Ryan Andresen has been a member of the Boy Scouts since he was six years old. Now at 18, after 12 years of active participation, he’s been refused the organization’s highest honor—Eagle Scout—because he’s openly gay.
John Fenoglio, Scout executive for the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council, told CNN that though earlier reports stated otherwise, Andresen didn’t meet “membership standards,” specifically regarding his “duty to God, avowed homosexuality, and the fact that he is now over 18 years of age.”
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Yesterday was supposed to be a watershed moment for the Northern California teen; a local Boy Scout review board was said to have told him his Eagle Scout application would be approved and sent for a national review. In fact, several news outlets reported that Andresen was on the verge of being awarded the honor. But the scout’s candidacy had been rejected outright, never making it beyond the local level.
GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said in a statement today, “That BSA [Boy Scouts of America] national executives would not only thwart the approval of, but also simultaneously lie about the Eagle badge application of a committed young Scout, is not only shocking, it’s shameful. The organization continues to use smoke and mirrors to preserve an outdated policy that is wholly discriminatory and continues to erode the integrity of the organization.”
It’s a blow to Andresen’s family and his multitude of supporters. His mother, Karen Andresen, started a Change.org petition last year that’s so far amassed almost half a million signatures. California Senator Barbara Boxer and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom both wrote letters urging the BSA to judge Andresen on his merits, instead of his sexuality. And GLAAD continues to campaign on his behalf.
By all accounts, Ryan Andresen’s performance as a Boy Scout had been stellar. For his required final project, the teen chose to create a “Tolerance Wall” to show support for kids who had been bullied.
In previous months, spirits were high that Boy Scouts of America attitudes might be turning, even after the national council denied Andresen's first application back in October. Despite public pressure, change isn’t easily forthcoming for the century-old organization, which states candidly on its website that it does “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.”
The group generally uses freedom of religion as a defense against its anti-homosexual stance, but religious progressives aren’t buying that defense.
Jay Michaelson, religious scholar and author of God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, tells TakePart in an email: “The Boy Scouts of America do not have a monopoly on God, the Bible, or religion. Many of us, perhaps including Ryan Andresen, believe that doing our ‘duty to God’ means being honest, loving, and compassionate about our intimate lives. My duty to God is to listen when the Bible says ‘it is not good for a person to be alone’ (Gen. 2:18), and seek out a partner with whom I can share my life. It’s my duty to God not to lie (Exod. 20:16). If Ryan shares these values, he’s the one upholding his duty to God—and the Boy Scouts are the ones denying him the right to do so.”
Unfortunately, the organization has a legal right to do so. And for Andersen, that right is keeping him from making Eagle Scout.
How would you like to see the Boy Scouts held accountable for their anti-homosexual policy? Is it time for a lawsuit? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com