Boy Scouts reconsidering policy against gay membership

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Article here.

"The Boy Scouts of America is considering changing its longstanding policy against allowing openly gay members, according to a news release from the organization"

All I can think is "about time!"

It's a step in the right direction, though they still don't allow non-religious members. Reading their membership controversies wiki page, I'd say it's continual loss of financial support due to their homophobic policies that's prompting the change. Their stance would be to technically allow them, but let each troop's charter organization decide whether they're actually allowed to join, so I expect that discrimination would still run rampant.

Stengah wrote:
It's a step in the right direction, though they still don't allow non-religious members. Reading their membership controversies wiki page, I'd say it's continual loss of financial support due to their homophobic policies that's prompting the change. Their stance would be to technically allow them, but let each troop's charter organization decide whether they're actually allowed to join, so I expect that discrimination would still run rampant.

They require that a scout be reverent but there is no specific religion requirement. You could be a Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, Druid or worship Cthulhu as long as you show reverence to your God.

Charter oranizations will be free to decide so church's won't have to alter their policies. As a Scoutmaster I consider this a HUGE step and hopefully not the last!

It's still a problem if you have no god to be reverent to...

My body is a temple.

/eats an entire ice cream cake

Robear wrote:
It's still a problem if you have no god to be reverent to...

Worship Mother Earth then.

We don't have any screening process in our troop and I don't ask people who or what they worship when they join. Unless you come into it looking to prove a point it's a non issue.

Stupid phone

There is nothing more important to the Boy Scouts of America than money, so it does not surprise me in the least that they'd be reconsidering with all those donors bailing out.

I used to be a Scout, and loved the organization, and watched the Mormons overrun and ruin it, at least in my area. At this point, I'm not sure if I have more scorn for them for toeing the Mormon line and shutting out gays and atheists, or for backing off on the gay thing as soon as it started to hurt.

If it's not already obvious, I don't for a second think that this is motivated by anything except funding. They've been thoroughly corrupted by money; for many years, the primary selection process for getting into and advancing in professional Scouting was how much money you could raise. This is how the LDS members did so well, because they were able to out-raise just about everyone else, and eventually they had most of the senior positions.

So, I think they're just selling out, that they haven't had a crisis of conscience, and they don't think they were wrong.

In fairness, I haven't been associated with the Scouts for about twenty years now, so I suppose the LDS church may not be as utterly dominant as it was, but I'm not really buying it, and I don't think the LDSers have changed their minds.

Bear wrote:
Robear wrote:
It's still a problem if you have no god to be reverent to...

Worship Mother Earth then.

We don't have any screening process in our troop and I don't ask people who or what they worship when they join. Unless you come into it looking to prove a point it's a non issue.


It's not the thing that's worshiped that's the issue, it's the requirement that we worshiping anything.

Scout Oath wrote:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

God is in the oath, so we'd be lying every time we said it.
It may be a non-issue in your specific troop, which is great, but it's a major issue for the organization.

Stengah wrote:

Scout Oath wrote:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

God is in the oath, so we'd be lying every time we said it.
It may be a non-issue in your specific troop, which is great, but it's a major issue for the organization.

You are correct, it is in the oath but there is no requirement that you worship any particular God. In fact, that point was told to me by a Rabbi when I did my SM training. I believe his comment was "worship something, worship anything, just believe in something".

Malor, I've been involved in Scouting for over 10 years now and I haven't experienced anything close to what you described. I do know that each and every Council is very different and I believe that the LDS has their own version of Scouting that they follow.

The only out of troop fundraising we do is the popcorn sale and that covers the operational costs of our local council. In our troop, the Boys keep 30% of the profits to spend on camping gear, clothing etc.

Bear wrote:
Stengah wrote:

Scout Oath wrote:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

God is in the oath, so we'd be lying every time we said it.
It may be a non-issue in your specific troop, which is great, but it's a major issue for the organization.

You are correct, it is in the oath but there is no requirement that you worship any particular God. In fact, that point was told to me by a Rabbi when I did my SM training. I believe his comment was "worship something, worship anything, just believe in something".


You seem to be missing the point. The problem isn't the thing being worshiped, it's the worshiping of it. It's an inherently religious requirement. By having it in the oath, it requires the non-religious to lie every time they speak it, and I'm pretty sure dishonesty isn't one of the things you want to teach your scouts.

Didn't they do this once before and "decide" to keep it the same? Or am I misremembering?

