Beginning next year, Boy Scouts will tell about their ‘duty to God’ at each rank

Eagle-eyed Scouts and Scouters have noticed something new in the Boy Scout rank requirements that take effect next year: “tell how you have done your duty to God.”

To be clear, “duty to God” has been a part of the Boy Scouts of America from the start. The first BSA Handbook for Boys, published in 1911, says “no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God.” 

What’s new is that beginning Jan. 1, 2016, every rank from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout (plus Eagle Scout palms) will include a “duty to God” requirement.

It’s important to know what that means — and what it doesn’t. 

The new requirements do ask Scouts to reflect on their own belief. They don’t ask the Scout leader to have a two-way conversation about religion, to proselytize or to evaluate whether the Scout’s duty to God meets the Scout leader’s personal standard.

Look at the verb in the requirement: “Tell how you have done your duty to God.” Not demonstrate, discuss, show or prove.

This is a monologue by the Scout. Not a dialogue between a Scout and his leader.

The requirement is complete once the Scout has told how he has done his duty to God. With young Scouts, this could be a very brief statement. As Scouts get older and their beliefs mature, this “telling” will evolve.

The troop leader is there to listen, not to evaluate a Scout’s expression against any standard. In many troops, the Scout leader and one or more of his Scouts will have different religious beliefs, and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s healthy.

Faith is a complicated subject, but it’s an essential part of Scouting. I urge you to read the helpful FAQs document the BSA released in August that explains this further.

I’ve included the relevant section below.

Duty to God FAQs

Q. A new element of Scout spirit (“Tell how you have done your duty to God …”), is alongside the elements of “living the Scout Oath and Scout Law” in the new requirements. Does this mean troop leaders need to examine and evaluate a Scout’s duty to God, and then determine whether it is sufficient by some standard?

A. No, not at all. The troop leader is there to listen to the Scout tell about how he believes he has done his duty (the Scout’s duty) – that is the requirement. The idea is for the Scout to have a self-reflection about belief and reverence. The requirement does not indicate that a discussion or a two-way conversation should take place. For the purpose of the requirement, the boy is simply to tell his leader how he believes he has done his duty to God as defined by himself and his family. Nothing more is required. The telling might be a very brief statement, depending on the Scout and the family’s beliefs—and on where the Scout is in his development of understanding of such matters, which will evolve as the Scout matures.

Q. Does including “duty to God” as a part of Scout spirit put too much emphasis on religion? Does it create a requirement of belonging to a religion?

A. No, not as written. There is no requirement that a Scout identify a religious faith as part of his duty to God—although, if the Scout does have a religious faith, it is likely to be part of the self-reflection and expression. It is important to note that Scouting is nonsectarian and promotes no specific religion. In fact, a boy need not belong to any official religious institution—he could practice his beliefs privately at home. However, while membership in an organized religion is not necessary or implied, a Scout does have to ascribe to the declaration of religious principles, and express belief in a higher power. This condition of membership is acknowledged by the parent or guardian’s signature on the BSA Youth Application.

Q. A troop leader’s beliefs about God may be different from those of the Scout. With the requirement “tell how you have done your duty to God,” a troop leader might believe that the Scout should do more or do something differently to show duty to God. Can a boy be withheld from advancing for that reason?

A. No. The troop leader does not evaluate whether a Scout’s expression of how he shows duty to God is sufficient by any standard. In signing off the requirement, the leader simply acknowledges that the Scout has told how he has done his duty to God. The leader should make no judgment and the Scout should not be held to a standard of belief or activity in order to be signed off on the requirement. There will often be differences of belief among troop members and troop leadership—but the troop leader’s beliefs do not establish a standard for the Scout. The policy of the Boy Scouts of America is that “the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.” The troop leader is to respect those differences, with no attempt to impose his or her personal beliefs on the Scout.

Q. Can the Scout tell about his duty to God during the Scoutmaster conference?

A. Yes. That would be an appropriate place for this to happen, just as other Scout spirit actions like telling “how you have lived four different points of the Scout Law” may be covered in Scoutmaster conferences. There is no reason why both actions cannot be completed at the same time. Of course, the Scoutmaster may delegate responsibility for sign-off on Scout spirit requirements to another leader, just as with any other requirement.

Q. Should a board of review ask the Scout about this Duty to God requirement?

A. A board of review may ask—just as with any other requirement—but the board is not required to do so. It is not expected that every rank requirement will be individually covered during a board of review, and this requirement is no exception. However, as with the previous question, the Scout only needs to tell how he has done his duty to God. Board members are not to pass judgment or try to impose their individual beliefs. The situation is no different from what might currently be asked: “How have you lived the ‘duty to God’ part of the Scout Oath in your daily life?” or “How have you demonstrated ‘A Scout is reverent’ in your everyday life?”

Q. What if, during a Scoutmaster conference or board of review, a Scout says that he does not believe in God?

A. A Scout is called to do his duty to God by both the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and his belief in God should be acknowledged by his parent or guardian’s signature on the BSA Youth Application. A Scout’s declaration that he does not believe in God is grounds to deny rank advancement and could affect his continued membership in the troop. The situation should be approached with the utmost caution, recognizing that the Scout and his family are best served by a process in which the Scout remains positively engaged in his Scouting pursuits. Troop leadership should not attempt to counsel the Scout, but should contact the boy’s parents or guardians and allow the family time to discuss the situation with the youth. If the issue arises at a board of review, the board should be adjourned and reconvened at a later date, giving the family an opportunity to conduct that discussion with their son.

All the new Boy Scout rank requirements

See a parallel comparison of old and new Boy Scout requirements in this PDF.


  1. I mentioned when the new requirements came out that they willnow beasing about Duty o God seven times but not once for Duty to country. Curious. Could it be a way to weed out or discourage scouts that are not sure of their beliefs?

    • Scouts are asked to explain their Duty to country, world and community in the Citizenship merit badges that are required for Eagle. There is an extensive discussion to be done with the merit badge counselor. So they are covered

        • I thing it should be given special emphasis. Duty to God is the first point of the Oath and the last point of the Law.

        • Two thoughts on why that might be so:

          First, with the policy change regarding gay youth and leaders, atheist groups are clamoring for the statement of religious purposes to be dropped as well. Many are promoting the idea that various religious groups have somehow ‘hi-jacked’ scouting and skewed it to suit their purposes, inserting God where he wasn’t before, while ignoring the fact that the religious elements of the scout Oath and Law predate any chartering organization’s affiliation. Like Bryan said, the Duty to God requirement has always been there, more implied than expressly stated perhaps, but BP himself had plenty to day about the role of religion in scouting. By spelling it out plain and clear in the re-framed requirements, the BSA is leaving no doubt that faith is an essential element, and always has been, in the character development goals of the program, and that it is not promoting any particular flavor of religion.

          Second, in my work as a commissioner I’ve seen many a unit that does little-to-nothing by way of encouraging a scout’s religious development. They are all about the fun, but respect and reverence for religious principles are conspicuously absent in the language and behavior of the leaders and as a result, their scouts. In an increasingly secular society which is focused on entertainment, one where religious values are rapidly being downplayed and dismissed, one where more and more people want the program without the values (or at least want to pick and choose the values), the BSA is serving notice that faith development is and always has been a key foundational piece to its program, and that it cannot properly be left out. It recognizes that families are the main source for a scout’s religious education, but also that units need to encourage and provide an atmosphere of support for personal religious growth and expression. This is a shot across the bow of any such units that they will need to re-examine some aspects of their program and training. Probably also a reminder to any units that get carried away to the opposite side that scouting is not a platform for direct proselyting, and that most* forms of religious expression are welcome and encouraged.

          *as far as I am aware, there are a few movements that consider themselves ‘religions’ that are not supported by the BSA, so I can’t say ‘all.’ Since I don’t have a full knowledge of who that is, I won’t bother trying to list them. Talk to your scout executive if you want better clarification on that.

      • I’m sorry, covering duty to country during the Citizenship merit badges is NOT the same as covering it as a rank advancement requirement for every rank. I cover duty to country at nearly every Scoutmaster’s conference when we discuss Scout Spirit. I also discuss duty to God and duty to others.

