The Boy Scouts of America, over the past several years, has slowly accepted gay troops, gay leaders, trans boys, and, most recently, girls into their ranks. They’re even changing their name to Scouts BSA next year to get away from the limiting word “boys.”
The attempts at inclusion (and subsequent publicity) have been good news for an organization that’s seen declining membership over the years, even if the increased tolerance alienates evangelical Christians and Mormons in the process.
But there’s still one group of people that the BSA continues to shut out.
They refuse to allow open atheists in their group in any capacity. (Because building a car for the pinewood derby and learning how to tie knots requires belief in some higher power…) They point to the Scout Oath, which includes the phrase “I will do my best to do my duty to God,” and the Scout Law, which includes the goal of being “reverent” to God, as justification for the exclusion.
A couple of weeks ago, the BSA doubled down on their pledge to keep atheists out of the fold. At the group’s annual meeting, the BSA National Executive Board adopted a resolution that effectively blocks open atheists from joining. It reads as follows:
Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board Resolution Reaffirming Duty to God
WHEREAS the foundational values of the Boy Scouts of America are reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law;
WHEREAS the first part of the Scout Oath declares “On my honor I will do my best to do my Duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;”
WHEREAS the Declaration of Religious Principle in Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America states that:
The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgement of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental of good citizenship should be kept before them.
WHEREAS the twelfth point of the Scout Law is Reverent and while the Boy Scouts of America is absolutely nonsectarian in its view of religious training, Reverent means that a Scout is faithful in his or her religious duties and respects the beliefs of others; and
WHEREAS these faith-based tenets have been a part of the Boy Scouts of America since it was founded and, notwithstanding any changes to Scouting programs, the commitment of the movement to Duty to God is unwavering;Now therefore be it resolved that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America hereby reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle as a fundamental component of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.
Somehow, welcoming girls doesn’t affect the “fundamental component of the mission” of the BSA, but slightly rewriting the Oath and Law is a bridge too far.
Read the full story at the Friendly Atheist Blog