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About the ‘belief in God’ requirement in Scouting

expertlogo1The BSA asks its members to affirm a belief in God.

That doesn’t mean the Boy Scouts of America tells its members which religion to practice.

It doesn’t mean Scouts and Scouters must attend their faith’s worship services every week; a Scout could practice his faith privately at home, for example.

Here’s what it does mean. I’m quoting the relevant line from the 2013 Guide to Advancement:

All that is required is the acknowledgment of belief in God as stated in the Declaration of Religious Principle and the Scout Oath, and the ability to be reverent as stated in the Scout Law.

Case closed, right? Not in every Scout unit. For example, last month I received this email from a Scouter named Mary:

How do you handle advancement when a Scout says he doesn’t believe in God?

That’s an important question. For the answer, I went to the expert: R. Chip Turner, chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force. Chip is a volunteer and Silver Buffalo Award recipient.

He shares the ways in which the BSA affirms the importance of a belief in God in the following response. It’s lengthy but rich with important information.

The expert’s response

By R. Chip Turner, Chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force.

B-P-Religion-quoteBryan, thanks for the opportunity to address this very timely question. The shortest answer is that we should help Scouts and their families come to realize that a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building. This does not reflect a change in BSA policy nor does it place Scouters in the role of religious leaders.

By signing the membership application, each leader has already acknowledged the Declaration of Religious Principle which affirms a belief in God, calls for an appreciation for the faith of others, and acknowledges the importance of faith in citizenship development. Moreover, this same Declaration of Religious Principle is now included on the youth application form which is to be signed by the parents. All signatories are also reminded that the BSA is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.

Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

“Duty to God” has always been a cornerstone of Scouting. Lord Robert Baden-Powell affirmed this on numerous occasions. B-P once responded to a question about the importance of faith (religion) in Scouting by saying: “Where does religion come in? Well, my reply is … it does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.” 

To further emphasize the importance of faith In American Scouting, early leaders incorporated a 12th point into the Scout Law: “a Scout is reverent.”

As I write this response, my wife and I are on the way home from a vacation which included a return visit to Gilwell in England. While walking on those grounds, I was particularly struck by Gilwell’s designated “Faith Walk” which includes worship sites and support facilities for many of the world religions. Each of these locations is a testimony to the importance of “duty to God” in Scouting. Thousands upon thousands of Scouts from all over the world have worshipped there and, in the process, affirmed this pivotal belief in God.

While Scouting is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward religious training,” BSA affirms the importance a belief in God in a number of ways. Here is a small sampling:

  • “Duty to God” Program Enhancements: The new program elements being introduced for Boy Scouts, and Venturers, provide even clearer support for the importance of “duty to God” in Scouting. In addition, greater assistance is provided for adult leaders in their affirming “duty to God” as well as in teaching respect for the faith of others.

As mentioned earlier, it is very important to note that these enhancements do not reflect a change in “duty to God” perspective by BSA. For instance, the faith adventures in the Cub Scout program are clearly designed to be carried out in the family with the assistance of their faith group leaders. This affirms the Declaration of Religious Principle.

In Boy Scouts, participants at each review for rank advancement will be asked how they have done their duty to God since achievement of their current rank. It does not put the Scouter in the role of a religious leader nor does it empower this leader to accept answers only from his or her religious perspective. It does, however, provide an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of “duty to God”.

We have all likely heard horror stories of boys being asked in their Eagle Scout board of review about how they have done their “duty to God,” only to have the youth say they don’t believe in God. Equally disappointing is the example I heard of recently of an Eagle Scout who publicly admitted that he simply lied when asked about “duty to God” in his board of review.

Have we not somehow failed such a young person who apparently is not concerned about violating the first and 12th parts of the Scout Law? In my opinion, we have not delivered the full Scouting program if “duty to God” is first addressed at an Eagle board.

By the time a young person has achieved the Summit Award in Venturing, he or she will have completed a “structured personal reflection” related to “Adventures of Faith.” In keeping with Scouting being nonsectarian in matters of faith, “a Venturer is not required to share the personal reflection associated with ‘Adventures of Faith’ with his or her Advisor or members of a board of review.”

In other words, Scouting, strongly affirms this fulfillment of “duty to God” while looking to the Venturer’s family and religious leaders to provide faith-specific guidance.

  • Religious Emblems Programs / RECs: While all elements of these programs are prepared and administered by the various faith groups, BSA authorizes the wearing of the emblems on the Scout’s uniform. BSA has also authorized the adult positions of Religious Emblems Coordinator at unit, district, and council levels to help Scouts and their families to learn about and pursue the religious emblems of their chosen faith.
  • Chaplain: The position of chaplain is encouraged at the unit level as well as for council camps and a variety of national/international Scouting activities such as jamborees, NOAC, and high adventure bases. For example, approximately 140 chaplains serve at each national jamboree.
  • Chaplain Aide: This Boy Scout troop leadership role is intended to support “duty to God” in Scouting. Whether helping provide appropriate worship opportunities and devotional thoughts at Scouting events, including grace with meals, providing information on the religious emblems programs, or teaching respect for the religious beliefs of others, the Chaplain Aide has an important role in support of “duty to God.”

Yes, belief in God is a cornerstone of Scouting. As Scouters, we have a tremendous opportunity to reflect this core principle while helping teach respect for the beliefs of others in pursuit of doing our “duty to God.”

Related post

Duty to God becoming larger part of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting


Photo from BSA Flickr. Find this and others here.

391 Comments on About the ‘belief in God’ requirement in Scouting

  1. Jeff Lauer // October 3, 2014 at 8:10 am //

    I do not believe that the question has been answered. Can a scout become an Eagle Scout if he states that he does not believe in GOD.

    • He can as long as he believes in a higher power. There are many Wiccan eagle scouts that don’t believe in God. They worship and show reverence to Nature.

      There are only a handful of faith traditions that are not compatible with bsa. Atheism is one. Some Eastern religions where there is no deity. And a few others.

      • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 10:24 am //

        This is incorrect. Buddhism is non-theistic, and it is the third-largest religious sect in BSA. Buddhist Scout Troops are alive and well in areas with a Japanese-heritage population – Seattle and the Bay Area.

        http://www.scouting.org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs/Buddhist.aspx

        • Slightly confused. Sounds like you are AGREEING. What is incorrect. If Buddhism is alive and well in BSA, then what is incorrect? I could just be reading your statement wrong.

        • mariahwwa, I believe the “incorrect” portion is the part of Tom’s statement saying “where there is no deity,” based on her reply about Buddhism

      • Atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. It is not a “faith tradition” any more than “off” is a TV station.

        • Agnosticism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is the firm belief that there cannot be a possibility. now or ever, that any deities exist. Agnosticism says, “Well, I haven’t seen any evidence of that so far,” and atheism continues, “and I never will.”

        • @ Barrt, you’re incorrect. There are Gnostic and Agnostic forms of atheism. Interesting that people have no problem saying, when it comes to unicorns, smufs, fairies, Zeus, or Apollo – “Well, I haven’t seen any evidence of that so far, and I never will.”

          Else you’d have to admit you are actually agnostic about everything you believe, because you cannot be 100% sure.

          Seems strange to chastise someone for saying they are 100% sure something doesn’t exist, though they cannot prove it to be the case, while being 100% sure that some ‘higher power’ does exist.

        • You’re right, I cannot be certain that unicorns don’t exist:
          http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3480#comic
          😉

        • Alright, I have no choice but to give a thumbs up to that reply.
          http://tinyurl.com/9p6az8p

      • I would beg to differ that Wiccans “don’t believe in God”. Maybe not God as defined by Judeo/Christian beliefs, but most Wiccans believe in a God and Goddess and see their presence in Nature. So, to expand on Tom’s comment that “they worship and show reverence to Nature” – they are really worshipping and showing reverence to the Lord and Lady as found in Nature.

    • 1 Samuel 15:3: “This is what the Lord Almighty says … ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

      Psalm 137, which celebrates this terrible revenge: “Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us / He who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

      • You can make anything bad when you don’t give the context.

        The Amalekites were the enemies of Israel who committed horrible abuses among their own nation, including child sacrifice, as archeology has shown. They were rebelling directly against God. The action of israel was no different than the U.S. bombing Germany during World War II to suppress Hitler’s regime. We just complain it’s wrong when it’s in the Bible.

        • Except the nature of bombs, and bombing doesn’t allow them to discern between combatants and noncombatants. It’d have been a little different if the U.S. put soldiers on the ground who had the ability to not kill women and children, and then commanded them to kill them anyhow. The outrage would have been just the same, and the ridicule similar to that which Christianity faces on account of verses like these.

    • So…. I can’t be an atheist? Well then, HAIL SATAN!

      • Be anything you want. That’s the point. But your being an atheist does not give you the right to prevent others to worship as they choose (any religion) just because you don’t approve.

      • I laughed!

      • I laughed!
        This is the fundamental flaw in logic of the DRP… as long as you believe in something, you can believe in ANYTHING!

      • Such blasphemy! The FSM has boiled for YOUR sins!

        RAmen.

    • EagleRay CA // October 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm //

      “It is a fundamental principal with us (the Methodists) that to renounce reason is to renounce religion, that religion and reason go hand in hand, and that all irrational religion is false religion.” John Wesley

    • Trenton Spears // October 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm //

      Jeff Lauer No earthly organization can be all things to all people. The more we try to change things for a solution for all participants the worst it gets. The Boy Scouts was formed in 1907 by Baden Powell with certain and assured values based on religious and fundamental core beliefs in Deity. What Baden was trying to instill was that scouts would be better served if they had a common belief in a Deity based organization. This was successful for over a hundred years with the support of its youth and leaders. We have seen on this blog cases of Scouts being awarded their Eagle Scout Rank that were at best suspect as to the qualifications of a religious requirement for the award. The Scout Oath and Law cannot be ignored in any circumstances yet we see some push the envelope and move on without full regard for the honor and integrity of being a member of the Boy Scouts.This fall from honor was not the intent and mandate of the founders of the Boy Scouts they clearly intended that deity would be among the core values of Scouting and no other intent was suggested and promoted. To the present day scouters that do not agree with Baden Powell’s vision please do not try to change these core values it will only divide the mission of the Boy Scouts. Rather than try to change the mission and core values of the Boy Scouts some should change their beliefs rather than the Boy Scout organization standards that have been supported for the last 100 years. If some cannot comply with these standards maybe the Boy Scouts is not for their agenda and move on to another organization or form their own. Jeff I don’t know if this answered your comment except I do know that the BSA is a organization of honor and those that circumvented these standards have truly failed to live up to the ideals of honesty and integrity as a Boy Scout or Leader. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

      • “The more we try to change things for a solution for all participants the worst it gets…What Baden was trying to instill was that scouts would be better served if they had a common belief in a Deity based organization.”

        So did scouting get worse when they approved Buddhism as a recognized religion in scouting? There is no common belief in a deity in Buddhism, it is non-theistic. In case you do not know, non-theism is the absence or the rejection of a personal god or gods. It is difficult to get more of a non-common belief in a deity than that.

        ” To the present day scouters that do not agree with Baden Powell’s vision please do not try to change these core values it will only divide the mission of the Boy Scouts.”

        To present day scouts I say, please do what you think is best for scouting to grow and evolve and stay relevant. This organization is no longer Baden Powell’s vision or organization any more than the United States is the vision or organization of the slave holders that founded it.

        • Trenton Spears // October 5, 2014 at 12:51 pm //

          Hawkin// It is to bad that you chose to disrespect the founder of the Boy Scout organization and his many accomplishments. As I have stated the Boy Scouts cannot be all things to all people and in the future you will come to realize this will be a fact. I find your comments very demeaning and divisive. If you have not learned the vision of Baden Powell in what time you have been in Scouting you have truly missed a great opportunity to increase your knowledge of the mission and purpose’s of the Boy Scouts. Trenton Spears

        • Hello Trenton Spears. I do not know this Baden-Powell you refer to. Your vision is one of a small scouting society composed of only those who believe similar to what you believe in. You prefer organizations that are divided among what you believe and then a different place for all those who believe differently. That wasn’t Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell thought of scouting as a means for the world to come together and live in peace. He wrote: ” Its aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes, to eradicate the prevailing narrow self-interest; personal, political, sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity; and thus to develop mutual goodwill and cooperation not only within our own country but abroad, between all countries.” It is unclear to me how kicking out non-believers and anyone who disagrees with you on the subject of religion or sexuality furthers the aims of scouting that Baden-Powell had. You promote divisiveness. Baden-Powell preached harmony and cooperation. Maybe you are not really interested in what Baden-Powell referred to as “Peace Scouts”?

        • Trenton Spears // October 5, 2014 at 1:47 pm //

          Dave I agree with your statement on Peace Scouts promoted by Baden Powell. I don’t agree with your statement on I belonging to just a small segment of Baden Powell’s followers. I believe I belong to the main stream of Baden Powell followers for the last one hundred years. In my 30 + years in Scouting have never wavered in the core beliefs of the founder Lord Baden Powell he is more than a promoter of peace he has instilled the values of a deity based organization to the Boy Scouts to deny this is to deny the evidence of truth based on Baden Powell’s writings and teachings. There is further evidence by a fellow blogger named Paula // in her comment today October 5th stated above.
          Quote” This is a 100-year old organization with a clear mission that they feel is intricately tied to religion. They are clear about this, so why do they have to change? If you do not hold the same values as the BSA, then join another group. There are plenty of other secular activities for your children to do. It is selfish to force institutions to change based on the whims of society. Fads come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever, it does not change. If you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to be a scout.
          The Mission of the Boy Scouts of America:
          “It is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to serve others by helping to instill values in young people and, in other ways, to prepare them to make ethical choices during their lifetime in achieving their full potential. The values we strive to instill are based on those found in the Scout Oath and Law.” Unquote. Dave you see we are not a small segment of Baden Powell followers as you insinuate. Sincerely Trenton Spears

      • Sorry, I had to reply to your original comment, no reply available to your reply.

        I am not disrespecting Baden Powell. I am not disrespecting the founding fathers of our country either. I am illustrating that as outstanding as they might have been, they lived in a different time. Our country, our Constitution, and even our organization has evolved to become MORE INCLUSIVE.

        My position is that we should be welcoming, even to the agnostics and atheists, with the idea that by increasing their interaction with people of faith, they will gain a greater appreciation, respect, and perhaps even discover their own faith.

        If I recall correctly, there was a time when we did not welcome blacks, then we evolved. There was a time when did not allow female leaders, then we evolved. There was a time when we did not allow gay scouts, then we evolved.

        Did BSA disrespect Powell when they decided to allow gay scouts, regardless of it being a sin (and a mortal one at that) in the vast majority of faiths in the world?

        If we can welcome gay scouts – who are effectively active and unrepentant sinners – why can we not welcome people that have no faith at all?

        • Trenton Spears // October 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm //

          Hawkin // Sorry I stand by my statement that you showed disrespect for the Founder Baden Powell. Hawkin you are among the group of shifting values that have divided the BSA. If Baden Powell was relevant in 1907 he is relevant now. Trenton Spears

      • “awkin // Sorry I stand by my statement that you showed disrespect for the Founder Baden Powell. Hawkin you are among the group of shifting values that have divided the BSA. If Baden Powell was relevant in 1907 he is relevant now.”

        Can you show me where I stated he was not relevant? And come, get over yourself (and Powell) a little. Showed disrespect? You state that like he is a holy figure without the possibility of error. I initially referenced our founding fathers in a comparison to Powell – they are both worth a tremendous amount of respect. That does not mean that as society, we might have a different tolerance for diversity today than what Powell might have had at the founding of BSA or than what the founding fathers did at the founding of our country. Both BSA and our Constitution have evolved. It is not disrespectful to point out this fact. BSA has already evolved far beyond what Powell or anyone else might have envisioned of it at its creation.

        You claim that is my shifting values that have divided BSA. I claim that it would be your unwillingness to evolve BSA that is dividing it.

        Would you have also stood in the way of integrating BSA with blacks? Allowing female leaders? BSA resisted integration for blacks for twenty years after schools were integrated.

        You probably will respond, “of course not” which is what people will say 30 years from now about the opposition to gay scouts.

        • Trenton Spears // October 6, 2014 at 10:47 am //

          Hawkin// Sorry you have to read comments and twist the meaning of others that comment on this blog. Of course I support Blacks I had one in my troop when I was a boy scout in 1948 along with Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Whites . Of course I support Women my very first BSA training was by a women as a adult leader. My wife was a Den Leader in 1963.One of my Assistant Scoutmasters at the 2010 Jamboree was a women and what a asset she was then and now. As for your statement about Baden Powell that I stated that he was a holy figure is pure nonsense I never stated in my comments that he was. Hawkin I am truly at a loss as why you create statements that were not made by me. Do you believe in the Scout Oath and Law or does that need to be evolved out of the BSA. Trenton Spears

    • The question posed, or that should be posed, at a BOR is ‘How do you fulfill your Duty to god?’ Not “Do you believe in God?” There is a world of difference. What we are looking for is an answer along the lines of showing respect and reverence for all religions, being a good person, helping others and respecting other people and their religions and customs by treating them the way the Scout would want to be treated himself. When they attend services they participate respectfully and show proper respect and behavior. A belief in God is not necessarily fulfilling Duty to God, it’s the behavior of a Scout that fulfills that requirement. I have met a good number of people in my life who profess their belief in Jesus but their actions and deeds through life are not becoming of a good Christian. Along this line, a Scout is a child whose opinions and beliefs are evolving. They may believe there is a God one day, not the next and unsure the next. Why would you press and judge a child whose actions speak clearly about them as a person regardless of what they may or may not believe that day. As an adult I wrestle with my faith, as do many adults, those thought processes do not define us as people but our actions, behavior and treatment of others does. BSA is about developing good people whose actions and behavior contribute to the greater good not contributing to organized religion. Let’s try asking and focusing on the right question.

    • I agree, what do you do if a scout says I don’t believe in God. Do they get removed from scouts do I call someone at the council?

      • Msrk, they do not get removed and no call to council is needed, I do ask them to keep an open mind and be willing to talk about it… I don’t know what the call would be about really except to make what should be a small, personal issue into an unnecessarily larger one. We’ve had this happen plenty. These are children trying to figure out their way in the world. Scouting provides life lessons and guidance that I think every child can benefit from. Why would we punish a child who says ‘I don’t believe in God’? If a Scout says ‘I don’t believe’ but does attend services with the Troop, does respect other’s religious beliefs and shows goodness and kindness towards others and does live by the oath and law then they clearly are benefiting and following the path. Actions speak louder than words. I have seen some boys who misbehave and maybe even would say this if they thought it would be a ticket out of Scouting. They need our patience and guidance even more. I’ve found that these boys, given time and patience can be affirmation that what you are doing is well worth it. We need to realize that sometimes we get stuck on something like getting a boy to say what we think is the right thing, aka “I believe in God/higher power/Allah/etc”, and we have lost sight of the forest for the trees. Personally I just don’t understand the fixation here with getting a child to make the statement we want when we want it. We truly are not seeing the forest for the trees. Scouting is about so much more than this single sentence and yet we are ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. It really is perplexing to me.

        • Hi Tammy, thank you for your words! I dearly, dearly hope that the people who will be on my son’s BOR will have your attitude! I am saddened and worried that after all these years and hard work, my son will not be approved, because, right now, he says he doesn’t believe. He was raised in a religious family, so for most of his scouting career he would have “fit the bill” While it saddens me that he has lost his faith, I still know him to be a good person and good scout in every other way!
          If this has become such a huge issue, should I even encourage him to start an Eagle project? Because what a terrible lesson would that be for him…having gone through all this and then be told it was all for nothing? 🙁

    • Trenton Spears // January 18, 2015 at 6:18 pm //

      Jeff I think with the pressures of today’s society the question is a tough decision. They are only two answers yes they can no they can’t the BSA must make the call and soon.The problem with the BSA is that they are more concerned with funding and growth than quality more interested in political correctness than traditions and long standing values that the 2013 Boy Scouts finally left. The BSA has opened its doors to be a organization of all things to all people and left to govern by the whims of society and not the standards of a private organization that forms its own rules and their is no denying that for over a hundred and three years has been the most successful youth program in the world. The United States is changing and I suppose we are being foolish thinking that it would not infiltrate the BSA . We must hope for the best prepare for the worst it going to be a rocky road.

      • Well Trenton – for others like me, the BSA left their true values when they moved their HQ’s to Texas and took a turn to being a conservative organization and began to take sides in “a culture war”, rather than being apolitical. When I was a kid, the BSA was open to everyone and it was unthinkable that the BSA would ever kick a kid out of scouting. So in my mind, 2013 was the return to a pluralistic BSA that is open to all and the end of the non-traditional BSA that is mean, spiteful and petty.

        • Trenton Spears // January 19, 2015 at 12:29 am //

          Dave B I suppose that you are partially right I have been in scouting for over 30 years and as a Boy scout in 1948 and I believed it was open to everyone that wanted to be a Scout having said that I knew then that homosexuality was not a good thing and to be avoided and certainly not a part of Scouting. My parents would certainly not let me be a Boy Scout period. I saw very few boys kicked out of Scouting because of religious reasons but always behavior reasons so it is thinkable and it did occur and one bad apple scout would hurt the troop in their functions and were certainly ask to leave. I find your statement on a pluralistic BSA is not a true assessment of Scouting as most Scouters have always believed in the principles of the BSA declarations and standards of On my Honor and Duty to God. Your comment about non- traditional scouts that is mean, spiteful and petty is hard to understand and I am not sure of your meaning I never knew of non-traditional Boy Scouts this is a label that is new to me you insinuate that there are two classification of the BSA traditional and non-traditional never heard of it please explain I would think that non tradition refers to another type of scouting organization outside of the BSA. Dave if the Boy Scouts became political it occurred mostly in the 2000 with the lawsuits that were filed in behalf of the exclusion of Homosexual leaders in Scouting and that everyone of the plaintiffs lost.The prior years since 2000 and the founding of the BSA I never thought that politics was a factor in the BSA. Dave your statement that the BSA became conservative when they moved to Irving Texas has no basis and I am not sure why you brought it up.

        • Trenton, we’ve had a back-and-forth in this forum already, and I don’t want to rehash old news, but I seriously wonder if you realize just how ignorant you come across? Pick up a book man! Open your eyes. It’s one thing to be ignorant of facts, it’s another to CHOSE TO REMAIN SO. Homosexuality, like it or not, is a natural phenomenon, it occurs in most species and is observed and documented in our closest relatives, the binobo and the chimpanzee. By logical extension, if Man was created in God’s image, God must be, by my guess, about 5% gay. That’s a poor attempt at humor, but seriously though, I ask that you remember that we are dealing with 11-18 year old boys here. certainly it is fair to expect them to respect other’s religious views (unlike mine and other’s bad behavior in this forum), but we shouldn’t expect them to have a clear, developed notion of seismic … let alone theism. Can we all just agree that Humanism is legitimate and allow the non-theist boys to make THAT claim? Humanist principles are considerably better written, more morally upstanding, and less subject to interpretation than the 10 commandments.

        • Trenton Spears // January 19, 2015 at 12:43 pm //

          Bret I would suggest one book for you to read the King James Bible it can explain more than I could ever explain. I don’t need a bible bashing hypocrite like you to advise me on anything. To suggest that apes and monkeys are in the image of God is certainly a sure sign of ignorance of the beginning of mankind here is a quote from one of your blogs.

          Quote on November 17th 2014: .I, personally, don’t rule out the possibility that there is some kind of force that drives the universe that is well beyond my five senses, but I am not foolish enough to believe that man-made explanations for that possibility are sufficient and whole. Nor WOULD I pretend to know the mind of God if he does, in fact exist. Does this make me an atheist or an agnostic? I really don’t know. Unquote.

          Bret God is in command of everything in my world and your attempt to place your thoughts as God’s thoughts is quite remarkable especially on the subject of homosexuality and is at best hypocritical, I don’t see any relevance that you should present any subject on religion when you don’t really know your statement not mine. Bryan Wendell has opened this subject does a Scout need to have a belief in God to be a Scout. Bryan’s blog opportunities are open to all who wish to express there views and though I am steadfast and repeat my convictions it is not a sign of ignorance nor lack of research. Just freedom of speech my right and your right.

        • I concede that my comment was rude and that my exasperation over what I see as your limited world view is no excuse for name calling. I will, however, take my reading list over yours any day. It might surprise you to know that I HAVE read the KJV bible, as well as many others. It is very clear to me that The Christian bible is a manmade construct full of contradiction that is not particularly moralistic — unless you choose to only quote certain passages and to interpret them liberally at that.

          Despite my misgivings regarding whereupon you draw your world view, I sincerely wish you well and hope you are as open minded as you portend. When a Scout, in a Scoutmaster Conference or Board of Review, states that he is not convinced there is a god, but that he is a Humanist and he respects other viewpoints so long as the Golden Rule is followed, that darn well better be good enough for you and yours or else you WILL have a fight on your hands.

        • Trenton Spears // January 19, 2015 at 2:46 pm //

          Brett I have set in on many Eagle Scout Board of reviews and I have never turned down a Scout to become a Eagle Scout I admit some were borderline but certainly worthy of the Honor of becoming a Eagle Scout. Thankfully I have never ran across a Scout that did not believe in the Duty to God requirements of becoming a Eagle Scout does that mean someday it will happen at this point who knows certainly the present BSA is in a dilemma on the correct way to address this issue and I am glad that I am not in position to make the decision to change the long standing Duty to God standard that I truly love. Bret I am not sure that a change would benefit scouting’s goal to build a stronger BSA I am appalled that those of faith are labeled Bible thumpers that rely on ancient text and church doctrine Here is one of your responses;

          From you Bret: Quote: thank you for standing up and being counted, Calvin. As you’ve already deduced, I’m sure, this post is full of very opinionated bible thumpers. The more people we can get to stand up for legitimate morality and honestly discuss right from wrong, without leaning on ancient texts and church indoctrination, the better. Unquote;

          Bret you must admit that there is a small movement to drive religion out of the BSA as you state it would make the BSA better, I know that it is the right of people to make suggestions to the BSA program if warranted but I must warn the BSA Leaders it must consider the need of religion based scouting units that make up the majority of scouting. Bret to listen to bigotry and bashing of religion is a dangerous slippery slope. Baden Powell’s support for a deity based foundation in Scouting worldwide has had a very positive force in the shaping of the world’s youth and the success of Scouting for over a 116 years. Bret to throw out these important principles is foolish and an insult on the issue of legitimate morality and honest discussion as you have stated. Bret time to stop the name calling and stand by your own statement of open, legitimate and honest debate.