      • This is not meant to weed out scouts that are not sure of their religious beliefs. This seems to be a way for scouts to express What they have done to honor God. I think it’s a great idea. I’m glad to see This requirement added. I have been a Boy Scout and leader for a combination of approximately 30 yearsAnd this is a welcome addition in my opinion.

    • Duty to country is reinforced through many, many different activities… flag ceremonies, pledge of allegiance, Citizenship merit badge, service projects to name just a few.

      Many, but certainly not all, scouts these days are not following a faith tradition at home or receiving spiritual guidance from their parents. This is yet another opportunity where friendly and caring leaders, often with assistance from Chartering Organization clergy can help with faith formation in youth. If anything that is the opposite of a weeding out campaign.

      • In reply to Brendan — to be fair to those who are under the impression that joining this organization is what you’re (rightfully) pointing out what it is perceived to be (i.e., fun, etc), may I take the liberty of placing quite a bit of the blame for that on the representatives of the organization who are recruiting in elementary schools? See this from my perspective for a moment. We are a nonreligious family. I’m well aware that the requirements to be a member of the BSA would outright exclude my son. He goes to school and is faced with an occasional recruitment drive, and I find brochures now and then in his school bag. He is led to believe (by the recruiting drives) that this is in fact a fun thing to do, a fun organization to join, and he sees his peers signing on and reporting back on what fun they’re having. So he comes home and asks me to sign him up. Imagine how difficult it is for me to explain to him that he is not wanted by the BSA, that they would not welcome him into the organization, because they require an affirmation of one particular belief that he does not hold, regardless of the fact that on literally every other point he would match up just fine and would appreciate the personal development opportunity. That isn’t an easy thing to explain to an eight year old. See, he isn’t presented with the religious requirement during these presentations.

        To further the point, “becoming religious” in order to join the organization isn’t a reasonable option any more than it would be for anyone else to completely change religions for the sake of joining a club. Your beliefs are what they are, and none of us pick and choose beliefs in order to qualify for a club membership. Unfortunately, this part of it isn’t exactly prominent in the promotions. Now, I’m not at all suggesting the BSA should change its membership requirement in order to accommodate the non-religious. As a former Boy Scout myself (made it to Star), I’m understanding of the fact that this is a core part of the organization, and I wouldn’t see fit to pressure the organization to change that. I guess my problem is more in the broad recruitment practices, where a wide net is cast and then those few who don’t qualify find out the hard way that they simply aren’t wanted. And what if I hadn’t had a background in scouting, didn’t know this, and signed him up? Then at some point (fairly quickly, perhaps) he’d be a bit surprised by the religious emphasis and so would I.

        Which brings me to my next point, whether it is even appropriate for a religious organization to be recruiting in a public school. I think I’m probably more bothered by this than anything else. Again, not that the organization is religious, because that’s a perfectly OK requirement to have, but making a heavy recruitment push in a public school (which is meant to be religiously neutral) while functioning as a religious organization leaves me uneasy, and more so that this isn’t clear, and that it is being presented as a fun thing for boys to do while from Brendan’s commentary that apparently isn’t the impression people should be having. But that is the impression the organization is giving during recruitment, and I’d recommend maybe changing that. Thank you for hearing me out!

        • I completely agree. Our 13 yo (First Class), has been in scouts since he was 6. His goal from the very first meeting, has been to become an Eagle. We are a non religious family, as well, and it has never been a problem. This could keep him from his dream of Eagle, and that makes me angry. I suppose he could always lie, and just say that the things he does as a good person as part of his duty to ‘god,’ but one of the parts of being a good scout is NOT lying, so that defeats the purpose. One does not have to be religious to have morals, and be a good person. My kid is more respectful, and polite than many kids who go to church all the time. What if a child is Wiccan? What if their family feels worshipping the spirit of the Earth is important? What about Native Americans, many of whom do not believe in a religious god? did I read this correctly, that the scout can be denied rank over this? Who gets to decide that? What if the scout leader has a problem with Islam? I would hope this would never be an issue, as Many scout leaders we’ve met have been good, decent people, but it’s always a possibility. We spend a ton of money on dues, donations, and time on scouting, and he could be denied his rank, because we are non religious? That hardly seems fair.

        • There’s a misunderstanding that government (including schools) not *promoting* religion means they have to *forbid* religion. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion means that you don’t favor one religion. That’s neutrality. If other, non-religious organizations can recruit at schools, then religious ones can too. Some schools, unfortunately, don’t want to deal with the issue at all, so they’ve forbidden ALL groups. That’s unfortunate, impoverishing to students, and I think cowardly. Granted, it would be good, in light of people like you, that the “duty to God” be up front, and not a surprise later.

        • This broke my heart to read. I am also from a nonreligious (even outright atheist) family, and while the religion factor was a major hurdle throughout Scouting, I found that my values are in line with what a religious person’s “Duty to God” ends up being. So in answer to the question of how I did my duty to God, I explained that I had participated in service days, upheld the principles of the Scout Law, etc. – because if I were religious, those are the things I would mention as how I had fulfilled my Duty to God. Today I am an Eagle Scout, and Scouting was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable programs I have been involved in, from the outdoor skills to developing my leadership capabilities and helping other youth develop theirs. If your son wants to join, then as long as he is living his life by the Oath and Law, and generally being a decent human being, his religion or lack thereof should not hold him back. As for the joining requirement – I and many other youth have come through the Scouts without belonging to a church (or temple, or mosque, or other religious organization), and we have contributed just as much as our more religious peers. If the requirement is stopping good, driven, earnest youth from participating, I say to heck with it.

          Just my two cents. In any case, I hope you and your son find the correct path for you, and Happy Holidays!

    • Well, off the top of my head, the new basic Scout rank does require that they be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and talk about it. There’s also all the Eagle-required Citizenship merit badges, etc. I don’t think Duty to County will be ignored.

      • Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t duty to country. Anyone can recite words. Duty requires an action or a service.

        • This thread is really about the revised rank advancement requirement about Scouts expressing their “… Duty to God …” as expressed in the Scout Oath or Promise. However, as you and others introduce … duty to … country. A Pledge of Allegiance is a promise to duty, including respect to flag, engagement in government, or knowledge of it. The duty expected of a less than 18 year old is obviously more of respect, knowledge and any other citizen obligations at that age. Yet we digress from the primary issue here and that is a Scout acknowledging and “telling” anout his Duty to God. No parent should be surprised by this. In fact parents should be so engaged in Cub and Boy Scouts that they are ahead of the curve in what is expected. The program has been widely successful for more than 100 years. If it is offensive to a parent or to a Scout then there is no obligation to maintain membership. If you look to other organizations in civic and service sectors that are voluntarily joined you will find all sorts of creeds and obligations. None require your attention or dissent. They just are. Their success or failure should not depend on what any particular special interest group demands that they be for all others. The bottom line is that the Boy Scouts through the years have brought many positive values, skills and leadership plus maturity and self confidence to young people (girls included in Venture Scouts at 14+). I am stunned and saddended every day by those who attack the institution unless it becomes a feckless, no standards or foundation organization without a cause other than its own self to guide it. If we are to throw out God, Country, and belief in issues that are foundational to this country that stands to protect those freedoms, it will be a disservice to Scouting and to all that choose to follow and support what it has stood for successfully for so long. Please, if you do not like Scouts, finding something else you do like and support it.

    • Though I understand that scouts was founded on this principle, I firmly disagree that we should limit a child’s belief system in order to participate.

      I agree that belief in a higher power should be encouraged, but not forced on a child who is still figuring out their way.

      This program was founded in a time where organized religion was necessary. A time when it was the only way to instill values. And though I support the option of religion and acceptance, I disagree that it should be mandatory.

      Scouts again is limiting itself & some really great kids that have the potential of being so much better, are going to be left out. That is a shame. It really is.

      Scouting is truly one of the best programs out there for kids, I highly recommend it over any other program. But I was truly hoping that this discussion would eventually evolve with the times. Not regress. Sad.

      • This is essentially the problem we face. We are nonreligious. We do not consider it an option to artificially make ourselves hold a belief that we currently do not in order to qualify for organization membership. Nor do I think it is even possible to arbitrarily start believing something — and feigning belief in order to join is of dubious ethical status. Yes, I would *love* to have my boy enjoy the developmental benefits to be had in the organization, but I also recognize that he literally cannot be a member.