Stengah wrote:
You seem to be missing the point. The problem isn't the thing being worshiped, it's the worshiping of it. It's an inherently religious requirement. By having it in the oath, it requires the non-religious to lie every time they speak it, and I'm pretty sure dishonesty isn't one of the things you want to teach your scouts.

By that measure you are correct.

Scouting was founded during a time when virtually everything had a religious basis. They've done a lot in the last few years to make it inclusive of everyone but if you worship nothing, not even mother nature, then it's not an organization for you.

Seems to be the next thing people will push for. "Boy Scouts still religious bigots: no atheists allowed http://www.religionnews.com/2013/01/... "

Edwin wrote:
Seems to be the next thing people will push for. "Boy Scouts still religious bigots: no atheists allowed http://www.religionnews.com/2013/01/... "

Allow people with no religion into an organization that has a religious basis seems somewhat silly to me. If you're an atheist why would you want to be in Scouts? Asking the BSA to do that would be akin joining a non-denominational church and asking them to change their weekly service to include atheists. You could do it, but what's the point?

The BSA will never give up requirements that are explicitly stated in the Scout Oath and Law. It's completely embedded in everything we do.

As a father and long-time scout, I would love this change. I have kept my son from Scouting because of the position on gay membership and leaders. In my case, I have no problem with the "God" thing, but it is in fact in there, and I doubt that part will ever change. I would have a hard time, as a parent, if I was an atheist, telling my child to just "go along" and lie in the Oath, as it's pretty antithetical to the whole point of an oath.

Bear wrote:

Allow people with no religion into an organization that has a religious basis seems somewhat silly to me. If you're an atheist why would you want to be in Scouts? Asking the BSA to do that would be akin joining a non-denominational church and asking them to change their weekly service to include atheists. You could do it, but what's the point?

Erm, to learn how to safely enjoy the Great Outdoors? To make new friends, to have a social outlet with your peers and do fun stuff away from your family? To instill the importance of honesty and loyalty? To have adult role models in the form of Scout Leaders that you can look up to?

All of which I did in the Scouts in the UK with barely even lip service to any religiosity. It was bloody brilliant, is what it was.

Well, a pretty reasonable point to doing that would be in order to include people who are not religious in a community activity that doesn't have an explicit religious basis.

Last time I checked, knot-tying, fire-starting, honesty, preparedness, community spirit, and the like didn't have anything to do with religious belief. Excluding non-religious people (unless they are prepared to be dishonest) is pretty wretched. What lesson does it teach when "we accept everyone, except people like that" is the rule? What lesson does it teach to the kids who are included who see others kept out? What lesson does it teach to the kids who want to join but are kept out?

And what do either of those lessons have to do with scouting?

In short: It's [em]not[/em] in fact a church, even a non-denominational one. (And as a side note: I'm pretty sure that Unitarians are totally cool with including atheists in their service.)

Hypatian and Jonman pretty much covered it. There is so much to scouting beyond the religious stuff that it seems like a waste to exclude people for any non-criminal reason.

Bear wrote:
Allow people with no religion into an organization that has a religious basis seems somewhat silly to me. If you're an atheist why would you want to be in Scouts? Asking the BSA to do that would be akin joining a non-denominational church and asking them to change their weekly service to include atheists. You could do it, but what's the point?

The BSA will never give up requirements that are explicitly stated in the Scout Oath and Law. It's completely embedded in everything we do.

You just outlined exactly why the Boy Scouts shouldn't be receiving preferential treatment from the government.

Hypatian wrote:
Well, a pretty reasonable point to doing that would be in order to include people who are not religious in a community activity that doesn't have an explicit religious basis.

Last time I checked, knot-tying, fire-starting, honesty, preparedness, community spirit, and the like didn't have anything to do with religious belief. Excluding non-religious people (unless they are prepared to be dishonest) is pretty wretched. What lesson does it teach when "we accept everyone, except people like that" is the rule? What lesson does it teach to the kids who are included who see others kept out? What lesson does it teach to the kids who want to join but are kept out?

And what do either of those lessons have to do with scouting?

In short: It's [em]not[/em] in fact a church, even a non-denominational one. (And as a side note: I'm pretty sure that Unitarians are totally cool with including atheists in their service.)