    • He can. His actions and behavior speak to whether he is Eagle quality or not. The question asked at any BOR, including Eagle, is “What do you do to fulfill your Duty to God?” not “Do you believe in God?” There is a huge difference and people are fixating on the latter instead of the former when it is the former that is required of the Scout and can be determined to be true or not through evidence. The latter is a question that is not fair to ask of a child, and they are still children, and the answer can change any day. An Eagle is expected to be an example through his behavior, his treatment of others, how he conducts himself, how he treats others and the respect and leadership he shows to all. They are a full package taken on the whole, not judged by one answer which many of us would be hard pressed to answer and then justify our answer with a logical argument. much less one we could expect a child to have,

    • The question was answered. You can’t be a Boy Scout at all if you state that you don’t believe in God, much less an Eagle Scout. On the membership application it makes this clear.

      • Hello Benjdm,
        You apparently haven’t been following the conversation. Buddhist churches on the west coast have been chartering BSA troops since shortly after World War 2. You can certainly be a Buddhist, be a scout, and get Eagle. And not believe in God, since you are a Buddhist. It’s been that way for sixty years. People here have been twisting it that Buddhists can easily substitute a different meaning for God than what Protestants do and so that is good enough. But I suspect because the BSA didn’t really understand Buddhism 60 years ago. So the question is – can a religious humanist satisfy the BSA? The BSA has been silent on this thread about other religious folks who do not believe there is a “God” as in the 100 year old wording that of the BSA Declaration of Religous Principles. .

        • In our troop we had a scout sent home from his EBOR because he didn’t believe in a higher power. He eventually returned and said he couldn’t rule out the existence and was rewarded his Eagle. That was several yrs ago. I believe statements on the Eagle ap have been updated to help alleviate those issues by clearly stating the requirement and requiring a letter

        • “You can certainly be a Buddhist, be a scout, and get Eagle. And not believe in God,”

          No, you can’t. You have to answer ‘yes’ to believing in God or they kick you out. The Declaration of Religious Principles is quite clear.

          From the BSA Charter and bylaws:

          “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member
          can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation
          to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the
          member declares, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty
          to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.” The recognition
          of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the
          grateful acknowledgment 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 need of good citizenship
          should be kept before them. ”

          The BSA was willing to go to court in a lawsuit to keep an 8 year old agnostic out, purely on the basis that the boy didn’t believe in God. Look up Welsh v. Boy Scouts of America.

        • If the BSA thinks you can disbelieve in God and still be a boy scout, why are they approving of this quote in the article?

          “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys his laws.” – Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys, 1908

          Seems like they would leave that out if boys who didn’t believe in God could join.

        • The BSA allows for and provides special recognition to buddists, hindus, and Unitarian Universalists (among many others) – all who either have no expressed belief in God or have a belief in numerous gods. Hindus even have atheistic branches of their religion.

        • Hawkwin:

          Read the article again. It is repeated many times. The article starts and concludes with its main point:

          “The BSA asks its members to affirm a belief in God.

          Yes, belief in God is a cornerstone of Scouting.”

          You can be a Unitarian Universalist and a Boy Scout only if you’re a theist UU. Same for Buddhism and same for Hindus. Or if you’re willing to lie about believing in God. That’s it.

        • The Scout Association of the United Kingdom is flexible in their interpretation of the writings of Baden-Powell and has so far avoided the controversies facing the Boy Scouts of America. Their stance is considerably more level-headed than the hard line being presented by the religious right in this forum. Check it out:

          “To enable young people to grow into independent adults the Scout Method encourages young people to question what they have been taught. Scouts and Venture Scouts who question God’s existence, their own spirituality or the structures and beliefs of any or all religions are simply searching for spiritual understanding. This notion of a search for enlightenment is compatible with belief in most of the world’s faiths. It is unacceptable to refuse Membership, or question a young person’s suitability to continue to participate fully in a Section, if they express doubts about the meaning of the Promise.”

          — “Equal Opportunities Policy: Guidelines with reference to Young People: Religious belief”. Policy Organisation and Rules. The Scout Association.

        • So I will ask again, which God?

          A bit of history for you. The scout oath of the 1930s contained no mention of a duty to God. That language was changed in the 1950s, much like our Pledge of Allegiance was changed to include a reference to God. Despite what BP might have personally felt back in 1908, the oath that followed had no such requirement.

  2. Jim Smith // October 3, 2014 at 8:12 am //

    The BSA can claim to have a declaration of religious principles that does not favor one religion over another but it clearly does. Just read the Oath – it says “duty to God.”

    The Boy Scouts of America says they don’t tell its members which religion to practice, but they do – they say that the only acceptable religions are one that believe in God – not religions that believe in any deity or higher power. A Scout needs to believe in God. That’s the God, whatever you like to call him: God the creator, the one “true Supreme Being and Creator of the Universe,” “He Who Is,” “I Am that I Am”, Yahweh, Jehovah Elohim, Adonai, Allah, Brahman Baha, Waheguru, Ahura Mazda. the god of Amraham, capital-gee-oh-dee, God.

    There are many who don’t believe in God but are religious, have faith, believe in a higher power, believe in a god, and are Scouts. The BSA needs to update to the 21st century and be more reverent of their beliefs with their language and wording.

    The BSA is specific with what God is okay here. Saying “all Scouts must do their duty to God” rather than saying “all Scouts must do their duty to a god” is like the BSA saying “Scouts should talk with Mr. Smith before starting work on a merit badge” rather than saying “Scouts should talk with their Scoutmaster before starting work a merit badge” (the former is only applicable to Scouts in Mr. Smith’s troop, while the latter sentence applies to all Scouts). Why be specific about what god or higher power a Scout must do their duty to if Scouting is truly open to Scouts of all faiths and all gods?

    • You are incorrect. If your statement was true then only Christians, Jews, and Muslims could be scouts. I personally know numerous scouts that are Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, Wiccans, and others who do not believe in the Same God as Christians.

      Nit oi king on an imagined slight detracts from our mission of raising the leaders of tomorrow.

    • re:”There are many who don’t believe in God but are religious, have faith, believe in a higher power, believe in a god, and are Scouts. The BSA needs to update to the 21st century and be more reverent of their beliefs with their language and wording.”

      Agreed.

      But with the overwhelming influence of the LDS (especially in the west), do you ever see this happening?

      I can’t remember where I saw it, but I recall reading some where that due to the large amount of non-religious Scouts in either Europe or Australia, some use a Scout Oath that omits the reference “to God and”. Sorry for the lack of citation.

      I’ve always wondered why Americans are so insistant on tying religion, and lets be honest that really means Christianity, to so many activities and groups.

    • Agreed. We get specific and pledge to “do my duty to God” (a specific higher power) but then we get generic and just say “and my county” (a generic political state).

      Why isn’t it “do my duty to God and America” or simply do “my duty to my god and my country”? Seems odd.

    • To “my god”, hmmm. Never felt I had a duty to anything that I owned. There is a sense in the oath that you can’t really choose God, but you could choose your country. The one there is no running away from. The other, well, when my youth turn 18, I give them a voter’s registration card and say “Happy Birthday, now start running my country.”

    • I believe you are splitting hairs. Duty to “a god” could mean that your god is absolutely anything. If the thing you want most or value the highest is money, then that is your “god”. It is a matter of context and definition. There has to be clarification that “God” means a higher power and a capital “G” shows that. Saying “a god” makes light of the service and the importance to it. Oh, you can have duty to whatever, as long as you say it is your god, we don’t care. Also, do Scouts of different faiths say it is their duty to Allah or whatever they believe?

    • No, saying “a god” instead of “God” would actually be more restrictive. “A god” uses an indefinite article, and also still implies that there is actually an entity of some sort. It’s more definite than “to God” in which no article at all is used. The former (a god) implies that there is actually a god of some type, some sort of incarnation. The latter (to God) could be a metaphysical ideal of the infinite towards which enlightened humans strive, which ideal is termed “God” as a shorthand for the longer phrase by which that ideal is described. In this case, capitalization is correct as a mark of respect for that ideal, just like we capitalize The President (of the United States of America) as a mark of respect for the position, even if we really don’t like the person who currently holds that position.

  3. Rob Jacques // October 3, 2014 at 8:17 am //

    While Chip Turner’s response does a nice job of discussing how Duty to God is and should be integrated in the scouting program, it really doesn’t answer Scouter Mary’s question about how to handle advancement when a scout says he doesn’t believe in God.

    • Really? I thought it was fairly clear about how to handle advancement in that circumstance – the scout isn’t allowed to advance.

      • A scout might not believe in your God, but is a religious person. The example used many times in this thread is a Buddhist. He can both state “I don’t believe in God” and easily meet and exceed the 12th point of the scout law.

        • Cheryl Bugner // October 4, 2014 at 8:57 am //

          The Buddhist’s Duty to G_d is detailed in their Religious Emblem program.. Scouts that follow a Faith which doesn’t use the term “God” are asked to use the term “God” in Scouting to refer to the spirit of Good which guides their Faith.

  4. Mark Huber // October 3, 2014 at 8:18 am //

    This is a wonderful explanation of the “what and how” of Duty to God within the Scouting program. But unfortunately it fails to answer the original question: “How do you handle advancement when a Scout says he doesn’t believe in God?” This is a very important question, and I think all Scouters could benefit from some guidance in what to do if we’re faced with this challenging situation.

    • I think it has been answered, just not in a very direct way. To quote:

      “Have we not somehow failed such a young person who apparently is not concerned about violating the first and 12th parts of the Scout Law? In my opinion, we have not delivered the full Scouting program if “duty to God” is first addressed at an Eagle board.”

      The author is clearly stating that the scout is violating the Scout Law. My interpretation of that violation is that the scout WOULD NOT be allowed to advance.

      Note, I don’t advocate that position, but it seems rather clear that such is what the author is suggesting.

      • Mark Huber // October 3, 2014 at 1:58 pm //

        While Mr. Turner doesn’t state that explicitly, it does seem to be implied. Assuming that’s what he’s saying, then in essence this Scout cannot advance to even Tenderfoot rank. (I’m using the Boy Scout program as an example, but the same would be true in all programs.) The conclusion of his Board of Review must be that he has not completed the requirements, namely the requirement to live the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life. So we must tell him that the board’s decision is being deferred until such time as he has completed all of the requirements. It would be no different than if the Scout came to us having never been on a campout; he simply can’t advance until he has completed *all* of the requirements. We might then encourage him to explore his beliefs and hope that he changes his mind, but it’s certainly not our place to try and “evangelize” him by convincing him of the existence of a Higher Power. But if a Scout said this to me, I think I would first praise him for his adherence to the first point of the Scout Law, namely that he chose to be honest with me. Hopefully this would discourage him from violating the first point on a future Board, in an effort to be “passed” on the twelfth! Finally, in response to your statement that you do not advocate that position, I respect your point of view and I don’t seek to challenge it, but all of us Scouters must remember that we are not authorized to make any changes to the requirements. Regardless of our personal opinions, we cannot allow a Scout to advance if he has not completed the requirements. If we were to do so, then we would be guilty of violating the seventh point: A Scout is Obedient!

  5. This is an interesting topic, but it still isn’t clear. I’ve never had a problem with the Duty to God part of scouting, but the letter you shared actually confuses the issue even more.

    What do you do, if a boy says he doesn’t believe in God. Do you not advance him? I think that’s the real question these scouters are asking. To suggest that oh well it only comes at the Eagle BoR… I’m sorry, without clear direction on how to handle these situations, you leave it up to the interpretation of each BoR, despite the emphasis on the Duty to God in the Oath and Law.

    • This is quite a vexing issue. Scouting has been promoting that religious values are taught outside of scouting and that if a scout believes in a higher power than himself, that was good enough. In a recent Board of Review, the board was suspended because the scout stated that religion was man made. In essence, this is true for every religion. However, when the board reconvened, the discussion focused on what the scout truly believed in and in the end he did state (albeit very broadly) that there was something bigger than himself and that was how the scout advanced.

  6. I have heard Adv. Chairs state that they would not pass a scout on Eagle rank if they deny their belief in God. Is that possible?

    • Yes. Several boys have been denied Eagle for admitting they did not believe in a God.

  7. Toby Griffen // October 3, 2014 at 8:28 am //

    Things would be a lot less sectarian if rather than “Duty to God” we said “Duty to a God.” As it stands now “God” is taken by many Christians as meaning Yahweh — and that’s that.

    • Many people take specific terms to mean one thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct. As my mom used to say to me, “If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, would that make it right?” Well, maybe if the bridge was on fire, mom, but the point was that numbers alone don’t necessarily make an incorrect viewpoint suddenly become correct. 😉

    • There is not a lot in the news on this, but here is what I could dig up:

      In 1970, James Clark of Narragansett Council was advanced to Eagle Scout after initially being denied because he was an atheist.
      http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=VucrAAAAIBAJ&sjid=OWcFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1081,4531615

      In 1985, fifteen-year-old Paul Trout of the Stonewall Jackson Area Council went before a board of review for advancement to Life Scout. In response to questions on duty to God, Trout stated that he did not believe in God as a Supreme Being. The National Council initially ruled that Trout should be expelled, but reversed itself, choosing to interpret his statements as a disagreement over the definition of God and reinstated Trout. The BSA reaffirmed the Declaration of Religious Principle, and formed a task force to examine BSA literature to ensure that statements regarding God reflected the religious diversity of its members.
      http://www.press.uchicago.edu/presssite/metadata.epl?mode=synopsis&bookkey=3631797

  8. I agree with Mark…. assume a scout declares in no uncertain terms that he does not believe in God.
    What about the scout who then further militates that those who do are foolish?
    I think the question was a real life one….while we should all know about the positive aspects…and the opportunities for boys to explore and deepen their faith connection of any kind…. What happens when a scout denies any connection to the 12th point?
    And then answer would seem to be simple….then how is he showing scout spirit or adherence to the oath and law, and therefore should not be eligible for rank?
    Now, I’d argue that its in our, his, and the movements best interest to help him find his way back to some connection rather than drumming him out… but the issue remains.

    • So what if the scout any of the other laws? No one assumes a Scout will immediately do something if someone yells “a Scout is (insert a law from trustworthy to clean.”) But when someone yells “a Scout is Reverent”, everyone expects scouts to remove their headgear and assume a prayerful stance. Aren’t there 12 laws because all 12 help mold a better scout and citizen?

      • The proper thing to do is to remove your headgear only if that’s what’s right for you. If it’s not right for you, then don’t do it. It’s as simple as that. 🙂

        • My feeling is it shows reverence….to something. Removing headgear should be done even if your an atheist. You (generic you) believe there is no belief, so you have a belief, so remove head gear and pray to nothing if that’s what you want. Or consider it reverent to everyone else who prays to whoever their deity is. I don’t get ANYONE thinking silent prayer (even in schools) is wrong. You aren’t forcing any religion down anyone’s throats….just giving those that wish to do so a set time to do it….without disrupting anyone else.

        • “My feeling is it shows reverence….to something. Removing headgear should be done even if your an atheist.” Some religions (notably Judaism) preach that heads “should” be covered when a prayer is given, that covering one’s head is how one best honors God. Let’s just let people follow their own religious practices. I consider myself a very religious man, observant in my religion. Does it hurt me to see someone else doing something that I wouldn’t do? No, why would it? Some things that people do frankly disgust me, but i’m not going to walk up to people at a Scout camp and try to convince them of why my religious strictures are better and why they should be as strict as I am. People should search out and find whatever makes the best sense for them, then be free to walk down that road. If that road is one which avows all possibility of a God of any kind, or even a universal ideal, or even the Star Wars Force (episodes 4-6, not 1-3), then Scouting probably isn’t for that person. For everyone else, though, they should be able to follow their own practices without receiving flak for it from someone else.

          People show respect in different ways. There is no religion of any kind that teaches people to show respect by talking over other people and making a nuisance of themselves and so acting like that shouldn’t be tolerated. Wearing a hat, though? It’s a rule for me, but I honestly don’t care whether someone else keeps their hat or not when I pray.

  9. Cole Petersen // October 3, 2014 at 8:31 am //

    Thanks, Chip, for the clarity. I think it’s exciting, but now it hits the fan. Stand by.

  10. Adding one thing: had this happen in a troop at the rank of 2nd class for a Board of Review. In that specific case though, the scout in question wanted to quit scouting and his parents wouldn’t permit him…so he figured he’d found a perfect way to force it.

  11. It depends on the Scout and the Scout family, and it will depend on what the definition of god is. For those that believe in humanism then god is self. A larger sense of self, but one could state that all things that benefit the happiness of self would be duty to god in that regard. For those who are athiest, this is a slight movement from humanist, as they don’t worship “self” and don’t truly “worship” anything but there are atheist congregations (i hesitate to call them a church as they are not by definition of a church) I would struggle to find a suitable answer to this question for a true atheist, but I would argue that the majority of those who claim atheism in our scout ranks a truly agnostics. For an agnostic the duty to god may not adhere to a classical liturgy but one can easily find non offensive ways for one to show agnostic moral-ism for the betterment of society. I would challenge the Scout leader who is facing this conversation to have a true heart to heart to see what the actual viewpoints are, and move from there.

    • Avery, I just want to point out that being an agnostic is not a middle ground between theism and atheism. Whether one is a theist or an atheist is determined by whether one claims the existence of deity; theists do, and atheists reject that claim, usually for lack of proof. Whether one is gnostic or agnostic is determined by whether one believes it is every possible to truly know the answer. A gnostic person believes it is possible, and an agnostic person does not. Many atheists describe themselves as “agnostic atheists” because they reject a claim that god(s) exist, but they do not believe it is possible to ever truly know. Thus, they feel no “duty to God” as they do not believe in any god(s).

    • I need to do some research on humanism. That doesn’t sound like a good ‘religion’ to me. It sounds self-centered, egotistical, and selfish, and on the road to anarchy. But I haven’t done the research, just responding to the ‘god is self’. I would NEVER assume myself to be a god even if I didn’t believe in a deity. Maybe that’s because I’ve known too many people who THINK THEY ARE GODS….and I’m mistakenly placing their attitudes as being humanism. I’m asking, not telling. I really want to learn, and hope I’m wrong.

      • Humanism is not self-centered nor egotistical. It looks for the good in people and that we can work together to solve our issues. Tufts University just hired a chaplain to minister to the needs of humanists and atheists on campus.

        Here’s from the university’s website
        “The Humanist chaplaincy at Tufts serves students of a variety of backgrounds, including Humanists, atheists, agnostics, spiritual but not religious, or otherwise nonreligious students who might find chaplaincy resources useful. Recognizing that nonreligious students find care and support through a wide variety of different practices, the Humanist in Residence serves to help each individual find strength in their own way, be it through reflection, meditation, community or social action. By working individually with students as well as in small groups, the Humanist in Residence is tasked with helping students find mutual support and care through shared experience. For students interested in interfaith dialogue and service, the Humanist chaplaincy serves as an advocate for nontheist inclusion in pluralistic community. ”

        Given the difficulty we have in creating language that is inclusive of non-theists in the BSA, it seems like we could use the help of such a person.

        • Cheryl Bugner // October 4, 2014 at 9:30 am //

          Dave B.,
          Thanks for the quote from Tufts University — this is the perfect definition of any Scout Chaplain. Any Scout who is committed to doing good outside of Scouting through meditation, reflection, and community service is satisfying their Duty to God — they shouldn’t quibble over the unusual spelling/pronunciation of Good..

  12. The article hints that they should never get to Eagle. Do we stop them at the first faith requirement, ignore that and hope they learn on the path before they reach Eagle? I have a new scout with an atheist mom who appears open to the scout following his own path to belief. Last summer camp he was exposed to faith and prayer as he acknowledged he didn’t know how to pray. I believe the article supports this journey but what if they were firm in no belief when do we say he is done? Mark is right.

  13. The DRP clearly states that it us the scouts home and community that defines what faith response is required to fulfill a scout’s “duty to God”. If a family or community leader can attest that the scout is meeting his religious obligations, it is not the role of BSA or the troop to determine if the families response is adequate or ” correct”. Definition of matters of faith is left solely with the scout’s family and community.

    BSA does not teach a specific faith response to kids. But the troop can play a role in helping the boy learn how to clearly articulate how he fulfills his “duty to God”, as defined on the DRP, so that what he gets to the Eagle BOR, he has something meaningful to say.

  14. I believe that the youth’s beliefs in God need to be ascertained before the EBOR. Which means that direct questions need to be asked. Most of the time, the statement :I do not believe in God” is misleading, for most of the time it really means “I do not believe in organized religion”. If they believe in any type of Higher Power, then they fulfill the requirement

  15. If a scout spends too much money on video games and can’t afford to share in the cost of Scouting… Or if a Scout doesn’t wash his uniform after every meeting… Or what if he refuses to ride the zip line at the Summit… Will he be refused advancement or turned away and not be awarded his Eagle?

    All points of The Scout Law should be held to the same standard “.”

    This is where good counseling and remembering the Cub Dcout motto “Do Your Best” should be remembered.

    • The Scout law are ideals, not mandatory requirements. If that were the case there wouldn’t be a single scout or scouter.

      If a scout spent money on video games, then misses a camping trip well he made a choice, and hopefully learned a lesson about budgeting.

      I don’t wash my uniform after every meeting. We meet in a room with AC, and I always shower before donning it so why waste the water and soap and wear out the uniform?

    • The Cub Scout motto is “Do your Best”. The unofficial Boy Scout motto is, “Do it Right”. Boy Scouts are old enough that, generally, more a good-faith attempt is required, they have to actually do whatever the requirement is.

  16. Excellent feedback. I agree, a failure to address Duty to God before the Eagle Board of Review is a consistent failure in program delivery at an earlier stage. Someone asked me once if we would let a youth join who didn’t believe in God, and my answer was probably. If he was agnostic, but willing to consider and seek for a deeper faith that fulfilled his spiritual dimension, then we would be happy to help him do it and have him in the program. If he was staunchly atheist and refused to participate in that part of the program, or tried to dissuade other scouts in the unit from doing so as well, then no; we would encourage him to seek out other programs that better met his needs. However, how do you deal with a young man who is uncertain when he joins, and in the process of participating decides he does not believe in God in any way whatsoever? If he lies, like the one scout mentioned did, then you take him at his word and the onus is on him. If he is honest about it, do you refuse to promote him in rank if he has qualified in every other way, but continue to work with him, his family and any religious figure he chooses to try and cultivate a faith of some sort? If so, I would opine that the possibility of rank denial due to failure in Duty to God should be made clear to a scout when they join, if a hard line like that is to be justly enforced. Given the broadness of the BSA’s definition of faith, it seems to me that nothing short of an adamant, aggressive atheistic position could possibly be considered as failure in that area. Does a disavowal of a god, higher being, intelligence, or ulterior directing purpose of any sort, but a humanistic acknowledgement of the general decency and greater moral goodness of mankind count as ‘faith?’ I would like to get Mr. Turner’s thoughts on how you address a scout who early on in the program, and consistently thereafter, takes such a tack. Is there ever a point where you don’t advance a scout, or even ask him to leave the unit, based on Duty to God factors alone?

    • That’s a good point. I don’t know the official position of the BSA on religious humanists, and it would be nice if the BSA would clarify. Buddhists have been welcomed in the BSA since the days following World War II, but I suspect that’s because people within the BSA think all Buddhists worship god?

      • Buddhists do not believe in any God. They do believe in Kara and Darma, forces greater than themselves. This fulfills the faith requirement.

        • Right. That was my point. The BSA has accepted scouts who do not believe in a supernatural deity for decades. But the language that is used with respect to “Duty to God” is non-inclusive. At worst – it would lead folks to believe that they should deny advancement to a scout (or kick him out altogether) if he stated that he did not believe in God.

        • Only, recently, has “God” taken on this non-inclusive construct. The word itself is of ancient European origin that predates Roman (Christian or Pagan) understanding.
          It was “the force” greater than any other self. So … missionaries (like St. Patrick, etc …) chose to use it in describing their religion.
          So, when my Bhuddists buddies talk about Karma and Darhma, I figure “a rose by any other name,” and try to learn as best I can what they have to say about God.

        • This is for ‘q’. I was engaged to a Buddhist from Singapore…a medical student. We never really got into the religion thing, we just enjoyed each other’s company. I already had 2 children (he was 12 years younger). But as a general rule, people from different religions usually don’t survive marriage. Heck, I had a friend who was Catholic and married a 7th Day Adventist. DISASTER. She committed suicide after the divorce. Another friend was Baptist and married a Muslim from Iran….that was the most interesting wedding I ever attended. 2 ceremonies…first Baptist, then Muslim. Lost track so don’t know if they are together or not.

          Sorry for the ‘off topic’….but what I was getting at was that most religions short of atheism who believe in nothing, believe there is something in control. So, my opinion is if they believe in something (other than what someone stated such as money or power) then they meet the requirements.

  17. I had a similar situation in an Eagle Board a few years ago, I turned the question the other way – do you believe humans are the ultimate power in the universe. To this he could answer, no. So there is a higher power of some sort. To that I added, that he should read the Bible – as well as other religious texts – for himself. Not take what people have to say about religion, because often many things are added, and make up his own mind.
    Chip Turner was right in that if this was first addressed at an Eagle Board of Review, that’s too late.

  18. I thought the wise advice was to never discuss religion and politics in polite company? In the past 50 years, our country has become much more religiously diverse, yet the BSA has not updated the language used to address the religions in our current society. We are in a need of a serious update if we truly wish to show our respect to the beliefs of others.

    • chinapete65 // October 3, 2014 at 9:58 am //

      We should always respect the beliefs of others. And let us not forget that sex – the third topic not to be discussed in polite company – came up with the changes to youth membership standards. Guidelines were presented for that topic. It’s time for guidelines on belief,

    • Youth spend a lot of time talking about everything. Our job is to teach them how to discuss their politics and religion with courtesy and kindness.
      Teaching them to sweep their beliefs under a rug because some majority faith will try to define “God” for them on specific terms puts us at risk of thinking ill of others. When boys discover how great their buddies are even though though they understand God much differently, we all grow.

  19. this is all nice and wonderful but eventually this is going to have to phase out. in modern society, this is becoming much less relevant. if BSA wants to continue to attract kids with its adventure program and great ways of organizing and growing boys, leave it to individuals and families to worry about their religious beliefs. it should not be anyone’s place to tell anyone else what they need to believe. BSA can continue to tell people what they need to believe, and then watch membership continue to dwindle.

    • BSA does not tell anyone what to believe, it never has. It just tells members that belief in God or a Higher Power is a requirement.

      Every religious requirement states with a family member or religious leader… religious awards are done at home or place of worship not at den and pack meetings.

      • BSA is absolutely telling anyone what to believe. as stated elsewhere in this thread, they are mandating a belief in “God.” As others have stated, “God” may not be what you believe in, if you believe in a higher power or group of deities that are not seen as similar to “God.” The Flying Spaghetti Monster is an excellent example of this as an extreme example. You can’t deny a boy an eagle if this is his belief, but it most certainly is NOT “God.” BSA would be a more attractive program if it revised its guidelines to remove any reference to the 3 G’s and just let scouts be scouts.

        • The Flying Spaghetti Monster is technically “God”, just as a universal ideal which permeates everything and underlies all that we do yet has never manifested in a concrete manner as a single entity is also “God”. Also, I have no idea what the other two G’s are that you mentioned (presuming that one is God).