        Unfortunately his inability to join continues to be an ongoing thorn, as recruitment happens on a regular basis in the school, peers report back to him how much fun they’ve had, friends and family keep suggesting that we join, and even the family doctor mentioned it as an activity we may want to do. It leaves him rather confused every time it is suggested in his presence or whenever another membership drive flyer is sent home in his bag. He just doesn’t get why one’s religion makes a hill of beans difference here and why not having the right opinion on this one thing should exclude him from the club, which again, doesn’t appear to him to be a religious organization. So he’s perfectly clear on why a church or Vacation Bible School aren’t going to be suitable for his participation, but scouting? He doesn’t get it. He sees camping, projects, merit badges, etc., and can’t discern any intrinsic connection between any of these things and religious beliefs. And I don’t have much to offer to clarify this for him, apart from explaining the notion that the organization has a bundle of values which it wishes to instill in its members, and one of those values is the wrongheaded notion that somehow one’s virtue and worth in society is correlated to one’s religious beliefs. I will continue to show him how wrong this is as he grows up to be an ethical, compassionate, considerate adult despite not sharing those religious beliefs.

    • It sounds like an opportunity for the troop’s chaplains aid(s) to become more involved by doing things to encourage spiritual growth in all scouts. I wouldn’t expect a scout to be able to personaly help others grow, but it would be reasonable to expect them to show them avaliable resources regardless of any scout’s belief. The Chaplain’s Aids could also listen if scouts wanted to practice talking about their duty to God. This could be mutually beneficial, as the scouts would become more comfortable with expressing their beliefs and Chaplain’s Aids would become more aware of how people with contrasting views see their faith.

    • Steve,

      I think many people are making this more of a problem than it actually is because our culture seems to have confused “Religion/Religious” with “Belief in a Higher Power.”

      The two could not be more different.

      Belief in “higher power,” God, the Almighty, the Creator, Father of the Universe or WHATEVER words an individual chooses to describe TO HIM or HERSELF the entity that created them and our universe is a very, very personal belief.

      “Religion” is an organized management of an individual’s relationship with diety. Religions tell us what to believe, when to kneel, when to stand, what to say, what to promise, and how to interpret their respective “Volume(s) of Holy Law.”

      While belief in deity is usually required for admission into a religious order, membership in a religious order, or the practice thereof, is not a prerequisite to a belief in deity.

      It very possible to believe in a deity without belonging to a religious order.

      Myself as an example, I was Baptized a (Missouri Synod) Lutheran and confirmed a United Methodist but my evolved beliefs about deity would be unlikely to be described as “Christian” by those with the strictest interpretation of the word.

      And I am not currently a member of any religion.

      Nonetheless, my belief in the Almighty Father of the Universe is stronger now than it ever was when I attended church regularly.

      Our Founding Fathers (USA) were especially wise in addressing this concept. The only real reference to deity in the founding and organizing documents of our nation (Declaration of Independence and Constitution) are found in the sentence in the Declaration of Independence which includes the phrase, “…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

      Although our wise Founding Fathers knew what their god’s name was, they intentionally did not impose it upon the rest of us.

      There is no “Religious Test” for membership in Scouting and any organization applying one is violating Scouting principles. There never has been. (formally anyway – I can’t speak to local organization’s interpretations or practices).

      There is, however, a requirement for a belief in diety however much or little it may be a part of the Scout’s life.

      An affirmative reply to a question like, “Do you believe that our world, our universe, and indeed our selves could have come into existence without some form of intelligent intent?” would satisfy the requirement.

      Another way to ask would be, “Do you believe our (wondrous) world and universe could have come into existence completely by accident?”

      A negative answer would indicate a satisfactory belief in diety.

      No Scouter or organization should be pitching/imposing their particular religious beliefs on any Scout.

      The reason for the requirement for a belief in deity is a simple one.

      The Scout Oath is an OATH.

      An OATH is a “Promise made to God.”

      An Oath is not binding on someone who does not believe in God. One CANNOT make a promise to a higher power if one does not believe that some higher power exists.

      We don’t need to know what you call him, whether it’s Jehovah, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Nature, or “Infinite Is.”

      We just need to know that you believe in a higher power of some sort.

      And explaining how one is fulfilling his obligation under the Scout Oath and following the 12 tenets of the Scout Law should be sufficient to fulfill this new requirement.

      Carl Andersen
      Eagle Scout 1981
      Troop 345
      Minnetonka, Minnesota

      • This is my feeling as well. To me, this is a religious test. Unlike anything else we may ask of a scout, whether he is reverent or that he takes an oath with a duty to God, asking him to describe his faith practices (which is what that question is really asking) is imprudent and unfair to young men still trying to understand their faith.

        • They do not ask about faith practices, they ask how the scout fulfilled their duty to God during that advancement period. Here are some examples of duty to God: Being kind to others; doing community service; being respectful; being helpful at home; forgiving someone that hurt you; putting someone else’s needs before your own; being open to other people’s ideas; being a good listener to a friend; not judging others; being kind to someone even if they were not kind to you… I could go on for days. The point is that everyone does things all the time that fulfill this duty, even if they are atheist. Scouting applications do not require a religious affiliation, they simply state that by signing, you agree to fulfill duty to God in whatever way YOU believe. The BSA’s goal is to turn out leaders and good citizens and these practices are critical in doing so. If you keep your son out of Scouts because you think you have to practice religion, you are mistaken and are doing a huge disservice to him and yourself. These are important values for every human being to practice daily, not just those that practice a religion. No boy is denied membership for not practicing a religion so if that is what you think, you are absolutely wrong. But if you don’t believe in the practices I stated above or don’t teach your son to have those values, scouting probably isn’t for your family anyway.

      • Baden-Powell wrote “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws” as the basis for this. I do not see how any organization can look on outsiders who happen to not share their belief in God as “not much good” and hold themselves as a respectable group. They not only reject them as members but hols the belief that they are not “much good”. What kind of value is this we are teaching scouts by teaching them such a biased and bigoted view of their fellow Americans?

  2. NIce idea, but this is “value” that is supposed to permeate the entire organization. So why limit this discussion to just Scouts?

    This concept should be expanded to include discussions with all professional staff during each annual performance review and whenever someone is being considered for a promotion.

    It’s not enough to “talk the talk”… everyone involved with Scouting needs to “walk the walk”. If their heart isn’t in the program on all 12 points they shouldn’t be involved with the program.

    • Except the requirement is “Tell”, it is not “Discuss”. So go ahead and have the adult leaders “tell” their belief in God.

  3. Another attempt to stem the losses by proving that that we can out-religion Trail Life. It’s kind of sad that it’s come to this. National can’t just let, what is it, 15%(?) of the membership fade away after the membership change without a desperate attempt to prove that they care about religion.

    They seem bound and determined to drive away any non-religious CO’s. This will do a lot to convince a PTA, or any other non-faith based CO to not sign up to host a pack/troop/crew, much less families who aren’t involved in a church from being in said pack/troop/crew.

    Yes, please sign up for Scouting. We’ll do our best to convert your child to whatever the SM’s religion is. That’s the message that a lot of families are getting from this change.

    • “We’ll do our best to convert your child to whatever the SM’s religion is.” Please read the FAQs above. One of them directly addresses this concern.

      If a parent gets that impression, the Scoutmaster is overstepping his or her duties.

      • Part of the problem is many Chartering Organizations, and some of these are faith based Chartering Organizations, are permitting Cubmasters and Scoutmasters to be appointed who do not actively practice any faith tradition and do not offer anything related to Duty to God within the unit program.

        The purpose of a Scoutmaster is not to be a zealous religious recruiter or a missionary, just a good role model.

      • Are you removing memberships of Scoutmasters who proselytize?

        Are you telling a church that supposedly owns the unit they cannot speak truth in the house of God to the boys?

        What’s next…giving the leaders a script of what they can say.

