As you might know, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have an official position, supported by the courts, that atheist boys can’t be members. As Wikipedia notes (I can’t find the original Scout page, but there’s plenty on “Duty to God” for Scouts), the official Scout position is this:
“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ 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.”
Avowed agnostic or atheist adults can’t be Scout leaders, either.
Nor can Boy Scouts be openly gay. Here’s the BSA’s official position:
- The BSA policy is: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
- Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right and do not sign their children up for Scouting for it to introduce or discuss, in any way, these topics.
The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that are best for the organization. The BSA welcomes all who share its beliefs but does not criticize or condemn those who wish to follow a different path.
One would hope that this exclusionary policy would apply only in religious America. But we now hear that it holds in England, too, where the equivalent of the Boy Scouts is the “Scout Association,” which also accepts girls.
As today’s Telegraph reports:
Schoolboy George Pratt had attended his local Scout group for ten months, and was expecting to invest in the group along with his friends.
But, after being required to swear the traditional promise, he found himself unable to join as he does not believe in God.
George, 11, said he was “very disappointed” in the decision, calling it “very unfair” and claiming he feels left out from experiences and trips his friends are attending.
His father Nick Pratt, 45, has accused the Scout movement of being “narrow minded” and “intolerant”, saying his son is being “excluded because he doesn’t believe”.
To become a full member of the 1st Midsomer Norton Group in Somerset, which meets in a hall opposite his home, George must take the Scout Promise.
This reads: “On my honour, I promise that I will do my best, To do my duty to God and to the Queen, To help other people, And to keep the Scout Law.”
The British Scouts are holding firm: George has to take the oath.
Despite admitting he is “really disappointed” at the strict rule, George has pledged he will not change his decision.
“I am really disappointed about not being able to go anymore just because I don’t believe in God,” he said.
“We have spoken about it with the Scout Leader but he won’t change his decision, it is very unfair.
“My friends who are Scouts don’t think it is right, either. Everyone is going caving soon and I’ve never been before. It is something I would love to do but I’m not allowed.
“I’m not going to change my decision though.”
Be sure to go to the Telegraph page to see a video of the brave lad reiterating his position. But he goes wrong on one point: he claims that atheism is a religion because “not believing something is a belief.” It’s the old “not collecting stamps is a hobby” conundrum. It is a position that there is no evidence for a god, but it’s not a “belief,” at least not in the same sense a religious belief is.
Regardless, though, someone please take George caving!
And shame on the U.S. and British Scouts for this despicable move (I don’t know what the British Scouts’ position is on homosexuality).