        • Bart, the “3 G’s” of scouting are Godless, Girls, Gays.

          Girls are the only ones I take issue with. By far the most sinister. 🙂

    • I haven’t read all the posts yet, but it should be pointed out the UK Scouts (the birthland of all Scouting) allow athiests (and girls at all levels).

      • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 11:56 am //

        …as does their descendant organization in the US, the Baden-Powell Service Association. http://bpsa-us.org/

      • VA Scoutmaster // October 3, 2014 at 8:55 pm //

        It should also be pointed out that the UK Scouts serves a substantially different culture than that which the BSA serves and the success of the UK Scouts membership decisions is debatable. Their older Scout membership, particularly for boys, plummeted so much as a result of their membership and program changes that at one point, 70% of their membership was under age 11. Religious tolerance? Pfft. Catholic youth are turned away from UK Scouts if they do not swear allegiance to the Queen (the throne is reserved only for Protestants per the 1701 Act of Settlement). And “co-education” across British Scouting programs is a one-way street: the Girl Guides are for girls only (and has a larger membership than UK Scouts, despite the lack of boys). Ironically, the program formerly known as the Boy Scouts Association has managed to alienate that demographic which it was originally established to support: boys age 11 to 18.

  20. JonchaTexas // October 3, 2014 at 8:58 am //

    For an interesting take on this Google “do Buddhists believe in God?” and then “Scouting and Buddhism.”

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 10:28 am //

      Yup. Buddhism is non-theistic. If BSA were founded today, Buddhists would be excluded.

  21. Although Mr. Turners story is eloquent, it doesn’t answer Mary’s question. Please do give direction for the Scoutmaster, or the Committee on how to handle when this happens. Our troop has been faced with this issue before, and unfortunately the scout didn’t get his Eagle as a result. We are facing it again with an SPL who is a vocally acclaimed atheist. If he can articulate his point of view, and show respect for others believes – is this permissible? Or is there a line drawn?

    • Duty to God should be brought up at every Scoutmaster conference and every board of review. The question is how did a scout make it to First class or Life or Star without the subject being brought up. Mr. Turner made it clear, if the first time duty to God comes up for a scout is his Eagle Scout Board of Review, then we have failed him.
      Turn the question around – does he believe human beings are the ultimate power in the universe.

      • Kelly Carrico // October 3, 2014 at 10:11 am //

        Okay, lets say it is the first Scoutmaster conference and the scout says he doesn’t believe in God. All I am hearing is political around the wall answers.

        • “Turn the question around – does he believe human beings are the ultimate power in the universe.” The rules are pretty plain on their face. The interpretation of the rules is more grey. “If a Scout states X, should the response by Z?” Well, why is the Scout stating X? Does the Scout mean by X what you mean by X? What about Y? It’s pretty close to X. Does the Scout believe in that or does no X also mean no Y? Dialog with each other.

    • I don’t know if this fits the national policy or not, but I got Eagle as an atheist. I was told I had to believe in a higher power, not necessarily a god. I was told that meant basically that I believed humans weren’t the ultimate power in the universe. That was easy since we are all at the mercy of the universe and the laws of physics. Most of what goes on in the universe cannot be controlled by humans, therefore we obviously aren’t all that high up on the cosmic totem pole so to speak. This viewpoint isn’t terribly different from scouts whose religions worship nature. It just leaves out the worship part.

  22. Scott Hildenbrand // October 3, 2014 at 8:59 am //

    I agree with the bulk of what expressed here, however my thought on what to say instead of duty to God would be duty to your faith. This would be all inclusive to any religion. Even scientology… Which I use strictly as an example.

    Faith of any kind, or even the lack thereof is very much a personal choice. I’ve never known a man to be any lesser because of their faith or not. Insinuating that a person would be any less in their communities because of a lack of faith in any God or deity is a terribly judgmental thing, indeed.

  23. It’s a touchy subject. While a member of an Eagle BOR can ask “How do you define duty to God?” it is up to the head of the board to work with the board members to accept pretty much any answer outside of “I am an atheist”. The atheist answer primarily brings up a failure to follow the scout oath as well as failure to follow the scout law (not being honest by taking the scout oath while not believing in God).

    Read the bylaws, article IX is pretty clear on the subject.

    • How about agnostic ?

  24. Adam Mada // October 3, 2014 at 9:06 am //

    Some Native American Tribes did not believe in a G-d per se, but rather higher powers that were integrated in the world around them. Would they not be allowed in scouting? Would followers of a polytheistic belief system be inline with a single G-d?
    My point is that the verbage used in Scouting’s policy is archaic and skewed toward monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judiusm Islam, etc.).
    I would like to see Scouting’s policy reflect Spirtuality more so than religion, and a more broad definition of belief systems to allow the belief of “Higher Powers,” over only certain religions phrasing of beliefs.

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 10:30 am //

      An excellent point, especially considering that Native American customs are a core element of Scouting’s honor society, the Order of Arrow.

  25. This is probably the healthiest and objective conversation I’ve heard concerning the definition of God in relationship to the BSA and advancement in scouting. As an agnostic, active scouter, and father of a very accomplished Eagle we’ve had to tread lightly and uncomfortably around this subject. Please keep this conversation alive and healthy and BSA please take notice.

  26. I know one scouter who is a member of the “Church” of the Flying Spaghetti monster, and is working on a religious award for members of his faith. His woodbadge ticket was to create the award and submit it to BSA for approval.

    We shall see what happens.

    • It will be denied. Texas has put up barriers to be prevent this. A religion must charter 25 units in order to have a recognized emblem. National only shows reverence for faith groups of a certain size. If Pastafaianism jumps this hurdle a new moving target will be created.

      • Dear Thor: 25 units chartered is in order to get a religious award recognized. But that doesn’t say anything about the individual boy and his religious beliefs. Following the faith practices of in a minority religion will still meet the duty to God requirements, even if there is no religious award available for it. I don’t believe that there are religious awards for some older established religions like Jainism or Shintoism, but that doesn’t mean you deny someone advancement because the BSA has failed to charter 25 units in that religion.

        • Ny denying a religious emblem for a minority religion it says EVERYTHING about BSA reverence.

        • “25 chartered units”….There is no such requirement. Show us the page. It is an often vocalized baseline, but no such requirement. A faith should be a readily recognized , organized faith. The Unitarians charter many Scout units and when they had a theological split over the faith award, the BSA did not recognize the one faction over another due to the number of congregations, but over the wording of the requirements the faction offered for their award.
          It is very subjective.
          The faith determines the award, the BSA thru it’s committees says the award “may” be worn on the uni, that’s all.
          If the Pastafarians design an award, the Scout that meets those requirements may (cheek suitably surrounding a tongue) wear it on his uni . The Scout Leader may well ask “what is that?” and an interesting conversation will no doubt ensue. But the Scout should be challenged to ask himself (we Quakers call this a “query”), is he truly being “Trustworthy?” and “Reverent?”

      • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 11:03 am //

        If 25 is the hurdle, FSM can *easily* surpass that. The FSM movement is large and visible on the Coasts.

        • That ‘religion’ is an anti-religion and was started as a parody to religion, and in response to a board of education ruling. It’s a joke, and it’s meant to be. I see nothing in it that applies in this discussion.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

        • How very Reverent of you. I don’t judge religions on how they “started” but what they are now. I take that back. I don’t judge other religions. Clearly you do.

    • Apparently a religion has to sponsor 25 Scout units to be recognized enough to be able to award their own religious emblem and have Scouting recognize it. While that number may be close with pagan groups, it’s pretty far away for Flying Spaghetti Monster adherents.

  27. As a Scoutmaster who is not a Christian, it can be difficult. I live my life by the Oath and Law, but my definitions my not a line with how others interrupt them. BSA does not state a devotion to a specific religion, so this is very broad, more broad than most people think. Buddhist do not believe in a supreme being, yet the BSA have religious awards for Buddhism, and so they should. It is such a difficult subject to discuss, and I am not sure if there is any absolute answer.

  28. Trenton Spears // October 3, 2014 at 9:39 am //

    The religious award requires certain requirements of one is attendance to the Church of the scouts choice however a scout is not required to a certain God of choice to be a Scout just a belief in a divine source like nature. Trenton

  29. When I was a scoutmaster for a troop sponsored by a European international school, I faced Mary’s question a lot. And as a person very committed to the traditional Christian position, I wrestled with how to handle it. I encountered Jewish lads, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and boys with no religious background.

    I usually began asking about duty to God when boys came to me for their Star SM conference. For those of non-Christian faiths, I encouraged them to study their own faith, and try to get the religious award for their faith. For those with no religious background, I took the approach that all of us are on a spiritual journey of some sort, and we need to take seriously the need to think through what we believe, or don’t believe, and why. So I would encourage boys to take the next step on this spiritual journey, as part of their duty to God, and begin to consider whether or not there might be a God, and what this God might be like. This way, at some point in the future they can make an informed decision.

    If they wanted to learn more about Christianity, I suggested materials they could read. I also offered to put boys in contact with people who could tell them about other religions.

    • Thank you, Bill S. for your thoughtful response and counsel.

  30. I’m athiest and i have lots to offer scouting. BSA has declared that I and folks like me are unwelcome, that we cannot be good people. Are you troubled that your organization will welcome a hateful believer before it will welcome a kind and respectful non-believer ? Does character count or not?

    • Kelly Carrico // October 3, 2014 at 10:14 am //

      Why is it so important for you to be a part of a religious base organization, are you as zealous about joining a church too? You are not a bad person, rather our organization would choose to believe in god and have folks with the same views.

      • The point is that if I want to join a religious organization I WOULD join a church. Scouting exists apart from the church for a reason. That reason is that it is intended to offer young people things the church can’t or won’t. If you ban good people who ADHERE TO EVERY ETHICAL PRINCIPLE BSA SAYS IT REPRESENTS but happen to be non-believers, then it’s clear that the BSA itself is run by non-believers of a different sort.

        • Kelly Carrico // October 3, 2014 at 10:26 am //

          First, if you do not believe in God, then you do NOT TO EVERY ETHICAL PRINCIPLE BSA SAYS IT REPRESENTS. On being non believers of a sort,…….what!

        • I was raised Christian and work at a Christian institution. Everybody I know is Christian. I’d trust many of them with my life. I wouldn’t turn my back on a few of them. I am at least as ethical, and more-so in many cases. I happen to admire the Jesus described in the Bible. I simply don’t believe he was a god. You/BSA say I’m not welcome as a leader, but you’ve welcomed my son as a Tiger scout. It’s going to be a sad day for all when or if he decides he’s a non-believer and no longer welcome among his friends. As for the BSA “non-believers”–does character count or not? If religion is the test, then it clearly does not.

        • I have several Athiest friends and what I always find intereting is that they belive in something. Be it, the universe, science, nature….something. You’d be suprised where you can find a God.

      • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 10:38 am //

        “Our” organization has not consistency on this. As others have pointed out in this thread, Buddhism is recognized yet Buddhists do not believe in a deity. Powers beyond us yes (karma and dharma) but omniscient person-above-the-sky such as Yahweh…or Jesus…or Allah – no.

        So, too, for Unitarian Universalists, who are also recognized by BSA. The core of the Unitarian faith are their Seven Principles; belief in a deity is not one of them.

        http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/294308.shtml

      • Yet a church would welcome the atheist to come to Sunday service.

        • Sure they would. My church welcomes everyone. But does that mean we would not hope they would come to love Jesus? Of course not. That’s the whole idea of a church, teaching religion and/or supporting a faith.

    • Thanks Bill S. Your comments hit the nail on the head.

  31. Kelly Carrico // October 3, 2014 at 10:04 am //

    The question is still unanswered:
    How do you handle advancement when a Scout says he doesn’t believe in God?

    • Bryan Wendell // October 3, 2014 at 10:10 am //

      I think he answered it. He said you “help Scouts and their families come to realize that a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building.”

      • Kelly Carrico // October 3, 2014 at 10:17 am //

        So by doing this, we do not promote them. Is that a more direct response? Lets see what the answer is on this one…

      • So, for example we deny Eagle Scout until they accept faith? That sounds sarcastic, I don’t mean it to be, I’m legitimately asking. (I also realize that is a hugely loaded question for you to answer as Scouting Magazine Editor.) Is there any way that we could get someone who is THE policy person on this subject to give us a definitive answer as either “yes, or no, or maybe”. Judging by the comments above, we really need an answer on it.

        Thanks for everything you do Bryan!

        • The answer is that it should be made clear long before the scout is at his Eagle Scout Board of Review that faith is a requirement. If it is not then we have failed him.
          Having done many Eagle Scout Boards of Review I can tell you each one is different, so the yes or no answer you ask for does not exist. However, I would find it difficult to imagine having a young man (or anyone else) in front of me who believes he is the ultimate power in the universe. That person would not have the character to do what it takes to be a scout. If that is the case, then he should be denied and he may then see that he is not the ultimate power.

        • Scouting is a set of Methods by which we encourage/educate/example young boys (and girls, yes?) to grow into citizens and neighbors that we want to leave the world to when we die. “Duty to God” is one of those Methods. In many Scout associations around the world, it has become obvious that many Scouts find their “Doty to God” is to NOT believe in him/her/it, as paradoxical as that may seem.
          Can one live a T, L, H, F, C, K, O, Ch, T, B, Cl, &R life without a traditional religion? Of course. Can one espouse a traditional religion and not be true to that faith? Absolutely. We can all bring to mind many hypocritical Christians/Jews/Muslims/etc.
          So where does that leave us?
          I like to remember BP’s initial counsel: “”Reverence to God and reverence for one’s neighbour and reverence for oneself as a servant of God, is the basis of every form of religion. The method of expression of reverence to God varies with every sect and denomination. What sect or denomination a boy belongs to depends, as a rule, on his parents’ wishes. It is they who decide. It is our business to respect their wishes and to second their efforts to inculcate reverence, whatever form of religion the boy professes.””
          The Scout Leader, thru his/her example must live that life they would want the Scout (and his children!) to live. If it is worthy of copy, the boys will see and do likewise. If it is not, the hypocracy will be noted and the Scout will act accordingly, either seeing how the game is to be played, or dropping out to find a better role model to emulate.

    • There are some discussions out there about how to handle this in general. They usually involve the boy talking with his parents, finding out exactly what he doesn’t believe in, what he/she thinks of others who do, giving the boy time to think it through, etc …

      But, if a mature youth has come to the conclusion that the practice of religion is a complete waste of human endeavor, we challenge him/her to ask why he/she should pursue an award that implies that religion (in all its forms) is one of the hallmarks of noble character?

    • Ask him if he believes that he is the ultimate power in the universe. ask him if he believes that human beings are the ultimate power in the universe. Get him to explore what that might be.
      What is your suggestion?

    • Trenton Spears // October 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm //

      Kelly Carrico Thanks for your comments on religion on Scouting.I would like to refer to Lord Baden Powell when the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1907 Baden certainly laid the foundation for including religion as a basic foundation for the success of the organization his wisdom on the subject has lasted for over one hundred years and is still going strong. However their is a certain group of Scouters that our determined to push religion out of scouting. This attack on religion has happened in our public schools and it has been a very divisive issue in our society and now it is a issue that threatens the future of the BSA. After many years in the BSA I have seen a minority call for change and my comment is why change the most successful youth program in the world. If those who want the BSA to change its policies to a anything goes philosophy they should consider the consequences of their call for change. Thanks to the BSA for their commitment to building strong leadership and morally based ethics in the Scouting organization aren’t these values the reason that the BSA existence. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

  32. Andrew Hoose // October 3, 2014 at 10:15 am //

    I think it’s summed up by BP’s quote in the box above. Every scout SHOULD have a religion, not MUST.

  33. I’ve heard of several young men that have been denied Eagle for admitting they did not believe in a God. Is it appropriate to, say, deny Tenderfoot if a Scout admits the same thing?

    Should we not recharter any Scouts or Scouters if they are known and avowed atheists? Or should we keep them in the program and work to help them realize the a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building?

  34. The DRP is insulting, that’s for sure. The “best kind of citizen”… Fred Phelps believes in God, just saying.

    Being respectful of another’s beliefs is what is the important takeaway here. Belief in god, a god, whatever does not make you a better person. No way, no how.

    What is the difference if i believe in your god, a different god, or no god? What if i don’t know if I believe, and further, don’t care?

    • It’s not insulting. It’s either right or wrong. If it is right, stick with the organization. If it is wrong send your youth to the “right” organization, perhaps one that views religion through the lens that, based on the evidence you’ve collected, hews closest to the truth.

  35. I think it is wrong to insist that a child have his religious beliefs worked out prior to his Eagle Board. There should be room in Scouting for the unsure child who doesn’t know what to believe.

    • I’ve never met a scouter who had problems if a kid had doubts. (And I know some pretty religious youth who have doubts.) Lots of Eagle candidates are still working out their beliefs. And they are doing so in a myriad of ways.

      What is at issue here is if a fella insists that religion has nothing to do with a great society, why should he accept an award, that at it’s core, insists that belief in a higher power a critical component of strong character?

  36. Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 10:43 am //

    Translation: Religious conservatives on the National Executive Board reluctantly gave ground on the issue of gay Scouts. They will now start pushing back at the heathens that forced them to do so.

  37. Those that cannot bring themselves to understand the word God is generic and only becomes specific within the context of its use. It has already been pointed out in a number of the responses. Where the real problem lies is that we have many individuals today that seem unable to disconnect the word from the predominant religions to which they are exposed.

    The discussion should encourage the scout to explore beliefs outside himself and remind him that this is not specific to any religious affiliation. However, we will have those in some units that the CO will likely determine the direction. Ideally, those unit leaders would try and direct the scout to another unit if the CO directives could not accomodate due to their specific ideology.

    One of the best tools in general spiritual discussions with scouts is found in camping. In the proper weather, sleeping under the stars is often a spark to this discussion. But, emphasis should always be back to within the individual scout and his family. It IS NOT our job to tell the scout and his family what to believe, only direct him to explore his deeper self.

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm //

      BSA could have easily resolved this by substituting the word “God” with the phrase “Higher Power, or System of Spirituality”.

    • VA Scoutmaster // October 3, 2014 at 12:55 pm //

      “The discussion should encourage the scout to explore beliefs outside himself and remind him that this is not specific to any religious affiliation.”

      Just to be clear, it is not the place for the Scoutmaster to encourage a Scout to explore any religious beliefs beyond those which are shared in the Scout’s home. For example, a Scout of a particular Protestant faith should not be encouraged to reconsider his beliefs in light of other denominational options.

      “Direct him to explore his deeper self” may also be a poor choice of words. In fact, I’m not even sure what that means. The point of the DCP is to ensure the Scout affirms a belief in God, appreciates the faith of others, and acknowledges the importance of faith in citizenship development. To this adult’s ear, the phrase “direct him to explore his deeper self” sounds like the speaker is directing the Scout to engage in transcendental meditation or new age mysticism.

  38. I’m interested to hear opinions on what is meant by “Duty to God” and how you can quantify that particular requirement. I am a den leader and have been for about 5 years. I have several parents who have “no religious affiliation” but have a fundamental belief in God, which in turn, translates to their Cubby. Anyone want to take a stab at that one???

    • I have a stock answer I think Scouts should consider “I believe my Duty to God is to respect other’s religuos beliefs and to NEVER question them or pass judgement on them. That is all I have to say on my private religious beliefs. Next?”

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 11:09 am //

      One Akela is the head of the family, as you know. It is this Akela that certifies when their Cub Scout has met requirements. We leave the religious dimension strictly up to the family Akela.

      We, however, are a Pack chartered by a secular organization. YMMV.

      • It is not the role of ANY Scout Leader (apologies to Rudyard Kipling, Akela will be an archaic term in another year, thank you BSA) to pass judgement on whether or not a Cub Scout or ANY Scout has , indeed, fulfilled his/her Duty to God. That is for the conscience of the Scout and his family to determine. What the Scout Leader needs to be cognizant of, is whether the Scout has otherwise lived and acted by the Scout Law and Promise.
        By conversation and observation and example, the Scout Leader needs to make known to the Scout and his/her family how the actions and /or words of the Scout have matched (or fallen short of) the ideals. SMminutes, SMconferences, campfire stories, Scout’s Own services (“aw, do we have to go to that?”) all lend themselves to the job.
        A Scout’s faith , or professed lack of, will be the basis of many a campfire ‘bullsession’. The experienced SM lets it happen, asks leading questions, but rarely TELLS the Scout what SHOULD be, unless someone is about to be injured. And that forstalled injury need not be physical. You might not be surprised how supportive and how hurtful some kids can be.

        From my perspective, I hope that answers your question. Good Scouting to you!

    • Being a “religion unto one’s self” is a grand American tradition. Our responsibility as scouters, is to encourage boys to interact with their parents about this. As they mature, they should understand why their parents practice their faith the way they do. But while cubs, you should ask their parents what good boundaries may be. Are their boys allowed to visit other houses of worship? Is it okay for them to sing songs and hymns? Can they participate by doing a reading, ushering, or taking a collection?

      Some parents really want their boys to be exposed to the religious life of their peers. Others, not so much.

      • that tradition is disappearing in America. In its place are personal values and ethics. That to me is what i want my scouts to emphasize. think about what is important to you and live that life. look outward for examples and inward for introspective. as a scout leader, i can encourage personal growth in exploring what is the best fit for that person, but i am not going to push any organized religion, ever. that is up to the scout and their family to figure out and explore. that’s not our job as scouters. i would not want my scoutmaster or cubmaster having any role in that if i were a youth. that would be for my parents.

  39. More important than a discussion of whether a particular religion should or should not be included as “BSA” approved is this. We are tasked with helping develop young people and leading them to be moral and upright. Using the twelve points and the ten commandments I talk to the boys about how if you can follow the ten commandments and the twelve points you will go along way towards growing up to be just that. I am secular with pretty basic concepts of religion that I use to try to do my best. The ten commandments taken out of religion are still a great set of “rules” to try to live your life by and they have parallels to almost all other religions. You can be moral in your life without an established religion’s dogma. Our troop is varied from non-religious (not necessarily Atheist) to Evangelical

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 11:50 am //

      Why the Ten Commandments, but not the Seven Principles (UU) or the Eightfold Path (Buddhism)?

  40. Sherman Peterson // October 3, 2014 at 12:01 pm //

    I have a question for the folks who have recently argued that Scouting has been unchanged for 100 years so why change it now – why this change, now? What was broken about Scouting’s established approach to reverence that required this particular fix?

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 12:25 pm //

      Here’s what changed: American religious conservatives extended their culture war into Scouting. They feel besieged by what they see as a tide of immorality, and they are enlisting – no, DRAFTING – Scouting to fight it.

      • VA Scoutmaster // October 3, 2014 at 1:05 pm //

        Hmm. Not very helpful, friendly, courteous, or kind. To paraphrase your uncharitable observation, there are many others who would just as quickly argue that “what changed is that American secular liberals extended their culture war into Scouting. They feel beseiged by what they see as a tide of morallity, and the are enlisting — no, no, DRAFTING — Scouting to fight it.”

      • Cole Petersen // October 3, 2014 at 2:15 pm //

        I view it completely the other way around. Scouting has realized that without standing firmly on its principles, the line keeps moving. I think this is an attempt to say that the line has been moved too far too often. It’s time to reestablish where the line is (it’s always been there), but our society, including many Scouters here, want to redefine or eliminate traditional values. Are we better off? I think not. Are we heading in a good direction? Are we building character in our future leaders? What kind of character is it? Upon what is it based? I don’t feel good about the direction we’re headed.

        • You can be a principle-based person without believing in the supernatural. In fact, I’d argue it’s a more authentic viewpoint. I share your concern, though, that changing the Oath, Law, and Eagle requirements now could lead to a slippery slope down the road. I suggest we make logical, considered changes, but changes that are in the spirit of Scouting. Basically, to be inwardly directed (principle based), forthright (leadership, betterment of humanity), understanding (teamwork, responsibility), to appreciate and protect nature, and to follow the Golden Rule. I think THAT is what we all have in common, despite religious differences.

        • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 2:54 pm //

          Cole, thank you for admitting to using Scouting to defend your vision of “traditional values”. To use it to fight a culture war.

          Scouting values aren’t “traditional values”, they are universal values shared by Scouts around the world.

        • Sherman Peterson // October 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm //

          Cole, are you saying that in reaction to the membership policy change the BSA decided to make this one? If true, then this would seem to be a solution in search of a problem.

  41. As I’ve aged and determined, through life experience, what morality means to me, I’ve come to grips with an hypothesis I, and I suspect many earnest and honest Eagle candidates, have postulated. Blind faith is a cop out. Religious faith, while well intentioned, is founded in fear. Most people hate to admit to that fact and will rationalize their beliefs until they are blue in the face rather than look at the fallacious nature of blind faith objectively. If you doubt me, just wait until you see the venomous responses to follow this post. Honesty comes with a price, and I’m not afraid to face this head on, but please read my post through before replying.

    It’s extraordinarily sad to me to hear a boy answer a Board of Review question with stark bravery and then get slapped in the face with an Eagle rejection — all because the adults in charge are confused about right and wrong, due, in part, to their own ignorance, fear, and bigotry. The human brain doesn’t stop developing until a person reaches approximately 25-years of age and it takes time and life experience to wrestle with life’s tougher issues, so how can we really expect a young man under 18 years of age to answer questions of faith legitimately? And more to the point, who cares if they believe in God? To my way of thinking, doing do is a sign of weakness. I’m more proud of the young man who has faced these challenges and accepts the possibility that we exist without the need to believe a supernatural being. It’s a more self actualized, evolved viewpoint, frankly.

    Before you rant on about what a horrible person I am for taking this point of view, please Google Christopher Hitchens right now. He was ever so much more eloquent than I am, and his world view echoed mine. The bottom line is that Scouting does not have to involve faith in a supernatural deity to be a rewarding, wonderful experience for everyone, and, as time goes on and more people realize the truth about who wrote the bible, how evolution is valid, how the universe was created, etc., the less “a Scout is Reverent” will be “relevant to a Scout” . This is hopeful, actually, it’s just counterintuitive to most of the older generation’s teachings. Please check out Christopher Hitchens before replying with rhetoric, I’m happy to reply to well considered responses, but I’ll ignore canned rhetoric as it will stand as proof you are hiding from your own fear. For the record, I was raised Christian and, compared to the average bloke, I am reasonably well read in theological texts. I have hope that this discussion can remain civil and I am extremely glad this topic is being explored.

    • Wolf Den Daniel // October 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm //

      Bret, well-stated.

      Using his words, the theologian Bishop John Shelby Spong might suggest this: the God you were born into is no longer big enough to hold the man you’ve grown into.

    • I was with you up until you tried to say that people of faith are showing a “sign of weakness.”

      You further lost me when you tried to bring Christopher Hitchens into the conversation.

