Why I don’t support the Boy Scouts.

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.

Which brings me to this news article in The Seattle Times: Atheist Scout fights decision to boot him.

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.

79 thoughts on “Why I don’t support the Boy Scouts.

  1. As a Boy Scout of America, I can’t help but notice people who seem to think that the BSA is out to “discriminate” people. I’m sorry that we are a private orginization that have morales and traditional values like the ones that were used to set up the United States of America. And for those of you who feel the US Government is supplying the BSA with money, I hate to say it but your information is off. The US Government no longer supplies the BSA with a place to meet and no longer charters the BSA, because of people like you who like to sit behind their computers and blog tell their hearts content until they get results.
    So thanks alot,
          Life Scout Troop 464

  2. a private orginization that have morales and traditional values like the ones that were used to set up the United States of America.

    You mean like, ” . . .free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term or Years,”  and ” . . . excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons.” Article I Section 2. The Constitution of the United States.
    So, slaves are not “Persons” and Indians are not “Persons” and those who didn’t own land were only “three-fifths” of a Person. Please understand your history before you use it to support your stand.  wink

  3. I did use my history sir, you people have been talking about how we all believe in a higher being,or God, well look at how the United States was set up….
    On our money, the saying in God we trust
    The end of the Presidents ingural speech, so help me God.
    Hmmm….it looks like the founding fathers and the BSA had somthing in common…

  4. You make a valid point.  But the founding fathers also had the foresight to provide freedom of religion, something the Scouts do not provide. 

    Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. The concept is generally recognized to also include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion.

    The Scouts do not provide such freedom.  To be a member, you must profess a belief in God.  Once you demand an individual profess a belief in God, you deny those who do not believe in God, even those who are profoundly religious in their own non-theistic faith and those who do not believe at all.

    Once you add public (tax) support to the mix, I’m out.  The Scouting program has a great deal to offer its members, just like citizenship in America has a lot to offer.  But once a group begins to exclude others, which I also support, they lose their right to ask for one red cent from our non-religious government.  As soon as any scouting organization in America accepts one cent in tax funds, for whatever purpose, they must open their ranks to all and they must stop asking people to lie about their beliefs to remain a member.

  5. look at how the United States was set up….
    On our money, the saying in God we trust

    Please research that saying to find when it was added – hint, not at the “setting up.”
    And, like James said,

    The Scouts do not provide such freedom.  To be a member, you must profess a belief in God.  Once you demand an individual profess a belief in God, you deny those who do not believe in God,

    As for the president’s inaugural address, is that phrase, “so help me God,” required by the Constitution, or is that part of the personal attitude of one person? And, to which “God” was the president referring? I have a dictionary of 2,500 “Gods” and no distinction was made in that address. Perhaps the “history” you reference is a little incomplete or maybe slanted? Read the “People’s History of The United States from 1492 to the Present,” by Howard Zinn. There are many sides to history that are not in the books you are told to study in public school. (You can find the oath of office in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, last paragraph.)

  6. Coaltrain, you are most welcome though you should really look at the date on the entries you’re replying to. I originally wrote this back in 2002 when many local and regional governments were still providing the Scouts with taxpayer dollars. To this day there are still places where the Scouts enjoy taxpayer funding and special leasing agreements that they shouldn’t.

    You are quite correct that they are a private organization and thus have the right to discriminate against anyone they so choose to do so. It is that very reason that should receive no special privileges from the government in the form of special leases or taxpayer money. Discriminate if you wish to do so, but if you do you’ll do it on your own dime.

    You go on to display your ignorance of history with the following:

    I did use my history sir, you people have been talking about how we all believe in a higher being,or God, well look at how the United States was set up….

    The United States was set up as a secular government of the people, for the people, and by the people. It is not and never was intended to be a “Christian nation.” That’s a myth perpetuated by the ignorant who wish to transform the country into a semi-theocracy.

    On our money, the saying in God we trust

    Your implication being that it was always there, it was not. It first appeared on the one cent coin in 1864 after Congress passed a bill allowing it. If you recall your elementary school history you’ll note the United States was founded on July 4, 1776 (somewhat ironic to be having this discussion today). That means that the phrase “In God We Trust” was first printed on U.S. coins almost 100 years after the founding of the United States. Thus the Founding Fathers had nothing to do with it.

    Additionally the phrase has not been a constant presence on U.S. money having been removed and replaced several times over the centuries. And the phrase “In God We Trust” was not the national motto until 1956 when Congress, in a poorly-thought out attempt to distinguish Amercia from the Godless Commies, passed an act changing the motto.

