C. William Steele
National Eagle Scout Association
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079
5 December 2008
Sometimes to be Silent is to Lie
— Miguel de Unamuno
When I was four years old, I was a Tiger Scout. Later, I became a Cub Scout, and then a Webelos. When I was old enough, I became a Boy Scout. Over the next few years, I advanced in rank, became an Eagle Scout and achieved many Eagle Palms. I had over 100 merit badges, was the Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, went on the National Jamboree in Arlington, Virginia, and the International Jamboree in Chile.
I was what could be considered one hell of a Boy Scout. Today, with much bitterness and sadness, I give up the only remaining symbol of those parts of my life. Today, I return to you my Eagle Scout Badge, and in so doing, renounce and reject the prejudices and discriminative practices of the Boy Scouts of America.
When I was about 16, I learned that agnostics, atheists and gays would not be tolerated by the policies of the Boy Scouts. While it’s true that as of 2000, the supreme court backs your (well-funded) position as a private organization to discriminate institutionally, that does not make it right. Each of these positions flies in the face of scouting elsewhere in the world, and each of them reinforces an environment in which people with different opinions are awarded different value. While it is true that Baden Powell said that “[no] man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws,” we sometimes must reflect on the beliefs of our founders, and put them in the context of their day. When Baden Powell made this remark, women had not yet gained suffrage, Nazi Europe had yet to come and go, and apartheid had yet to be institutionalized, let alone dismantled. In short, it was a different time.
We must ask ourselves what are we doing today that our children will disdain. Today we live in a world where religious differences can be enlightening and can lead to greater understanding of ourselves and our peers. Yet in this world, religion can be used publicly as an accusation (Obama as Muslim), and defenses to such accusations need not defend the religion, only the man. We live in a world today where religious differences lead to war, terrorism, and deaths of thousands of people. We live in a world where an organization designed to create leaders out of boys discriminates based on religion and sexual preference. If we are not careful, our children and their children will not look kindly upon our time as one of freedom of opinion and religion, but rather as one of oppression, war, and discrimination.
Your organization has at its heart some of the greatest lessons I have learned during my lifetime, and it saddens me greatly to be forced to abandon it. I plan to have children one day, and it saddens me greatly that they will not have the Boy or Girl Scouts of America in their lives. Most of all though, it saddens me that a national organization would choose not to include a diversity of people and opinions.
Enclosed is my Eagle Scout badge, one of my more treasured possessions. I hope some day to get it back from you, and I hope someday that you will realize the error of your ways.
Michael Lissner Eagle Scout, ‘98
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