        Let’s be really honest for once, as I know it’s not something Scouting does or likes to do so I don’t expect an answer for the Chief Propaganda Editor:

        These requirements are a way to pander and give lip service to God so you can keep donor money for your secular humanistic program that not only loves sin, promotes it, hides it, covers it up, and will literally do anything for a dollar. You messed up thinking the change in membership standards would magically increase member numbers and donor funds while reducing cost of litigation. Now all of a sudden in that compromise of values you realized we need o do something to keep lying to the world that God is important so you keep charter partners which you don’t care about…you care about $$$ coming in hand over fist.

        This is not a wholesome youth organization…it is a corporate entity that includes hiding of the abuse of children, having executives who steal/lie/fudge numbers, volunteers who are so afraid to speak up because they live in constant fear.

        Now the caliber of volunteers can be simply seen if you google Boy Scout Leader arrested. From stealing popcorn money, to time after time of child pornography cases, child abuse, and the list of depravity keeps going. So you are ok with anything for a $$$$ but a Scoutmaster who witnesses to a Scout is over stepping his bounds?

  4. This is wrong. Plain wrong. God is a religious belief. Not believing in god whether it be a statue, cross, piece of air of whatnot is a personal and private thing and should not be brought out in public. A god is there for those that need something to believe in, for the rest they may not need the belief (which seems to be a growing number).

    Bringing it more into scouting is a way to reduce scouting numbers even more. It’s just wrong.

    • I would agree that all religion is personal but it is a foreign concept to consider it private. There are NONE ofthe orthodox relgions in the world that assume or expect private worship.

      • Be careful in your delineation of “Public” displays vs “Private”… See Mathew 6: 5-8 for the Christian guidelines. I say let your life speak. We will know what your faith ultimately is by the works you do and the words you use.
        William Penn: “”The Humble, Meek, Merciful, Just, Pious and Devout Souls, are everywhere of one Religion; and when Death has taken off the Mask, they will know one another, tho’ the divers Liveries they wear here make them Strangers.””

        The avowed atheist may well hold the same faith as I, as evidenced by their deeds and words. They may not yet recognize it….

        • Thanks for your thoughts. I was careful In my usage of private. Unfortunately your usage of the MT 6 passage stretches the context. This is not about a prescriptive doctrine but is an admonition against self serving heart motives seeking applause or approval of men.

          My main point in my initial response to the comment is that privatization of faith is foreign to all orthodox major religions. It is a manufactured ideal of secularists and adopted by some people ignorant of the Scriptures. There is no pious directive to hide ones faith. In fact the opposite is commanded and commended. Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15 et al.

    • I think it’s pretty simple. We either pay attention to what we promise, or we don’t. We either talk about it, or we ignore it. I think it’s been ignored too long.

    • Why should someone belief in God remain private? BP from the outset of Scouting made it very clear his views on the importance of a Scouts “Duty to God”.

      “When asked where religion came into Scouting and Guiding, Baden-Powell replied, It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.” (Religion and the Boy Scout and Girl Guides Movement–an address, 1926).

      “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion….Religion seems a very simple thing: First: Love and Serve God. Second: Love and serve your neighbour.” – (Scouting For Boys, 1908)

      Many in today’s society both inside (such as yourself by your writings) and outside (such as the gay community) would prefer that any regard to God or Morality be removed from the Boy Scouts standards, if this was allowed to happen the Boy Scouts in time would cease to exist as BP envisioned it. For all the immeasurable good that the Boy Scouts have brought to the young men of America and to America herself that must not be allowed to happen. I for one applaud this new requirement.

      • Yes, and in the early 1900’s, the world was a very big place and most people were only exposed to a single religious view. To force children who want the benefits of scouting to declare their belief in a God is wrong. Especially when we all know that what is written in the rules and what will happen in practice are two different things. If you honestly believe that a religious SM will let his scouts “tell” him about their duty to God and provide no commentary to influence the scout, then I think that’s downright naive. Religion is personal. It has no place any longer in an organization like scouts where fundamentally the organization isn’t about religion. Religion is clearly on its way out. We don’t need imaginary sky beings to teach our children morals based on fear of non compliance. We are better, more advanced, and quite simply smarter than that.

      • So you believe that boys “are not much good” if they do not believe in God? This is a fairly bigoted viewpoint and not in line with American values that does not distinguish or prejudge people based on beliefs.

  5. This just extends the policy of the Boy Scouts that they only want certain boys to be involved in the program. It is a way of making those “other boys” uncomfortable so they will leave quietly. Of course this is not how it is officially stated, but a boy who is unsure about religion, or for whom religion is not something involved in his family life, he is likely to be uncomfortable with this new requirement and may well decide to involve himself somewhere that he feels more welcomed and comfortable. The Boy Scouts appear to have decided that their membership is too large and this is another way to weed out undesirables and reduce the membership to a more manageable size. The Boy Scouts have long held that only certain religions qualify as acceptable. For many years they did not accept Unitarians and meeting the Declaration of Religious Principles. Several of the world’s religions, such as Buddhism are non-theistic. I think that even some of the theistic religions would not feel that the wording of the Declaration of Religious Principles was written to be appropriate for their beliefs.

    If the Boy Scouts really believe (as I do) that Scouting has something to offer to a broad range of young men, and if they are serious about growing membership not driving young men away, they should look more carefully at why fewer and fewer young men are joining or staying in the program. This is very much an American issue. The Scouts in most of the rest of the world use a Scout Law based on the Scout Law developed by Lord Baden-Powell, which only has 10 points. It was James West who added the last two points to our Scout Law.

    There was an interesting blog at recently that raised some good points. Read it if you are interested in this issue.

    Personally I think God should just be spelled with 2 o’s.

    • I agree 100%. Look at the World Scout movement, they seem to have BP quotes and history that directly contradicts BSA’s interpritations.

      BSA can say duty to god is not endorsing a religion but in practice it is. Churches and families should teach religion and god. not scouting. A Scout should be good because they are a Scout not because some god tells them

    • There are many requirements that many boys are uncomfortable with. Take the physical fitness requirements for boys that are out of shape, for instance. If we never challenge boys, if the requirements never make them feel uncomfortable at times, they’ll never really change for the better.

  6. Perhaps it might have been less confusing, and less focused on Christianity in specific, if it said ‘Duty to god’ instead of ‘Duty to God’. As it is, many will interpret this to mean the Christian God, despite the explanations above to the contrary.

  7. Frankly all of these changes are driven by adult leaders. They serve adult purposes. I think the comments clearly express the hostility toward religious faithful. As a troop chaplain, an ordained minister and an ASM for years, I find the move to be a shift toward “practical atheism” (practicing a life as if there is no God to give account to even if you confess a belief in a god) and an affirmation of such. If there is no God, then that’s fine. If there is one, then this is a horrible solidification of an errant belief.

    I never proselytize our scouts. At the same time, I don’t check my beliefs at the door to the tent. I would not do that with the other 11 points of the Law and it is ridiculous to expect me to do it here.

  8. Personal belief in God is “personal” and how you believe is your choice.
    Religion is an institutionalized belief commonly shared by a group of people.
    As the BSA is an institution, one can infer that these common actions/beliefs/requirements are in fact religious.
    In my experience, the chartering organizations do push religion on the scouts to the point of hazing, exclusion, and bullying on an organizational level.
    If an Eagle candidate is not religious they had better have a sound bite to get them through the BOR. If a BOR member, adult, or other scout/parent attempts to push their religious beliefs on a scout in my presence we do have a behind the scenes discussion.
    Likewise the scout’s soundbite evolves from Cubs up to Eagle. Ironically, if a boy is not religious BSA might be viewed as forcing their hand to be less than honest.
    I have mentored several Eagles who are not religious, yet they have grown into the finest adults and adult leaders I know.
    As we are coming to grips on diversity BSA should stop pushing this issue of God, religion, and personal beliefs.

  9. In the BSA’s Declaration of Religous Principles, God is referred to as a “He”. I don’t believe God has a gender, am I in violation of BSA policy? Do I need to resign?

    • You don’t actually even need to believe in any gods regardless of what this says. Atheist Buddhists and Unitarians are both accepted, even if there is no longer a Unitarian religious award.

      • There is in fact a BSA-recognized Unitarian religious award program (my Cub Scout has just completed the first level, “Religion and Me”). It is administered by the Unitarian Universalist Scouter’s Organization (UUSO).

