Yesterday, many outlets (including ThinkProgress) celebrated the news that a California Boy Scouts of America (BSA) chapter was recommending Ryan Andresen for an Eagle Scout Award, even though his scoutmaster refused to sign off on his application because he is gay. The chair of the review board that unanimously approved his recommendation, Bonnie Hazarabedian, said he deserved the honor and that it was her understanding his application was proceeding up the BSA ranks for further approval. Now it seems that Hazarabedian was led astray and Andresen’s application is going nowhere.
John Fenoglio, Scout executive for the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council, said Andresen’s application was rejected because of “membership standards,” specifically “duty to God, avowed homosexuality, and the fact that he is now over 18 years of age.” But Hazarabedian says that when she submitted Andresen’s application, Fenoglio told her it would be approved and forwarded to the national council:
HAZARABEDIAN: Our community is standing behind Ryan Andresen. When I dropped off Ryan’s unanimously approved Eagle Board of Review application and report on December 31, Mr. Fenoglio looked me in the eyes, patted the stack of papers, and said, ‘We’ll sign it and send it on, but can’t promise what will happen from there.’ I’m totally perplexed by this statement from Scout Executive Fenoglio, a man I greatly respect and admire.
Fenoglio has not issued any follow-up statements to address the conflicting stories. Boy Scout national spokesman Deron Smith’s explanation seems to coincide with Fenoglio’s, but offers little clarity:
SMITH: The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council but it was not approved because this young man proactively stated that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ and does not meet Scouting’s membership requirements. Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle.
Smith and Fenoglio’s statements are disappointing, but also revealing. It is no secret that the BSA has defended its anti-gay policy on religious grounds, but the organization has generally refused to offer details explaining the rationale for such a policy. Last summer, BSA recommitted to its anti-gay policy, hiding the reasons for it behind a secret committee. Conservatives like Bryan Fischer, Mike Huckabee, the Liberty Counsel, and the Family Research Council have all claimed the policy somehow protects children from pedophiles, despite there being no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.
But Smith and Fenoglio’s statements reveal that the Boy Scouts actually believe that an individual cannot be both gay and religious. Though the only religious group BSA does not accept is atheists, there is an apparent expectation that only heterosexuals can honor a “duty to God.” This is a significantly harmful judgment BSA is making not just of gay Scouts, but of LGBT people of faith everywhere.
Over 460,000 have signed a Change.org petition calling on the BSA to allow Andresen to receive the rank he’s earned after 12 years in the Boy Scouts. For his Eagle Scout project, he worked with elementary school students to create a “Tolerance Wall” designed to help victims of bullying know they are not alone.