But it is an integral part of the program in the U.S. Every Scouting event I've ever been to, and I've been to hundreds, has opening prayer, religious ceremonies, closing prayers etc. It's integral to the Oath and Law that are said at every meeting. I can't think of a single function where there isn't some form of opportunity for a Scout to be "reverent". It's the 12th pillar of the Scout law. It's definitely part of the program. BSA doesn't care who or what you worship, just that you worship something.

iaintgotnopants wrote:
You just outlined exactly why the Boy Scouts shouldn't be receiving preferential treatment from the government.

I agree completely.

Bear wrote:
But it is an integral part of the program in the U.S. Every Scouting event I've ever been to, and I've been to hundreds, has opening prayer, religious ceremonies, closing prayers etc. It's integral to the Oath and Law that are said at every meeting. I can't think of a single function where there isn't some form of opportunity for a Scout to be "reverent". It's the 12th pillar of the Scout law. It's definitely part of the program. BSA doesn't care who or what you worship, just that you worship something.

Wow, the Scouts are so very different over here. My dad was a Cub leader for a long time, and he's a through-and-through atheist.

I believe the religious stuff is still a part of the Scouts here, but it's almost vestigial at this point, certainly in my experience.

Redwing wrote:
I believe the religious stuff is still a part of the Scouts here, but it's almost vestigial at this point, certainly in my experience.

This was so in my troop, but we were the counter-culture troop in the domain of the people Malor took issue with.

Bear wrote:
Hypatian wrote:
Well, a pretty reasonable point to doing that would be in order to include people who are not religious in a community activity that doesn't have an explicit religious basis.

Last time I checked, knot-tying, fire-starting, honesty, preparedness, community spirit, and the like didn't have anything to do with religious belief. Excluding non-religious people (unless they are prepared to be dishonest) is pretty wretched. What lesson does it teach when "we accept everyone, except people like that" is the rule? What lesson does it teach to the kids who are included who see others kept out? What lesson does it teach to the kids who want to join but are kept out?

And what do either of those lessons have to do with scouting?

In short: It's [em]not[/em] in fact a church, even a non-denominational one. (And as a side note: I'm pretty sure that Unitarians are totally cool with including atheists in their service.)

But it is an integral part of the program in the U.S. Every Scouting event I've ever been to, and I've been to hundreds, has opening prayer, religious ceremonies, closing prayers etc. It's integral to the Oath and Law that are said at every meeting. I can't think of a single function where there isn't some form of opportunity for a Scout to be "reverent". It's the 12th pillar of the Scout law. It's definitely part of the program. BSA doesn't care who or what you worship, just that you worship something.


As long as they're aware of and comfortable with the fact that they're teaching exclusion as a core teaching, that's fine. I don't think it'd be detrimental to the scouting experience to still have all that stuff, just not make it mandatory.

To further the side note: The BSA severed their ties with the Universal Unitarians once the Unitarians refused to stop criticizing the BSA's anti-gay stance.

Oh. I didn't actually know that the Boy Scouts and the UU had ever been associated. (Or was it just "they won't let the UUs sponsor/whatever-organizations-do scout troops any more"?) I mentioned UU simply because "non-denominational churches obviously can't be expected to deal with atheists" made no sense to me, and Unitarians were a pretty obvious counter-example. Unless "non-denominational" actually means "generic Christian" and not [em]actually[/em] non-denominational, anyway.

To Stengah's prediction. We got an email/press release from our local Scout council today, which contained the following:

"Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."

The way I my inner cynic reads this is : "Don't panic, Parents! Even if they remove the restriction at a national level, we'll still be free to keep the restriction at the local level."

We were already considering pulling our son out for various reasons. This is a organization that claims to be inclusive, non-sectarian and pluralist, yet half of the activities on the Pack schedule are simply invitations to church functions and it's plain that they reinforce that God = Christian God of the Bible. Their membership restrictions imply that homosexuals and non-theists cannot possibly be good people nor examples to look up to (and even dangerous), which is not a value I want instilled in my child. I'd hoped maybe this was just a phase for the institution due to the times, but these traits are indeed systemic and at the core of Scouting's principles. While the discrimination against gays may eventually go away, the discrimination against the non-religious will not. Religious belief is a part of what it is about.

I think we can find an organization or after school activity that is more consistent with our own beliefs.

Hypatian wrote:
Oh. I didn't actually know that the Boy Scouts and the UU had ever been associated. (Or was it just "they won't let the UUs sponsor/whatever-organizations-do scout troops any more"?) I mentioned UU simply because "non-denominational churches obviously can't be expected to deal with atheists" made no sense to me, and Unitarians were a pretty obvious counter-example. Unless "non-denominational" actually means "generic Christian" and not [em]actually[/em] non-denominational, anyway.

