Revoke Public Funding to the Boy Scouts Due to Religiously-Based Discrimination

Neil Polzin joined the Boy Scouts when he was nine years old. At age eighteen Neil was awarded his Eagle Scout badge. For nine years, Neil Polzin worked for the Boy Scouts of America organization as an Aquatics Director for a Boy Scout camp.

“Scouts made me who I am,” said Neil. “At 14, I became a life guard and began training other life guards—that’s how I met my fiancée. The merit badges that I did in biology and chemistry as a teenager led me to discover my love of science and major in Chemistry. The rescue skills that Scouts taught me enabled me to save lives; on a hiking trip I came across a stranded hiker and my Scouts survival skills allowed me to climb down a ravine and perform first-aid for seven hours until the hiker could be rescued by an emergency helicopter. My work at the Boy Scouts camp and the hundreds of hours I’ve volunteered with the Scouts is my way of giving back to an organization that has profoundly shaped me as a person.”

Yet, after almost two decades, Neil was ordered to “sever any ties” with the Boy Scouts of America when it became known to higher-ups in the organization that Neil was an atheist. In June 2009, Neil received a letter stating that the Boy Scouts “did not feel he was a capable role model for children” because he does not have a god-belief. Neil was fired from his job as Aquatics Director and told to never contact anyone from his local troop again.

  • Neil’s story is no isolated incident. Many American families are hurt by the Scout’s discriminatory practices barring those without a god belief from participation at both the child and adult level.
  • Congress has continually chosen to fund the Boy Scouts of America, most recently in 2008 when they directed the U.S. Mint to produce commemorative Boy Scouts coins as a 3.5 million dollar fundraiser for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). [For other examples, see our position paper.]
  • In 1785, James Madison argued that a true religion did not need the support of law; that no person, either believer or nonbeliever, should be taxed to support a religious institution of any kind.
  • When Congress gives money to the Boy Scouts organization, it endorses the religious discrimination practiced by the Boy Scouts.
  • Federal funding of the Boy Scouts organization allows the organization to continue discriminating against those without a god-belief and teaching young boys that only god-believers can be “good citizens.”
  • Many young boys who have a naturalistic world-view are forced to violate their own consciences in order to remain Scouts.
  • Using tax dollars to impose religious beliefs on others is immoral and unconstitutional.

The Secular Coalition for America urges Congress to bar the use of federal funds to assist any organization that discriminates based on religion -- including the Boy Scouts of America. We further urge Congress to revoke the federal charter of the Boy Scouts of America.

For more detail, read our position paper.

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