      Christopher would argue that faith of any form has no place in our organization. That is a position I do not and would not support. At the same time, I would support the ability of a scout to advance that either no longer has faith or never developed such.

      With respect, if you think Christopher Hitchens speaks for your position, you are probably in the wrong organization.

      • I expect we will have to agree to disagree. I think that blind faith in a supernatural deity to assuade fears of death and seperation from your parents is a symptom of weakness. it’s one thing to want something to be true, it’s another for it to actually be so. Perhaps you have the evidence needed, but I suspect you, like me at an earlier age, are only fooling yourself into believing. I wish you well, and I appreciate your concern about my membership in Scouts.

        • You can’t even tell when you are being condescending. Note your use of “blind” faith instead of just faith.

          BSA is not an atheist organization, nor is likely to be in our lifetime.

          That does not mean that we should necessarily exclude those that might not now, or even in the future, develop a faith.

          And lastly, faith is not a weakness. Your biased assumptions about why people may have one faith or another says more about you than it does about the diversity of people of faith and why they may believe such.

  42. Tim Olsen // October 3, 2014 at 12:39 pm //

    I’m in the camp that his response doesn’t provide enough prescriptive advice. Even the “Short answer” in the article is at best gelatinous.
    I appreciate the responses and they’ve given me much to consider, and have put this “what if” scenario in to my head.
    What if a scout when asked about his Duty to God, responds.
    I don’t believe in God, and while I acknowledge a higher power, this higher power has no expectations of me, holds me under no obligation, Therefore, I have no duty, or responsibility to serve the higher power.

  43. Seth Walter // October 3, 2014 at 12:40 pm //

    I think that this is 2 separate issues that commonly are lumped into one very sticky and uncomfortable debate about “Duty to God”. The DRP is one part, and according to the BSA, a condition of membership. Let’s call that one RELIGION. The other part is the 12th point of the Scout Law, already named REVERENCE.
    I believe that RELIGION is not nor should be a part of Scouting–it is up to the family and individual to determine one’s faith, practices, level of observance, and ultimate relationship (if any) with God. That is PRIVATE.
    I believe that REVERENCE is about respect for others and their beliefs. It is about tolerance and understanding, not discriminating or demeaning, nor promotion or proselytizing, of one religion above or instead of another. Understanding and living REVERENCE is what should be emphasized in our programs as that will lead our Youth and Leaders to be the “best kind of citizen” they can be.

  44. Bob Adams // October 3, 2014 at 12:41 pm //

    This will be next big collision for the BSA, and like the issue of homosexuality, it is one in which the organization merely mirrors the greater American culture.

    Bottom line: Clause 1 of the Declaration of Religious Principle potentially contains a glaring contradiction, depending on one’s definition of “God,” and “non-sectarian.”

    For Christians (and the other monothestic religions, esp. Judaism and Islam, but also Sikhism, Baha’i, and Zoroastrianism), belief in God is straightforward and “non-sectarian” is synonymous with “ecumencal.” In customary practice, the various Protestants denominations, plus Catholics and Mormons, and occasionally Jews, can worship together (although I still wince everytime a “non-denominational” prayer is ended, “…in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen”).

    It get complicated moving beyond that. While Hindus often refer to “God,” their pantheon has multiple deities, all of whom receive devotion and inspire reverence in a manner in keeping with the Scout Law. Buddhism, on the other hand, does not require faith in God, but does not rule it out either. Again, living life according to Buddhist principles is entirely in keeping with Scouting’s values as articulated in the Oath and Law.

    Both of these practices have religious awards (e.g., Dharma and Sangha, respectively) and therefore could be considered to have the BSA’s sanction as meeting the criteria for belief in God. Wicca, or the Covenant of the Goddess, does not–they’re the reason that the BSA cited the rule that 25 units must be chartered before a religion’s award is recognized. Nonetheless, adherents of Wicca worship their deity “as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings” in a manner in keeping with the BSA Declaration.

    However, nothing in the Oath or Law requires that a Reverent Scout adhere only to a sect that has an approved religious award, nor does the Declaration limit “non-sectarian” to those sects.

    So, I would expand the question first asked to include the following:
    “How do you handle advancement when a Scout says he doesn’t believe in God, he believes in the Goddess, or the Force, or Zeus, or fundamental moral obligation among all humanity?”

    I believe that BSA is leaving this ambiguity intentionally, to avoid antagonizing either side of the issue. I agree with the commenters above that advise a lenient interpretation of reverence in SM conferences and boards of review. However, the fact remains that, given the wording of the Declaration and its use of the word “God,” if a boy goes into a Eagle board of review and says that while he considers himself reverent, he does not believe in God, he believes in X, a different board would not advance him. This may be in strict keeping with the Declaration, but it is not non-sectarian.

    • To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, if a prayer is not ended in Jesus name, then it is not really a prayer. This is just one of the many reasons why nonsectarian prayers are a farce. Whoever is “praying” should be able to do whatever their personal tradition suggests. That may be standing up and singing a song, saying a traditional prayer (and ending that prayer however the Scout wants), making a series of gestures, standing there for a couple minutes not saying anything at all, getting down on the ground and bowing and/or chanting. Allowing each person to “pray” as they want and then rotating through everyone so that everyone gets a chance to be the leader for prayer is the only way to truly be fair, open, and nonsectarian.

      • @Bart wow. In my troop, that would be a long service if everyone were to have their say. Sort of like all the comments here 🙂

        And I’m not replying to your post – but I am saddened that there are adults who are eager to kick a boy out of scouting over religion when the boys are growing, maturing, and questioning their personal beliefs on religion.

        • Well, obviously if you have a scout camp with a thousand people coming through each week, it’d be impossible for everyone to be given a minute to do their own thing every time. However, traditionally there are 3-4 times a day for someone to give what they call a prayer (meals & evening activity), whatever that is to them. So, in a 6-day week, over 8 weeks of camp, that’s maybe 160 different people who get to do something. That’s potentially a lot of different points of view expressed over a summer.

      • Trenton Spears // October 3, 2014 at 5:48 pm //

        Bart” I am not sure of your comment to the LDS Members about ending LDS prayers. All members in my 20 year membership in the LDS Church and even LDS Scout campouts have always ended their prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. This has been a part of the LDS Church doctrine and members learn this even at the age of 2 and up. This does not mean that all religions need to follow the LDS doctrine I have been to many non LDS Scouting activities and have been receptive of their prayer endings and have enjoyed any prayer at any Scout activities. Bart if you have been instructed other wise by a member of the LDS Church they were clearly not abiding by the LDS Church Doctrine the LDS Church respects all other religions just like the BSA.Trenton

        • What? No, you misunderstood me. My point is that people of a given faith don’t necessarily pray in a particular manner because they are thoughtless and giving no heed to the desires of others, they’re praying in that sectarian manner because that’s what their faith requires of them when they offer a prayer. On the other hand, even if a “nonsectarian” prayer is given, that may still not meet the requirements for a prayer for everyone who is there. Since we can’t please everyone, since we can’t satisfy everyone, we ought to stop pretending that we can and simply give each faith in turn an opportunity to express their prayer in the manner that their faith dictates, whatever that is, whether it’s a traditional prayer (which may or may not end in the name of Jesus, or someone else), or a song or a chant or a bow or gestures or a moment of silence or whatever a person’s faith and personal religious strictures dictate.

          We’re only truly respecting other religions when we’re actually willing to give each their own moment in the spotlight, rather than trying to shoehorn everyone into doing the exact same thing and pretending that it has the exact same significance to everyone.

  45. HI,
    I am a Scout from Indonesia…
    This is a very interesting dialogue .
    I believe this topic will be more relevant in the future as our world is evolving.

  46. Andrew Napierski // October 3, 2014 at 1:24 pm //

    As a skeptic, I made the choice to stop advancing during my time with the BSA. Once I became firmly grounded in my skepticism (when I became a Star Scout), I felt that I would be wronging the association by advancing without a firm belief in God. This is not due to feelings of guilt for not believing in God, but it was out of respect for the organization. Although I do not agree with the requirement of believing in a higher power, I did not want to disrespect the organization that facilitated many fond memories and strong friendships. In my personal opinion, I think the requirement should be to “fulfill a commitment to the betterment of humanity”. As a philosophy major who studies the nature of truth, I think this is a better approach because it’s not as much of a leap of faith to desire to help your fellow man. Morality arises out of respect for other individuals, not from the existence of God. Once this distinction is made, it’s clear that the requirement is antiquated. With that being said, I cherish my time with the BSA, and I think fondly of it, despite some of it’s more “iffy” values.

    • Well stated.

    • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 8:36 am //

      I’m glad you realized that your continued participation in Scouting would by hypocritical, and removed yourself from the organization. I wish others would have done the same, and would do the same.

      • Jerry - Tomorrow's Scouter // October 5, 2014 at 8:55 am //

        I am starting to understand your vision for Scouting. There is room in Scouting for a more diverse set of beliefs than the ones that you or I hold. We should be working together to make this program strong and capable of advancing young men from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs. I hope that there is enough wisdom inside of those reading and and commenting on this post to come together to find new ways to raise moral young leaders, not finding new ways to exclude them.

  47. Nelson R. Block // October 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm //

    The boy who does not believe in God today may well have believed last week, and may change his mind tomorrow, or next week, or next year.

    Scouting (like many Western religions) is based on the idea that humankind is perfectible. Because a Scout lapses in telling the truth when he advises the teacher that “the dog ate my homework” does not necessarily mean he is not Trustworthy. Because a boy says he does not believe in God does not mean he will not think about it more, and perhaps change his mind.

    What about the Scout who does his duty to God even if he does not believe in God? A Jewish boy who keeps kosher even outside his home or a Catholic boy who goes to Mass – on any given day – might be confused about whether he really believes in God. Maybe he even prays without believing, because it pleases his parents (“Honor Thy Father and Mother”). He is following his religious tradition and actually doing his duty to God, but he may be unsure about whether he believes in God. For the Jewish boy, I think most modern rabbis and Jewish educators would see such questioning as a good thing.

    In the part of Scouting for Boys dealing with religion, Baden-Powell wrote, “Religion is a very simple thing: First, to believe in God. Second, to do good to others.” If a boy believes in God but does not do good to others, we would not reject him from Scouts; we would bring him in and hope that the program will show him how doing good improves his life. For the boy who says he does not believe in God, maybe doing good to others will lead to a belief in God. So why would we reject a boy who does good to others, but said he did not believe in God?

    Sometimes, when a terrible thing happens, I ask, “How could God let this happen? Does God care? Does God have the attributes my tradition says? Is God really what I think God is? If God is all powerful and lets these bad things happen, then what is God?” In those moments, perhaps I do not believe in God.

    Should I turn in my Scout badge? Or, perhaps my duty to God includes questioning things about God, including God’s existence.

    • Brilliantly stated. Kudos.

    • docbill1351 // October 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm //

      Thoughtful as ever, Nelson.

    • Agree…
      Religion and spirituality shouldn’t be assumed as static but dynamic
      Personally, I think religion or spirituality should be like a journey

      If a kid who used to be a believer become an unbeliever, it is not mean that his spirituality is declining, maybe in fact it is improving as he become more aware of many issue at his surrounding and the contradiction with his faith. In time he will be able to overcome this. And even after that another contradictions will be appeared and so on.

      It’s just part of his journey, and as we shouldn’t abandon him for that.

    • If belief were merely intellectual ascent to a thing, then our minds are indeed revolving doors welcoming God in one moment then shutting out the next. The fuller definition of belief involves centering your life on a thing. It’s not merely agreeing that a chair is structurally sound, it’s being willing to sit in it. So, a boy who has evolving thoughts about God, but is still perusing religious life according to the customs of his family may very well, in the grand scheme of things, be exercising a tremendous amount of faith. So, we arrive at your conclusion, duty to God may involve questioning. And indeed I have had plenty of boys in that position make rank.

      FWIW, I have also had boys who were firm in their unwillingness to be helpful or kind. We showed them the door as quickly as we would if they insisted that everyone’s religious life was a waste of time.

  48. Trenton Spears // October 3, 2014 at 2:48 pm //

    Andrew Napierski It is refreshing to hear a voice of true honesty you certainly represent the values that the BSA represents. You clearly stood up for your own convictions that gave you a choice to make. Andrew many scouts don’t make the rank of Star so I applaud your for hanging in there to the point that you recognized that advancing in Scouting would no longer be a goal in your life and that hypocrisy became a huge stumbling block for your continued BSA participation. I would like to say that your membership in the BSA has been a success for you personally and I think you recognize the benefit’s of being a Boy Scout has allowed you to overcome obstacle’s in your life. Congratulations for becoming a man of convictions in a world of adversity. Sincerely, Trenton Spears, Scoutmaster

  49. Personally, I think the enhanced emphasis on Duty to God is to balance BSA’s recent decision to allow openly gay youth to be members. Perhaps it was part of an agreement with the various major churches — go along with the membership change, and we will put more emphasis on Duty to God.

    The Boy Scouts of America already operates a fully inclusive program — Learning for Life/Exploring, and counts Explorers as members (though not members of “traditional” units). So the statement in the Declaration of Religious Principle that “[t]he Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God” is apparently not as broad as it reads — unless BSA is fine with offering programs for people who can’t grow into the best kind of citizens. Either way, there is no reason that BSA couldn’t offer a fully inclusive, full-blown Scouting program alongside the traditional program, just as it offers Exploring, and stop turning away atheists and gay adults on the one hand and religious conservatives on the other.

    Of course, why go to all that trouble for a program they will only need for a dozen years or so? Recall that back in the days when BSA was fervently anti-gay, the organization went all the way to the Supreme Court to defend its right to exclude homosexuals — and won. That was in 2000. Thirteen years later, we have openly gay Scouts by BSA’s choice — there was no legal requirement. This religious push seems like another last gasp before BSA once again realizes that American society has left it behind on this issue.

  50. I was denied my Life badge at the board of review because I had left the church.
    To this day, I, and my sons, can’t be part of Scouting

    And I tell the kids this when they try to sell me popcorn. If my kids can’t participate, we’re not donating.

    • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 8:25 am //

      You made a decision that put you outside the organization. You raised your children to be atheists. Why would you want to participate in Scouting? Keep your money.

      • Yesterday’s Scout, you ask why would Divinar want to be involved with Scouting, even though he left the church. I don’t want to speak for him , but I will answer more generically. There are Scouts and Scouters that believe in Scouting as a path to raise moral young men, to open them up to an appreciation of the outdoors, to show them a variety of career paths that they might never have considered, to develop leadership skills, to encourage young men to have wholesome fun with their friends, and to get recognition for these achievements – who ALSO believe that there is room in Scouting for the questioning child, the boy who is bombarded by religious and non-religious influences and is still trying to figure out his path. Restricting Scouting to only those children who are certain in their belief in “God”, or at least to those who are willing to lie about it, will exclude a large number of good boys and good adults from participating in this wonderful experience.

        • Thank you for concisely stating the obvious, Jerry. Makes me sad that so many people think “BSA is on the road to Hell along with the rest of society”. That’s bigoted, fear-based rhetoric, not reality. We have social problems, sure; political correctness is out of control, illegal immigration is rampant, and extreme left-thinkers as well as extreme right thinkers are about half cracked … true that. But tell me, honestly, this level of social dysfunction hasn’t ALWAYS been the case. It’s society’s job to adapt, evolve, and overcome challenges, not march in lock step hankering for the “good old days” (which weren’t exactly all that ‘good’ really — think racial segregation in the U.S.). I’m not a “liberal whacko”, but I am unafraid to be progressive and proactive if it means building a better future. And to this point, I think a boy of 14-17 should not have to lie about his “faith in a supernatural deity” to achieve Eagle Scout.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 7:42 pm //

          I think it is you, Brett, who is bigoted and fearful. But I assume you see yourself as a modern,progressive, liberal, crusader for human rights. Funny that you write negatively of political correctness – that would seem to be right up your alley.

        • “Restricting Scouting to only those children who are certain in their belief in ‘God’, or at least to those who are willing to lie about it…”
          No, the point is that anyone who is uncertain in their belief, who is willing to accede to the idea that there could be ‘God’ is welcome. It’s those who are certain in the opposite direction, that there cannot be God or a God or any God or even a pervasive universal force or anything at all, who are not welcome.

        • “It’s society’s job to adapt, evolve, and overcome challenges, not march in lock step hankering for the ‘good old days'”
          When you really get into history, you start to find that every generation, in every culture, bemoans the sorry state of the youth of their time.

          Here’s a modern rephrasing of a quote from the ancient Greeks, “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” That was written by Kenneth John Freeman in 1907 in a dissertation and he continued, “Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannized over the pedagogic and schoolmasters.”

          And here’s part of the basis of that quote. This is a translation from The Clouds, written by Aristophanes about 423 BC:
          ” Yet certainly shall you spend your time in the
          gymnastic schools, sleek and blooming; not chattering in
          the market-place rude jests, like the youths of the
          present day; nor dragged into court for a petty suit,
          greedy, pettifogging, knavish; but you shall descend to
          the Academy and run races beneath the sacred olives
          along with some modest compeer, crowned with white
          reeds, redolent of yew, and careless ease, of
          leaf-shedding white poplar, rejoicing in the season of
          spring, when the plane-tree whispers to the elm. If you
          do these things which I say, and apply your mind to
          these, you will ever have a stout chest, a clear
          complexion, broad shoulders, a little tongue, large
          hips, little lewdness. But if you practice what the
          youths of the present day do, you will have in the first
          place, a pallid complexion, small shoulders, a narrow
          chest, a large tongue, little hips, great lewdness, a
          long psephism; and this deceiver will persuade you to
          consider everything that is base to be honorable, and
          what is honorable to be base; and in addition to this,
          he will fill you with the lewdness of Antimachus.”

          I’m just saying that this “march in lock step hankering for the good old days” is really incredibly common for every generation in every culture. Well, except for the “Greatest Generation” who generally all grew up surrounded by hideous poverty then went off to fight in WWII. They apparently didn’t really have good old days to look back on, so didn’t hanker after them like most every other generation has.

          Point is, it’s possible that the good old days weren’t really that great and that I personally may have engaged in my youth in some behavior that I today consider reprehensible for youth to engage in. Most people, apparently, could have the same said about them.

        • Thank you, Jerry. Perhaps someday there will be a BSA worth joining again.

      • It is disturbing to see a number of people writing on this Blog treating BP as something similar to a demi-god. How many of the writers here have even looked at BPs bio? I went through Woodbadge training. It disturbed me that the beads being presented to the successful tickets were possibly war-booty from Denizulu (however they were obtained by BP) [beads were given to daughter of the Bishop of Natal apparently, later to BP] (Woodbadge rewrote their history in the 40s due to the embarrassment that the questionable bead acquisition might have been).

        BP was the son of a liberal Anglican Cleric that was all but “ex-communicated” by his church for his “radical” Darwinistic views. BP’s views of Scouting as ‘a bigger thing than Christianity’ caused many problems with early 20th Century British clerics. He then, in the next “Headquarters Gazette”, wrote that it was not his intention to attack Revealed Religion… [Read please the Biography of BP by Jeal]

        It is amazing to hear all of those that espouse their Biblical “Absoluteness”, when I know that NONE of the Bible (Old or New Testament) was contemporaneously written as many would believe. Emperor Constantine decided in ~300 at the Council of Nicaea what would be included in what we know as the Bible. In or Out. HIS DECISION.

        Christians come in many flavors, from Orthodox to liberal. That is the same with most “religions”. It is DESTRUCTIVE to have the Orthodox types decide what Scouting is.

        Some faiths have tailored Scouting into the Religious education of their BOYS, but in many areas (our Council for one) they do not insist/demand that their leaders get trained the basic BSA adult leader skills and requirements (YP would be one of those in the past, [why else would BSA have dropped a couple of years ago their requirement to be re-registered that ALL boy-facing adult have YP?])

        Back to “Duty to God” or “Duty to Good”. It seems to me (I am a Methodist) that many of those that are commenting in this blog are saying “my way or the highway”. Scouting has made it possible for Buddhists to fulfill their obligations. There must be a way for those that are ‘questioning’ at ages of under 18 to be able to fulfill their “Duty to Go_d”. The statements here of “LEAVE SCOUTING” are those of intolerance and bigotry. THAT DOES NOT FOLLOW THE SCOUT OATH or THE SCOUT LAW.

        • “There must be a way for those that are ‘questioning’ at ages of under 18 to be able to fulfill their ‘Duty to Go_d’.”
          There is, Those who have an open mind and are still questioning are one thing. It’s those who have a close mind and adamantly declare that there is no need to question and that they will not question because it is impossible for anyone to receive an answer to a question of that sort who perhaps shouldn’t be involved in the Scouting program.

      • At the time, I had left *a* church, I didn’t give up on a god’s existence for a few more years.

        But I’d like to thank you for reminding me that, even though there are a lot of good things about scouting, I was right to keep my kids out of it.
        As long as people like you are infesting it.

  51. Just a thought on BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle, on the chance that BSA President and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is reading:

    The DRP says, “[t]he Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God . . . ” So, an atheist who volunteers for the military, fights in the service of the United States of America, and is wounded or killed, could never be considered “the best kind of citizen”?

    The Boy Scouts of America really wants to be saying that?????

    • And imagine this headline on the front page of the Washington Post:

      “Boy Scouts of America Policy Declares Atheists Second-Class Citizens”

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm //

        All the more reason to exclude those who oppose the fundamental principles upon which the organization was founded.

        • BSA was also founded with a basis to ban then eventually segregate blacks. Should we continue that practice?

          You can’t hold up tradition and “fundamental principles” of exclusion without also acknowledging that BSA used to be a racist organization – one that continued to discriminate for twenty years after schools were segregated.

          So called “fundamental principles” sometimes need to evolve. BSA’s board approved racial discrimination in 1910. It took 64 years for that to change.

          Again, I don’t advocate the elimination or even the subordination of faith in BSA. I believe it is an important aspect. I do advocate that we don’t discriminate against those that do not currently have, or may never develop their own faith.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 10:53 pm //

          Hawkwin, I have to reply to myself – your post has no reply button. You make a false and spurious comparison. No one chooses to be born black or white or any other racial or ethnic category. People do make conscious individual choices to be atheist (or for that matter, to behave in other ways that were until very recently excluded from BSA).

          Being born with one or another skin color is not a choice one makes. To be atheist (or to commit homosexual acts) are choices. Ergo, no comparison. BSA never had a statement in the Oath or Law about being white. BSA does have statements about “Morally Straight” and “Duty to God”.

          Something you need to explain to me: if BSA was founded to ban blacks then why would there be a plan to segregate them? They would not have been in the organization to begin with. This is not logical. Especially since the first black troop was organized in 1911. Seems like the “ban” got off on the wrong foot.

        • “Hawkwin, I have to reply to myself – your post has no reply button. You make a false and spurious comparison. No one chooses to be born black or white or any other racial or ethnic category. People do make conscious individual choices to be atheist (or for that matter, to behave in other ways that were until very recently excluded from BSA).”

          So let’s focus on that aspect just a bit since you bring up behavior as a choice. A physical attraction for the same sex used to be a reason for exclusion. Regardless of whether or not one had consummated such attraction, you could be excluded. A straight person has no written prohibition against sexual relations with multiple partners. Many religions do consider sex outside of marriage to be a sin – yet BSA has no objection regarding such. Straight premarital sex was basically condoned.

          So let’s compare that to faith. Someone could claim to be a Christian but live anything but. Someone else could simply not know what they believe, yet.

          We accept the first person with open arms yet reject the second. Please tell me what is biblical or god-like about such a practice?

          “Being born with one or another skin color is not a choice one makes. To be atheist (or to commit homosexual acts) are choices. Ergo, no comparison. BSA never had a statement in the Oath or Law about being white. BSA does have statements about “Morally Straight” and “Duty to God”.”

          I don’t see how this supports your position. People that were born black were segregated. They often were prohibited from joining integrated troops if they were allowed to join at all. What does being morally straight or having a duty to god have anything to do with BSA’s choice to allow racial discrimination?

          “Something you need to explain to me: if BSA was founded to ban blacks then why would there be a plan to segregate them? They would not have been in the organization to begin with. This is not logical. Especially since the first black troop was organized in 1911. Seems like the “ban” got off on the wrong foot.”

          I did not say it was found specifically to ban blacks, I stated that at the very first executive board meeting for the BSA in November of 1910, they voted on a resolution to allow councils to exclude blacks. BSA, again in their very first executive meeting, endorsed racial segregation. They must have felt pretty strongly about it to bring it up so early in the creation of this organization. Before first aid, before there was an emphasis on reading a map or using a compass, there was segregation.

          Do you deny that such segregation continued until 1974? Can you acknowledge that the founding members of our organization condoned such a discriminatory practice? Are you aware that even when blacks were allowed to be members, they often were not allowed to even wear the uniform?

          Can you admit that this practice was not one based on any biblical, morally straight, or duty to god teaching?

          And, that perhaps trying to defend against the evolution of BSA on the grounds of such “fundamental principles” might ring hollow and strain credulity?

          More:
          http://www.npr.org/2013/01/30/170585132/boy-scouts-repeal-of-gay-ban-mirrors-its-approach-to-racial-integration

          http://www.aaregistry.org/?q=historic_events/view/african-american-boy-scout-movement-story

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Boy_Scouts_of_America

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm //

          Hawkwin, you most certainly did write that BSA was founded to ban blacks. I quote you, “BSA was also founded with a basis to ban then eventually segregate blacks.”

          Your argument is specious and your logic fatuous. You are attempting to conflate being born black with deliberate and voluntary choices to act in ways that violate the Oath and Law.

          Furthermore, you write, ” A straight person has no written prohibition against sexual relations with multiple partners. Many religions do consider sex outside of marriage to be a sin – yet BSA has no objection regarding such. Straight premarital sex was basically condoned.” No it was not. A Scout is Loyal. Adultery and premarital sex are both violations of loyalty to one’s spouse (current or future, respectively).

          Moreover, I still wonder why people would deliberately join an organization that has membership standards with which they disagree. And it’s not like any of this was some big deep dark secret. BSA went all the way to the Supreme Court to defend its exclusion of avowed, active homosexuals (Morally Straight). Duty to God is just that, not duty to atheism or duty to agnosticism.

          BSA promised ‘Morally Straight”, not racially white. BSA mandates “Duty to God” not duty to European ancestry. Trying to conflate atheism and homosexuality with African ancestry just doesn’t fly. You’re going to have to do a lot better than you’ve done.

          Not that it matters. Your side won. My side has about ten years tops before the other shoe drops and BSA becomes totally inhospitable. Patience, my brother Scout, patience. Victory comes a-creeping, but come it does.

        • Yesterday’s Scout, I support your notion of sticking to principles and being a good person through good times and bad. Isn’t that, basically, what we want for our boys? To me, it’s about honor, not necessarily faith. Adhering to honesty and following the Golden Rule to my way of thinking is the measure of a man, when boiled down to its bare essentials.

