Eagle Scout kicked out for speaking up against discrimination.

Seems you can’t even disagree with the Boy Scouts of America these days without getting into trouble. In October of 2002 I wrote about Darrel Lambert who was an Eagle Scout that got kicked out of the BSA for being an atheist. Today, I’m writing about an Eagle Scout by the name of Andrew Cote of Illinois who has been kicked out of his troop for criticizing the BSA’s policies with regards to gays and atheists. Apparently back on February 22nd an Eagle Scout Court of Honor was held for Andrew at Bethel Bible Church where he was presented with his Eagle Scout badge. As his acceptance speech Andrew decided to announce that he would be following the example set by his brother when he was awarded an Eagle Scout badge.

“The BSA doesn’t allow non-theist or homosexual people to experience the same memories I have. So as I receive my Eagle Scout badge now, tomorrow I will be sending it to ‘Scouting for All’ Headquarters, where it will hang on a wall next to my brother’s badge, and the badge of hundreds of other Eagle Scouts who believe in the same thing my brother and I believe in. That a Scout should be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Not two days later Andrew received a letter from Rev. Dean McFadden and Bethel Bible Church’s representative, James Moore that read:

“Bethel Bible Church as sponsor of Boy Scout Troop 352 has taken action to dismiss you as a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 352. You have taken a position which is not consistent with the policies of Bethel Bible Church.”

Some of you are probably thinking what the hell does the church have to say about this? It’s not commonly known, but the chartering organization that establishes a troop pretty much owns it and can remove members of that troop if they so wish. Troop 352 is chartered by Bethel Bible Church.

The article where I read about this is written by a woman named Terry Bibo who also happens to have served on Andrew’s Eagle Board of Review so she had an interest into finding out what happened. So she got in contact with the Troop’s Scoutmaster, Paul McKim, who said he was acting under the advice of W.D. Boyce Scout Executive Fred Wallace who had supposedly been told by folks in the national BSA office that Andrew should be dismissed. The only problem is, Wallace says that’s not true.

“No, it didn’t come from national. It didn’t come from the council,” Wallace says. “It was a decision of the church.”

McKim says that the group is “mis-aligned from the beliefs of the church and the BSA,” which is why Wallace directed the church to send Andrew Cote a letter of dismissal.

Again, Wallace disagrees. He says he did not know much about the group until this incident, and there is no directive from the national or council office to dismiss members of Scouting For All.

“That’s not true whatsoever,” he says.

Well, sometimes people hear what they want to hear. Checking with the Rev. McFadden, he says Wallace explained the church’s options.

“The office told us, ‘Don’t discuss it, just act.’ They told us, ‘You own the troop. You make the decision.’ So we did,” the pastor says. “He did not directly tell us, in my conversations, ‘You need to get rid of Andrew Cote.’ He did not say that. But he did say they would back it. And it did go all the way to national.”

But wait, it gets better…

The bottom line is if McKim and Bethel Bible Church disagree with Andrew’s stance, they can get rid of him – and his parents. Greg Cote was Troop 352’s committee chairman, which technically is the most powerful position in a troop. Along with his sons, he is a Universalist Unitarian. The rest of the Cotes are Catholic. (Only a handful of troop leaders and Scouts attend Bethel Bible.) Since Chris Cote was no longer a member of Troop 352 when he sent his badge back, he couldn’t be dismissed. But his parents could be removed from leadership.

On March 8, Greg and Melinda Cote and another member of the troop’s committee were sent a letter telling them that the church had dissolved the committee. A new troop committee was formed. In order to be on it, members must sign a leader agreement that reiterates the BSA mission statement, Scout Oath, Scout Law, and says “I do not disagree with the mission statement of Bethel Bible Church.”

