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MailTribune.com
  • Former Eagle Scout returns badges, awards

    Decorated Scout joins growing U.S. protest of organization's ban of gays from ranks
  • For decades, Bradley Fritts hung his framed Eagle Scout certificate he earned when he was 15 years old next to his bachelor's and master's degrees in his office.
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  • For decades, Bradley Fritts hung his framed Eagle Scout certificate he earned when he was 15 years old next to his bachelor's and master's degrees in his office.
    The 65-year-old retired high school principal and special education instructor proudly points to his Life Scout award and names all 24 merit badges he earned in topics ranging from astronomy to music.
    Fritts recited the Scout law Thursday afternoon in his home in Ruch as he stacked the awards on top of a 1948 Boy Scout field guide that belonged to his brother.
    "It's all being sent back," he said.
    Fritts is one of dozens of Eagle Scouts nationwide who are returning badges and plaques to the Boy Scouts of America because of the organization's decision last month to continue a decades-long policy of excluding membership and leadership positions to gays and lesbians.
    Fritts, who became a Cub Scout in 1953 and whose two brothers and son also were in the Scouts, mailed the awards and a letter Friday to the Boy Scouts' national headquarters in Texas. He said the policy goes against the anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies he enforced during his 42 years working for several Oregon and Washington state school districts. The policy also goes against what he learned as a Scout, he said.
    "I'm using what I learned by saying, 'Your policy is wrong,' " Fritts said. "It's wrong."
    After a two-year examination of the policy by a Boy Scouts of America special committee, the nonprofit organization decided to continue excluding membership and leadership to gays and lesbians on July 17, according to a news release.
    Deron Smith, national spokesman for Boy Scouts of America, said in a prepared statement that no policy will appease all 2.7 million youth members and more than 1 million volunteers.
    The organization is not keeping track of how many Eagle Scouts have returned their awards, but Smith said the Boy Scouts are "disappointed to learn of anyone who feels compelled to return his Eagle rank."
    Tom Gornick, a Roman Catholic Scouts chaplain for Western Oregon, said he hasn't yet discussed the decision with his committee that addresses Boy Scout policies. Among religious groups, the Catholic Church has the third highest number of Boy Scout members, totalling more than 280,000, according to a 2011 Boy Scout report.
    Gornick expects the committee to discuss the policy in the fall but isn't sure what will happen.
    "There's still a debate within the Scouts about how this will be handled," he said.
    A blog called "Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges" has featured new letters every day from Eagle Scouts across the United States who returned their awards since the organization announced it won't change its policy. So far, the blog contains more than 100 letters and photos of Scouts holding their awards.
    Fritts said it's not easy giving away plaques and certificates that represent hundreds of hours of hard work and community service. His 70-year-old brother is also returning his Silver Buffalo Award and merit badges.
    "I am proud of this work," Fritts said. "It was a major part of my youth. It was great fun, and I made great friends."
    As he folded a green felt sash decorated with 24 merit badges, Fritts said he's proud of himself for practicing leadership skills he learned as a Scout.
    "It shows they taught me something," he said.
    Reach University of Oregon reporting intern Josephine Woolington at 541-776-4368 or jwoolington@mailtribune.com
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