          I understand that we may have different views on interpreting the role of religion’s place in the Scout Law and the Scout Oath, but don’t we essentially agree on the basic tenant of Scouting? I mean, aren’t our hearts in the same place?

          I fail to understand how you can view my disagreement regarding rejecting an Eagle Scout applicant on the subject of religious preference as a sign that BSA is going to suddenly become a corrupt and immoral entity. Nothing could be further from the truth. I fight every day for boys in my charge to lead honorable, principle-based lives. The subject of faith rarely intermingles with the subject of honor … I know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but I would hope it isn’t one that leads you to despair. There’s room for all of us, and I think that’s what’s disconcerting about the folks herein who would actually deny a deserving boy of his Eagle over his religious view. Atheists and agnostics are often honorable, good people. (And yes, sometimes even preach conservative family values 😉

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 8, 2014 at 9:26 pm //

          Bret, it is very simple, Atheists and agnostics joined BSA in spite of the membership requirements. They deliberately joined a group that held fast to beliefs and practices that are incompatible with atheism. They joined with the express intention of ignoring the membership rule. In other words, they joined under false pretenses.

          A Scout who is a declared atheist cannot, in my mind, be an Eagle, since he cannot live up to one of the fundamental tenets of Scouting: Duty to God. In point of fact, that Scout cannot even be a Tenderfoot, let alone any other rank. He cannot satisfy “duty to God” so he cannot fully complete the requirements for the rank. Now, he may lie his way through six boards of review (or he may luck out and go through all his boards with no one asking him about Duty to God), he may wear every badge from Tenderfoot to Eagle, but is he really any of those? He has not fulfilled all the requirements for the rank(s) so the badges and medals, however good-looking and impressive, are essentially meaningless.

          And that, indeed, is a very bitter pill to swallow.

          Are our hearts in the same place? I do not know. I would hope so, but in the new world that National has engineered for us, does it even matter? Already many have left (our troop lost three adult leaders after the previous membership standards vote – two of those were Eagles). I suspect this new controversy will drive more out of BSA. It’s too bad. It was a great organization and in many ways it still is; yet I am surprised at how many atheists and agnostics have popped up on this forum. I assume they are only the smallest fraction of the members that subscribe to those ways of thought.

    • VA Scoutmaster // October 3, 2014 at 3:56 pm //

      What you are saying is known as an argument of incredulity, a type of informal fallacy. You are also conflating a private institution — the Boy Scouts of America — with a public institution (the US military) in an appeal to emotion. Note that it is indeed possible to serve in the military, even take a bullet, and still not be a good citizen. If this were not true, we would not need a JAG Corps, courts-martial, or military police.

      • Not at all. The DRP says what it says: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God . . . ” So let’s ask what that means. If no _member_ can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God, then logically the same must be true of non-members.* Indeed, that is confirmed by what the DRP says just a little further on: “Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts . . . shall be entitled to certificates of membership.” That is, you can’t even become a member of BSA unless, as a non-member, you agree with the principles stated in the DRP.

        The whole point of the DRP is to tell members AND non-members what BSA thinks about recognizing an obligation to God. For members, so that they are clear about how to conduct themselves within the program. For non-members, in order to prevent atheists from joining. Why prevent atheists from joining? The DRP says why: Because an atheist cannot “grow into the best kind of citizen.” It doesn’t state any other reason. So if you don’t have the potential to grow into the best kind of citizen, BSA does not want you as a member.

        Nothing fallacious about that, though I grant you that it is incredulous. Nor is there anything fallacious in turning around and looking at how the BSA’s stated view about atheists applies to other citizens outside the BSA. And since BSA is expressly talking about citizenship, it makes perfect sense to look at how BSA’s views apply to categories of people most identified with citizenship. The military is obvious. How about the American Legion, a private organization? Or the Disabled Veterans of America, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars? Isn’t BSA saying that an atheist member of one of those organizations cannot grow into the best kind of citizen? How about members of Habitat for Humanity, or the Red Cross, or Doctors Without Borders? Don’t you think BSA is saying the same thing to them — that unless they recognize an obligation to God, they can’t be the best kind of citizens?

        I’m not trying to appeal to emotion. I’m appealing to logic. How will BSA’s reputation, and thus its income and membership, be affected if this becomes a news story — BSA’s notion that an atheist, regardless of his or her life or service to this country, has no possibility of being “the best kind of citizen”?

        ————————
        *It seems unlikely that BSA is saying that non-members CAN grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God, even though members cannot.*

        • Dan, this is spot on. I stated earlier that the DRP is insulting. You laid it out perfectly.

        • So basically what you’re saying is that the BSA believes that its rules are good ones and that a person will get farther by following them? How revolutionary — it’s not as though every single other group everywhere thinks the same thing… It would be surprising to find any group, any Scouting group, any community group, any service group, any religion, any political party, any parent-teacher organization, any group of people anywhere who offer any guidance on how people should live a life who didn’t think (as an organization) that their rules were good ones. If they didn’t think that, they wouldn’t have those rules. “Oh my goodness,” you’re saying, “The BSA actually thinks its members live better lives when they’re following the BSA rules?” How, uhm, revolutionary?

        • No, what I am saying is that BSA is not very smart in how it has chosen to communicate its view.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 8:19 am //

          “How will BSA’s … income ….”

          Dan, you’ve cut to the chase as usual. This is, once again, all about the bucks, not about standing on principle.

  52. Such a thought provoking topic. As a scout master one of my scouts took an agnostic position. He had already completed his eagle rank. His life choices displayed the moral teachings you would expect of an eagle scout. In a study of world religions, some have deity where others proclaim each person is deity and others honor humans who lived lives of worth. Still others honor the world and nature itself. In the same attitude that allowed the acceptance of youth who profess to homosexual preference, Is it acceptable to allow a youth to procalim the acceptance of socially acceptable morals? Beyond the christian doctrine, many other religions and laws set by legislative authorities follow the same do no harm goals. In my training for eagle boards of review, it was once stated the only acceptable denial of an eagle scout was the revelation of atheist or agnostic beliefs. As a christian it was acceptable to me to follow these guidelines. When taking a step back and considering the world and the number of alternate positions, it would seem just to consider the goal of the requirement which is to have people of character with sound judgement skills representing the eagles of boy scouting. I find it disturbing that quality young men of conscience feel excomunicated from scouting. To do so weakens scouting and does not strengthen society.

    As each person before has done, stating they have answered the quetion, The conversation continues.

  53. If I believe that the power higher than man in the universe is the universe itself, that it’s all beyond control, that nobody is steering the ship, what does that make me? Serious question?

    Secondly, I thought about this a bit today, I think apatheist seems to fit me. More specifically:

    Absence of religious motivation

    This apatheistic argument states that morals are present in human society and do not rely on religion to be a part of the human experience. Apatheists recognize that religion may provide a “comfort” for many people around the world, but apatheists do not need religion to be content with the morality of their lives and therefore live without it. This is known as “moral apatheism”.

    Obviously, this would not fit with the DRP, which I feel is a shame.

  54. The problem with most of the comments above is that they are based on the view that there is one God, and if a Boy Scout doesn’t believe in that God that something is wrong.

    Holy Heart Attack Batman! Do we really expect 13 to 17 year old boys to know what they belief and to be able to articulate that belief. It’s an untenable and preposterous expectation. How many people, young, middle-age and elderly, go through spiritual quests and doubts throughout their lives. And yet in Boy Scouts we have an expectation that a boy, be unquestionably firm in his, “Belief in God.”

    The way, here is a list of religions that that practice a faith based on there isn’t a God or there are multiple gods. Guess young men of these faiths can’t be Eagle Scouts, depending on the members of their Board of Review.

    Bon
    Buddhism
    Asatru
    Confucianism
    Druze
    Epicureanism
    Falun Gong
    Greek Religion
    Jainism
    Mayan
    Scientology
    Shinto
    Taoism
    Unitarian Universalism
    Wicca

    • Holy Heart Attack Batman! Seriously? Look, just go read the full article, *then* come post in the comments, ok? There’s honestly no point in this if you aren’t going to bother reading the article in the first place.

  55. Don Wright // October 3, 2014 at 9:38 pm //

    Scouting happens to be organized on the basis of a belief in God. It is a religious organization. Would you expect an atheist to be allowed to join a church or want to join a church? Would you expect a church to drop a belief in God in order to attract atheists? The atheist might be welcome to visit a church, but one has to confess to a belief in God in order to join a church. Parents should be made aware of the fact that we are a religious organization before the boy even joins Scouts. DPW

  56. Isn’t it great that Souting is awesome enough even those who disagree with its basic tenets still want to join anyway? 🙂

  57. Yesterday's Scout // October 4, 2014 at 9:25 pm //

    I cracked a sardonic grin when I read through this thread. During the “listening sessions” held prior to the vote to change BSA membership standards, I was told by a high ranking professional Scouter that Duty to God would never be removed from BSA. I was ridiculed in other threads when I suggested that Duty to God would be the next of BSA’s traditions to fall to the fifth columnists. And now look at what you’re all debating. Just be patient, all you agnostics and atheists and parodists (Flying Spaghetti Monster- LOL!). Dan Kurtenbach is correct. In about a dozen years or so (probably less) people who hold traditional American beliefs will have left the BSA, and you will have won. In fact, you’ve won already; some of you are just impatient and don’t want to wait for the slow manifestation of your victory. There may be a few skirmishes in the next decade or so but buck up and stay the course! Stiff upper lip! That which you desire is in the offing. We are witnessing nothing less than the twilight of the BSA in which so many of us grew up, and the dawn of the BSA that so many of you desire.

    • Cole Petersen // October 4, 2014 at 9:36 pm //

      Very sadly, I agree. This notion that ‘it will happen eventually, so let’s just get it over with’ is happening everywhere in our society. Hear the flushing sound?

      • I’m not ready to give up yet. It is a shame that the goal of darkness is to dim other’s light. They can’t just be happy starting their own organization, they have to take other’s down as it empowers them somehow. What a shame. I do not understand why folks want to do this. If you know that religion is a core concept or belief of a group, then why join it?

    • Jerry - Tomorrow's Scouter // October 5, 2014 at 9:08 am //

      Thanks for your advice, but it is hard to be patient when our sons are involved in Scouting now. The membership in its wisdom chose to stop discriminating against Scouts based on their sexuality, acknowledging that commenting on the sexuality of a child went beyond the tenets of Scouting. Only one more hurdle to go – we need to acknowledge that insisting that children settle on a faith based belief system (“God” according to the DRP) should not exclude a Scout from participating or advancing. One religious argument for including faith-questioning Scouts is that exposure to other Scouts and Scouters of faith may bring a faith-questioning Scout closer to a belief in God. Excluding them is going to make Scouts and Scouters look like close-minded bigots to those boys and turn them away from such exposures.

      Scouting opens up great opportunities for boys to experience being a leader when they might not have other such opportunities. It gives them chances to explore careers and fields of study through their merit badge program that they might never have considered. It also gives faith-questioning Scouts exposures to (hopefully) good examples of Scouts and Scouters of faith that they may choose to emulate. Excluding them because they don’t already know what they believe will deny them that opportunity.

      I think that there is room in Scouting for the Religious Emblems program. I also think that there is room in Scouting for faith-questioning Scouts. It is the DRP that has to go.

      • It seems rather silly for us to require kids demonstrate or voice a confirmed belied in a higher power when they are the same age as kid that still believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. A religious or faith-based litmus test in order to be a participant at such a young age is a little creepy. I strongly believe a faith should have a place in BSA but not as a codified requirement to even be in the program. Most churches would not require someone so young to declare their faith in order to go to Sunday School or go to Bible camp. We should encourage the discovery.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 2:03 pm //

        You and people like you could have enrolled i Spiral Scouts – an organization that accept atheists. Instead you chose to attack BSA from within. Petty and sad. But you’ve won, so who cares, right?

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 6:25 pm //

        Jerry, it wasn’t the “membership” that decided to change the membership standards. It was the National Council – a carefully selected group of people who may or may not be representative of the membership as a whole. I remember when someone posted the results of the survey taken of the membership – the only place where the new membership standards were approved was in the Northeast Region (go figure). But National Council voted to change everything. And so it will be with Duty to God, as well.

        I am curious though – if you are an atheist or agnostic, why would you join BSA in the first place? Didn’t you bother to read the application or do any research on your own prior to signing on the line?

    • Yesterday’s Scout laments a loss of some idealized world. Fifty years ago, the troop I was in as a boy had little exposure to religion. A few of us would attend chapel while at scout summer camp, and that was about it. I suspect my scoutmaster was agnostic, as his wife would attend church once in awhile, but he wouldn’t accompany her. Some troops have a strong religious component to their program. Others, it is not on their radar. For the half century that I have been alive, this has been the case. You wish for a BSA that has never existed.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 2:00 pm //

        Well, Dave, very pack and troop I joined was sponsored by a church. Scout Sunday was a big affair with dozens of units attending the same church. You may have been in a unit that squeaked by the Duty to God requirement, but not me. I’m sorry you missed out on an important facet of Scouting.

        • The troop I mention was also sponsored by a church. We met in its basement every week. My point is that you are wishing for something that never was. And I’m going to say there is a 2nd point: you can teach the ideals of scouting and citizenship without beating everyone over the head with a bat. Sunday school for me as a kid was really awful. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned to enjoy attending church. It would be a huge mistake to make scouting like Sunday school. If you want to kill scouting – force your religious beliefs down everyone’s throats.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 6:19 pm //

          Sorry, Dave, I have to reply to myself; your comment has no reply button. I’m not wishing for something that never was – I lived then and I know how it was. Our troop met in a Lutheran church but our membership was diverse: besides Lutherans we had Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Russian Orthodox, Nazarene, and Catholics (Roman and Byzantine). There was also one Jewish Scout. No one had religion forced down his throat. No “Sunday school” atmosphere. We all were from families that acknowledged a Duty to God.

          For those who do not, there is Spiral Scouts. But they’ve decided to attack BSA from within.

        • Hi Ed,
          Luke 18:16. My understanding is that we should welcome every child. Every single child.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm //

        And, Dave, I’ve been a member since 1968, so I remember how things were back then.

    • In 1918, Baden-Powell wrote:
      “Some may object that the religion of the Backwoods is also a religion of the backward; and to some extent it is so. It is going back to the primitive, to the elemental, but at the same time it is to the common ground on which most forms of religion are based — namely, the appreciation of God and service to one’s neighbor.

      But in many cases form has so over clothed the original simple faith of Nature that it is hardly recognizable. We have come to judge a religion very much as we do a person — if we are snobbish — by its dress.

      Anyone who does not wear the orthodox dress, and who reverts to the natural, is apt to be looked upon as indecent, or at the least eccentric, although he is, after all, merely displaying the form in which all are molded by Nature — by God.

      Yet the natural form in religion is so simple that a child can understand it; a boy can understand it, a Boy Scout can understand it. It comes from within, from conscience, from observation, from love, for use in all that he does. It is not a formality or a dogmatic dressing donned from outside, put on for Sunday wear. It is, therefore, a true part of his character, a development of soul, and not a veneer that may peel off. Once the true body is there it can be dressed in the clothing best suited to it, but clothing without the body is a mere scarecrow — a camouflage.

      I do not mean by this that we want to divert a boy from the faith of his fathers; far from it. The aim is to give him the better foundation for that faith by encouraging in him perceptions which are understandable by him. Too often we forget when presenting religion to the boy that he sees it all from a very different point of view from that of the grown-up. Nor can true religion be taught as a lesson to a class in school.

      It is appalling to think what a vast proportion of our boys have turned out either prigs or unbelievers through misconception of these points on the part of their teachers.”

      • Dave B, thanks to you and Baden-Powell. This is how you keep Duty to God in BSA, and “duty to God” and “reverent” in the Scout Oath and Law while opening up BSA to anyone of any creed or none. You define Duty to God so simply and broadly and non-threateningly that it is the equivalent of the US motto, “In God we Trust” or “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance: deeply meaningful to those who believe, innocuous to those who don’t.

  58. Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 8:11 am //

    What is even more sad is that in the above discussion, eleven posts down, one individual (Zoe, whose name means “life” in Greek) actually praised Satan and no one called it out. This is the new BSA.

    • Cole Petersen // October 5, 2014 at 8:18 am //

      Don’t worry. Satan is a higher being to some, so it’s ok.

  59. Interestingly, I came to realize that I personally had what I now consider a response from God when I was about 9 years old; but I did not really appreciate the gravity of the experience until I was well into my thirties.

    Asking or expecting a scout to internalize a constantly moving emotion or intellectual process is realistic. While I long ago determined within myself that I am a Christian, though one with a very broad interpretation, I still at times find myself on the edge of the equation, asking why. My two grandfathers both lived long lives and were very reverent in their personal lives; and this appeared to give them a certain peace and acceptance late in their lives, in that they were not particularly afraid of dying, because they were secure within. While I have yet to reach that level of nirvana, or whatever it may be, I hope I will as I approach the ultimate end as I currently know it.

    At this point, I feel as if all of us will be given a chance to confront the unknown with some sort of understanding and make a choice. But that is my belief, and it is personal, as it should be. Faith can never be blind, or it is not faith, but fear or ignorance.

    • “Asking or expecting a scout to internalize a constantly moving emotion or intellectual process is realistic.” That should be NOT realistic; sorry.

  60. The Boy Scouts of America’s position is that atheists and agnostics cannot participate as youth, adult volunteers or professional employees. The Declaration of Religious Principle (DRP) states:

    The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment 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 need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.
    — Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, Boy Scouts of America, 2007, 57-491

    The DRP is codified in the Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, and was published in the 1911 edition of the Handbook for Boys. Since its inception, the DRP has changed only to make it gender neutral. The DRP is clearly stated on the youth and adult membership applications as a requirement for membership. Boy Scouts are required to memorize and repeat the Scout Oath and Law periodically after joining; Cub Scouts and Venturers have similar oaths. The Scout Law used by the BSA is unique within the Scouting movement— the original Scout Law had nine points, where the BSA has twelve, including ‘reverent’.

    The BSA does not require adherence to any particular religious beliefs and does promote a policy of tolerance towards all beliefs.

    The activities of the members of the Boy Scouts of America shall be carried on under conditions which show respect to the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion, as required by the twelfth point of the Scout Law, reading ‘Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

    In no case where a unit is connected with a church or other distinctively religious organization shall members of other denominations or faith be required, because of their membership in the unit, to take part in or observe a religious ceremony distinctly unique to that organization or church.

  61. I haven’t found anything from the BSA that on how to handle Scouts who profess a non-belief. The World Organization of the Scout Movement does a better job on this.

    One of the principles of WOSM is Duty to God, defined as:

    Adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.
    — Constitution and By-Laws of the World Organization of the Scout Movement

    WOSM requires that all member organizations adhere to a Duty to God:

    All members of the Scout Movement are required to adhere to a Scout Promise and Law reflecting, in language appropriate to the culture and civilization of each National Scout Organization, and approved by the World Organization, the principles of Duty to God…
    — Scouting and Spiritual Development, http://scout.org/node/6322

    WOSM further states that a youth who declares atheism should not be rejected:

    Your role as Scout leader is not to reject a Rover because he says he is an atheist but to help him to clarify his ideas concerning God and spiritual development, and to ask him, at least, to start a process of research, reflection and experimentation.
    http://giftsforpeace.scout.org/en/information_events/resource_centre/the_leader_s_questions/spiritual_dimension

  62. This is a 100-year old organization with a clear mission that they feel is intricately tied to religion. They are clear about this, so why do they have to change? If you do not hold the same values as the BSA, then join another group. There are plenty of other secular activities for your children to do. It is selfish to force institutions to change based on the whims of society. Fads come and go, but the Word of the Lord endures forever, it does not change. If you don’t like it, no one is forcing you to be a scout.

    The Mission of the Boy Scouts of America:
    “It is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to serve others by helping to instill values in young people and, in other ways, to prepare them to make ethical choices during their lifetime in achieving their full potential. The values we strive to instill are based on those found in the Scout Oath and Law.”

    • The word of your Lord may not change but since the BSA does not discriminate against any faith, it has to be open to any faith that is not so rigidly dogmatic.

      While the BSA is 100 years old, woman’s suffrage is also nearly 100 years old. Times change, merit badges come and go, new religions have been recognized by BSA over time. Some religions preach homosexuality is a mortal sin yet those same religious groups participate in BSA. Seems odd that we have room for these “sinners” but others.

    • “This is a 100-year old organization with a clear mission that they feel is intricately tied to religion. They are clear about this, so why do they have to change?”

      Paula, you have put your finger on the central dilemma here — BSA is NOT clear about their mission being intricately tied to religion. Why do I say that? Because last year BSA risked their relationship with many churches — and did lose many members because of their mainstream religious beliefs — over the issue of gays in Scouting. That was an issue that BSA didn’t have to touch. Thirteen years earlier, BSA won a huge victory in the United States Supreme Court affirming the organization’s right to exclude gays. Clearly, if BSA was really clear about Scouting’s ties to religion, they would never have brought the subject up.

      So why did they do it? Why did they (in my view) break a contract they had made with their supporting churches and members to firmly oppose allowing openly gay members? Why did they reverse course, threatening their relationship with churches?

      Because in the years after the Dale decision in the Supreme Court, social views on gay rights continued to shift, and those shifts were more and more reflected in corporate policies, until it reached the point that BSA was losing more financial support because of its policies than it was gaining. And membership continued to decline; membership has been declining since the 1970s, but the anti-gay membership policy was a clear and obvious reason for many American families to stay away from BSA. The American mainstream was leaving the Boy Scouts of America behind.

      And now BSA is trying to walk a tightrope between keeping the support of its largest chartered organizations (the mainstream churches) and remaining relevant to the broader American society. BSA is at a crossroads, and in a couple of years, they will have to make a choice: stick with the churches, retain their membership restrictions, and keep reliable support and membership but at a lower level; or open up membership to gay adults and go all-in to try to catch up to the American social mainstream. I think we already know which way we are headed.

      In this context, the question of the Declaration of Religious Principle and Duty to God is really just a sideshow, because Duty to God is a policy that is really easy to finesse. You can define it vaguely so that even a confirmed agnostic could satisfy it, and you can retain Duty to God but admit even atheists to membership on the theory that we best fulfill our Duty to God by exposing non-believers to faith through positive examples in a supportive environment. No need to remove “duty to God” and “reverent” from the Scout Oath and Law; those who don’t want to say the words (despite very broad and vague definitions) can self-select out; but that will be their choice, not ours.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 5, 2014 at 2:15 pm //

        Dan, thanks for confirming what I’ve always suspected: these recent changes (and more to come) are all about money, period. Add salary, benefits, and “other reportable compensation” and the guys at the top are pulling down over a million a year. That’s over a million reasons NOT to stand on principle. Then there are the unfunded capital projects (can you say “Summit”?) and BSA cannot afford to stick to its guns. They have to cave in order to pay the bills.

      • The two issues, homosexuality, and Duty to God, are tied together. I said this then, and it was largely drowned out by other commentators, but the decisions made then were being lauded both by those who supported homosexuality and those who opposed it.

        Today, it’s still true that just over half of all Scouts are chartered by three religions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the (Roman) Catholic Church, and the United Methodist Church, none of whom support homosexuality. So why then do these three religions still officially support Boy Scouts of America? Because of the increased focus on Duty to God. The idea there is that allowing avowed homosexual youth to continue in Scouting allows these “confused” boys to associate with worthy men who can help guide the boys onto better paths in life and perhaps awaken to a recognition of their confusion.

        The recent homosexual youth membership decision has never been looked on in those quarters as a growing acceptance of homosexuality in Boy Scouts in general, but rather an increased opportunity to minister to those youth. “But wouldn’t it be good to also be able to work with atheist boys?” Well, self-professed atheists tend to be very difficult to work with on the subject of faith.

        So the idea of which direction the BSA is currently moving in would appear to be largely a matter of personal opinion — we have rather different opinions about why the BSA has done what it’s done in recent years.

        • Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 10:33 am //

          Bart// Concerning the LDS position on homosexual issues the Church has always been a Church dedicated to the ideals of conversion and changing lives. The Church will always consider homosexuality a sin. Having said that I will try to explain why they supported the National Boards decision to allow homosexual youth into the BSA even though a National vote by Scout Leaders and parents voted 60% not to allow the homosexuals in Scouting and I was among those 60%. First the Church’s position only non active homosexuals can retain their membership in the Church. All active members are subject to discipline and even excommunication this includes its youth. Being a youth in today’s America is a very challenging journey with many pitfalls.The LDS Church through the power of forgiveness feel that they can change a persons morals that are not consistent with the teachings of God and his son Jesus Christ. I only hope that the BSA can provide a platform that can assist its membership to help deal and prevent sexually active homosexuality in Scouting. Trenton Spears

        • I’m sure you mean well, but that’s frankly disgusting. Evil lurks in the most unlikely places, I encourage you to look more deeply into this subject with an open heart. Maybe seek out a gay scout and listen to his side of the story? I, personally, am convinced that, if Jesus were here today, in this forum for example, he would not support your position regarding homosexuality. Please don’t take this as an attack, I am not gay nor am I speaking for any gay BSA members directly, but your apparent attitude towards young men who happen to be gay is unkind and unjust. Once again, I do believe you are trying to be good and wholesome, I just think you have this issue all backwards. It’s a toughy to be sure!

        • Trenton:

          I believe your sexuality wish is already covered, in the non-fraternization statements between males and females by National.

        • Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 5:05 pm //

          EagleRay You are correct Thanks for commenting so. Banning youth Homosexuals in Scouting were also covered but looked what happened last year. Trenton Spears

        • Sherman Peterson // October 8, 2014 at 5:10 pm //

          Trenton, I fail to see the analogy. One is banning an action, the other is banning an orientation or preference. Could you please clear this up?

        • Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 5:15 pm //

          Sherman Peterson no explanation needed facts speak for themselves. Trenton Spears

        • Sherman Peterson // October 8, 2014 at 5:39 pm //

          Can’t? Or won’t?

        • Trenton:

          Please do not cast me in with your lot. I find it personally abhorrent that youth are discriminated against for ANY REASON.

          The behavior that you were talking about is PROSCRIBED by BSA, regardless of orientation, and that goes for both YOUTH and ADULT LEADERS. There are criminal sanctions that can be applied to adult/youth interactions regardless of orientation. That is one of the reasons that YP is a REQUIRED training course for leaders and suggested for parents.

          But… in a number of Districts and Councils we have had problems [“in the Past” (I hope)] to get youth serving adults from certain sponsoring organizations to take that training, and keep current.

          I hope that your organization (including your District and Council) is complying with that training. Bad acting Adults occur in EVERY organization, (regretfully), and it is not Homosexually oriented only.

          For some reason, National had a YP requirement in order for re-chartering to occur, but since many did not take the training, National BAILED.

          I REITERATE, NO YOUTH should be disallowed from participation in BSA.

  63. Way off topic, and uncivil. Unwatching.

  64. If it can be any god, then why not no god? If it is discovered a long time Scout, with an exemplary record, does not believe in a god does it make him any less of a Scout or person?

