Flawed Eagle Scout Project

From: Sam Fairchild
Subject: Flawed Eagle Scout Project
Date: February 24, 2021 at 10:03:37 AM MST
To: Mikey Weinstein <[email protected]>

I am following with great interest a news report that involves the intersection of two areas in which I have uncommonly deep insight and experience.  My name is Sam Fairchild and I am a retired business and government official living in New Hampshire.  I am a 59-year member of the Boy Scouts of America, having served in local, regional, national and international roles for that organization over the years.  At the local level I currently serve as an Eagle Scout coach and merit badge counselor, and have mentored more than 200 Scouts on their trail to Eagle.  I am also an Eagle Scout and the father of an Eagle Scout.  Many consider me one of the leading Scout historians on a national and international level.

I am also a long-standing and devoted Advisory Board member of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and an active participant in their activities.  I was the 2009 recipient, along with Ambassador Joe Wilson, of the Foundation’s Thomas Jefferson Award.

To complete the picture, I am a conservative Republican and a devout Christian.

I read the Tribune’s report of the Eagle Scout project by Scout Michael Carlson of Troop 8 of the Pikes Peak Council.  Troop 8 is sponsored by St. Mattias Episcopal Church.  Scout Carlson developed, coordinated, built and presented a veterans memorial to the Town of Monument, Colorado, and installed that monument on October 3, 2020 onto a municipal-owned cemetery in Monument.  Scout Carlson was inspired by the service of his father, a Vietnam-era veteran, and grandfather, a World War Two veteran.  I found Scout Carlson’s words of dedication inspiring, and his passion for the project notable.

All in all, this was a well-constructed, well-thought-out and well-executed Eagle Scout project, certainly with the attributes that would win its approval from the National Court of Honor.

There is one problem, though.  Actually, two problems.

Scout Carlson’s Eagle Scout Coach, his Scoutmaster, his Eagle Scout Board of Review and his Scout council failed to ask Scout Carlson to correct two serious mistakes with his otherwise exemplary project.

First, Scout Carlson mistakenly designed onto the memorial the trademarked and protected symbols of the six branches of the US military without the expressed permission of the Department of Defense.  This is simply not allowed.  These symbols are protected for a reason, and are property of the people of the United States.  Interestingly, trademark protection is one of the key hallmarks of the Boy Scouts of America.  Scouting has defended the use of its trademark fleur di lis and the word Scouting, BSA and Boy Scouts since it was founded in the United States in 1910.  James West, Scouting’s first Chief Scout Executive, was an attorney with considerable intellectual property protection experience, and he was relentless in filing lawsuits against any organization, company or group that tried to misappropriate the use of the BSA trademarks without the expressed permission of the BSA.  The Scout council should have realized this in the process of pre-approving Scout Carlson’s original plan and design and required him to remove the symbols from the design.  There really is no wiggle-room in interpretation of this here.

Second, the Town of Monument should not have approved the installation of the memorial on municipal property because Scout Carlson’s monument includes the phrase “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you – Jesus Christ and the American soldier.”  Please understand that I have no objection to the concept or message.  I am a practicing Christian and live a Christian life everyday.  I believe that Christ died for me.  I am also a citizen of the United States of America, and believe as deeply in the separation of church and state, and that notion, coupled with a long lineage of court decisions, requires that the people’s property — municipal, state and federal — cannot be a place to install new monuments with preferential religious messages.  Note that I have underlined the word new — clear court decisions have let stand any historical monuments with preferential religious messaging as an artifact of society’s history.  New preferential statements installed on municipal, state and federal properties are what is covered in the prohibition.  The failure here occurred on the Scout council level and on the municipal government level.  Both had, and should have taken, the opportunity to direct Scout Carlson either to remove the language referring to Jesus Christ or to install the monument on private property.  Each of their failures to intervene during the pre-approval and coordination process, which is a key and important part of the Eagle Scout Project experience, has put two innocent parties — Scout Carlson and the sponsoring organization St. Mattias Episcopal Church — in a very unfortunate position.

This situation must be cured.  Curing the first mistake requires either the removal of the six military trademarked symbols from the monument, or, in the alternative, the issuance by the Department of Defense expressed concurrence with their use on the monument.  The problem with the latter cure —DOD concurrence — is that the Department would need to articulate the basis for agreeing to it here and not to all of the other times the symbols have been improperly used by non-DOD and non-Federal entities.

Curing the second is actually simpler.  Scout Carlson, his Scout troop and troop committee, his Scout council and his project sponsors need to arrange for and execute the transfer of the memorial from municipal property to private property.

Nothing I have articulated here is meant in any way to impose any sort of criticism on Scout Carlson.  His passion, skill, commitment and hard work are the things that serve as the hallmark of Eagle Scouts.  I welcome him into the wider National “Eagle Nest”, and challenge him to continue to live a life in service to others.

But everything I have articulated here is directed to the participants in the pre-approval, approval,, coordinating and coaching process associated with Scout Carlson’s Trail to Eagle.  You have done this fine Scout a terrible disservice by failing to do your job correctly, appropriately and sensitively.  Your failures have now scarred and complicated the experience of someone who appears to be a very fine Eagle Scout, and all of you need to step up and correct the situation — take the blame and orchestrate the cures I have outlined above.

Sincerely,

Sam Fairchild
Executive Director, Scouting Century Foundation

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