24 July 2012
To The Members of the National Council:
My name is Michael Parks and I have proudly held the rank of Eagle Scout since 1996. Recently the Boy Scouts of America has decided to uphold a misguided policy of hatred and bigotry against homosexual youths and adult leaders. Though I myself am a straight man, I simply cannot support such a position. As such I am, at great personal pain, returning my Eagle Scout award as a protest to this decision.
After 13 years as both a youth member and adult leader with the Boy Scouts I joined the United States Navy where I served for nearly 10 years. Drawing on my experiences both as an Eagle Scout and as a Naval Officer, I have come to know that standing up for the rights of the persecuted is the most important thing a man of honor can do. Especially when it is the rights of a minority that are threatened by a hostile majority seeking to exact its moral domination. The true test of character for any strong democratic body is figuring out how to simultaneously protect the rights of the majority and minority, so that neither are threatened by the impulse to dominate the other.
Furthermore the particular manner in which this decision was reached with a secret committee comprised of a handful of people is abhorrent and stands in stark contrast of what America and the Boy Scouts should represent. You should be ashamed of yourselves. But at the same time, as a private organization, I respect your right to limit membership as you see fit. I simply cannot grant my implied consent through silence.
Thus, seeing as the Boy Scout national council has failed to show any leadership in this matter, it has become increasingly clear to myself and some of my brother Eagle Scouts that we will have to take up the fight for the rights of gay youth and leaders. We have determined that if you cannot lead from the front and do what is right, then we will do what is right and fulfill our promise as detailed in the Scout Oath to “help other people at all times.” Returning our medal is but a start, we will not rest until the ban against homosexuals is lifted. We all look forward to the day that the Boy Scouts is inclusive of all people regardless of sexual orientation.
To be clear, I am not renouncing myself as an Eagle Scout. I am simply returning a physical object that represents what and who I am. I have always felt it is more important to be a man of honor then to be a man with honors. It is because I am proud to be, not in spite of being an Eagle Scout that I do this with a heavy heart. I do not recall an asterisk anywhere next to the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, or Slogan that provided the caveat that these rules apply in how you treat others except for homosexuals. They are universal truths; all men and women are created equally and they shall never have their right to life, liberty, or their pursuit of happiness impeded. I long for the day that Scouting can join the U.S. military in recognizing that the only difference between gays and straights is who they love. In the meantime I find comfort in my decision in the Eagle Scout poem “What’s It Worth?” The badge itself is worth a few bucks at best. But what it represents is priceless, so too is the act of returning it to the national headquarters.
I am an Eagle Scout. I do not need a little piece of pewter and cloth to remind me of that. I am an Eagle Scout.
Thank you for your attention to this very important matter that will undoubtedly determine the fate of the Boy Scouts of America’s reputation and membership in the years to come.
Yours In Scouting,
Michael Parks, PE
Brotherhood Member, Order of the Arrow
Former Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 474
Lieutenant, United States Navy (fmr.)