    • “If it is discovered a long time Scout, with an exemplary record, does not believe in a god does it make him any less of a Scout or person?”
      By definition, yes, it does make him less of a Scout. That’s kind of the way the English language and the tenets of the BSA work.

      “No, no, I meant Scout as in person who follows the tenets of the Scout organization.” Yes, that’s what I meant, and he’s not following “all” the tenets.

      “Well, ok, I meant Scout as in a person who embodies every tenet of the Scout organization except for one rather important one.” Well then by definition, yes, it would make him less of a Scout than someone who did embody all of the tenets of the BSA. At the risk of beating a dead horse, that’s kind of the way the tenets of the organization and the English language work. If you miss a question on a test, you don’t have a perfect score.

      “But no boy embodies all the tenets of the organization 100%.” Fair enough, that’s true. A truly exemplary Scout, though, at least has to have an open mind about this issue. If they can’t keep an open mind, if they point blank refuse that there ever could be any possibility of any sort of God in any way, then they’re not really the exemplary Scout that you thought they were. And if their mind is that closed, then perhaps Scouting isn’t for them?

  65. Here’s how I see this pan out … Those who think the BSA should remove the universality of Duty to God from the DRP will:
    A. Amass large numbers, organize boycotts, and eventually have this clause stricken, or at least optional for some boys. Needless to say, those who feel that a true scout would necessarily maintain a sense of obligation to a higher power, will gladly take resources elsewhere and start/join a new youth movement. There’s something about the devoutly religious that has no problem with exodus.
    B. Leave the BSA for one of the scouting organizations already in place that do not call for any expression of religious life. This makes sense from a principled point of view. If one believes that imagining a force behind nature is unhealthy and detrimental to society, one’s obligation is to save our nation’s youth from the folly of religion. But even for someone who is not so principled, such movements may maintain a “strictly secular” imprimature, with the possibility of being chartered by our nation’s public schools and military bases.

    Either way, scouting in the USA becomes more of a loose federation than a congressional mandate.

    Hopefully, young people will still gather thier gear and go hiking and camping independently, find a spot in an open field, kick back, look at the night sky, and wonder ….

    • “[S]couting in the USA becomes more of a loose federation . . . ”

      Ever since they started talking about changing membership policies last year, I have seen this as an opportunity for BSA.

      – American society has become more diverse.
      – BSA has been having a steady membership decline.
      – BSA already knows how to offer a program with a specific activity focus (Boy Scouting – outdoors; Sea Scouting – nautical skills and adventure; Exploring – career interests).
      – BSA already knows how to offer co-ed programs (Venturing, Sea Scouting, Exploring).
      – BSA already knows how to offer fully inclusive programs (Exploring, Learning for Life school-based programs).
      – The membership standards controversy was giving rise to or boosting alternative Scouting-like organizations.

      So why shouldn’t BSA use its experience and its infrastructure to branch out into alternative programs — and stifle the non-BSA competition? If BSA can offer a fully inclusive Exploring program through a subsidiary corporation, why couldn’t it offer a fully-inclusive Scouting program through a subsidiary corporation? But it isn’t just about the membership standards; BSA has had difficulty reaching into Hispanic and other communities. Why couldn’t BSA offer programs directed toward such communities, outside BSA’s traditional Cub Scout/Boy Scout programs? Why couldn’t BSA offer a co-ed equivalent to Cub Scouting? Why couldn’t BSA offer a Scouting program that is far more traditional in its flavor — rejecting STEM and technology-related badges in favor of a much greater focus on the outdoors? Why couldn’t the current mainstream Cub Scout/Boy Scout/Varsity programs just keep their membership standards as they were, and increase their emphasis on Duty to God – and be left alone? Folks with different views would have other _BSA_ programs they could join that would have access to the full resources of BSA. Why does BSA want to put all of American youth into one box?

      • Can’t answer the question for BSA, but many want the one thing in that magical box. Eagle. Can you blame them? The BSA built it and still holds it up there.

  66. This whole thread is the most convincing arguement in favor of 13 or even 12 year old Eagle Scouts I have ever heard. I have put to much time, sweat, money and tears into this organization to have someone question my son’s ever fluid belief system as he slowly matures. Who knows what he will think next year? Why? Because he thinks, a lot!

    Better get cracking on those Cit MBs, planning on building some park benches and just hope he gains what I want out of the program AFTER he receives his Eagle at 13. To many people in the organization that expect perfection out of a growing child. Better strike while the iron is hot.

    It is really sad, this is not the preferred path I envisioned for him, however I have little choice. The risk of failure is just to great.

    Once and Eagle, always and Eagle. Unfortunately that does not apply to Eagle Candidates even if they started as Tigers.

    • Thought experiment … what if your son, after a few years of thinking, concludes that duty to country is a fallacy? (This isn’t that far fetched. I have scouts kick around this kind of philosophy all the time: “Look out for #1”, “Do unto others before they do you.”)

      We fret over this belief in God business. But, what if in a board of review, your boy says “After months of prayer and fasting, I’ve come to the conclusion that Loyalty is no virtue. Aside from that, I love this scouting stuff!”? In recognition of all your “time, sweat, money, and tears,” should the board advance him because he’s okay with the other 11 points? Or would it be healthier for your son to know that he’s not living up to the same standard that others hold dear?

      I would put forward that we invest our time and talent into scouting (for other boys and girls, not just our own) so that a youth may confront these definitions of character and determine if he measures up. Or, possibly, he may conclude the standard before him is false and not worth the ribbon it hangs from. Either way, rejection offers an opportunity to grow far more than apathetic acceptance would.

      • I take that thought experiment as another argument for striking while the iron is hot. Though duty to country is a far less abstract concept than a duty to god.

        Once an Eagle, always an Eagle means it is a measure at a single point in time, however the perception is otherwise.

      • There are lots of reasons to hustle up and advance. Dodging nascent anarchy or atheism isn’t one of them.

        • Why not? That nascent anarchy or atheism very well could last from early high school into college. You would deny the gifts of scouting to that young growing man. I am surprised to hear that from you Q.

          Correct me if I am wrong but at no point after coronation of Eagle rank is a Scout questioned on his religious beliefs.

        • Missed this reply, Thor. Please allow me to correct you late. After Eagle, a boy has his board of review for every palm (potentially every three months until he turns 18). At any point the board may ask about how he is living up to each point of the Oath and Law. If he has concluded that reverence (or trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, etc …) is an utter waste of time, further advancement can be denied along with membership.

          It is a gift to be told that you are not living up to a standard. This frees you to do a value assessment and determine who is flawed: you or those who hold up the standard. One should never deny a boy such an opportunity.

  67. Scout Mom // October 6, 2014 at 10:34 am //

    Scouting is a CHOICE as is one’s belief of God or no God. When you choose to join an organization…you agree with their requirements, expectations and policies.. Plain and simple! Duty to God….not duty to believe in “my God” You agree to the scouting principles which it was founded upon…scouting doesn’t fit into you.

    • Trnton Spears // October 6, 2014 at 11:02 am //

      Scout Mom You are right on. Freedom to chose is one of Gods greatest gifts. Trenton Spears

      • Yes. That Choice thing is one of God’s greatest gifts…oh wait…only sometimes.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 7, 2014 at 4:53 am //

          The ability to choose is a great gift. The fact that so many choose to do evil does not tarnish the gift; it reflects negatively on the one who made the choice. I suspect you’re going to deliberately misunderstand that, but who cares? You and you fellows have won. Be happy.

    • Do you believe that a lion scout has the ability to understand the DRP and make a belief decision at his young age? Even as adults, some are still not sure what they believe. This requirement of a belief in god is silliness. It doesn’t make you a better person at all. Being reverent does not require a belief. A young scout that is having a good time should not have to choose belief or not to continue in a positive program that he enjoys.

  68. In the original Scout promise there was also “to do my duty to the King”. Hoppefully in Europe most of the countries don’t have a King. Should we keep it because that was the goverment system? Also BP started with boys ad girls sepperately. We have changed that too… And at last The Netherlands and England (the founders!!!) allow atheists non adult and adult to become members. They are wrong too…The stupid argument , that it is used by older scouts in Greece too, especially high ranking, that religion provides you with a system of values that you can’t have otherwise can’t anymore convince anyone. So we wouldn’t accept in scouting: 1) Albert Einstein 2) Neil Degrasse Tyson 3) Luis Paster 4) Stephen Hawking 5) Richard Dawkins and many others… No they are morally corrapt and not a good model for youngsters. You forget something that BP understood in his days. Scouting is not a paramilitary organisation for the far right and conservatives to play with. Scouting was a breakthrough as a non-formal education system , a MOVEMENT, and it must continue to be like that in the 21st century or else there is no meaning to exist. BP in the early 1900 took in ONE camp kids from the poor and the wealthy! If you comceive that then you got the meaning.

    • Yesterday's Scout // October 7, 2014 at 5:02 am //

      There are twelve monarchies in Europe right now:

      Principalities: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco

      Kingdoms: Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland

      Grand Duchy: Luxembourg

      Vatican City

  69. Ken Boucher // October 6, 2014 at 4:58 pm //

    It still amazes me that people believe that they have the understanding of whatever created the universe of which we still seek to understand.

    I am not surprised that a smart child, with all the experience that scouting offers, would question such hubris, snd yet would lack the ability to define such questioning in the shades of grey it invites.

    I think any child who has seen a sunrise and sunset, seen rainbows, swam in oceans, climbed mountains, played in snow, or otherwise discovered the wonders of nature would have gratitude and reverence for the source of such wonders.

    Alas, we don’t ask that question. We ask them to pick an organized religion and believe in it, to the exclusion of other organized religions and if they don’t pick an organized religion, we crucify them.

    • Ask them to pick an organized religion? Ha! How often does that happen? In the vast majority of families children they are told exactly what to believe, when to believe it and made to believe it. Then we wonder where we went wrong when they start not believing it.

    • Look, this isn’t difficult. You said, “I think any child who has seen a sunrise and sunset, seen rainbows, swam in oceans, climbed mountains, played in snow, or otherwise discovered the wonders of nature would have gratitude and reverence for the source of such wonders.” Yes, the BSA officially also thinks that this is the natural state of affairs.

      When you have a child who actively disdains “gratitude and reverence” for the source of such wonders and actively maintains that there cannot be a source for those wonders, that there never has been and never will be a source for those wonders, then perhaps that child is not really in the state of mind that the BSA encourages.

      Yet the BSA doesn’t even require a child to have gratitude or reverence in that regard, or even to pick a specific organized religion, just to have a mind that’s open enough to not disdain all of that, to not metaphorically take a dump on the idea that there could be a source for “those wonders”, i.e to not be an atheist, to have a mind open enough to say, “Yeah, sure, why not, could be.”

  70. Atheist Eagle Scout // October 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm //

    This is one of the two main problems I have with the official stance of Boy Scouts. To say that you have to believe in a higher power to be a worthwhile person is really hypocritical and really doesn’t make any sense to me. The BSA says to “Respect the convictions of those who exercise their constitutional freedom to practice religion” and yet they decide to limit it to those that believe and not to those that don’t. I know of multiple respectable people (myself included) that not only participated in Boy Scouts, but ultimately earned the rank of Eagle Scout, while not believing in a higher power. To say that I didn’t earn that just because I don’t believe in something that my logic tells me is impossible, especially without any kind of evidence to back it up, is rather insulting.

    • Not trying to be mean here, but why would you want it if it upholds a standard that you believe to be false?

    • Yesterday's Scout // October 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm //

      Atheist Eagle Scout, how does one do so? The only possibilities I can think of:

      1. Decide to be atheist after earning Eagle.
      2. Be atheist as a Scout but promise to to one’s best to do one’s duty to God (in other words, lie to pass boards of review).
      3. Be atheist but the unit leadership disregards membership requirements and allows the atheist Scout to rise through the ranks.

      I would say that if the situation is 2 or 3 above, then no, that Scout did not earn the Eagle rank. The Scout did not satisfy one of the fundamental requirements of Scouting, so the patch and medal are really meaningless, for they do not represent what that individual believes.

    • Did you do your Duty to God, as you perceive that, by NOT believing in him/her/it?

  71. Its sad that a program that teaches leadership shows boys and young adults its not okay to follow a free thinking way of life, and that you are not worth very much if you do. “No man is much good if he doesn’t believe in a god and obey his laws.”

  72. Yesterday's Scout // October 6, 2014 at 10:02 pm //

    It strikes me that, once again, National opened a can of worms.They just couldn’t leave well enough alone, had to try to “fix” it, and made things worse.

    • An open question. What personal harm is inflicted upon you if a unit (say chartered to a public school) was welcoming to religious and non-religious members?

    • What is the harm in devaluing 1/12 of a treasury?
      Not much as long as everyone will still trade in the remaining currency.

      Of course, for the folks who were just holding onto the 11/12, their purse becomes more valuable … in the market in which they choose to trade.

    • Trenton Spears // October 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm //

      Yesterdays Scout Things are not well enough to leave things alone. Bryan Wendell had no choice but to open this dialog.The National is very concerned with the present day anything goes in scouting advancing that are going on.We can’t have an organization that allows invalid interpretations of the rules and advancing Scouts against the standards of the BSA. If you don’t agree with the Standards the only recourse is to try and change these Standards and don’t advance the participant till the rules are changed. The BSA is a private organization and therefore has the right to have more leverage to make their own standards to fill the needs of the organization not the demands of outside or even inside the BSA by a minority of people that should have researched the standards before they joined the organization.If there is a organization that can serve the participants better than the BSA then by all means join them. If they don’t exist create them. Lord Baden Powell founded this organization and it grew into the largest and the most worthy youth program in the World and if there is a better way that fills the needs of all participants by all means go for it.Under the present BSA standards the BSA cannot fill the needs of all participants and I believe that they never will even so there is no better quality leadership program than the present day BSA. Trenton Spears

      • Trenton:

        You and a number of others here, are expressing Dogmatic views about this “Duty to God” ‘requirement’ that is currently up on the discussion list. I am very much afraid of views such as yours of ‘go somewhere else that fits your views’, ‘hit the road’.

        BP would not have endorsed the ORTHODOX religious view that you and a number of others here have espoused. He wanted Scouting to be Non-Sectarian which in my opinion is exactly antithetical to your views.

        I am an Eagle, and that is why I do what I do. It is called giving back, a lifelong obligation.

        You and you type will make my job much more difficult as I and others have to deal with the unnecessary appeals about being denied rank advancement. You can be assured that they will occur. There is NO NEED to cause these problems. Belief in deity or in multiple deities should be OK. The only thing that should be heartedly questioned would be the avowed Atheist who is not being respectful of the beliefs of others. As many here have proclaimed, youth most likely will not be set in their views (THAT IS A MAJOR PART OF BEING A TEENAGER), so to kick them out for not believing like you want them to is a disrespect of BP in itself.

        Back in 2003 when my son got his Eagle, the project was a planning and LEADERSHIP demonstration. It represented the CULMINATION of his Scouting career. All of those leadership skills that he learned were put into practice with his Eagle Project. Back in the day, the Eagle Project was respected, as it showed LEADERSHIP qualities. One here on this blog commented on the EAGLE box on some forms. I fear that NATIONAL is denigrating the value of that Eagle Badge itself, never mind the issues that are being debated in this blog. For SOME reason the NATIONAL ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE has gutted the Eagle project. It is NO LONGER what it was.

        Assuming the boys get past a dogmatic SM, after coming up with a “proper answer” to the ‘Duty to God’ question, PLEASE THEN CONTEMPLATE the following from the August-September 2014 Advancement News;

        The Workbook states that nothing may be added or removed to the requirements written in it;

        but NATIONAL now is saying: “Eagle Scout Requirement 5 reads in part, ‘You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook in meeting this requirement.’ Sometimes this is interpreted to mean that the whole workbook must be used and completely filled out, line by line. This is incorrect. The workbook is simply a tool. Properly used, it helps a Scout plan, develop, and give leadership to his project; avoid pitfalls; and very nearly ensure a positive experience. There may be times when upon project completion, a Scout submits a workbook without all the sections completely filled out. The workbook only needs to be filled out to the extent that it is useful for the Scout. Generally, but not always, this means a Scout will provide sufficient information on the proposal and the project report forms. As to the Final Plan form, it is strongly encouraged, but not required.”

        If you happen to have a copy of the 2012 Workbook, it would be educational to look at the differences in the guidance wording compared to the 2014 workbook:
        http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/BoyScouts/AdvancementandAwards/EagleWorkbookProcedures.aspx

        LOOK at the workbook and then at: http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1109945141041-27/Aug-Sept+2014+Advancement+News.pdf

        With the nebulosity that National is putting on the Eagle Project, the EAGLE BOARD is going to become much more difficult for those that choose to take the “easy way”, and I am afraid that the EAGLE (once the public understands the changes) will not be what I and my son have had.

        Long for the old times.

        • Yesterday's Scout // October 7, 2014 at 8:30 pm //

          EagleRay, no need for you to be afraid. Be not afraid! It is people like me who are being eased out of the organization.

          (I doubt the Anglican BP would have embraced Orthodox Christianity. But maybe i misunderstood what you wrote.)

        • Cole Petersen // October 7, 2014 at 8:49 pm //

          There’s a lot of interpretation and misinterpretation going on here, and it’s hard to keep track of who said what to whom. There are a few things that are stated clearly (although things get twisted, and assumptions are made): we have the Oath, the DRP, and the statement from Chip Turner. None refer to a ‘higher power’ or ‘supreme being’ or whatever else someone introduces to the argument. They all refer to ‘duty to God,’ and this is not something new. I’ll do my best to do that, and I’ll help others to do likewise. I’ll also keep a positive attitude about our organization (even when I don’t necessarily agree with everything). It’s clear that some take issue with this 100 year old concept. I don’t.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm //

        Trenton Spears, BSA right now is hoping to be all things to all people. Of course they’re not. Many have left over the membership standards issue, and more will leave over this new issue. I think the genesis of the problem(s) was when BSA accepted applications from anyone, no matter what they believed. Now they’ve got incompatible camps trying to work things out in one organization. I strongly suspect they are expecting people like me to leave within the next ten years. They’ll get their corporate donations and lose the support of the churches, and end up with a very different organization. As many want.

        • Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 12:53 am //

          Yesterdays Scout. In view of the BSA not being all things to all people the only recourse is to stand by the Standards of the founding of the Boy Scouts that Baden Powell envisioned for its members. Some have tried to put new meaning into what Baden Powell teachings and history had taught us over the years. They will fail and wiser leaders will prevail over the long run.You are right some will stay and some will leave it will depend on the National BSA Leaders to have the resolve to steady the course and not give in to political correctness that has divided this nation and now threatens the BSA. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

  73. Why can BSA not understand that pushing the concept of a monotheistic “God” to which you have duty is sectarian? This is the result of moving the HQ to Texas from New York. Scouting was, up until the 1990’s, not a particularly religious organization. It is only in the last 25 years that I have seen it become an arm of the Christian Right in the US. Until then, it was non-political with no in-your-face “You will believe in God” message.

    • Your history is off by 9 decades.

      From the wiki: “The Declaration of Religious Principle was adopted in the first decade of the organization to assuage the Roman Catholic Church’s worries, in light of the work of the YMCA in establishing Scouting in the United States, that Scouting might be a Protestant proselytizing organization.”
      From that perspective, BSA view of religion has progressed from being narrowly evangelical, to ecumenical, to (since moving to TX) a broadly interfaith organization.

      The national hubub regarding outright banning of atheists was coming up through the courts in the 70s — pre-dating the ascent of the moral majority (but no doubt assisted by it).

      The reaction to that — denying government sponsorship though public school and military base charters — only strengthened the organization’s ties to church groups. The influence of any particular category of charters is dubious. (On paper each chartering organization has a say in council affairs.) Nevertheless, taxpayer-funded (implicitly secular) groups have no vote in the goings-on of the BSA. Nearly every charter that was once held by a school has been replaced with a church (and the occasional fire-hall, veterans group, etc …). So the net effect of atheists’ suits for political justice is to increase the polarization of this private organization.

      • Sherman Peterson // October 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm //

        q, Given your description of Scouting as a religious-based organization, and given its separation from the Purpose for the organization set forth in the Congressional Charter, wouldn’t it be more honorable and forthright to relinquish said Charter rather than perpetuate the bygone myth that the Charter currently represents?

      • Honor for any scouting organization would involve bringing up the best citizens for its nation. Since BSA feels “recognizing an obligation to God” as the hallmark of the best kind of citizen, it would be disingenuous for it to give up it’s charter. The DRP is not just what BSA thinks is best for itself. It’s what BSA thinks is best for the USA. It would take Congress amending it’s charter for BSA National to think otherwise.

        But I don’t see this happening. Certainly in applying title 36, Congress at the time was very much aware of BSA’s “God and Country” approach to citizenship. The wording in the charter gives the organization full control of the selection of its members. Of course that wording was penned long before anti-discrimination statements became all the rage. Regardless, I doubt, as long as Congress has its own chaplain, that it will be inclined to repeal the charter of any group who holds religion in high esteem.

        The only way I see any of this changing, is for Congress to take action. And it will only act if there arises a youth organization that expressly declares religion to be of no consequence, that rapidly accrues members to its ranks, whose youth become by-and-large admirable citizens, and whose executives appeal to congress for a special charter.

  74. (I don’t know why replies are so odd on this forum…)

    Trenton Spears states:

    “I only hope that the BSA can provide a platform that can assist its membership to help deal and prevent sexually active homosexuality in Scouting. Trenton Spears”

    What if the person’s faith has no problem with either premarital sex or being a homosexual? You do know that not all faiths object to such? Since BSA is completely non-sectarian, it seems like it would be inappropriate for BSA to tell someone that their religion is wrong.

    For example, Hindus often have no objection to such (and they even have gods that have had sex changes).

    Since scouting includes both genders, I would hope your objection would be to being sexually active in (during) scouting and not just those that are of the same sex relationship.

  75. Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm //

    Bret// I am not sure of your position on homosexuality as to whether it is a sin our not. You have stated that those who believe it is a sin might be from evil places very judgmental don’t you think.Brett I have a question for you do you believe that the BSA should allow Homosexual Leaders be honest I believe that they should not be allowed. Bret you seem to insinuate that I am unkind and unjust and yet you truly don’t know me just that I believe that homosexuality is a sin and can be overcome based on my convictions. Are my convictions the same as other people’s conviction certainly not. Brett don’t my convictions carry any value or are they subject to criticism and dismissal because they don’t suit you and the political correctness that has taken over the BSA? I must admit that I have not had much contact with homosexuals on a personal basis as their numbers are very very low mostly 1 to 3% in Scouting that were kept it a secret. Not very scout like. I have never met a homosexual scout or leader that does not prevent me from expressing my beliefs based on religious values. Bret I have core unchangeable Christ centered values based on beliefs that are not subject to the sanctions of men even yours. As to the subject of Jesus Christ and Homosexuality I will not try to dispute your comment I will leave that to you to decide for yourself I have already decided for myself. Trenton Spears

    • “I must admit that I have not had much contact with homosexuals on a personal basis.”

      As far as you know – and as if they would even tell you.

      “I have never met a homosexual scout or leader”

      I bet you have and you don’t even know it.

      I bet you know more atheists and agnostics than you realize too.

      • Trenton, you sound like a very decent guy. I didn’t mean to come off like a jerk. I disagree with you regarding the sinfulness of homosexuality, but I respect that you are a principled man standing up for what you think is right. I feel blessed to have met a number of enlightened, well read people in my life. I’ve spent countless hours thinking about this stuff and formulating my own principles, which, similar to yours, are pretty staunch. I still, however, keep an open mind to things that seem important and outside of my comfort zone. I know I can’t persuade you or anyone, really, who is convicted on the sinfulness of homosexuality or the truth, as they see it, in a bible’s texts, but I can ask that everyone adhere to the Golden Rule and live their lives honorably.

      • Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 6:26 pm //

        Hawkwin I am sorry I have been more protected from the elements that you have stated regarding Homosexuals, Atheist and Agnostics.To bad you didn’t include cross dressers I might have noticed them better{ bad joke} anyway I believe I have been blessed in all my years in scouting and my years as a Scoutmaster have truly been a blessing. Hawkwin I have never met a Grizzly Bear on a trail but I know there were a few there. I simply believe that when someone has core beliefs that has a foundation of faith things seem to bring the best of conditions to that person. I believe any of these elements that you mentioned would be an obstacle to overcome in my Scouting career and I am so blessed that so far that I do not have to deal with it. If it comes my way I will treat the situation according to the teachings of my Church with humility, love, support and respect for that individual that change is a there for them if they seek it. Sincerely Trenton Spears

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 8, 2014 at 9:02 pm //

        Hawkwin writes (quoting Trenton Spears):

        “‘I must admit that I have not had much contact with homosexuals on a personal basis.’

        As far as you know – and as if they would even tell you.”

        Well, Hawkwin, thanks to National he will now. And lots of homosexuals are not shy about telling everyone.

  76. Sherman Peterson // October 8, 2014 at 5:34 pm //

    Enter your comment here…
    What Congress may have been aware of at the time is a matter of conjecture. You may have thoughts of whether or not some long-dead Congressman was aware of this thing or that, and I would have no way of verifying it or disproving it. I do know, however, what the Purpose of the Boy Scouts of America was when the Charter was granted:

    “The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods that were in common use by boy scouts on June 15, 1916.”

    I also know what the BSA’s most recent Mission Statement states:

    “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.”

    This Mission Statement is not nearly so encompassing, now is it? I would forward the notion that by adopting this limited Mission Statement and eschewing the original Purpose outlined in the Congressional Charter the Boy Scouts of America effectively stopped honoring the spirit of that Charter and is now, for lack of a better word, abusing it to take advantage of the legal protection that it provides.

    • Well, there is the congressional record. But the pertinent parts may not be online. 🙁
      Many of the organizations under Title 36 have membership stipulations regarding sex or religion.

      Mission statements themselves are a modern art form — intentionally shy on details and referential to other content. In specific, the current BSA statement references two texts, both of which were known to be extant in 1916.

      There is a debate among us about how much self-reliance we’re teaching when patrols are no longer allowed to officially enjoy the pinnacle scouting experience (camping without adults)’under the auspices of the BSA. You could bend your representative’s ear about that, but given our litigious society, I think he/she would be sympathetic to that deviation from the charter.

      • Q, I have been curious when did the patrol camping rules change?

      • Memory’s not as great as it used to be. Never was good with dates, but 2011 sticks in my mind.

        Since then, I’ve helped several youth (male-only, female, and co-eds) with their unaccompanied overnight plans (loaned the females my van once). All truly did have the quintessential scouting experience … doing exactly what a patrol is supposed to do … without the BSA moniker :(.