    The end of the Presidents ingural speech, so help me God.

    Use of a Bible and the phrase “so help me God” at the end of the Presidential Oath is not required by law. Although a lot of folks like to claim that George Washington was the first to use it many historians dispute that claim. Even if he did he was not required to do so and it was an improvisation on his part. There have been several Presidents who have not used the phrase or have not used a Bible to swear upon. The oath itself, as it appears in the U.S. Constitution, does not include the words “so help me God.”

    Hmmm….it looks like the founding fathers and the BSA had somthing in common…

    Hmmm. Looks like someone is ignorant of his history…

  7. And, Coltain, do you realize what the phrase, “In God We Trust” means? It means all others pay cash, only God can use credit.  cheese

  8. Look, I am mearly trying to point out that we are based off of some of the beliefs that this nation was founded on. To adress that the BSA does not have religous freedom, that is only half right. While we do ask our members to have a belief in a higher being, we are open to every religon on the face of the planet that believes in a higher being, thus we are not only open to one religon which some consider religous freedom, or ones right to choose their own religon.

  9. Coaltrain writes…

    Look, I am mearly trying to point out that we are based off of some of the beliefs that this nation was founded on.

    So is the Klu Klux Klan. Does that give them the same free pass you seem to want the Boy Scouts to have? Being based off some of the beliefs this nation was founded on doesn’t make your stance the right one to take. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but many of the beliefs this country was founded on have since been determined to have been faulty (e.g. slavery).

    To adress that the BSA does not have religous freedom, that is only half right. While we do ask our members to have a belief in a higher being, we are open to every religon on the face of the planet that believes in a higher being, thus we are not only open to one religon which some consider religous freedom, or ones right to choose their own religon.

    In other words: You are free to believe as you so choose so long as you believe in some type of “higher power.” I wonder how well that would hold up if some Satanists were to try and form a scout troop? Technically he’s a “higher power” of sorts, if you believe in that kind of nonsense.

    *Edited to fix a spelling mistake in “Klux.” You can tell I don’t type that word too often.

  10. The problem with a “higher power” is it is all too often used as a code-word for the Christian “God.”  Theists always want you to take a step toward their theory by “professing a belief” in a “higher power.”  Once there, you might as well hang out the Christian shingle and start thumping that Bible.

    Nontheism is finally realizing there is no babysitter you can count on.  As such, any non-theistic person is not welcome in the Scouts and frankly, that’s extraordinarily sad.

    America has become the great melting pot of the world, and has experienced wave after wave of immigration.  All of these people, from every single culture in the world have brought differing beliefs, morals, religions and attitudes to the table.  And, at the end of the day, America has been the better for it.

    Our nation has arguably done more for the advancement of, and improvement of living conditions for, the human species that just about any other on Earth.  Why?  Our diversity is our strength!  It is so simple to see, yet those who are bent on a semi-theocracy model, or who simply wish to maintain petty control of others will never accept that diversity of ideas, religion, attitudes and cultures lends great strength to a society.

    If the Scouts only got their heads out of their behinds and realized that it is easy to teach morals, common shared values and culture to people without having them profess a belief in some imaginary “higher power” and that the organization would be strengthened by cultural diversity, the Scouts could be a great agent for good in America.

    Instead, they kick out homosexuals who have done nothing wrong, they demand that all members profess a belief in a “higher power” (code for God) and they scream like bitches when the tax money is cut off – while reminding us they are “private.”  Basically, they are spoiled children having a tantrum because they don’t get their way and long-term, they will die out because they cannot adapt.  Other groups will take their place and America will be better for it.

  11. Our nation has arguably done more for the advancement of, and improvement of living conditions for, the human species that just about any other on Earth.

    *cough*Industrial revolution *cough*

  12. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Girl Scouts are more admirable than the Boy Scouts. When they realized their bylaws would exclude some girls from participating (due to a requirement of God belief) they changed their bylaws so they could be a positive experience for ALL girls.

    I was a Scout once myself. I think it has a lot to offer in general. It’s just a shame they choose to exclude certain groups. As long as they continue to do so I will refuse to support them and I will encourage others to do likewise.

  13. Last_Hussar:

    LOL.  You make a good point; one Great Britain shares also.

    But my overall point stands as I was not discussing the cost of the imporvement in the human condition, only the fact that America has contributed more than her fair share to the betterment of the species. 