        UUSO was established after the Unitarian Universalist Association broke ties with BSA over its discrimination against LGBT Scouts and Scouters.

        My only complaint about the program is that with all shipping and handling costs, the Relgion and Me medal is $28!

      • from the FAQ “However, while membership in an organized religion is not necessary or implied, a Scout does have to ascribe to the declaration of religious principles, and express belief in a higher power.”
        They may be accepted, they just won’t be able to advance…

      • sorry, Atheists have been kicked out of scouting…. Buddhists and Unitarians are “worshipers of God” at least “A” or “many” god(s)…. If you do not believe in some form of higher being (imaginary friend?) you will wind up getting kicked out of the BSA… it’s happened in the past…. If this is something new, please share the bylaws

        • Way late to this discussion but, Mike, you need to do some research. Theravada Buddhism, which is the closest to core Buddhism, and subscribes primarily to the discourses of Buddha, is SPECIFICALLY anti-theistic. It does not view Buddha as a god figure, and Buddha did not recognize a god figure. It’s a philosophical form of spiritually rather than a theistic one.

  10. Curious as to why we are specifically required to ask about “Duty to God” seven times on the trail to Eagle but not specifically promoted to ask about “Duty to country” even once along the way?

    • As mentioned before. Discussion of the Pledge is required in the Scout Rank. Scouts are asked to explain their Duty to country, world and community in the Citizenship merit badges that are required for Eagle. There is an extensive discussion to be done with the merit badge counselor. So they are covered

    • In most troops, they have to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance at every meeting, so in the seven years a kid might be a Scout, that’s probably 300 times minimum they asserted their duty to country.

      • Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not demonstrating a duty, or even discussion of what that means. A duty requires action or service. The BSA only requires a scout to perform service to their community through service hours, but the BSA never requires a scout to perform any duty to our nation.

      • “”They have to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance””…. no, they don’t. There are faiths that view the PoA as bordering on idolatry (promising to be loyal to a piece of cloth?) and a form of “Loyalty Oath” , that is anathemic to their belief. The Supreme Court has ruled (rightly) that the PoA is , indeed, optional in schools. Are the BSA different in it’s “requirements? It is sufficient that the Scout “know” the PoA, but no one should be required to recite it as a proof of their patriotism .

        Good Scouting to you!

  11. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. As a Scouter, I will do what I can to make sure that “Duty to God” does not become confused with “duty to my God and my understanding of Him”.

  12. As a practical matter, there is going to be a discussion, not just a “tell.” Look at where the new requirement is found — right after a “demonstrate” requirement and right before what is currently a “discuss” requirement that relates directly to what a Scout is supposed to demonstrate. Quoting Tenderfoot Rank requirement 9:

    “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Tell how you have done your duty to God and how you have lived four different points of the Scout Law in your everyday life. [1] ______ [2] ______ [3] ______ [4] ______”

    Of course the adult leader is going to ask questions and offer feedback on what the Scout “tells” him or her about duty to God. This requirement is just inviting adult leaders to step into an area that the Declaration of Religious Principle reserves for the Scout’s family and religious organization:

    “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.”

    We should keep leaders out of the business that properly belongs in “the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected.” If BSA wants to keep Duty to God front and center, then in line with the DRP, the advancement requirement should be for the parent to confirm that “definite attention” is being given to the Scout’s religious life.

  13. I used to include questions about “Duty to God” and “Reverence” during Scout Spirit conferences for years. Nothing new. But the anxiety over membership decline, the gay controversy and the rise of Trail Life USA is new. This new “Duty to God” requirement smells like a sop to faith-based families and Charter Organizations in the wake of the gay membership controversies. It isn’t going to help, because “Duty to God” and “Reverence” have become increasingly irrelevant in Scouting. It will never go away, but it will mean less and less as the years go by, and as BSA capitulates to atheism and agnosticism the way Scouting in the UK, Canada, and other places has done. It’s an institutional bait-and-switch con job particularly on traditional and orthodox Christian families and charter organizations.

    • To describe changes in scouting in the UK as a “capitulation to atheism” is to completely misunderstand. Scouting is a movement, which means it is not fixed in stone. In the UK it has regularly adapted to changes in society. Indeed the only time membership took a nose dive was in the late 90s/early 2000s at the end of the longest period (about 25 years) in which there had been no significant changes in the program.

      The introduction of a variation to the promise for atheists was simply another step in that constant evolution of the program. Indeed there had been no specific ban on atheist youth members even before that. Just a requirement to make a promise that referred to one deity or another. And it all simply reflected that atheism is on the increase and that to reject atheist members was to reject around 30% of the UK population. Not a wise thing to do or, to be frank,very scout like.

  14. I know some exceptional atheist Scouts. They take leadership roles, are active in their Units and are very invested in the whole Scouting experience. They are not bad people. They don’t lack moral compasses. They simply don’t believe in God. According to these new guidelines, boys like these have two choices: 1) Confess their lack of faith and risk expulsion from the Scouts, or 2) Lie and say they have faith in order to pass, thereby going against the spirit of Scouting.

    I understand that as a private organization, the BSA can set any kind of membership policies that it likes. But Scouting provides such a great foundation for young boys to grow up to be exceptional men. It’s a real shame that in the wake of the groundbreaking decision to allow openly gay men and boys to participate in Scouting, the BSA has created what to some will be an insurmountable barrier to membership.

    • How does an “atheist” join an organization (with any measure of integrity) when there is a “Duty to God” requirement anyway? Why would he want to? It is akin to me joining the birwatching league or PETA? If there is such a thing as an ATHEIST scout then there is no way he is a good scout. He had to lie to do so. No way that fits any definition of Trustworthy…

      • When tiger cub joins in first grade, I doubt he has an opinion either way. If a scout comes to that realization at 15, he now has to A. lie, or B. quit a program that he has invested ten years in. Just seems wrong.

      • Chris, surely you don’t seriously expect the average grade school or early middle school student to read and understand the 2 page, six point font, “Information for Parents” section of the current BSA Youth Application which contains the excerpt from the DRP, do you?

        I’ve been doing this for quite a number of years, and in my experience, very few parents bother to read what is in reality densely worded contract boilerplate — much less require their kids to read and understand it — before signing their kids up for the program, just as they don’t read the fine print of their cellular phone contract.

        In practice, Scouts often have been in the program for quite a number of years before they start actually comprehending the meaning of “Duty to God” in the Oath. At the same time, many Scouts start questioning their own system of beliefs as they enter the teen years. In these instances, there’s no lying or lack of integrity involved.

        In any event, do we really want to try to drum these kids out of the program because they (in many cases temporarily) question the existence of a higher power and struggle to fulfill these new advancement requirements?

        • Monty, I don’t expect 2d graders to read that. I expect parents to be resonsible. I would not allow my child to join an organization that did not match our core values…say “homeburglars of America” or the “Freemasons” (as an example only). I don’t hate these organizations or the people who particiipate in them.

          I fill out the same paperwork as everyone else and help moms and dads do it too. It is true that faith grows through the years as we come to understand other things.

          Consequently. yes…all true religious seekers question aspects of their faith. That is not the discussion here in the defined atheist. An atheist is BY DEFINITION A-Theos…meaning he has determined there to be no god. He has no more questions. He is his own higher power. he is god…though he’d likely struggle using that term.

          Why affiliate with an organization when one of their CORE VALUES…repeated in every meeting claims to believe and hold dear something you have determined is not true. If I had to declare my “duty to the easter Bunny or Santa Clause” and swear “on MY honor” that I am trustworthy as I do so…I could not be part of that organization. My honor means more than that. As Scouters, we should instill the value of honor in this way in each of the boys we have under our care. Be true to your word.

          Hope that makes sense. I am not angry about this. I just think a person’s word should be his bond…especially as a Scout.

      • As an atheist, duty to god is easy. You have none, it is already done.

        When I ask my sons if they have done there homework, I’m not going to be upset if they didn’t have any. If they have no homework, they have done all of it.

