The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is known for its controversial stance on homosexuality. In July, the organization announced that it plans to continue its ban on gay membership after a two-year review of the contentious policy.
This obviously did little to redeem the BSA in the eyes of gay rights activists, who believe that its Christian-based views are discriminatory and unacceptable. And new Allegations coming from Ryan Andresen, a scout for the past 12 years who is claiming his homosexuality is preventing him from participating in the BSA, will likely add fuel to the proverbial fire.
Ryan is claiming that, despite more than a decade of service in the scouts, he is being denied the group's highest honor -- the Eagle Award -- because he is gay. The San Francisco resident says that he recently finished an extensive service project that was required in order for him to receive the award, however his troop leader is allegedly refusing to grant him the honor.
"He said he can't because Ryan said he is gay," explained Karen Andresen, the boy's mother.
Interestingly, Ryan claims that his scoutmaster has known about his sexual orientation for quite some time. In fact, he says that it was a point of discussion and that the local leader told him that they would "get by the gay thing." Ryan told Yahoo! News that he is devastated by the refusal to grant the award.
"It was by far the biggest goal of my life," he told Yahoo! News. "It's totally devastating."
Troop 212's leaders did not respond to requests by media, but a national spokesperson for the BSA did put out a statement regarding the matter. Deron Smith, an official representative for the group, said that Ryan contributed to the current situation by openly stating that he is opposed to the BSA's religious stance.
"Recently, a Scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout Counselor that he does not agree to Scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet Scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," smith wrote to Yahoo! News. "While the BSA did not proactively ask for this information, based on his statements and after discussion with his family he is being informed that he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting."
Clearly, there's an issue here of free speech and religious practice on behalf of both Ryan and the organization. While some may disagree with the BSA's actions, the group maintains a strong allegiance to faith and, thus, opposes gay membership. As far as Ryan goes, some will argue that he is merely remaining true to himself and that he should reserve the right to do so. There's no easy answer on either front, as the situation is certainly a complicated one.
Regardless, Ryan's mother, Karen, is working diligently to urge local leaders to overturn the decision. The scout only has a few days remaining until his 18th birthday -- the cut-off point by which he must earn his Eagle badge. She has launched a petition in support of her son that has already brought in more than 133,000 signatories. On the web site for the petition, she wrote, in part:
It hurts me so much to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he's perfect. Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning that well-deserved distinction. I hope that if enough people come together, we can convince my son's troop leaders to help him feel proud of who he is and all he's accomplished.
"Citizenship in the Community," a merit badge earned, means standing up for what is right, and I am proud of Ryan for doing just that. Will you stand with him too, and join this campaign?
"I'm so disappointed and confused," Ryan said of his scoutmaster. "I know he isn't a person who hates gay people, but I never thought he would do something like this."
What do you think about this scenario? Let us know in the comments section, below.
(H/T: Yahoo! News)