    To be fair (and incredibly simplistic), America has also contributed more than her fair share to environmental problems worldwide also.

    But, bottom line, diversity results in a stronger group, if the Boy Scouts could learn that, the world would be a better place.

  14. I find this all to be very interesting. I, personally, was a Bluebird, that’s part of what was originally known as Camp Fire Girls that was supposed to be the sister organization to the BSA. It was changed in the 70s to Camp Fire Boys and Girls when they started letting boys join and is now known as just Camp Fire USA. Although their first “law” is Worship God, they do not ask members to take an oath or anything like that. They do not discriminate based on religion or lack thereof nor do they discriminate based on sexual orientation. My partner and his sister were raised Wiccan and he WAS a Boy Scout, though I think it was only for about a year. He always said that he was only ever in it for the cookies and juice at the end of the meetings. Oh, and the match-cars, he like the match-cars. I am a Christian, a Baptist as a matter of fact and I love God and do worship Him. I would encourage my children to join such organizations as Camp Fire USA or something similar. I think they are helpful in learning teamwork and building character and confidence. However, I wouldn’t let them join the BSA simply because of the fact that they are discriminating against homosexuals. I was not aware of the religious segregation until now, yet another reason not to let my kids be a part of this particular organization. I no longer support The Salvation Army because of similar views on sexual orientation. I want to make one thing clear, as I said I AM a Christian and love God and worship Him. Not ALL Christians against homosexuals or atheists for that matter. Nor do we all say that we will “pray for them” or “love them in spite of” or other such nonsense. I have a great deal of gay, transgender, atheist, LDS, Hindu and even pagan friends and I love them because of who they are of how they define themselves not “in spite of” and I never “pray that they will find Jesus” or something. Just thought I’d mention it.

  15. I don’t like it because here in lincoln nebraska, we have a school here where they bypassed the parents and tried to build up the idea of the boy scouts in my child’s head as such a fun thing. and hey, we already do sports and church and many other things we don’t need 64 meetings a year of boy scouts.

    so that’s all they should bring this to the parents to decide this not the kids.

  16. Les, holy cripes take a chill pill and ease up a bit, stop taking things so serious and to heart, help the age 6 to age 11 kids in the program with a dontation, and eat the damn candy, popcorn, or whatever else snack they are selling. You’re the one who is discriminating, there was religion faith, before there was atheism. You sound like a guy that didn’t get enough love from his mom growing up or something

  17. ps- boy scouts is a good thing, but only as good as the leaders- we had good leaders for a few years in our pack and troop, and then not so good den leaders and troop leaders- the enthusiasm level goes right down accordingly. Any activity needs good leadership, the main problem is, the adults with the best leadership ability, steer clear, because they don’t want to be a free babysitting service for someone’s dysfunctional kid who grew up in a broken family, taking Ridlin to numb them to the reality.

    the troops and packs only represent the community, if it’s a crappy community, it will have a crappy troop

    judge the well by what comes up in the bucket

  18. Gary Williams wrote:

    Les, holy cripes take a chill pill and ease up a bit, stop taking things so serious and to heart, help the age 6 to age 11 kids in the program with a dontation, and eat the damn candy, popcorn, or whatever else snack they are selling.

    Fuck you, Gary. I take it seriously because I think Scouting is important and should be open to all boys regardless of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Until all boys can participate I will refuse to support the Boy Scouts and will actively campaign that others do the same.

    You’re the one who is discriminating, there was religion faith, before there was atheism. You sound like a guy that didn’t get enough love from his mom growing up or something

    Seeing as atheism is the lack of belief in God(s) you’re technically correct that someone had to profess a belief in a God(s) before someone else could say “You’re full of shit.” But I bet the births of both ideas were mere seconds apart.

    Am I discriminating? Yes I am. I’m discriminating against an organization that discriminates. If they have a right to discriminate against gays and atheists then I have the right to discriminate against giving them any kind of support.

    ps- boy scouts is a good thing, but only as good as the leaders- we had good leaders for a few years in our pack and troop, and then not so good den leaders and troop leaders- the enthusiasm level goes right down accordingly. Any activity needs good leadership, the main problem is, the adults with the best leadership ability, steer clear, because they don’t want to be a free babysitting service for someone’s dysfunctional kid who grew up in a broken family, taking Ridlin to numb them to the reality.

