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The case of out Boy Scout Ryan Andresen and an interview with his father

By Malissa Rogers

 

Out Boy Scout Ryan Andresen celebrated a victory earlier this week after a review board approved his Eagle Scout application, challenging the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) standing on gay members. But his high would soon hit another low as his case continued to develop.  

Ryan’s application is approved by local council... until the decision is reversed.

When Ryan left the Monday meeting with the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council he was under the assumption that he had earned his Eagle Scout award and that Scout Executive, John Fengolio, had approved his application. However, Andresen’s victory was short-lived, after Fengolio, a paid employee of the BSA, reversed his original decision and rejected the board’s (comprised of four volunteers) unanimously approved application.

“He (Ryan) is, of course, very disappointed and angry that the Council Scout Executive, Fenoglio, went back on his word to sign and deliver Ryan’s application,” Eric Andresen, Ryan’s father, told dot429. “This is effectively the second time that Ryan has been denied consideration for the work that he’s done, and that does hurt.” 

Ryan’s application did not receive a final approval from the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) top officials because Fengolio refused to forward the recommendation to the national organization based on the issue of Ryan’s sexual orientation. 

BSA’s spokesman Deron Smith said that, “The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council but it was not approved because this young man [Ryan] 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.”

The local scout volunteers from the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council have speculated that Fenoglio’s decision was heavily influenced by BSA National, according to GLAAD.

The Backstory

Ryan Andresen, a scout from Troop 212 in the San Francisco area, was denied his Eagle Scout award by his Scoutmaster, Rainer Del Valle, after coming out earlier in July of 2012.  Andresen had completed all of his requirements, including a time-consuming project: the construction of a “Tolerance Wall” at a local middle school to raise awareness about bullying.  

“Ryan looked up to Rainer for many years and it’s still very painful that Rainer doesn’t seem to care enough about Ryan to get in touch with him, to see how he’s doing, or to help Ryan understand what went wrong,” Eric Andresen tells us. “Personally, I’m very disappointed in Rainer, too – this is just not the way a respected Scoutmaster should act.”

Initially, last December, local Boy Scout leaders approved an official Eagle Board of Review, which meant their decision would override the refusal issued by Del Valle. Ryan’s application was then reviewed by the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council and unanimously approved January 7th, challenging the BSA’s policy on LGBT members. 

"It's the first in-your-face [challenge]," Bonnie Hazarabedian, chairwoman of the Boy Scout district review board that handled Andresen's application, said according to the Huffington Post. "I don't think sexual orientation should enter into why a Scout is a Scout, or whether they are Eagle material... We felt without a doubt he deserved that rank."

It was after the meeting of this council that Fengolio assured Ryan he would sign off on the approval as well and forward it to the BSA, but that never happened. 

 “While we didn’t really expect that National would have granted the award, it would have been nice if the Council had at least shown their support of Ryan by signing and sending everything along,” Eric Andresen said.

A frustrated family

Ryan’s story became public last year when his mother, Karen Andresen, frustrated with troop 212’s decision, started a petition on Change.org, which earned national support with more than 463,000 signatures gathered. In addition, California Senator Barbara Boxer and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom sent letters to the Scouts in support of Ryan.  

Karen released the following statement through Change.org after the California-based council recommended approval of Ryan’s application.

“I’m just so incredibly happy for Ryan. He’s worked so hard for this honor, and as a mother, it means the world to me to know that our local Scouting community believes in him, too,” she said. “Regardless of what the BSA’s National Advancement Team decides to do with his application, this victory makes it all worth it, and gives me so much hope for the future of the organization.”

However, after the Andresen’s received the news, they were devastated to hear that the BSA national would rather ignore the official Eagle application process and pit local paid staff against volunteer leaders.

“As for Karen and me, this is frustrating and disappointing. Karen, like Ryan, is exasperated and disgusted,” Eric Andresen tells dot429. “Imagine a collective ‘eye roll’ and our saying, in unison, ‘again?’  I’ve been very involved in the national campaign to encourage BSA to change its policy, so I am seeing a lot of movement and work that’s going on there. But Karen hasn’t seen as much of that and is just tired of it all. I’m going to continue to do this while she helps Ryan focus on being a kid, and continues to be a mom to Ryan and his sisters.”

Ultimately, the outcome could set a precedent for the future of the BSA as more people push for change. However, officials at the top of the Scouts have rejected any calls for revision. In July, an 11-member special committee of top Scout leaders upheld the 102-year-old organization’s LGBT policy after a two year review of the rule.   

“We still believe that BSA will change its policy, but we know that may still take quite a while.  With the amount of support we’ve received, and the fact that a vast majority of the comments and letters we’ve received have been positive and supportive, we don’t believe that BSA can hold out too much longer,” Eric Andresen says. “With the additional pressure of losing major corporate funding and the huge public outcry, change will come. Hopefully sooner than later.”

 

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