As a veteran, an Eagle scout, and a former military dependent, you and I are on opposite ends to the issue related to the Monument Eagle scout project. Frankly, I support your right to express your opinion but I also have a right. You are infringing on the rights of others because you don’t want to see religious references. Then don’t look. He has a right to express his religious beliefs . If we all thought like you, we would shut you down and your opinion would never be heard again. My email is a sign of the changing times. We are pushing back.
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Sam Fairchild
Dear (name withheld),
I want to thank you for your respectful email in opposition to MRFF’s position on the Monument, CO Eagle Scout project. As one of the original founders and long-time advisory board members of MRFF, I am quite happy to have the chance to respond to your arguments. I am also a practicing Christian, unapologetic conservative, and a bit of an expert in the catalyst of this current debate — Boy Scouting. And I am the son of an Army soldier who fought in three major wars. So I hope that you and others will regard my equally respectful response as coming from a source of intellectual, experiential and spiritual strength and therefore worthy of serious consideration.
There seems to be a significant mid-identification of the issue at hand. Let me first tell you what it is not. This concern is not about the youth Eagle Scout candidate. Nor is it about the idea of honoring the service of the candidate’s father and grandfather and other veterans. And It is not about the Scout’s right to express his religious beliefs (or any other beliefs for that matter).
It is simply about a colossal failure by Scouting to adhere to Scouting’s Youth Protection program and obligation to protect. And it is about the willingness of adults associated with Scouting to place a fine Eagle Scout candidate at risk in exchange for their own political or personal gain.
Scouting’s obligations to protect youth of risk are clear and unambiguous. Scouting does not permit youth to engage in prohibited or unauthorized activities, and leaders who fail to take steps to stop any such activities put Scouts and the organization at risk. While many recognize these obligations as they apply to protection against child abuse or risky physical activity, they are equally applicable to protect youth from engaging in illegal or actionable activities.
There were no less than five layers of adult review of the Eagle Scout candidate’s service project. Regardless of emotional arguments to the contrary, the service project contained two critical flaws: it sited an overtly religious monument on public land and misappropriated protected logos of the Department of Defense military services for display on that monument. Both of these actions are illegal. The five layers of adult review of the Eagle Scout service project failed to identify the illegality and has therefore placed the Eagle Scout candidate at risk. Scouting failed.
This concerns me. I am a 58 year Scouter, with abundant and dedicated service at the local, regional, national and international level, and Scouting is etched in my heart and soul. Scouting’s failure to protect this Eagle Scout candidate is simply wrong.
Rather than agree that Scouting failed and making policy changes to ensure that Scouting will not fail again, the stakeholders in this situation have doubled down with surprising, misdirecting action. The Council has arranged for the City of Monument to “sell” the plot of land to the family of the Eagle Scout candidate. This is, of course, a clear acknowledgment that the service project itself violated law. Whether or not this action “cures” the first critical flaw is for lawyers to debate. This “sale” most certainly does not “cure” Scouting’s complicit failure to identify the illegality in the Eagle Scout candidate’s plan in the first place.
And Scouting does not seem motivated to try to cure the second critical flaw in the Eagle Scout candidates service project plan — the illegal misappropriation of the protected seals of the branches of military. In failing to correct their own failure, they are placing the Eagle Scout candidate in even greater risk.
I truly believe the proper way forward is not complicated. The Scout Council should fund the replacement of the existing monument to removed the Service logos, and the monument should then be moved to a legitimately private site.
And please, please, everyone, keep the Eagle Scout candidate out of it. He has been an unfortunate pawn in an accelerating war being waged by organizations in opposition to MRFF’s legitimate efforts to protect the Constitution and its protections. As Scouters, we are not doing our duty to protect. This must end now.
The Scouting Century Foundation
Advisory Board Member
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation
Response from MRFF Advisory Board Member Mike Farrell
Hi Mr. (name withheld),
I’m not sure what ‘right’ you have that you feel is somehow being violated by the MRFF position on the Monument Eagle Scout project. What exactly is it?
You wrongly suggest that the reason for the MRFF’s concern about the Monument is that someone here doesn’t “want to see religious preferences.” That’s silly. The MRFF is well known for protecting the right of the women and men in the military to have the belief or non-belief of their choice without interference.
“Don’t look”? Don’t be stupid. Are you seriously suggesting that when one is confronted with a Constitutional violation the proper response is to look away? What kind of an American are you?
The young man who created the monument in question certainly has the right to express his religious beliefs. We agree. The problem is he expressed them in either the wrong way or in the wrong place. We have no quarrel with his wish to honor veterans with a monument dedicated to them, but if he chooses to do so with a religious message it cannot be in a city-owned and operated cemetery, you see, because that violates the Constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State. The monument would be almost perfect if it were to be outside the city property, but it is not. Inside, it cannot be promoting one religious faith. Those are choices that he should have been made aware of by someone. Perhaps by you? After all, he’s a young man and probably had no idea that what he was creating was violative of our laws, so he could have used some guidance from thoughtful adults, if there were any around.
In addition, you’ll note I said above that the monument would be “almost perfect” if it were to be outside the cemetery. In fact, if he’s going to include the religious blessing, he also can’t use images of the official US military insignias, as that falls into the same category.
Let me add that what you said toward the end of your message, “if we all thought like you we would shut you down and you would never be heard from again,” makes no logical sense. But that doesn’t seem to be your forte anyway.
Your final note, the one about “changing times,” and “pushing back” sounds vaguely like a threat. I hope that’s not to suggest an intention. It wouldn’t be wise.
(MRFF Board of Advisors)