Questioned on this the Scoutmaster again points to Fred Wallace who again points back to the Church and the troop for making this decision.  Wallace makes a point, for example, that Andrew was only kicked out of his Troop, not out of Scouting altogether. He could join up with another troop if he wanted as long as they don’t have a problem with his viewpoint. I found this last bit from the Reverend to be interesting:

The Rev. McFadden is in a difficult position. He relies on Scoutmaster McKim, who has been involved with Scouting for decades and helped organize national events. McFadden hopes people will not get the wrong impression of Bethel Bible Church. But he says Andrew knew what he was doing when he took a stand contrary to the church’s teachings.

“Conviction can never be sacrificed for compassion. There is compassion, but compassion cannot allow us to say, ‘We’ll let that slide,’” he says. “Were there no conviction, there could be no compassion.”

Which is fine and all, but what about Andrew’s conviction that the BSA is wrong to discriminate? Is the good Reverend suggesting that only the Church’s convictions are important? Have they considered the idea that Andrew is merely standing up for his own convictions without which, according to the Reverend, he couldn’t be compassionate? I would even argue that Andrew is not only demonstrating a conviction, but his compassion for those people not able to participate by speaking out on their behalf.

Oh well, just one more good reason I won’t support the Boy Scouts.

28 thoughts on “Eagle Scout kicked out for speaking up against discrimination.

  1. Having been a boy scout, and an Eagle Scout at that, I feel I’m qualified to speak on this subject (Who am I kidding, I would have spoken even if I hadn’t been one). My former troop is sponsored by a Unitarian church, yet I can’t recall a single time where religion was a part of my instruction. We concerned ourselves mostly with hiking, camping, doing community services, earning merit badges and learning about current events, to name a few of our more benign activities.

    We also did the normal things pubescent boys will do. No big whoop!

    I marveled at the challenges we gave ourselves, the friendships we formed, the trust we afforded each other. Whether repelling down a 300 foot cliff face or digging latrines, building a fire by rubbing two sticks together, exploring an unknown cave without light of any kind, moving past a rattlesnake instead of turning and altering our path, we faced each challenge with a sense of pride in ourselves and our troop mates. We didn’t think to exclude one another. If you couldn’t complete the task, the rest of us would help you.

    These are some of the things I remember about scouting. These activities and the experiences they afforded me are why I would encourage others to experience scouting. But Bethel Baptist doesn’t have a troop; it has an organization of exclusion, it doesn’t define reverence well as reverence is an act showing respect.

    The principles of this troop appear to be built on exclusion and a narrow definition of acceptance. But what can you expect from a Baptist church charter? It’s principles seem laudable to those who control the troop’s activities and membership.
    As with the issue of testifying publicly before the 9/11 commission: Sometimes you have to rise above principle.

  2. It’s amazing how these people try to supress anyone who thinks differently than they do. A boy who makes Eagle Scout has proven to be an outstanding human being and then is marked because he dares to speak his mind is outragous. The church seems to forget the freedom of speech, no matter if they like what’s being said or not. I think their charter should be revolked.

  3. Well cubsfanatic, not having to care about Andrew Cotes’ freedom of speech is exactly the kind of church/state seperation people like Rev. McFadden support. In their mind all seperation of church and state is there for is to keep the state out of the church, presumably so they can keep espousing those wonderful convictions.

    I was a Boy Scout too but when I say it now it is with a twinge of embarrassment, like I am standing up in an AA meeting and admitting my alcoholism for the first time. My name is Eric And I was in scouting…

  4. “The Boy Scouts of America, those noble little bastions of democracy…”

    “I would like to state at this moment that am I not now nor have I ever been…”

  5. As much as I hate policies like this, it seems fair to the that any given troup can include or exclude anyone they wish.  They are a private organization.  People are free to associate with whom they wish.  If we don’t like it, we can form our own organization with whatever principles suit us.  Or hell, we could probably start our own boyscout troup.  At the very least, they allow non-Christian troups such as Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, etc.

    I dislike this exclusive, narrow-minded policy, but it seems more worthwile to me to lead by setting a positive example of tolerance.