  77. Trenton Spears // October 8, 2014 at 10:01 pm //

    Bret Since you have commented that homosexuality is not a sin I will open the question that you would not answer to anyone on this blog should the BSA allow adult homosexuals leaders into the BSA. Trenton Spears

    • Sherman Peterson // October 8, 2014 at 10:24 pm //

      I find it interesting that you’re opening up a question that someone wouldn’t answer to the group considering you wouldn’t answer mine.

      • Trenton Spears // October 9, 2014 at 12:18 am //

        Sherman Peterson You will not like my answer the analogy is the BSA has come to the point of picking and choosing policies that has divided the organization. My point was the National BSA Leaders chose to put out a early survey last year asking the Scout leaders and parents how they feel about lifting the ban on youth homosexuals in scouting the survey revealed that 60% of those surveyed stated do not lift the ban. In political activities this 60% would be a landslide and I was confident that the National Board would abide by the results of the survey and not lift the ban. What was the National thinking when they produced the National survey in the first place.The true problem was all about large corporations like ATT&T and others threatening to withdraw all their contributions to the BSA the rest is history the facts are there as I stated to you in my earlier comment back to you. I believe that the next phase of the homosexual issue will most certainly involve allowing homosexual leaders in scouting there is no way to avoid it. The same funding problem by large corporations will influence the National Board to lift this ban also. Sherman what makes anyone think that the BSA would enforce the policy of two unrelated people having a sexual encounter on any scout activity. By the way will you answer my question should adult homosexual leaders be allow to be BSA leaders? Sherman I excepted your challenge will you except mine. Trenton Spears

        • Sherman Peterson // October 9, 2014 at 6:38 am //

          *accepted

          I think an adult leader’s orientation should have no bearing on his or her eligibility to be a Scout leader.

          See, one sentence answered your question. You, on the other hand, spent an entire paragraph ranting about AT&T without addressing how you could compare an action to an orientation. Then again, you seem to be adept at saying exactly what you want to say regardless of the question being posed.

        • Trenton Spears // October 9, 2014 at 10:49 am //

          Sherman Peterson,Thank you for your answer that you approve of adult homosexual leaders in scouting. Fair enough. The reason my blog was so long I did not know if you were up to speed on the facts of the changes in the BSA regarding allowing youth Homosexual scouts. I don’t consider ATT&T’S holding the BSA hostage by withholding financial aid ranting just a simple fact my friend. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

        • In this whole arguement one point never gets brought up. The Scouts themselves were included in that same survey and what were the results? 60% said a Chartered Organization should not be allowed to ban a boy for sexual orientation. Think about that for a minute. That goes way beyond the “local option”. That is not “outsiders” joinning the BSA to change it. That is the youth we serve and the future BSA leaders.

          The writing is on the wall and the BSA will change. The war is lost weather you want to admit it or not. I urge everyone to think about that and seek out a compromise now before it is to late. The local option looked like a good middle ground to me.

  78. Trenton Spears // October 9, 2014 at 11:53 am //

    Thor I am not sure of what survey you were referring to anyway it was not outsiders that voted the change it was the National Board members meeting in May of 2013 who made the change by 60% of its members voting to lift the ban no disputing that. Thor you are right more changes on allowing adult homosexuals into Scout Leadership is coming the first obstacle is getting rid of a believe in God in Scouting of which is the basis for this whole blog. Thor thanks for your comments you have a good grip of whats to come whether it happens only time will tell. Thor I guess my next question is what will be the compromise any suggestions maybe the bloggers can debate this at this time I am sure that Bryan Wendell would be interested in any compromise proposals. My opinion is the war is not lost and I appreciate all those who stand for moral values that are so desperately needed at this time. Sincerely,
    Trenton Spears

    • Congratulations Trenton:

      You, and time I guess, have managed to shut this discussion down, in a most un-Scoutleaderish like manner. Your attitudes and words are what I fear for “teenager” Scouts. Maybe if you only have Scouts from your church in your troops, then “Oh well”.
      In my experience with LDS units in our District/Council, they are “MUCH SMALLER”, certainly less than 2 conventional patrols/ward. My son’s unit has fluctuated from ~25 to ~50 boys over the years. The unit over time had boys from various faiths, including Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and I believe Buddhist.

      Teenagers, at least most teenagers that I have known, have to know how to think for themselves, and to be able to learn what is right and wrong (with the ‘assistance’ of their parents).

      I have watched the estrangement of, in our unit, of a boy that was told by his parents that he had to get his Eagle before he could drive; two items left to do, his project (developed in 2001) and the Family discussion from Family Life MB. Didn’t happen, since the demand to get Eagle was his point of rebellion. Sad. He is a successful Elementary teacher nevertheless to all I know.

      Trenton, teenagers are plastic, they are not fully developed. Dogmatism, religious or otherwise is not the best way to deal with them.

      Your attitudes are what cause me to be nervous about these “Duty to God” filters that you wish to be imposed on the boys starting at Cub Scouts.

      From your statements, you appear to have no compunction in telling a boy to “hit the road” ‘you are not our type’. That is a most un-Christian statement, and I hope an un-LDS one also.

      • Yesterday's Scout // October 9, 2014 at 10:31 pm //

        Apples and oranges, EagleRay. In on case, the kid wanted to rebel, rebelled, and missed out on something. Tough luck sometimes. We make choices and live with the results. But after over 100 years for a bunch of atheists and agnostics to suddenly come out of the woodwork claiming they didn’t know about the Duty to God requirement – I don’t buy it. They knew about the requirement and decided to ignore it.

        I admire Trenton Spears for his optimism, but I think Dan Kurtenbach and Thor are correct. Those of us who came up in the “old” BSA have about 10 years before the other shoe drops. My sons are third generation Scouts; I wonder if there will be a fourth generation.

        • Trenton Spears // October 10, 2014 at 12:48 am //

          YesterdayScout I am 77 years old and have devoted over 30 years to scouting. I joined the BSA IN 1948 and loved every minute of it I made sure that my son had the opportunity to become a Boy Scout I also helped my Grandson become a Boy Scout and I have a great- Grandson who is 6 and I will be there for him if he chose’s to become a Scout. I have been a Scoutmaster for a lot of those years and presently the Scoutmaster for a Troop in the LDS Church. I was a Scoutmaster for the 2010 Jamboree representing Scouts from different Troops in my Council I hold many positions representing my Council I never tire of volunteering for the BSA I have great love for the BSA and I am proud to say that I am from the old school of scout leaders and like you I will stay in scouting as long as the Lord will allow me to. Sincerely, Trenton Spears

      • Trenton Spears // October 10, 2014 at 12:16 am //

        EagleRay Wow I was more effective than I thought. I managed to bring your out your worst side. The greatest fear on this blog is personal attacks that some scouters like you have to stoop to destroy the messenger. I stay on subject and go out of my way to not insult the integrity of the bloggers that use this website. I have no problem with the truth you apparently do or you would not make up insulting untruths. Not once have I stated or insinuated for anyone to hit the road or you are not my type you made that up. I hope that this is not your true nature I expect more maturity from a fellow Scouter. I did not impose Duty to God on anyone when a scout or scout leader chose’s to join this organization they have a duty to abide by the rules and laws of the BSA that includes Duty to God. It appears that you do not have any communication skills other than send personal attacks to persons that use this blog.

  79. Scouter Bill // October 13, 2014 at 8:14 am //

    I am intrigued by this dialog. Comes down to basics. The discussion waffles diety belief. no diety belief. What amazes me is the small group of people that want to participate in BSA, and disregard the foundational principles. The rank Eagle Scout means they have advanced based on the rigors of BSA. If you do not want to participate based on the organizational rigors and requirements, move on! There are several outdoors group willing to teach similar skills without the ONE requirement of revereance.

    • Scouter Bill // October 13, 2014 at 8:36 am //

      UGH! – reverence

  80. “What amazes me is the small group of people that want to participate in BSA, and disregard the foundational principles. ”

    How do you know it is small? Has a survey been conducted on this subject? People likely thought the group that supported the inclusion of gay scouts was small too, until 60% of the voting members voted for it. Now, 31 states (per my latest count) now allow for gay marriage – over 50% of America lives in a stated where such is legal.

    Considering the fact that scout membership is down to just 2.6 million (2013), from 3.4 million (1993), a drop of over 20%, while the number of boys of scout age in America has grown by over 20% during the same time period, perhaps we should focus our efforts on being as inclusive as possible. We can still be reverant without telling young kids to (as you state) “move on.”

    It seems like the vast majority have already taken your advice.

    • Hawkin-Not stating my position on gays in scouting but your observation appears you infer that those states have a majority populous that supports same sex marriage.

      Most of those states now allow gay marriage not because the majority wanted it but because the federal courts overruled the states legislative law banning it. Has nothing to do with the majority of citizens of those states wanting to allow gay marriage. Federal courts trumped states rights.

      The reported next target is god/God in scouting-higher being. While several churches will marry same sex couples, I dare say the god/God/higher being issue will be much tougher to challenge.

      An argument was presented regarding being reverent while still being gay. Since some churches/religions allow gay marriages, the BSA, only requiring a scout to be reverent, couldn’t win that battle. The reverent issue for atheists is different. While one can be gay and reverent according to some circles, One can not believe in a higher power and yet claim not to.

      Removing God/god/higher being means removing revert and one of the 12 points. Not sure 11 points of scouting sounds right.

      The reason scouting is decreasing is the same reason 4-H is. More activity choice for youth reducing attendance in traditional activities like 4-H, scouting, Youth group, etc.

    • Scouter Bill // October 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm //

      Hawkwin: avoiding the premise set forth? read the complete thought…

      “if you do not want to adhere to the rigors of an organziation, move on. There are several outdoors group willing to teach similar skills without the ONE requirement of revereance”…

      Why avoid that? If people do NOT want to participate in BSA because of the requirement of reverence, and aknowledgement of a higher power, then go somewhere else? Vote with your feet & dollars.

      No doubt this will be side stepped as well.

      • “Why avoid that? If people do NOT want to participate in BSA because of the requirement of reverence, and aknowledgement [sic] of a higher power, then go somewhere else? Vote with your feet & dollars.”

        I am not avoiding anything. I simply don’t want to tell kids, you know, the people that might still believe in the tooth fairy and santa claus, that if they are not absolutely sure of a specific higher power by the time they are of the age to be a TF (often 10), that they need to quit and find another organization.

        I personally have no problem with reverence or acknowledging a higher power – but at the same time I have no desire to exclude kids because they may not have a faith by the time we currently require them to commit to such.

        It isn’t that difficult to understand. I want to be inclusive in the hope that we can show them love and grace in what many would call a “Christ-like” manner while many, apparently including you, would rather kick them out.

        I find it extremely sad that our organization would tell a kid they are not worthy to continue their membership and advance yet that same kid would likely be welcome in any church in the country.

        My son is 8. Perhaps by the time he is of TF age, he will KNOW what he believes but I doubt it. He might have reverence for MY GOD because I have not given him any other realistic choice but that is a false reverence. It is a reverence of indoctrination, just as much as him putting a tooth under his pillow at night for the tooth fairy currently is.

        I want him to have real reverence, and not because boy scouts tell him, “or else move on.”

        If one of his peers does not have a parent as committed, I don’t want that scout to be excluded because of such.

        • I don’t think “absolutely sure” is in the requirements. See my previous comments above about belief not necessarily being an intellectual behavior.

          I have had scouts who were unsure about organized religion, but were making an effort to learn from lessons learned from visiting friends’ youth groups. I’ve had boys wise parents aren’t committed to a house of worship say “I pray in my own way.” Others aren’t sure what they believe but attend a service out of respect to their heritage. Each of these fellows has taught me a little about walking by faith. So, I and most scouters would dare not cast a stone.

          But, the boy who insists that all this religion is a waste of time is not served by being allowed to feign adherence to 12 points when he cares only about 11.

          We could become a different sort of organization and make the 12th point completely optional. But, I don’t think that’s where the preponderance of scouters want to go.

    • Trenton Spears // October 13, 2014 at 10:25 pm //

      Hawkwin Lets run this by one more time. The National put out a survey that asked scout leaders and parents if they wanted to lift the ban on youth homosexuals in scouting in early 2013 the answer was 60% said no and the National Board made up of around 450 members ignored the thousands and thousands that voted on the survey not to lift the ban. As far as the nation on Gay marriage is concerned citizens have overwhelmingly voted in all States to reject gay marriages. It was a State, Federal and the Supreme courts who voted against the will of the people There seems to be a similarity in what the the National Board Scout Board did and what the State, Federal and Supreme Judges have done. My real concern was why does the National BSA send out a survey and refuse to consider the results. The numbers are that Scouting has drop 6% since the ban was lifted on youth scout homosexuals in 2013. Trenton Spears

      • Trenton:

        Regretfully you called me out on my “shutting down the blog” statement. Yes that was my statement since you have a totally intolerant view of Scouting, and the discussion has not stopped, and I applaud that.

        Your argument in the above “contribution” states that Membership has dropped 6% since 2012.

        Regretfully that is SMALL POTATOES. According to data that I have seen. the TOTAL membership of BSA was ~ 4MM in all programs including Learning for Life(3.9MM Traditional) , in 1990. During the 1990’s the United Way dropped BSA as a check-off donation due to BSA’s Gay Policy. I could no longer designate my local Council as a beneficiary.

        Perhaps TRENTON, the boys were making the decision not to join.

        In 2010, according to numbers that I have seen, the Traditional Scout Count was ~ 2.7MM, and the total youth members was !3.5MM.

        The numbers are even worse in the latest ones that I have seen. LDS had the ONLY religious based units that increased. ALL OTHERS had decreased.

        Trenton, maybe the boys made the decision due to the anti-gay policy to leave BSA. Of course that is a mute point with the recent decision by national.

        Trenton. I have no problem with reverence or religion, but I do have problems with dogmatic “enforcement” of “Duty to God” that I see coming to BSA. I have stated earlier that we are dealing with teenagers who for the most part have not developed a mature concept of religion, or what they truly believe.

        Yes, Trenton, it was not your absolute statement of “my way or highway”. That was the basic statement of “Yesterdays Scout”. I apologize for that, but none the less if Scouting maintains the Duty to God query at all SM conferences, I foresee the fatal decline of BSA (less the LDS units of course), but I hope that you (LDS units) REALLY increase your FOS contributions.

        • Trenton Spears // November 17, 2014 at 4:25 pm //

          EagleRay I except your apology and commend you for your sincere heartfelt concern for the future of the BSA. All of the bloggers on Bryan’s website are under a lot of pressure and bloggers including me have a deep desire to make the BSA the best it can be. Open dialog is very healthy and is a very good source for people to debate an issue that could lead to a consensus of mutual respect and resolve. Could I have been better at expressing my opinion certainly so. Have I learned anything on Bryan’s website certainly so and I know many others have learned also. If they haven’t I am sure that they will regret the loss of not looking at the issues in a intelligent manner to improve the greatest youth organization in the world. For the matter of Friends of Scouting every year the Church sponsors this important fund raising event. Each Ward is instructed to increase last years donations and the Scouts make calls to the church members to contribute. I always fulfill this obligation to our local council and receive a free steak dinner celebration at a local ranch and a special shoulder council patch with the Scout law themes. I am most certain that the LDS Church will continue to be a large extension of the BSA as long as the policies support the doctrine of the Church. The fact that they support of sexually inactive homosexual or any other sexual activity in its youth in the Church bears well of their commitment to the principle’s of Scouting. The combination of the BSA and the 12 year old youth holding the Aaronic Priesthood of the Church are a solid foundation for the youth of the LDS Church. Thanks for your comments. Sincerely, Trenton Spears, Scoutmaster Troop 144

        • Trenton Spears // November 17, 2014 at 10:02 pm //

          Hawkin not my words but I support the comments maybe this can help you.

          Bryan thanks for the opportunity to address this very timely question.The shortest answer is that we should help Scouts and their families come to realize that a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building. This does not reflect a change in BSA policy nor does it place Scouters in the role of religious leaders. By signing the membership application, each leader has already acknowledged the Declaration of Religious Principle which affirms a belief in God, calls for an appreciation for the faith of others, and acknowledges the importance of faith in citizenship development. Moreover, this same Declaration of Religious Principle is now included on the youth application form which is to be signed by the parents. All signatories are also reminded that the BSA is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. To further emphasize the importance of faith In American Scouting, early leaders incorporated a 12th point into the Scout Law: ““Duty to God” has always been a cornerstone of Scouting. Lord Robert Baden-Powell affirmed this on numerous occasions. B-P once responded to a question about the importance of faith (religion) in Scouting by saying: “Where does religion come in? Well, my reply is … it does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.” a Scout is reverent. “As I write this response, my wife and I are on the way home from a vacation which included a return visit to Gilwell in England. While walking on those grounds, I was particularly struck by Gilwell’s designated “Faith Walk” which includes worship sites and support facilities for many of the world religions. Each of these locations is a testimony to the importance of “duty to God” in Scouting. Thousands upon thousands of Scouts from all over the world have worshiped there and, in the process, affirmed this pivotal belief in God. While Scouting is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward religious training,” BSA affirms the importance a belief in God in a number of ways. Here is a small sampling: “Duty to God” Program Enhancements: The new program elements being introduced for Boy Scouts, and Venturers, provide even clearer support for the importance of “duty to God” in Scouting. In addition, greater assistance is provided for adult leaders in their affirming “duty to God” as well as in teaching respect for the faith of others. As mentioned earlier, it is very important to note that these enhancements do not reflect a change in “duty to God” perspective by BSA. For instance, the faith adventures in the Cub Scout program are clearly designed to be carried out in the family with the assistance of their faith group leaders. This affirms the Declaration of Religious Principle. In Boy Scouts, participants at each review for rank advancement will be asked how they have done their duty to God since achievement of their current rank. It does not put the Scouter in the role of a religious leader nor does it empower this leader to accept answers only from his or her religious perspective. It does, however, provide an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of “duty to God”. We have all likely heard horror stories of boys being asked in their Eagle Scout board of review about how they have done their “duty to God,” only to have the youth say they don’t believe in God. Equally disappointing is the example I heard of recently of an Eagle Scout who publicly admitted that he simply lied when asked about “duty to God” in his board of review. Have we not somehow failed such a young person who apparently is not concerned about violating the first and 12th parts of the Scout Law? In my opinion, we have not delivered the full Scouting program if “duty to God” is first addressed at an Eagle board.
          By the time a young person has achieved the Summit Award in Venturing, he or she will have completed a “structured personal reflection” related to “Adventures of Faith.” In keeping with Scouting being nonsectarian in matters of faith, “a Venturer is not required to share the personal reflection associated with ‘Adventures of Faith’ with his or her Advisor or members of a board of review. “In other words, Scouting, strongly affirms this fulfillment of “duty to God” while looking to the Venturer’s family and religious leaders to provide faith-specific guidance. Religious Emblems Programs / RECs: While all elements of these programs are prepared and administered by the various faith groups, BSA authorizes the wearing of the emblems on the Scout’s uniform. BSA has also authorized the adult positions of Religious Emblems Coordinator at unit, district, and council levels to help Scouts and their families to learn about and pursue the religious emblems of their chosen faith. Chaplain: The position of chaplain is encouraged at the unit level as well as for council camps and a variety of national/international Scouting activities such as jamborees, NOAC, and high adventure bases. For example, approximately 140 chaplains serve at each national jamboree. Chaplain Aide: This Boy Scout troop leadership role is intended to support “duty to God” in Scouting. Whether helping provide appropriate worship opportunities and devotional thoughts at Scouting events, including grace with meals, providing information on the religious emblems programs, or teaching respect for the religious beliefs of others, the Chaplain Aide has an important role in support of “duty to God. “Yes, belief in God is a cornerstone of Scouting. As Scouters, we have a tremendous opportunity to reflect this core principle while helping teach respect for the beliefs of others in pursuit of doing our “duty to God.”
          Hawkwin this is the position of the LDS Church it is the position of many scout leaders I hope it can be something you support. Sincerely Trenton Spears

  81. Listed below is the requirements for Webelos to earn their webelos Badge. I have one boy in my den who doesn’t believe in any “higher power”. How do I deal with this?

    Faith
    After completing the rest of requirement 8, do these (a, b, and c):
    a.) Know: Tell what you have learned about faith.
    b.) Commit: Tell how these faith experiences help you live your duty to God. Name one faith practice that you will continue to do in the future.
    c.) Practice: After doing these requirements, tell what you have learned about your beliefs.
    And do one of these (d OR e):
    Earn the religious emblem of your faith*
    Do two of these: (Use this Worksheet to track activity)
    1.) Attend the mosque, church, synagogue, temple, or other religious organization of your choice, talk with your religious leader about your beliefs. Tell your family and your Webelos den leader what you learned.
    2.) Discuss with your family and Webelos den leader how your religious beliefs fit in with the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and what character-building traits your religious beliefs have in common with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
    3.) With your religious leader, discuss and make a plan to do two things you think will help you draw nearer to God. Do these things for a month.
    4.) For at least a month, pray or meditate reverently each day as taught by your family, and by your church, temple, mosque, synagogue, or religious group.
    5.) Under the direction of your religious leader, do an act of service for someone else. Talk about your service with your family and Webelos den leader. Tell them how it made you feel.
    6.) List at least two ways you believe you have lived according to your religious beliefs.

    • Well, he may want to consider whether he’s actually an atheist or whether there could actually be a higher power of some sort out there somewhere, or a superlative force for good that pervades the universe or which embodies the collective actions of people as a whole or whatever. Otherwise, he’s going to have a lot of trouble when he gets to Boy Scouts.

      8a tell what he’s learned in a comparative religion class. He has learned about faith and really looked into religions, right? He’s not just wholesale dismissing things that he knows nothing about?

      8b “Tell how these faith experiences help you live your duty to God. Name one faith practice that you will continue to do in the future.” What is his duty to God? What faith practice will he continue to do in the future? If nothing else, he can watch his karma or live the saying, “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Surely he’s not wantonly going around inflicting harm and thinking nothing of it? I’d expect more from a Scout.

      8c Tell what he’s learned about his own beliefs, his own personal code of conduct. He has one, right?

      8d/e Either earn the religious badge of his faith, or do the following two things:
      i. Under the direction of your religious leader, do an act of service for someone else. Talk about your service with your family and your Webelos den leader. Tell them how it made you feel.
      ii. List at least two ways you believe you have lived according to your religious beliefs.

      It should be easy peasy lemon squeezy for any boy of any faith or religious persuasion to fulfill those requirements. If, however, this nine-year old stoutly maintains that he absolutely is an atheist and that there cannot be a God or a superlative pervasive Force (a la the Star Wars universe) or any other sort of higher power, then perhaps Scouting isn’t for him. What do his parents (or guardian or whatever) have to say about this? What the parents think and what sort of support you have from his parents is going to make a huge difference.

    • The mantra in Cub Scouts is “Do your best.” That is exactly what this Scout should do. As a Scout leader you are not to expect this child to make a religious choice on the Scouting schedule and the Scout does not have to make a decision about his beliefs to advance. What this requirement does do is send the Scout, and his family, on a search if they are not already established in a religion. The search, the spiritual question, is what is important. Learning about a faith tradition, trying one on, searching out your own feelings and opinions through a faith journey is what you are hoping for realizing that 1) this is a young child 2) the Scout cannot drive himself anywhere or attend any services without his parents/guardian 3) you cannot realistically expect a Web to have a faith epiphany. Include his parents in the conversation and do not violate their beliefs or sensibilities. You are a guide along the path of Scouting but his parents and he are responsible for their choices in how exactly they fulfill requirements. For a Cub the point is to do your best, if he tries, if he has a conversation with his parents, he has opened the door for a personal journey and that is all you can ask. In Cubbies the boys advance together, it is more of a group journey than a personal one. The journey is about development and learning and if you open a conversation and a journey for that boy’s personal development and get him asking questions of himself and the world around him you, and Scouting, have benefited this boy. Do not take away Scouting from a child, especially a Cub, because of a strict interpretation when Cubbies is about being flexible and setting a Scout on the right path in life.

  82. What if the scouter says that he/she does not believe in “God”, but does believe in something bigger then themselves, does believe in a higher power, a.k.a. a Agnostic?

    • A 20-second copy/paste into Word suggests that there are roughly 40,000 words on this page. That’s over halfway through the first Harry Potter book. With all that text, all that back and forth, what’s the conclusion that you came to regarding that question?

      • Robby Cvejanovich // January 18, 2015 at 3:11 pm //

        Do you know what Agnostic means?

  83. Eagle Scout Aaron // November 3, 2014 at 8:27 am //

    I don’t understand how so many in the BSA have been able to change the definition of “a Scout is reverent” to mean “a Scout is religious.” Get out a dictionary and look up the word reverent. You won’t find any reference to God or a belief in a higher power as being necessary to being a reverent person; the word reverent means “feeling or showing deep and solemn respect.”

    You can be reverent towards cultural customs or family traditions; you can be reverent towards your elders; you can be reverent towards the environment; you can be reverent towards science and academia; you can be reverent towards history and your forefathers; you can show reverence towards the office of the President or the US Constitution; and yes, you can be reverent towards God. You can be reverent towards the beliefs of others (aka: respect the beliefs of others). Reverence is not solely about believing in God, it’s about showing respect a great respect, high regard and a dutiful seriousness towards something or someone (not solely about believing in a deity).

    Being respectful is being reverent. Forcing everyone to conform to your belief system and a narrow definition of a “duty to God” is not being reverent.

    • Well, those who are in charge of writing the program get to define “a Scout is reverent” and “duty to God” in whatever way they think is appropriate. When BSA says “reverent,” they are referring to reverence toward God.

      As a practical matter, “reverent” becomes “religious” because of the requirement that a Scout demonstrate that he is doing his duty to God. For example, the article says, “In Boy Scouts, participants at each review for rank advancement will be asked how they have done their duty to God since achievement of their current rank.” One of the easiest ways to do that is to participate in organized religious services and organized religious programs, and standard, understandable personal religious practices.

  84. I am an Eagle scout and earned just about every other award in boy scouts and cub scouts from the Arrow of Light to many Eagle Palms to the Mile Swim and many leadership positions. Indeed Scouting was my life for most of my youth. While I sincerely believed in God (non-denominational Christianity, specifically) during my time in scouting, I am now an atheist. Beyond the clauses in the scout oath and law, very little of my scouting experience had any religious component to it. I take morality extremely seriously and have no problem with other peoples’ religious views. So, I find it disheartening to see that the BSA would want to discriminate against me. I can only hope that one day the BSA will realize that not believing in the existence of the supernatural doesn’t make me a bad person any more than homosexuality makes others bad.

    • No one really cares when, and I mean this in a good way so let me explain, when you don’t believe in anything supernatural. The problem arises when you say that you are an atheist, which implies that all the rest of us are definitely wrong because there absolutely can’t be any supernatural or higher power of any sort ever, no matter what, and nothing will change your mind about that. If you had the mindset that, “Ok, I don’t currently believe in something, but sure, it’s entirely possible that I might change my mind about that someday, I might see something or experience something and my knowledge about the world and myself and my belief structure might change.” <– That, right there, is agnosticism. It's not what you have. Atheism is the belief that there is definitely not even any sort of universal moral benevolence or universal force for good. It's kind of at odds with the sort of open mindset and general sense of tolerance that Scouts are expected to have. You're not personally being discriminated against, and I don't know why you'd think that. What's being discriminated against is that sort of closed-minded "better than you, because you're all definitely wrong" sort of attitude.

