims that even though he was an Eagle Scout and Assistant Scout Master, he had never seen the Boy Scouts’ position on gay members and was horrified upon learning about it.
He is prepared to take any backlash that may come from his stand stating, “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.”
A growing number of voices within the scouting community have spoken out against the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy. A growing number of Eagle Scouts have taken stances similar to Foster’s and returned their badges and medals. Although the Boy Scouts do not reveal the numbers of returned medals, a Tumblr, Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges, has 225 confirmed letters so far. Back in March, Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, one of the world's richest men and a former Boy Scout himself, said the anti-gay policy should be done away with. When asked why, Gates gave a short but powerful answer, “Because it’s 2013.”
Foster said that he would be doing more then taking a stand, vowing “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.”
The Boy Scouts are set to review their anti-gay policy in May after reviewing the results of 13-question survey sent to 1.4 million parents, leaders, and Scout alumni. Questions in the survey included their reaction to a gay man leading a Scout camping trip, a lesbian mother leading a cub scout pack, and a gay scout staying in a heterosexual scout’s tent on a camping trip.
In the closing of the letter, Foster notes on the tension between his viewpoint of the scouting ideas and the official Boy Scout organization. He ends with, “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.”