  6. Non-Christian groups, yes, atheists, no. You have to believe in god to be a scout. So they would not let you form a troop of atheists.

  7. That’s true CF. Part of the process of becoming a scout involves affirming a belief in some form of higher power. According to the BSA at least.

  8. “Non-Christian groups, yes, atheists, no. You have to believe in god to be a scout. So they would not let you form a troop of atheists.”

    I understand your point of view and the BSA has always been a “for Theistic members only” organization.

    But it is still not possible to know the intent or means of how a person is applying their theistic associations, when they think of God are they thinking about God in a healthy way or an unhealthy way, in my lifetime (42) I have met both, I think that a good point to reflect on here is that regardless of what someone thinks or believes they should be supported and nurtured to develop self virtue, isn’t that what all genuinly considerate people want from the core of their hearts(?), not just turned away because they currently have a belief that is contrary to the beliefs held by a governing body or council.

    If a group wants to help their community and the people in it, it should want to accept all within the community without discrimination, otherwise they are just playing a politically motivated game by deciding who will have the opportunity to be positively affected by the group/ORG and who will not.

    Our US culture is rapidly changing to that of a finite PC culture(politically correct) in which we are being prevented, at least socially, from asserting or discerning from behaviour that should be adopted and that behaviour that should be discarded, which means you have to trust that everybody is going to do their best to be their best, and nobody can tell them what to do.

    If you reflect I am sure you can recall someone that you currently know or have known in the past
    who is/was hetrosexual or similarly who was or is a follower of monotheistic religion, who had problems with those associations, either behavioral or abusive problems with either approach to life, what makes their propblems any more unique that they deserve the group/organizations positive direction and or compassion for correction than people who have the same type of problems but don’t believe exactly the same way, and therefore they don’t deserve to have the support group to resolve their problems?

    My ancestors came over on the mayflower some 200+ years ago to get away from religious persecution,
    I know it has been a long hard battle but I believe it was worth it!

    As it stands the US is one of the mightiest military nations in world history if not the mightiest, but our social tolerance still has a long way to go, we are not quite as mature as we would like to think ourselves to be, this country is very young, to avoid resting on our laurels of worldly/financial power it wouild be more helpful IMO to reflect on these social differences as the real potential of this countries strength and to amicably resolve them for our mutual benefit.

    Thanks and sorry to go on so long.

  9. Someone is using my name! ACK! Do not be fooled by cheap imatations, use only the real, original David!

    Not exactly an uncommon name (I think yelling David in a public place should carry the same penalty as yelling Fire!).

  10. So are you the good David or the evil David? And keep in mind; this may be a trick question with a trick desired answer.

  11. Ok, no cheap imitations, the middle initial will hopefully clarify!

    As long as the David being yelled to does not possess the tendency to self combust like fire,
    OW they are easy to discern between

    Re Brock; Self induced duality lives within me, although currently there are fewer black pebbles than white the weeds of self deception are still apparent, that having been said the foundation for all positive growth is becoming stronger and stronger.

    Nice to join this intro/retrospective BB.


    David A

  12. OK, this is getting spooky. You’re 42, so please tell me it’s your last initial that is A, and not your middle.

  13. “I got news for you pal, you ain’t leadin’ but two things right now. Jack and shit… and Jack left town.”

    Couldn’t resist…

    Middle initial -
    David A

  14. I liked it better when you used just your first name, David A. I was gleefully imagining all the conversations David “the Christian” was going to have to deny or clarify. I even thought of posting as “David” a time or two just to mix it up.*

    *Not that you don’t “mix it up” just fine by yourself David.

  15. It’s getting good Brandi. David “the Christian” has just met his doppelganger twin. They’re about to merge and a whole new David will walk the earth.

    I’m going for popcorn, so save my place. You want any?

  16. sm;

    “Hindus with their multiple deities”

    I don’t think they consider them to be their creators, rather as assistants in life.


