Oak Park Eagle Scout returns medal in protest

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The motto, "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle" most Boys Scouts abide by.

Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, however, no longer wants the title. The longtime scout has ties with the troop dating back 25 years — he was an adult troop leader for 10 years. After the recent announcement from the Boy Scouts of America organization reaffirming its anti-gay policy for troop leaders and scouts, the Oak Parker knew he had to break his affiliation with the organization he once loved.

"I could no longer not do anything," Breymaier said. "It was the final nail in the coffin."

Previously, he assumed it was an old-fashioned policy that would catch up with the times. When the decision was actively reaffirmed, he was infuriated and embarrassed.

"I thought it would change when it had the chance. I thought people were more enlightened," Breymaier said.

He insists he's not the first and only person who has turned in their Eagle Scout medals and expects many more will join the protest.

His gesture, he said, is about basic civil rights. The decision doesn't disregard the Boy Scouts entirely, he said, since he believes in its overall purpose. Instead, he's hoping leaders will listen to the public outrage and change its stance.

"If it weren't for the policy, the Boy Scouts of America is a great program for kids —for leadership development, learning how to give back to community, for growing as an adult," Breymaier said. "That's what held me back from [giving back my medal] before."

Last Friday, Breymaier officially mailed in the medal to the Texas headquarters with a letter expressing his discontent.

He's optimistic actions like this can spark change.

Until that happens though, he's not putting his son back in the Cub Scouts. He and some other parents have chosen to create an alternative group.

"If that policy changes, I'll happily go back," Breymaier said. "I really hope that happens sooner rather than later."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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Reader Comments

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Posted: August 13th, 2012 10:19 AM

The beauty of the USA is that if you don't like a private group, you can leave the group and start your own reflecting your own values. The pro-family values of the BSA are nothing new. What's new is the anti-family secular bent so prevalent now in our society. Kudos to the BSA for sticking by their principles.

Rob Breymaier from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 8th, 2012 10:31 AM

Johnny said it well. Returning my pin is a protest and the accompanying letter stated as such. the fact that I and many other Eagles have done this ought to be of significance to the national council. The reporters that sought me out were all very kind but journalism as a profession seems to often miss nuances when it transfers to writing.

Johnny Sevier  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 11:04 AM

@BSA Parent, you can't stop being an Eagle Scout any more than you can un-ring a bell. Returning the medal is a way of disaffiliating with an institution that is no longer mentally awake or morally straight. Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

In Solidarity  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 10:44 AM

I often buy holiday wreaths and garland and of course the popcorn. No longer.

Joe from South Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2012 10:22 AM

I volunteer time every year assisting scouts with obtaining the First Aid Merit Badge. Unfortunately this year was the last time. I too thought that the policy was a relic and that it would change with time. Supporting an organization that continues to discrimnate against people because of sexual orientation isn't my cup of tea.

BSA Troop 16 Parent from Oak Park  

Posted: August 2nd, 2012 8:05 AM

Rob ... please elaborate on the meaning of returning your Eagle Scout pin. From the numerous media coverage of this story (Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Huffington Post, etc.), I was under the impression you disavowed yourself of being an Eagle Scout. Now you are making the distinction that you never said you didn't want to be an Eagle Scout anymore. Are you still an Eagle Scout? Did you retain other Eagle Scout symbols, such as the medal and badge? What is your Eagle Scout status?


Posted: August 1st, 2012 9:45 PM

@ Good For You. Very well put.

Good For You! from OP  

Posted: August 1st, 2012 9:28 PM

Good for you for starting group with beliefs consistent with yours, Mr. Breymaier. That's the right way to go....because not everybody agrees with your agenda. I like the boy scout policy just as it is, thanks. But, I respect your right to raise your son just the way you'd like, just I'd I'd like to raise my son in a way consistent with my values.

Rick from Oak Park  

Posted: August 1st, 2012 7:19 PM

I did the same thing, Rob. Hated to do it, since the Scouts were an important part of my life for so long, but I can't support again them until they change this policy.

Rob Breymaier from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2012 3:59 PM

Just to be clear. I never said I didn't want to be an Eagle Scout anymore. An Eagle Scout can never quit being an Eagle Scout. However, turning in my pin is a powerful symbol to register my protest. Thank you for recognizing that it is just the policy of exclusion that drove my actions despite the great programs and people I know in Scouting.

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