    Wow, there’s so much stupid in that paragraph that it’s hard to pick a place to start. You basically said the BSA is a good thing, but only as good as the leaders, and the leaders kinda suck now. So wouldn’t that make the BSA kinda sucky now?

    Regardless of whether the current leaders are good or bad, the point remains that the organization as a whole has anti-gay and atheist policies which prevent me from supporting them.

    And it’s spelled “Ritalin” and it’s not used to numb kids to reality. I’m ADD myself so I know what the drugs actually do having actually taken them for awhile.

    judge the well by what comes up in the bucket

    You can also judge it by how it was built, and the BSA has a pretty lousy construction right now.

  19. @ Les:

    Whats your job man, just sit on your fat ass and type up blogs, the way you articulate your thoughts is equivalent to that of a 5th graders essay – no valid points just a rant to spread your own beliefs. All homosexuals are heterophobic its a fact, and all atheists are against people that believe in a higher being which is also a fact. Your just propaganda- created to cause controversy. Get your head out of your ass.

  20. @ rib:

    There are nearly 8,000 entries in this blog many of which discuss details of my personal life including what I do for a living. Are you really that stupid you couldn’t take a moment to figure what my job is? Apparently your definition of “valid” is “only stuff I agree with.”

    All homosexuals are heterophobic its a fact, and all atheists are against people that believe in a higher being which is also a fact.

    Considering that I know more than a few homosexuals and atheists I already know that both of your “facts” above are anything but facts. Try again.

    I’m not out to cause controversy with this entry. I was simply explaining why I will not support the Boy Scouts and why I think others shouldn’t as well. If you disagree with my reasoning then you have every right to support them as you see fit, but that doesn’t mean I can’t advocate for my position or encourage others to do the same. If anyone has their head up their ass, it would appear to be you.

  21. I was in Scouts for a few years, Les, and it was a pretty positive experience. It began my love affair with the outdoors. But I would not support them today anymore than I would support any bigoted organization.

  22. i am in boy scouts and i think it is a good idea of being in if you want extra responsibility and acting like a babysitting servise to the 10 year olds. i also agree withh what he is saying in the story above. i am also athiest. but what do i know i am only 14.

  23. The boy scouts runs on a don’t ask don’t tell, I know of several atheist in my troop two of whom are now eagles and one I know will be an eagle. Sure we held a service every campout, of which religion that service was, we didn’t really know, it was just something traditional really. I am now amd eagle and was a scout from 11-18. Being an atheist really isn’t that big of a deal as you might think.

  24. Fwiw, my experience of the Cub Scouts in the early sixties was similar. Sure, we had the oath including our duty to God, but aside from having to rattle that off, I don’t remember any particular pushing of Christianity on us.

  25. Most of the people I know won’t support them anymore because they’re no longer Christian organization. If atheist gays or whatever you want to call yourself wanted to create a club, they should have just created one instead of destroying the scouts. Only a select few really are gay or support gays. It’s proven that majority of the people in the United States do not even want to deal with it and they shouldn’t be forced to. It’s ridiculous how this country has gone to catering a few and putting out the many.

  26. Shem, the Boy Scouts weren’t a Christian organization to begin with. In fact, Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouts as a youth organization independent of any single faith or religion. That said, he did consider belief in a higher power and spirituality important. That is why atheists aren’t allowed in the Scouts. The organization doesn’t care WHICH God(s) you believe in, just that you believe in a higher power.

    The only reason so many Boy Scout troops have an overtly Christian bent to them is because Christian churches are often the sponsors of a particular troop. Seeing them as a good way to proselytize and reenforce Christian beliefs. This is also why so many troops don’t allow gays. There’s nothing in the official Scouting bylaws banning homosexuals.

    As for atheists setting up their club, we did that. It’s called <a href=”https://www.campquest.org/our-programs>Camp Quest and it promotes Humanist Ethics along with Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry. Additionally there are several secular or non-religious alternatives to the scouts including Navigators USA, Camp Fire (formerly Camp Fire Girls founded in 1910), SpiralScouts , and — in an interesting twist — the Baden-Powell Service Association (BPSA) which is based on the Scouts founded by Baden-Powell, but without the bullshit about having to believe in a higher power.

    Gays and atheists haven’t destroyed the scouts. As I said previously, atheists are still officially not allowed to join. While officially the Scouts have accepted homosexuals, many troops run by churches still refuse to allow them to participate. Which is why I will not donate money to them.

    The rest of your comment makes some claims that just demonstrate your bigotry so I won’t bother to comment on them.

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