  17. Having been a former “boy scout” myself (never made it to eagle), I personally have seen more than one case of boy scouts being reprimanded or all together dismissed for personal beliefs that contradtict the ideas of the scouts.  There is one case specifically where a boy in a troop of mine dropped his pants in front of his fellow campers and was dismissed for homosexuality. 

    Now, ive made no secret of the fact that I am christian and I do believe Homosexuality is immoral overall.  However, I do not judge people by their prefrences, thats not my job.  Its gods.

    A eagle scout, by reputation, is a outstanding human being.  they have worked hard to become who they are and deserve every commendation they can get, rather than to be dismissed for speaking out against the policies.  Or their personal prefrence.  God needs to be seperated from public organizations, lest God be villianized.

    Unfortunatly, the boy scouts is a private organization and subject to its own rules and regulations.  So untill they change their policies, there is nothing we can do but protest.  I still stand by the idea that the Boy Scouts of America is a wonderful organization for kids.  It promotes growth as a person, freindship, and I have many many fond memories of it.  Lets just hope they become more tolerant as time goes by.  I say…scouting for all…

  18. It is my doppleganger twin. Same first name and middle intial, same age, can quote from “Army of Darkness” (Bruce Campbell rocks!). Who ever thought I’d “find myself” at SEB?

    I suppose I should throw my 2 cents in on the topic, since I’m here and all. Can someone explain to me what’s wrong with having an organization and saying “we only want black people as part of the organization”? It doesn’t offend me (I’m not black). It’s your party, do whatever you want. And meeting in a public school should not be denied them. They pay taxes. Just as long as the all Asian group gets the same access to the building that the all black group gets, it’s all good.

    If you want to form the gay scout group or a atheist guides group - go do it. I’m sure straight or Christian people everywhere will not care if you will not allow them to join. If you find the boyscouts rules offensive, fine, don’t join, and don’t buy their wreaths at Christmas time.

  19. David(prime), I believe the difference is that some organizations that exclude are doing so as a perpetuation of social and legal discrimination against a minority that has already suffered more than enough.  Forming a group that only allows redheads named Boopsie to join is fine; the set of (non-redheads named Boopsie) and (redheads not named Boopsie) has never been discriminated against elsewhere for those qualities.  But creating an organization that perpetuates an ongoing prejudice—against blacks, Jews, women, gays, atheists, Native Americans, Aborigines, etc. is generally seen as offensive.

    I don’t know you personally, David, but I’m assuming your background is WASP, and you’ve probably never experienced the kind of pervasive, institutionalized discrimination that minorities have; I think that’s why you have trouble seeing what the problem is.  It’s never been any skin off your nose.  Those of us with skinned noses find it much easier to understand the difference between exclusionary and discretionary.

  20. True enough, Geekmom. I am one of those straight, white, protestant, males. However, I am enough native american to qualify for college tuition. It

  21. what the fuck?! Im in the BSA, thats bullshit that they kicked him out. kicked out cuzz he doesnt agree with something….like the site says…YOU STUPID EVIL BASTARDS!!! But, so you guys know, you dont need to beleave there is a god. You just need to beleave that there is some kind of higher force.

  22. This is Andrew Cote’s sister, and I just thought I’d express how I feel on this issue. For my whole life, I’ve admired my brother for his independent, brave, and unique character. I’m beyond proud of him for giving that speech at his Eagle Court of Honor, and at the same time very pissed at the Bethel Bible Church and the BSA for kicking him out simply because he believes that everyone is created equal. I wish that they could put themselves in the shoes of gays and atheists for a moment…. How would they feel to have a hobby such as being in the BSA stripped away from them just because of their religious beliefs or their sexual preference? It just makes me sad to see people like this who see others who are different from them and instantly think that those people are lower than them JUST BEACUSE they are different. Rarely do people like that even get to KNOW the gays or atheists that they meet… but rather judge them by their beliefs and/or sexual preferences.

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