The Boy Scouts continues to be one of the most regressive groups in the US with its strong bigotry against gays and atheists. Fortunately, one of those two constraints seems to be going away, as it appears the Scouts are reconsidering it mandatory discrimination against gay men and boys. However, the discrimination against secular Scouts shows no such abatement. Even the mainstream publication the Atlantic last week ran an interesting article on entitled “Will the Scouts Ever Admit Atheists?” with the answer being a resounding ‘No’.
The article states:
To qualify as a Boy Scout (or, it seems, as president), you have to swear a loyalty oath to God as well as country. And you have to subscribe to this Declaration of Religious Principle:
The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God … The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.
This absurd requirement extends to even some religious Scouts, if you are not the right religion. The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts have traditionally allowed religious groups to develop their own religious award for Scouts to earn. The guidelines for obtaining that award is determined by the religious leaders, not the Scouting hierarchy. The possible awards include those for large denominations, such as Catholic, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic awards. Most Protestant groups, including Episcopalian, Methodist, etc, have their own reward. There is even a Zoroastrian and a Meher Baba award — almost 30 different awards in total, where, again, the rules for the award were determined by the religion, not the Scouts.
However, you won’t find a Unitarian Universalist award. In 1998, the Scouts withdrew their approval of this award, called Religion in Life because the UU guidelines pointed out that not all UU’s believe in God and the policies with regard to gay scouts and gay scout leaders is problematic. The Boy Scouts responded with a statement that read, in part:
Boy Scouts is an ecumenical organization which requires belief in God and acknowledgement of duty to God by its members. The reference to the “trouble” some Unitarians Universalists may have regarding the duty to God inappropriately incorporates doubt in an award process that is designed to forge a stronger link between a youth’s Scouting values and religious life.
We note with considerable dismay that this version of Religion in Life also includes an official expression of disapproval of Boy Scouts’ membership policies relating to known or avowed homosexuals. The Committee believes that this expression of disapproval has no place in a Boy Scouting/Exploring youth religious award manual.
The current version of Religion in Life does not adhere to Scouting policies and is inappropriate for distribution to Scouting youth in connection with the administration of the Religion in Life religious award. Until such time as the UUA materials can be redrafted to a form acceptable to the Committee, youth may not be awarded a Unitarian Universalist religious emblems in Scouting or wear the emblem on a Scout uniform. This includes the Love and Help emblem as well.
That is right. The Religion in Life and the Cub Scout Love and Help emblems of the Unitarian Universalist denomination was deemed too controversial and so they disallowed all Scouts to wear them on their Scout uniforms.
Keep in mind that the Boy Scouts is not an obscure fringe group. It is often given special perks from local communities, such as free meeting space in public schools. Furthermore, all Presidents of the United States (since William Taft in 1910) have served as the honorary Boy Scout president during their term in office.
It is time for the Boy Scouts to lose all its special privileges and recognition until it invites all American boys into its ranks. The discrimination against gays and atheists has to end. See Scouting for All to support this effort.