        • An atheist by definition has determined that there is no god. At all. It is a faith position. That differs from being an agnostic (not sure if there is a god), or an animist (god is everywhere and in everything around us.) You speak correctly in saying that you kids have no “duty” to god so they declare a “duty to none” at every oath, Consequently…you cannot be trustworthy in declaring your duty to something/someone that you think does not exist. At least be intellectually honest and say, “I have a duty to me. I am god in my own universe.” At least that levels the discussion playing field and ultimately furthers understanding. Peace.

        • “An atheist is BY DEFINITION A-Theos…meaning he has determined there to be no god. He has no more questions. He is his own higher power. he is god.”

          I’m curious… have you ever actually talked to a real-life atheist? Because you seem a bit confused about what atheism is.

        • Go read any of the marketing materials promoting membership in scouting. Look at or any recruitment flyer. Find one which mentions that you have to sign your agreement to the religious principles in order to join. Go ahead, find one. You can’t. The BSA hides this fact on all promotional materials, then slips it onto a page on the application (which you fill out once your son is excited and ready to join) – Basically the scouts are engaging in deceptive bait and switch advertising, not exactly trustworthy in my point of view.

          If you want to make the argument that the parents agreed to support the religious principles, then post them on every piece of marketing and recruitment material. The scouts won’t do that for a very simple reason – membership would plummet.

          One third of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 do not believe in god. If the scouts want to remain a viable and relevant organization, they will need to change this policy

      • Because children shouldn’t have been indoctrinated at such a young age. If any child believes in God it isn’t because they discovered that on their own. They were told and shown what to believe. It’s sad really. My son is going to find his own way and his own beliefs. He is, and always will be (I hope), a free thinker

        • “”They were told and shown what to believe.””…..””.My son is going to find his own way “”
          William Pernn: “”522. It is a sad Reflection, that many Men hardly have any Religion at all; and most Men have none of their own: For that which is the Religion of their Education, and not of their Judgment, is the Religion of Another, and not Theirs.””

          We start out with our parents/guardians teaching us about their beliefs by rote and by example and by instruction. Mostly, I would suggest by example. If we are lucky, we go on to figure these things out for ourselves, and are affected by our own experiences and research. Small miracles (Jesus used up all the BIG ones!) often give us pause and educate us….
          So it has been, so it will be, I think.

        • I think what you'[re missing is that “atheism” is a POSITIVE POSITION that a person comes to when they determine conclusively that there is no god. That means any god. No Christian God, mulim god, Jewish God, buddhist god, even one of 333 million Hindu gods. No god at all. Atheism is a faith position. It says, “I know what god is and I have determined that there is no god.” This is different than being an agnostic or an animist or even a “doubting Thomas (if you will).” Since one has determined that there is no god…there can be no duty to god.

          Ultimately, some may say they are atheists but use the word incorrectly but, the fact remains…atheism is a faith position. It asserts faith in no one and no thing other than self.

      • It probably should change though. It’s pretty insulting by saying one cannot grow into the “best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” Poppycock!

        Basically the first half of clause 1 needs to go.

    • Like it or not, an atheist Scout is already an oath breaker. The Scout Oath is unchanged since the first edition of the handbook in 1911. (It’s $0.99 in e-book form on Amazon and is fascinating reading.)

      • Unless we have achieved perfection, we are all oath breakers at some point. Let’s not head down that road. The goal is to do your best, to keep trying. If the standard is perfection, we all need to turn in our membership cards.

        • This is simply a response to stifle discussion. We should “go there.” Jordan said an “atheist scout” is an oathbreaker. TRUE! You said we all struggle with (etc.). Those are two different things. One stands against the oath and the other struggles keeping it while doing his best. These are not the same things.

        • Steve’s right. If the oath excludes atheists, then the oath is wrong and needs to change. Defying an unjust law is one of the cornerstones of good citizenship, after all. It demonstrates the type of character young men need to know about.

      • Jordan, Not true. The oath states that a scout must ‘do their best’ to do a duty to God. It does not state they ‘must’ do a duty to god. If they do not believe in god they can still be doing their best. You cannot break the oath if you are doing your best to uphold it.

    • There should be no problem here. As in many parts of Scouting, the adults get in the way . If a Scout sees his “Duty to God ” as fulfilled by NOT believing in him/her/it (higher power) , then, to my mind, that requirement has been met. I have ,in my career as a Scout Chaplain, met religious Scouts who become atheist, and atheist Scouts who have found a faith. Statistics? Don’t got any, just my hearsay…
      The best “Scouts Own ” services have been just that, planned and held by the Scouts, with little adult participation. The Scouts seem much more able to easily understand and accommodate their bud’s idiosyncracies of faith than the adults.
      Yes, the Scouts have to be nudged to do them, but they are the better for doing them and we are better for letting them do them.

  15. I find this to be a horrible idea. As a scout, I was dually enrolled in two troops. One was the local military base troop where my dad was stationed and the other was the LDS ward where my family’s recoreds were assigned. We were not what you would call active parishioners and as an adult I ended up leaving that faith altogether. As a youth I was constantly berated for not attending the troop’s church (LDS) of which I was a member of record to instead attend the base chapel with most of the friends from the troop in which i was active. I had two scoutmasters of different faiths and was constantly getting mixed signals as a youth. Although the dual enrollment policy has changed I still struggle with religionists in Scouting.

    Recently at a district camporee in which I was leading I was berated by a local ASM for not offering a scouts own service. I had left that option open to do at the troop level. It became personal when she called me an anti-christian “leftist” because I stated that I felt duty to god, however its understood was personal and should be left as such. It turned into an inquisition when I said I believed in god but that I use empathy, compassion and the Oath and Law as a moral compass.

    This new requirement although intended to emphasize the first point of the Oath and the last point of the Law is going to drive a lot of scouts and their families away from the program as well intended individuals fail to check their own religious passion in respect to another.

    Honestly, religion in this country is a hot topic and its gotten to the point where some are unable to realize that of all things, their religious freedom ends where anothers begin. If we cannot trust our legislatures to respect our religious freedoms how can we expect scoutmasters, ASMs or CO’s to do the same.

  16. The importance of spiritual life has always been a central tenant of Scouting, but I must agree with some commentators here that the BSA is over-emphasizing this to the point of being counter productive. Semantics and apologetics aside, it is obvious that this language is exclusive. There are many world religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, who would see the repeated use of the term God as a shorthand for a branch of Judeo-Christian beliefs. It is pretty clear who this is pitched to and why. It is unfortunate that the BSA feels the need to move farther from its secular founding principles to mollify members of the councils. It is a rear-guard action to be sure.

  17. Problem I see is the word God over something like a supreme being or something else. The word God carries to much baggage to many religions.

    I can see just the use of the word implying one type of religion over another.

    Besides in my mind way to often we look for verbal rather then physical actions. I’m sure many scouts act compassionate etc. to others and never even think that is religious.

  18. No big deal. We’ve been doing this “requirement” for years already. Our Troop has won the Pope Paul VI quality unit award for the past 7 years and Duty to God is part of what we do regardless of the scout’s individual faith as we have scouts who are not Catholic.

  19. “A Scout’s declaration that he does not believe in God is grounds to deny rank advancement and could affect his continued membership in the troop.”

    I agree with other commenters that BSA has created what to some will be an insurmountable barrier to membership, and it discriminates against good scouts.

    Take this example:

    Scout No. 1 expresses his faith in a higher power by explaining that he believes in an intergalactic overlord named Xenu and the existence of invisible aliens that are embedded in his body. He gets rank advancement with flying colors, and becomes a leader in the troop.

    Scout No. 2 says that he has attended church for many years, and still does his best to live according to the Golden Rule, but has recently had doubts such that he no longer believes in the existence of a supernatural being or higher power. He’s denied rank advancement and may be booted out of the troop.

    I’m totally OK with the treatment that Scout No. 1 receives. But what about Scout No. 2? Is that really the best that BSA can do?

    • Scout No. 2 should have an adjournment of his SM conference or BOR, to give the unit leaders time to discuss the situation with his parents. One possible outcome of the discussion is that the family understands, accepts and supports the youth’s beliefs, which should result in the BSA’s non-sectarian Declaration of Religious Principle being reviewed and applied, putting the youth’s advancement and membership in jeopardy

      All of this is nothing new. Spirituality has been an important component of Scouting since the beginning. I’m certain the Declaration of Religious Principle has been part of the membership process for decades. Bryan could probably come up with the exact date for us.

