A lot of folks in my office bring in fund-raising merchandise for the various organizations their kids are involved in. At any given point in time there is usually at least two boxes hawking various candies to support a local Scouting troop. Invariably someone ends up thinking that I must be the sort of guy who went through Scouting as a kid and tries to encourage me to buy candy to support that cause.
The truth is I was in Scouting briefly as a kid for about two weeks before the troop I was in ran out of money and disbanded. I never even purchased a uniform, which is just as well as I was heading into that period of my life where I was starting to question my religious beliefs. What does that have to do with Scouting? Well, it’s part of the “law” of Scouting that you have to recognize a “supreme being” (read: God). Being an atheist, I can’t in good conscious support an organization that openly discriminates against people who don’t believe in God. When I explain this to the people asking me to support their local troop I often find that they are surprised by my stand on the issue. Many seem to be unaware that atheists aren’t allowed in Scouting. Sure, they know that gays aren’t (and that’s one more reason for me not to support them), but lack of religious faith rarely occurs to them as a reason someone might get kicked out of Scouting.
The Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts has given Eagle Scout Darrell Lambert about a week to decide “in his heart” if he’s truly an atheist. If he insists on sticking to his belief that there is no God, the Council will terminate his membership.
“You need to have a recognition of a supreme being,” said Farmer. “We as the Boy Scouts do not define what that is, but you need to have a recognition.”
Every Boy Scout and adult leader must attest to that belief on an application in order to join. It can be part of subscribing to a structured religion such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Hinduism ח or a more amorphous faith in some presence greater than ourselves, Farmer explained.
From all accounts in the news article Darrell Lambert is a good kid:
The 19-year-old has earned 37 merit badges, been a quartermaster and three-time senior patrol leader, and now he’s an assistant Scoutmaster and a field leader in training as part of the Search and Rescue Program. In his senior year in high school, he racked up more than 1,000 hours of community service.
He doesn’t believe in smoking or taking illegal drugs. His mom offered to take him out for a drink when he turns 21. But he doesn’t believe in drinking alcohol.
And he doesn’t believe in God—not since the ninth grade. And even before then he was unsure.
Personally, I think Scouting is a wonderful idea that can have an amazing impact on the lives of the boys who participate in it. I would love to support such an organization. The Girl Scouts don’t have any such restriction in their laws and as a result I have no qualms with supporting that organization and we have the empty cookie boxes to prove it. Alas, until the leadership of the Boy Scouts decides to bring the organization into the 21st century it looks like I’ll continue to astound my co-workers with my unwillingness to support their favorite local troop.