      • Bart wrote: “Atheism is the belief that there is definitely not even any sort of universal moral benevolence or universal force for good. It’s kind of at odds with the sort of open mindset and general sense of tolerance that Scouts are expected to have.” I find this kind of an odd statement since the folks who I know who are close minded on the subject of God are those who have particularly strong religious beliefs. So wouldn’t a dogmatic believer be at odds with the “sort of open mindset and general sense of tolerance” ?????? Secondly, I wouldn’t assume that anyone who calls themselves an atheist have the beliefs that you state in the first sentence above. I know folks who call themselves atheists who are rejecting the “father-figure-in-the-cloud” imagery that they learned in childhood. Unfortunately, many haven’t thought much about the subject of God beyond that point.

        • Sadly, people tend to define the word “Atheist” in different ways, and that tends to get in the way of the subject at hand. For the theists reading this blog, please understand that “atheist” has become, dare I say “evolved into”?, a catchall phrase for people who lean away from faith-based belief. I know the common alternate term, “Agnostic” has come to mean that the individual hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the existence of a supreme being, but the confusing truth is that is often implied by atheism as well. it gets kind of confusing, I realize.

          I, personally, don’t rule out the possibility that there is some kind of force that drives the universe that is well beyond my five senses, but I am not foolish enough to believe that man-made explanations for that possibility are sufficient and whole. Nor WOULD I pretend to know the mind of God if he does, in fact exist. Does this make me an atheist or an agnostic? I really don’t know. What matters to me is that I am an inner-directed, principled man who tries to be morally upstanding and to treat others as I wish to be treated. I seek truth and stand up for justice. I enjoy learning and I appreciate nature, poetry, music, etc. I would not hesitate to advance a boy with similar ideals. It’s insane to preclude boys with such sensibility and honesty. Shame on those that do.

        • Cole Petersen // November 17, 2014 at 4:06 pm //

          Seems to me that ‘both sides’ of this issue are attempting to define each other. It’s not working for me. I just interpreted that I’m being called foolish and perhaps insane, and shame on me. One term that recently appeared here is ‘supernatural.’ Add that to ‘supreme being’ and ‘higher power.’ I’d have a tough time asking a Scout what his duty is to any of these terms. Supernatural to me means Superman or maybe Santa Clause. So if a kid believes in one of these dudes, am I supposed to ask him what his duty to them is? The Oath says duty to God. To me, the other terms are manufactured to manipulate the process, and I’m just not into it. So, you must be right . . . shame on me.

        • That’s the sort of closedmindedness that I’m talking about — angry hurt children who are rejecting the “father-figure-in-the-cloud” imagery that they learned in childhood and who don’t really have any sort of conception or framework for what else, if anything, that they may or may not believe in, simply that they want to declare themselves as being opposite from their parents.

          When people declare they’re an atheist, either they’ve thought about it long enough to completely reject all forms of spirituality, from anywhere, under any circumstances, or it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Either way, they usually aren’t interested in talking or entering into a dialog and they tend to reject the normal social niceties. For instance, there are some churches that I really disagree with, theologically. But when I visit those churches, or otherwise associate with those people, whether in or out of Scouting, I’ll join in a prayer that they’re offering because it’s gauche to stand aside and completely reject their attempt at a prayer. Most athiests won’t do that — they’ll draw attention to themselves by their conspicuous disavowal of what’s going on around them.

          As to differing interpretations of the word “atheist” as compared with “agnostic”, apparently some people need to be gifted with a dictionary? A discussion is impossible if people are using different definitions of the same words, so I’m using the words as defined in any standard dictionary, the way they’re normally defined by anyone who’s taken a comparative religion class or otherwise discussed religion with knowledgeable people. Here’s a couple definitions:
          http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/agnostic
          http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/atheist (definition four has the narrow interpretation that a Christian, for example, might have an atheistic interpretation of Islam and as such that definition doesn’t really apply to this discussion)

        • You write in some pretty broad strokes when you say “Most athiests won’t do that — they’ll draw attention to themselves by their conspicuous disavowal of what’s going on around them.” You’re stereotyping atheists. I don’t know any atheists who would do what you say. The ones that I know of would stand quietly and listen and be respectful. But I know atheists who attend my church – and other churches – so I suspect I know a different kind of atheist than is portrayed in the mainstream media.

  85. Trenton Spears // November 16, 2014 at 11:14 am //

    eagleray you were wrong that I managed to shut down this blog by my comments as of November 16 2014 it is still going strong 41 days total Bryan Wendall will decide when this blog will end not you.Your role as a predictor just lost its integrity. Anymore predictions? Trenton

    • See my response above

  86. I would rather see an Eagle Scout who does not believe in God, but has respect for others, than an Eagle Scout who does believe in God, but is completely disrespectful to others. This is evident in our troop.

  87. BSA’s emphasis on “Duty to God” and allignment with organized religions is a huge eroor in judgement. Religion and god/no god should be taught at home or in the churches. Scouting should be more than another religious organization.

    We say we are tolorant to other faiths yet every interfaith service I have attended has been stricklt aimed at one or two faiths at the most.

    A fundemental question is what is god? Would you still be a good person and act the way you do if there was no God? If the only reason you are good is because of your fear of god or the expectation of a reward, you are not a good person but rather a selfish person. You are being good to benefit yourself.

    It should also be remembered that more people have been killed in the name of religion than any other purpose. Prisons and death row are filled with very religious people. So tell me again why religion and duty to good should be Scout principles? Reverance, yes, respect for others beliefs and religion, yes. You asking me what my beliefs are about a god and my religion – none of your business.

    Interprete the “duty to god” as a much more wholistic belief. More than a bearded old guy with the power to heal and save who chooses not to use those powers. Or a concept of punishment and reward in the after life for your behavior.

    The time has come for BSA to move forward. Not turn a blind eye to religion and God but leave that to the family and the church. Scouts should respect nature and their fellow man etc. regardless of their belief in a specific or non specific god.

    If the Pope of the Cathlic church can accept non-believers why cannot the BSA?

    Religion and Gender are the next big fights for the BSA; we can either be ahead of the curve or behind it. The writing is on the walls.

    • You said, “If the only reason you are good is because of your fear of god or the expectation of a reward, you are not a good person but rather a selfish person. You are being good to benefit yourself.”

      I think the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, and the Koran, every religious text that I’ve read, are pretty clear on the issue that it’s better to do the right action for the right reasons. That being said, everyone is at a different stage of life and a different point in their journey through life and sometimes people may feel the need for a carrot or stick in their own lives when it’s the only thing that keeps them going. It is better to do the right thing for the right reasons — it is desired that neither carrot nor stick should be necessary, but not everyone is immediately ready to hit that higher standard. If you are, then that’s great. If someone else isn’t, well, pushing someone’s nose into a a “mess” they made is generally a way to get them to dislike you, rather than a way to get them to dislike making the mess in the first place.

      The Pope of the Roman Catholic church accepts in non-believers, but that doesn’t mean that the non-believers can participate in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

      I absolutely agree, Scouts should respect nature and their fellow man etc. regardless of their belief in a specific or non specific god. That doesn’t necessarily mean that every boy, regardless of personal beliefs, should be able to become a Scout. Let me recommend a movie to you — I’m not an athiest, but I think Phil Plait is an amazing guy and I almost take his words as gospel, figuratively speaking: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmP9XozKEV0

  88. Matt Price, Scoutmaster // January 18, 2015 at 12:20 pm //

    I will go one step further and say – in order to not believe in God, or have the capacity to be angry with those who believe in God, you have to believe that there is a God to not like him.

    Plain and simple. I see people hate air, but they can not prove it’s presence other than they can breathe.

    Many of those who don’t believe in God don’t believe because of parental hatred toward church. Which means that their beliefs are not their own – it has been engrained.

    I was once standing next to a fella in the Baptist church and he told me “I used to be a non believer, even told folks that God is a hater, and worked against folks who were. Then I was shot. I died. They brought me back. When I came to – the first thing out of my mouth was ‘Thank God'”

    • Matt, that is so ignorant and besides my point it’s offensive. try to understand my bottom line. Boys shouldn’t be forced to lie, nor should they be forced to chose a religion prior to Age 18. It’s simple, really.

      • They aren’t forced to choose a religion prior to 18. They’re asked to refrain from saying that every religion is wrong.

        • I hope that’s true, Bart, but I have my doubts.

  89. Marvin Harvey // January 18, 2015 at 12:21 pm //

    A scout asked me if I was a believer. I told him about a great ice cream sundae I had with whipped cream and candy pieces made of milk chocolate. The ingredients came from an incredible bio-machine that turns grass to milk. I then went on to discuss all of the scientists and engineers trying to invent bio-machines that turn plant material into fuel and other products. So who created the cow? Was it man or some higher power.

  90. God: The Basis Behind Scouting, I blogged about that in 2013.
    http://www.courageouschristianfather.com/god-the-basis-behind-scouting/

  91. While I would never be one to interrupt a productive debate, this discussion has gone off track from the earliest comments.

    This is not a debate or discussion on our opinions of different belief systems, religions or world view philosophies. This is about the Boy Scouts of America Declaration of Religious Principles, The Scout Oath and The Scout Law.

    Any adult volunteer who does not agree with the BSA Declaration of Religious Principles is sorely mistaken to think that they may interpret this statement to meet their world view and personal beliefs. It is not about interpretation, it is about understanding. And thinking about the young people who we serve.

    If any adult does not prescribe to a particular set of religious beliefs or system of religion, that is their choice. But to make any attempt to share and pass their personal beliefs to the youth who we serve is self centered, self serving and selfish. Any adult who does not agree with the BSA Declaration of Religious Principles is welcome to join any number of other youth organizations, but should be honest with themselves and look to serve the greater interests of the youth served by the BSA.

    We do not endorse any particular faith or religious belief system, nor do we seek to expand any philosophical world view, or legitimize any individual belief system; we simply seek to support the youth who we serve in becoming the best possible adult that they can become, and the Boy Scouts of America has stated since the beginning that no young person can develop the character and traits that our organization intends without a belief in God.

    …and I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Without a belief in which God? The God of Scientology? How about the God of the wolrd Church of the Creator (who could be said to worship themselves)? Or how about the Church of all Worlds who worship Gaea? I find it interesting that a belief in literally any cockamamie belief is supported, even those the vast majority of us would not accept as having any possibility as being correct or factual, but an absence of belief is so bad that a child could not advance their membership.

      Worship an alien named Xenu, you are welcome to advance. No specific belief at all – well kid, you don’t have what it takes to be a good boy scout.

      Now that the 7th Circuit Appeals Court has ruled atheism is a religion for the purposes of first amendment rights, I wonder what if anything that changes for those states.

      • The DRP states that leaders cannot define what God means to a scout. The scout gets to define what God means to him and how he expresses his faith.

        That’s why this whole religious principles debate is absurd and the BSA should stop excluding atheists. To think that atheists cannot have moral grounding is pure hubris.

  92. Calvin J Frye // January 19, 2015 at 9:59 am //

    I am an atheist member of a Unitarian-Universalist congregation, and a licensed Humanist Celebrant both entitled and proud to use the title “Reverend.” The 12th law is “a Scout is Reverent,” not “a Scout believes in (my) God.”

    I suggest those finding contradiction in my comment consult a very thoughtful and readable book by Paul Woodruff titled “Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue.”

    • thank you for standing up and being counted, Calvin. As you’ve already deduced, I’m sure, this post is full of very opinionated bible thumpers. The more people we can get to stand up for legitimate morality and honestly discuss right from wrong, without leaning on ancient texts and church indoctrination, the better.

  93. I tend to think “reverence” has more to do with respecting things we don’t understand, not just things we pretend to understand.

  94. Quite frankly, I am distressed by this new development.

    All these years, as a parent and a leader, I have gotten the message that we don’t really touch the subject of faith, that that would be best left up to the parents (because we don’t want to offend anyone).

    So while as a family we HAVE addressed the subject many, many times, kids have gone through religious education all their life, and attended mass every week, my oldest has decided that he does not believe in God. He has been a good Scout in every other way and the entire family has been very involved in many ways. So now suddenly you are telling me that my son is not worthy of the Eagle rank?

    Someone in Leadership, PLEASE give us a STRAIGHT answer! And SOON!

    I am sure many are in my shoes, with sons SO close to Eagle. I am not going to make my son go through the final steps (project), if he is only going to be told he is not worthy in the end, and in a very public setting no less. That would be a very humiliating experience. And what would it teach him? That all we (parents and scouters in many different units) have told him over the years suddenly doesn’t count any more? That all his hard work, and kindness, and having become a good person and citizen doesn’t count enough?

    So again, we need a straight answer!!!

    • Sherman Peterson // January 20, 2015 at 9:11 am //

      Des, I think the reasoning was deeper than simply not offending anyone. Before I was a Scout, I was in a church-based uniformed youth group. In the short time I was there, I witnessed a general attitude of church over parents and was shown propaganda depicting other denominations’ baptism rites characterized as “bobbing for apples.”

      My fear is, that as requirements like this take hold and as other denominations follow the LDS lead of (ab)using Scouting as their own youth group, that Scouting will begin to look like that, and that is the LAST thing I want to see happen.

  95. Des I can tell you that my son told me he doesn’t believe in God about 2 weeks before his Eagle BOR. I brought it up with a seasoned adult in our Troop who said that should not have a bearing on his BOR. The issue is whether or not he fulfills his Duty to God not whether or not he believes in God. A Scout’s Duty to God can be fulfilled in many ways and the Scout will answer the question as he sees it. For some Scouts it’s going to church regularly and participating in functions. For others it’s being kind and good to all people regardless of their customs, faith, gender or race. In all cases it’s about being a good person in the world. At the Eagle proposal and the Eagle BOR the Scout will have an advocate of his choosing with him. During the proposal the advocate is more free to speak and ask questions and provide further explanation to the Scout if he doesn’t understand something the board says. The discussion will center around a successful project and advice. At the BOR the advocate is there to be sure nothing improper is said or done during the BOR. If the board suddenly goes into a detailed discussion about the Scouts faith then I think it would be appropriate for the advocate to interrupt to keep the discussion to how the Scout fulfills his Duty to God and not a discussion of whether his faith based beliefs match that of the board. Pressing a child into having a deeply personal discussion about a very deep and complicated issue such as faith during a high pressure interview with 4 strange adults is not appropriate. I have been an advocate myself and I saw no inclination on the part of the BOR to go into what the Scout’s personal faith based beliefs are. It’s a thorny mess best left alone. Also remember that the Scout will need a faith based letter of reference for his Eagle Rank Application. This is a letter of reference from a person either involved in the Scout’s faith based education or activities or a person involved in a faith based organization(for example a lay person or a official such as a Minister etc) it can also be a person from the Charter Organization (if it is religion based) that has worked with the Scout and observed his behavior. The letter does not have to expound upon the Scouts religious dedication (although it can) but it really should focus on the kind of person the Scout presented himself to be (as should all the letters). Ask your son about how he fulfills his Duty to God and Country..(we seem to have dropped the country part in this whole discussion). Have discussions with your son about all the points in the oath and law because the BOR is looking for well thought out answers that show the boy has really internalized the oath and law into who he is but also that he has given thought to what it all means to him. Be sure that the Troop BOR asks your son about how he fulfills his Duty to God so he is not surprised by the question and has had the chance to answer it to a group of adults before his BOR. BTW my oldest son is an Eagle and I can tell you that the BOR told us he is exactly the kind of young man they hope to have in front of them so they can say yes. I can also tell you that he never lied and he never just said anything because he thought is was what they wanted to hear. He had taken the time to really think about the points in the oath and law and what they mean to him as a person. He takes his earning Eagle, claiming that honor and living up to it for the rest of his life very seriously and that is what the BOR saw.

    • Thank you, Tammy, for your encouraging words. I can only hope that the people involved will keep such an open mind and heart…

  96. David Russell // January 20, 2015 at 5:14 pm //

    As Tammy pointed out, “How do you fulfill your Duty to God?” is a much better question. I think it goes to the heart of what B-P was actually after.

    My older brother chose to lie to his Eagle BOR, feeling justified in this because he felt the question itself was illegitimate. Over the years I have met many who also lied. “Do you believe?” used in a civil context like BSA is a procrustean “Test of Faith” question far too close to the nightmare of religious wars and persecutions (e.g. “But do you believe in the REAL God?” or “Do you believe in God RIGHTLY?”).

    Despite having fulfilled all other requirements I did not go for Eagle precisely because I knew the Review Board would ask “Do you believe?” and that rather than lie I would answer “No”. That the “Do You Believe” question stopped me from going for Eagle provoked my troop, which responded by electing me Troop Chaplain Aide (in those days — 1960’s — if I remember correctly it was called Troop Chaplain) as a form of protest, outraging many adults at troop and council level. I fought to keep my office and I carried out my duties with diligence and joy. Our scoutmaster later said that I was an exemplary chaplain for our mostly Christian but significantly Buddhist and Jewish troop.

    Most of my troop felt that much of the “believe in God” stuff in our culture and in the BSA was talk with no walk, while I was walking while refusing to mouth a talk. They sensed, correctly I think in retrospect, that my semi-Buddhist semi-heretic 2nd Commandment Catholic refusal to speak of g-d to fulfill a bureaucratic check list was in fact a profound “Doing my duty to God”.

    I am a great admirer of Baden-Powell, and I expect he would be disappointed in the BSA clinging to the cultural blinders that he wore in 1908. For example, B-P was under the VERY common misapprehension of his times that Buddhists worshipped a God called “Buddha”, and simply not aware that many of the religions he deeply respected did not make use of the concept of God at all.

    david fb

    • So certain am I in the failure of the American educational system, I would wager that if you surveyed our country, a majority Americans would also believe that Buddhists worshipped a God called Buddha.

    • Thank you, David, for taking the time to respond. You have expressed many of my concerns so much better than I ever could and I applaud you for the way you have dealt with the situation in your own scouting career. I hope my son will find the strength to do the same. And I hope that our scouting family can come to a similar conclusion, because I fear that this issue might tear us apart even more so, and leave many amazing young people stranded and disenchanted and disappointed. Plus I agree with what many here have pointed out. At this age our youth IS too young to truly make this decision about their religion. Personally, I pray almost every day that my son will find his way back to God, (or that God will find him) but I completely understand his current arguments, too. ESPECIALLY the part about talking the talk and not walking the walk!!! We have seen so much of that over the years. And while he has seen me walking, I too, don’t do much of the talking…so I don’t know whether that is part of it…Anyway, thank you again for your kind and encouraging words.

  97. From today’s LA Times:

    Studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their religious peers. When these teens mature into “godless” adults, they exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.

    Recent research also has shown that children raised without religion tend to remain irreligious as they grow older — and are perhaps more accepting. Secular adults are more likely to understand and accept the science concerning global warming, and to support women’s equality and gay rights. One telling fact from the criminology field: Atheists were almost absent from our prison population as of the late 1990s, comprising less than half of 1% of those behind bars, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons statistics.

  98. David Russell // January 20, 2015 at 8:58 pm //

    Other side of that Duke University study is the POSSIBILITY that we have two problems —

    religions and organizations like BSA that are immobilized by their devotion to their shibboleths (yes, modern idolatry) and so failing in their mission

    and

    rapidly expanding secular culture that is, like a farmer pumping out an aquifer, making dangerous use of a valuable resource accumulated in the past by religious structures (social solidarity, trust, potent criticisms of the heedless rich, potent accessible structures of meaning that resist nihilism) to create an attractive current ‘prosperity’ that has no roots. (e.g. See Charles Taylor’s magisterial book Sources of the Self).

    I doubt i would be alive today physically or spiritually if it were not for my Christianity.

    I don’t worry much about the secular side, i do not buy most of the belief structures that make it seem coherent (again, Charles Taylor says it all far more eloquently than I can). I worry deeply about the religious side which is the origin of the problem. We believers (I prefer to say followers in practice) are NOT doing our job. The Gospel (the Dharma the Tanahk the Quran the Great Mystery….) cannot be spread by zombie followers using checklists.

    david fb

  99. I ask that religious members in this post please take note that Atheists and otherwise skeptical “non-believers” can absolutely be, and usually ARE, moral people. We are NOT bad people and we love what Scouting offers. We have good will toward working together with theists on developing principled, morally straight young men. In my experience, it takes a minute for conservative Christians to digest this reality, but I ask that you please hear us skeptical folks out. We may not agree on every single thing, but we essentially want the same thing for our children.

    The Scout Association of the United Kingdom is flexible in their interpretation of the writings of Baden-Powell and has so far avoided the controversies facing the Boy Scouts of America. Their stance is considerably more level-headed than the hard line being presented by the religious right in this forum. I propose a similar, compassionate approach in the BSA.

    Check it out:

    “To enable young people to grow into independent adults the Scout Method encourages young people to question what they have been taught. Scouts and Venture Scouts who question God’s existence, their own spirituality or the structures and beliefs of any or all religions are simply searching for spiritual understanding. This notion of a search for enlightenment is compatible with belief in most of the world’s faiths. It is unacceptable to refuse Membership, or question a young person’s suitability to continue to participate fully in a Section, if they express doubts about the meaning of the Promise.”

    — “Equal Opportunities Policy: Guidelines with reference to Young People: Religious belief”. Policy Organisation and Rules. The Scout Association.

    • Trenton Spears // January 22, 2015 at 12:01 pm //

      Bret I believe that you are over re-acting to the the problems of the Duty to God requirements in Scouting. I have not seen a overwhelming bashing of Atheist or Agnostics The choice of being one of these non-God participation principles is a personal choice of that individual on a personal basis. Having said that Bret you must recognize that the BSA sets its own standards and rules. We can question them we can try to follow them but only the National BSA Board has the authority to change the rules.If a belief in deity is dropped from the Duty To God requirements then we have a most profound change in the core standards of the BSA that many Scouters support and will not accept any change that degrades the long standing BSA movement.

      • Trenton, I agree with your conclusion. The BSA does indeed set it’s rules and it is, in point of fact, a private organization … although the whole “sanctioned by Congress” thing makes this point a bit deleterious, to be sure.

        I do think it is possible for me to switch to another, less religious organization is an option, but it breaks my heart to be forced to do so when BSA is the premier organization historically.

        I’m intrigued by the fact that the ORIGINAL BSA language did not take such a hard line on ‘Duty to God”, and I wonder if it isn’t, in fact, unconstitutional for the language to have been changed during the McCarthy Era?

        Either way, I frankly don’t have all the answers and I am considering withdrawing from BSA in order to be lawful. It’s a sad proposition, but is, from the sounds of it, the right thing to do. My Troop will not be happy about this, and I need to sleep on it first.

        Best wishes to you and yours, Mr Spears. You’ve purported yourself well in this forum, while I’ve actually lost my temper and worded things callously, and I have no hard feelings toward you.

        • Trenton Spears // January 22, 2015 at 4:25 pm //

          Bret The purpose of Bryan’s Wendell’s blog has demonstrated the need for open and honest debate among bloggers. There is not one blogger that can say their comments were at times controversial including mine.There is not one blogger that can honestly say they have not learned from the comments on this forum including me. As a long time Scouter’s we had no way of voicing our opinions to scouting nationally in the past. The Editor’s of Scouting Magazine has opened a very necessary website to provide a program for Scouters to communicate with one and another. It has been a very informative and a thought provocative process worthy of a individual’s right to comment I believe in the constitution and the principles of its freedom and the basis of all constructive ideals to the future of any organization like the BSA. Two years ago I had no concept that we would need changes to the core standards of the BSA. I felt that things were at its best for the youth of the BSA and had no trouble supporting the past and present programs to do our best for scouting’s youth. Bret I to wish you well and please don’t lose any sleep over your right to voice your opinion on the future of the BSA I know I won’t. It is an honor to be a part of the most successful youth organization in the history of the world. I was once accused of shutting down this blog on the subject of this forum on Duty to God I believe it is the longest running thread that Bryan’s website has opened up. I believe that no one person can effect the comments of the participants and the continuation of this blog is a tribute to Bryans’ commitment to a quality program. Sincerely,
          Trenton Spears,
          Scoutmaster

  100. Cole Petersen // January 22, 2015 at 9:11 pm //

    A recent comment stated that God was not in the BSA’s Oath until the 30s or even the 50s. I don’t want anyone to accept that as fact, because it’s not even close to the truth. Our Oath has always included ‘Duty to God.’

    • I made that comment and I obtained my information directly from the BSA website – but I did make a mistake. It was the Promise, not the Oath that was changed in the 1950s to include a Duty to God. It was posted as part of the 2015 Program Updates. You can find the specific information here:

      http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/programupdates.aspx

      The Promise in the 1930s:
      “I (name) promise to do my best to be square and to obey the Law of the Pack.”
      The Promise in the 1950s:
      “I (name), promise to do my best to do my duty to God and my country, to be square and to obey the Law of the Pack.”

      • Cole Petersen // January 22, 2015 at 9:42 pm //

        And that would be Cub Scouts (which began in 1930).

    • Duty to God is part of the Scout Oath in the 1911 Boy Scout Handbook. See http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29558/29558-h/29558-h.htm

  101. Bryan:

    I think that it is HIGH TIME. in the betterment of Scouting, that this Thread be closed.

    This discussion started on October 3. By early December the comments were in the 320s, and now suddenly it has exploded. After 380+ comments over the past 3 1/2 months, it is obvious that there are certain views that cannot be changed, no matter what argument is presented. It is obvious that the words “Duty to God” presents threats and triggers to large number of bloggers here. LDS vs Buddhist, vs Baptist, vs Catholic, vs UU, vs Wiccan, vs Methodist, ETC…

    This thread manifests a concern that I have had for a while, with the apparent demand that a BOY, under age of consent, be required to affirm faith to his leader. This requirement seems to be something of previous ages, and not the early 21st century.

    BP is long since dead, and some here have represented that his thoughts might have been wrong, and others treat his words as Gospel.

    It is acknowledged that BSA’s membership is dropping, for perhaps the past 20 years.

    IT IS TIME THAT AN “INDEPENDENT” (spread out [not by membership numbers] among the many religious/spiritual voices within Scouting) SUBCOMMITTEE APPOINTED BY NATIONAL ADVANCEMENT LOOK AT THIS ISSUE FROM A RATIONAL MANNER, so that we can come up with a method of GROWING the membership and not DESTROYING those that wish to be Scouts, but at their immature age have not been able to decide what god/God/deity/spirit they honor.

    Ray

    • Cole Petersen // January 22, 2015 at 9:37 pm //

      You were doing just fine regarding closing this thread until you chose to state your position as if you get the last word. Your comments represents one opinion.

Comments are closed.