      For my part, I make sure that every recruiting opportunity includes a quick discussion of religion and Scouting; I being every Scouting event, meeting and meal with an interfaith prayer; we conduct youth-led interfaith services on overnight campouts, featuring up to a dozen world religions; and during boards of review, I enquire of Scouts about how the twelfth point of the Scout Law has helped them in the Scouting experience During all, I’m diligent to not force my beliefs upon any other member. It’s the scout’s choice – and always remember, our program insists that a choice be made.

    • What if? theory statements are for children and always end up with absurdity. Adults live in the practical world. In the practical application of this policy the question is how the scout has lived his duty to God. It is just like asking what good deed he did today.
      Questioning ones faith is not a bad thing and may be that the scout is looking for guidance as he becomes more aware.

      • I don’t think it is the intent of the requirement to have someone question their faith nor is it the intent of the requirement to make the Scoutmaster into some kind of spiritual adviser or guide. The intent of the requirement is to have the boy tell how he does his duty to God.

        • Bill, I was answering the hypothetical Scout 2 in the original post by JA quoted her to eliminate confusion.
          “Scout No. 2 says that he has attended church for many years, and still does his best to live according to the Golden Rule, but has recently had doubts such that he no longer believes in the existence of a supernatural being or higher power. He’s denied rank advancement and may be booted out of the troop.”
          My response to that is – Questioning ones faith is not a bad thing and may be that the scout is looking for guidance as he becomes more aware.

          A stated in my original post, the practical application of this policy the question is how the scout has lived his duty to God. It is just like asking what good deed he did today.

    • We’ve had Eagle candidates who voiced doubts, but still went to their family’s or friend’s church or youth group because they still found them to be acceptable fonts of moral instruction.

      One scout put it “I pray in my own way, and try to do right by everyone else.”

      Not being in much of a position to throw stones, we’ve accept those boys’ statements of faith at face value.

      So, we are now requested to have this discussion at an earlier age. I think this will help life scouts from being blind-sided by the question. It may cause us to loose a few more scouting family who feel they can no longer be “silent partners” on a religious front. Or, we may have a few boys hang around the troop having fun and acquiring skills while not bothering with advancement because they’d rather not broach the question for their next rank.

  20. Well it appears I may have to pull my Tiger cub out then. Like other parents in the BSA org who aren’t religious, or don’t actively practice religion, we didn’t really think much about the “duty to god” requirement, thinking some mild lip service is a small price to pay for all of the cool opportunities offered to my kid. I didn’t think it would ever become an issue, but now I am stuck in a position where either my 6 year old will have to lie, not be able to advance, or we suddenly embrace religion. Had I known about this transition 2 months ago when we joined, this decision would have been made then quite easily, now it’s going to be difficult since he is loving his den.

    Look, I get that the majority of people follow some type of religion, but in this day in age, to exclude non-religious folks is a hard pill to swallow.

      • But once a cub scout becomes a Boy Scout, he will have to quit or lie if he does not have a belief in god. Doesn’t seem right.

        • Agreed. Better to rip off the band-aid quickly now that he is relatively new, and not 5 years later after he realizes the white lie he has been telling has some heavy consequences.

        • The F.A.Q portion states: “However, while membership in an organized religion is not necessary or implied, a Scout does have to ascribe to the declaration of religious principles, and express belief in a higher power.” This does not say any specific God or religion. The Wiccan beliefs would qualify. A statement articulating the wonder of nature and living by common moral principles seem to fit without stating the standard membership of a church. For some, it seems being a church member is more important than living within moral principles.

        • We actually had a boy pass his Eagle Board stating that he was Wiccan. He made a case for the nature relationship and scouting. Because he had given it enough thought, he was approved by some pretty hard core church types on the board.

      • Actually Bill, it is something for a 6 year old Cub Scout has to worry about. All the cub scout ranks have been similarly modified to discuss god, goddess, God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Divine, Lord, Allah, infinite, higher power, spirit, …

        This change is not limited to Boy Scouts.

    • “Like other parents in the BSA org who aren’t religious, or don’t actively practice religion, we didn’t really think much about the “duty to god” requirement, thinking some mild lip service is a small price to pay for all of the cool opportunities offered to my kid.”
      This wraps it all up rather nicely. People don’t think that it matters. Well, it does. Says so right on the application form we all sign. I’m glad we’re finally going to be who we say we are.

      • The number of down votes is amazing and very telling. People just want to give “lip service” anymore to anything they find inconvenient. We are supposed to be building character and teaching boys how to “make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” This requires more than “lip service”. It is a full system of beliefs and values, and I don’t just mean religious beliefs. It means principles, something this country is forgetting. It means having a backbone. For some reason, believing in something, having values, and being passionate about living them (again, not just religious beliefs, but your own principles) is now akin to being a bully. I”m sorry. If I say I believe in something (as a value to live my life by), then I believe in it. I’m not going to just give lip service to it. My beliefs can’t be boxed up and brought out only at certain times. They must permeate my life and how I act at all times. This is what is meant by the requirement to “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your everyday life.” A requirement that has been the same for EVERY SINGLE RANK since long before the new Duty to God change. This is where the disconnect is coming from. Too many people want to just slide through life, not committing to anything, giving lip service to anything. We are supposed to be teaching Scouts to be more than this. To have values and be passionate about them. Scouting is Fun with Intent, not just Fun.

    • I would thumbs up Jarvis comment more if possible.
      My son is Star, we are not ‘religious’ people by many folks standards, and I’m not the least bit concerned with the req. My son is 14 and questioning everything including the existence of God. To that I say, good for him. If that is how he feels, I expect him to say so. I’m not worried that he will be denied advancement, the req is that he ‘tells’, and that’s it. There is no minimum standard, it’s not a demonstration or two way discussion. It’s his personal take and opinion in response to a question.
      Don’t give up on scouting because of this. I have seen so many great things my son has managed to accomplish, and how much he has grown, what a truly good, decent, responsible, thoughtful and considerate young man he is turning into, and I am confident in giving much of the credit to scouting!
      IMHO, scouts is just like any group anywhere else, you just find the troop that’s a good fit for you and your family 🙂

      • However BSA believes that your son “is not much good..” unless he believes in God. No matter how much good a boy does he is looked down upon by the BSA as a lessor person unless he also believes in a supernatural being.

  21. I’ve known atheist/agnostic scouts that were some of the best Scouts I’ve ever met, good leaders, great and moral people. At the same time I’ve met religious Scouts who were godawful; “reverent” was the only point of the Scout Law they really followed. Scouts come in all different types and when we exclude an entire group based off of their beliefs, we risk losing out on some great people. I’m not saying Duty to God should not still be valued in the Scouts, but there should without a doubt be some form of compromise for those who may not believe in a God. But no, let’s instead emphasize Duty to God more than any other part of Scouting, to please the Religious Conservatives who are already mad at us for allowing gay scouts. Let’s let ourselves as an organization continue on the path to being old-fashioned and stale, and simply watch as the world goes on without us.

  22. One of the issues raised is what to do when a Scout says he does not believe in God. This is a hard topic and deserves careful consideration. 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 might – on any given day – 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.

    • “… If a boy believes in God but does not do good to others, we would not reject him from Scouts;…”

      This is a flawed assumption. We’ve shown plenty of boys the door for being ill mannered … only taking them back if they would agree that to change their attitude and behavior towards.

      Boys who deny an obligation to help others or keep themselves physically strong lose their standing quite readily.

    • I almost have no words. Scouting is not a religion. Your description of the purpose or goal of religion is erroneous. (Kinda my wheelhouse since it is what I do). All of your examples, which seem rhetorical are of religious people with some belief in God. Even doubt is belief on some level. What is wholly incompatible is the conclusion that there is not such a thing as god…or the acknowledgment that there is a god and a refusal to do your duty toward him/her/it.

      • So my simple question, which has never been answered in any meaningful way is why? Why is it incompatible to come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as god? Would your answer be different if the scout said he didn’t know if there was a god and didn’t really care? Basically, why do we require a belief in god or a higher power?

