Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
His frame is wracked by lymphoma, but a fire burns on in H.M. ‘Smoky’ Eggers. The Irving resident still guards his vision of the Boy Scouts with the fervor of a lifelong advocate.
“We need to pray and stand up for the Boy Scouts of America,” he exhorts, inviting supporters to join him in the Prayer Fellowship for Christian Scouters. “Pray for them to have the freedom and the courage to stay true to their founding aims and purposes.”
Eggers has served the Boy Scouts of America for 71 years, starting as a Scout, then as an Assistant Scoutmaster while he was a student in forestry at Oregon State, and ultimately assuming various leadership roles in the national organization. Most recently, he says, he was “recycled” as a fundraiser with the nonprofit Baptists for Scouting.
To him, there’s no question about whether or not to admit homosexuals to leadership roles in Scouting. But admitting boys who are homosexual – that’s a different story.
“With the boys, we definitely do not discriminate,” he said. “After 71 years in Scouting, I’d never seen an interpretation like I read in the ‘Irving Rambler’ story of July 2. [‘Woman Challenges Boy Scouts to Become More Inclusive’ containing coverage of gay Pack Leader Jennifer Tyrrell’s appeal to BSA to reconsider their decision to ban her from leadership].
“[Tyrrell] implied that a boy would be refused membership in Scouting because he was homosexual. I’ve never seen that. I have always believed that Scouting was for all boys.
“Scouting has tried its best to stay out of politics,” he explained, describing the 2000 Supreme Court ruling in the case of the BSA vs. James Dale as a “victory”. In that case, Assistant Scoutmaster James Dale of New Jersey had been expelled after revealing his homosexuality. He sued for readmission, winning a decision in the New Jersey court – but that was overruled by the Supreme Court. Their finding: A private membership organization was judged to have the constitutional right to exclude certain persons from membership when their inclusion would violate the organization’s ability to express its viewpoints.
“The recent picketing of Boy Scouts….What they’re saying is, if we don’t cave in to the homosexuals, and more important, to duty to God, we’ll be in trouble,” Eggers continued.
“When you’re considering the development of a boy’s moral character, you really have to be vigilant. Over the years we have tried to meet with homosexuals around the country. And we’ve found a group of them that only want their own agenda. They deliberately try to get into leadership with Scouting and YMCA to recruit youth for their lifestyle.
“But there’s another group that sincerely believe the Boy Scouts should loosen their restrictions, like [other groups] have done.
“Well, those groups that caved in – they’ve lost membership and more important, they’ve lost money. If we bent now, we’d alienate the 75 percent of people in this country who support us. We’d lose our financial base, and we’d lose our heroes.
“Being around for 101 years and having two million Eagle Scouts, we have so many heroes. Men like Secretary of State Robert Gates and Neil Armstrong.
“We’re strongest when we promote faith-based packs. And those congregations are convinced that if the homosexuals broke into scouting, they would concentrate on churches next.
“Stephen Covey who just died – his latest book has a formula for communicating. If I could say just one word to homosexuals, it would be this: Read Covey’s book. Be willing to listen to another side.
“And that cuts both ways. I do think that someday, there may be a way for Scouting sponsors to represent more views in their communities.
“Scouting gave me a life,” he concluded. “I’ve been blessed to bring so many boys into Scouting.
“Back in my little town of Butler, TN I’d been hanging out in a bad gang, and Scouting gave me a good gang.”
‘Smoky’ Eggers’s reading list:
‘On My Honor’, by Texas Governor Rick Perry [“The best book on our battle with the homosexual community,” as Eggers described it.]
‘The Third Alternative’, by Stephen Covey [“On a compromise you both lose, but work it out together, and you’ll arrive at what’s best for everybody,” according to Eggers.]