What I've pieced together from Wikipedia, the BSA page, and the UUA page:
When the BSA was founded in 1910, they asked the current POTUS to be the honorary president of the BSA. That president was William Howard Taft, who was a Unitarian. Unitarian Universalism didn't come about until 1961, when two different churches (Universalist Church of America & American Unitarian Association) merged, but I imagine they were associated with the BSA at their founding.
In 1985, the UUA started criticizing the BSA's stance against atheists and agnostics, they eventually added their stance against homosexuals to their complaints, and in 1998, the BSA withdrew their authorization for the UUA's Religion in Life scouting award. From what I've gathered, they essentially said Unitarian Universalism was no longer a valid religion in the eyes of the BSA. At the very least, the BSA no longer recognizes work done for (or as part of) the UUA, as meeting the requirements for the award. That's not to say they won't allow Unitarian Universalists like they don't allow atheists, but they can't get their religious merit badges and awards for learning about and serving Unitarian Universalism.

The UUA initially dropped their official criticism, and had their Religion in Life approval reinstated, but had it taken away again when the BSA found out they were still issuing material that was critical of the BSA. Some of the former UUA scout leaders broke with the UUA and created the Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization which is trying to regain full recognition from the BSA. I guess they've had some success too, as they've regained approval for their new Religion in Life program, and have at least some medals/awards.

GioClark wrote:
The way I my inner cynic reads this is : "Don't panic, Parents! Even if they remove the restriction at a national level, we'll still be free to keep the restriction at the local level."

That is exactly what it means.

GioClark wrote:
We were already considering pulling our son out for various reasons. This is a organization that claims to be inclusive, non-sectarian and pluralist, yet half of the activities on the Pack schedule are simply invitations to church functions and it's plain that they reinforce that God = Christian God of the Bible.

I take it this chartering organization is a Catholic or protestant church? If so what do you expect?

GioClark wrote:
We were already considering pulling our son out for various reasons. This is a organization that claims to be inclusive, non-sectarian and pluralist, yet half of the activities on the Pack schedule are simply invitations to church functions and it's plain that they reinforce that God = Christian God of the Bible. Their membership restrictions imply that homosexuals and non-theists cannot possibly be good people nor examples to look up to (and even dangerous), which is not a value I want instilled in my child. I'd hoped maybe this was just a phase for the institution due to the times, but these traits are indeed systemic and at the core of Scouting's principles. While the discrimination against gays may eventually go away, the discrimination against the non-religious will not. Religious belief is a part of what it is about.

I think we can find an organization or after school activity that is more consistent with our own beliefs.

Every troop runs differently. Sounds like your chartering organization is a church. I'd suggest before you pull your son out of Scouts that you visit a few troops that are sponsored by civic organizations. We're sponsored by a local PTO and honestly, religion has never been an issue.

rabbit wrote:
As a father and long-time scout, I would love this change. I have kept my son from Scouting because of the position on gay membership and leaders. In my case, I have no problem with the "God" thing, but it is in fact in there, and I doubt that part will ever change. I would have a hard time, as a parent, if I was an atheist, telling my child to just "go along" and lie in the Oath, as it's pretty antithetical to the whole point of an oath.

I'm pretty much with Rabbit. Actually, I want them to change their stance on gay Scouts but I want them to maintain the religious aspect of the organization. No one chooses to be gay but they do choose to believe in God or not. I don't view having a religious aspect of the organization (which is open to all religions, in Milwaukee at the Sikh temple near my house they have a scout troop) as bad.

Ulairi wrote:
rabbit wrote:
As a father and long-time scout, I would love this change. I have kept my son from Scouting because of the position on gay membership and leaders. In my case, I have no problem with the "God" thing, but it is in fact in there, and I doubt that part will ever change. I would have a hard time, as a parent, if I was an atheist, telling my child to just "go along" and lie in the Oath, as it's pretty antithetical to the whole point of an oath.

I'm pretty much with Rabbit. Actually, I want them to change their stance on gay Scouts but I want them to maintain the religious aspect of the organization. No one chooses to be gay but they do choose to believe in God or not. I don't view having a religious aspect of the organization (which is open to all religions, in Milwaukee at the Sikh temple near my house they have a scout troop) as bad.

I think that's totally fine; they should probably lose preferential government treatment though, if they continue to be exclusionary in their membership.

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