        • So when you raise your right hand and make an oath or promise, it’s meaningless? That’s too bad.

        • Steve. A duty to God is incompatible with the assertion that god does not exist, thus stating a duty to no one. I cannot explain why scouting has such a requirement, but it seems to be the natural order in every culture I’ve visited and is consistent with the teachings of the Bible. God created man with a bit of a homing mechanism to know Him. Nonetheless, atheism is wholly inconsistent with an affirmation that you have a duty to God.

        • If you can not explain why Scouting has a requirement, maybe it’s time we take a look at that requirement and see if we really need it.

        • I’ve had “I don’t know, and I don’t care” scouts.

          Generally, they abandon that line of reasoning when I say “I don’t know if your you’re really in this troop, and I’ll probably stop caring once my suspicions are confirmed.” Don’t worry, by boys understand sarcasm well enough to get that what I’m really saying is apathy is not an option.

          This assumption that adult leaders will always countenance some sanctimonious near-do-well is false. The truth is that in such a large organization, there is wide variability. But in general, we expect scouts to treat their world as if it is a gift from a higher power, and one of their tasks in life is to figure out how to give that power its due.

          Thus the choice of “Reverent” for the 12 point versus “Religious” or “Faithful”.

        • If you can trust wikipedia, apathy does pay a role. I guess I still don’t see why these people should not be Scouts. Sorry for the cut and paste, but it is a decent explanation:

          Apatheism (/ˌæpəˈθiːɪzəm/ a portmanteau of apathy and theism/atheism), also known as pragmatic atheism or practical atheism, is acting with apathy, disregard, or lack of interest towards belief or disbelief in a deity or deities.

          An apatheist is someone who is not interested in accepting or denying any claims that gods exist or do not exist. An apatheist lives as if there are no gods and explains natural phenomena without reference to any deities. The existence of gods is not rejected, but may be designated unnecessary or useless; gods neither provide purpose to life, nor influence everyday life, according to this view.[1]

          In other words, an apatheist is someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to their life. Some apatheists hold that if it were possible to prove that God does or does not exist, their behavior would not change.[2]

        • Well, if you don’t care … it should be no problem if I insist you should! 😉

          But my reply was not addressing apatheism. I’ve met plenty of folks for whom that term may apply … folks who are gregarious towards others and apathetic toward their religion.

          I was addressing the false dichotomy that implies scouters would countenance boys who, say, insist they needn’t help others at all times while banishing the a boy who insists he has no obligation to a higher power. No amount of religious fever offsets a bad kid. Either he changes or he leaves.

          The real problem that you want to rightly pose: it seems unfair to treat the “well-mannered atheist” in the same way as we treat the “brute zealot”. Even in Christian youth groups, the former is given more respect than the latter.

  23. Of the three G’s – Gays, God, and Girls, this is number two. Soon we will be able to accept all youth, regardless of their faith or lack of. The day will come. Then the push will be on accepting girls into the program at starting at the Cub level. Kind of funny how most other countries have figured this out. But hey, ‘Merica. Why is it we seem to be behind the curve on so many things?

    • There are many packs across the country with girls in them already just like their were roops with gay Scouts and Leaders and there are non-faith based chartered organizations that avoid the Duty to God completly. IF BSA wants to make it another 100 yeas they will back off on the 3 Gs. More importantly if they want to keep their 501(c)3 and sponsors.

      There are far too many leaders who insert their beliefs into the Duty to God and make it much more then it is intended. I have been to literly 100s of interfaith services and I have never seen one that was truly neutral. Nealy all are Christian and all were Western singular God.

      • There are packs with girls in them? Where? Oh, I suspect I must ask for clarification. By using the word “girl” do you mean: 1, an immature human female, who has undeveloped female organs and two X chromosomes; or 2, an immature human male, who has undeveloped male organs, one X chromosome and one Y chromosome, and whose parents allow him to play “dress up” and pretend he is something he is not?

        • My guess is they are unofficial members. taking part in den and pack activities, doing advancements, maybe even wearing the uniform. The would be getting the full experience, but would not have any official registration or advancement records. I don’t know of any, but i don’t doubt they exist.

          Yesterday’s Scout, I think you’re comment is out of line.

        • wow – I think someone hit a nerve. I think Steve is more in line with what is happening in many Packs – I have seen at least two in the past year. It does not bother me in the least, Cubs have always been a family program and the international Scouting movement has no issue with coed. Not sure why BSA is so concerned.

        • Steve, I’m just trying to understand what you mean when you use the word “girl” – nowadays it isn’t what chromosomes you’re born with, nor your anatomy, it’s how you “identify” – whatever that means.

        • Yesterday, I felt that your comment was demeaning to transgender people, that is all. If I am wrong, ignore my comment. I don’t really think I am wrong though.

          Have a great day.

        • Steve, were your assertion true I’d be “denigrating” something that doesn’t exist. These people who claim to be “transgendered” are seeking attention. My youngest daughter once decided she was a puppy. She’d run around the house on all fours, make barking noises in response to questions, and even tried to eat from a bowl without using her utensils. Her desire to be a puppy did not make her a puppy and we did not encourage her in her behavior; we did not treat her as a puppy because she was not (and is not) a puppy. Same with boys who want to be girls and girls who want to be boys. No matter how badly they may want to be something they are not, they never will be, except in their own minds and in the minds of those who enable their behavior.

    • There’s nothing wrong with girls. 🙂 They need a quality program as well, and Girl Scouting is simply too focused on cookies — imagine the popcorn sales but with actual merit badges and rank advancement linked to popcorn sales. GSUSA is a good fun organization, but it’s kind of focused (organizationally) on different goals than the BSA.

      • We moved from the UK when our daughter was 8. She’d been an active member of scouting (with her brother) for 2 years and was dismayed she couldn’t do the same in the USA. She tried the Girl Scouts for a few years, but lost interest as they rarely did ‘fun’ things like the boys. There was a complete lack of infrastructure to support adventure.

        I would welcome the removal of the ‘B’ from BSA.

    • I guess I’ll throw this in here as I dont know where or who to mention it… What about our special needs scouts? NO religion is an absolute it is what, who, how we believe… try that out on someone Autistic who’s family was asked not to attend church any longer because of a more severely afflicted sibling. Duty to God is clear in it’s being personal when there is NO way to explain belief systems to a fact based mind. Will my soon to be Eagle scout be denied his rank after all his work (and he did NO substitutions, he earned it all like all his fellow scouts) because he is incapable of understanding the “religious” aspect and putting that into words.
      This is troubling on so many levels

  24. Glad to see this being brought into the troop level, let me tell you, the number of times I’ve ended up dealing with deeply religious conversations with scouts at all ages is getting to be kind of ridiculous. If a scout doesn’t get a chance to express thoughts concerning their religion and what duty to God actually means to them, what they do to fulfill that part of the oath and law, in the troop, you can bet that there’s a camp counselor who’s had at least a few talks with them about it. As one such counselor, let me tell you, this is not a comfortable conversation to us, since we really, really don’t want to seem like we’re overstepping our bounds. Boys need to be able to discuss religion at each stage of their trail to Eagle, and it needs to not be just with the camp counselor they look up to. That should rightfully be the place that their SM holds.

    • I thought it was Duty to God? You say the Scout must be able to “discuss religion;” That is exactly the problem, you are taking it further, it is not religion but god. I would say you should not be a counselor if you do not see the difference

  25. “Spirituality has been an important component of Scouting since the beginning.” True enough. But look what has happened in the U.K., the birthplace of scouting: a new version of the scout oath “will now add to the suite of alternative versions to ensure we are inclusive to adults who are humanist or have no affirmed faith who wish to volunteer for Scouting, and young people who are humanist or with no affirmed faith who wish to join Scouting.”

    “It’s the scout’s choice.” Is it really? Can a scout force himself to believe in a higher power when he’s having profound and legitimate doubts? Sure, he can say the words that the scout leader wants to hear, and thereby earn rank and stay in the troop. But can a scout force himself to believe it? Of course not. All that’s really happening is punishing scouts who are honest and brave enough to admit that they have doubts.

    It’s sad to see the BSA whipping up a witch hunt to drive out scouts who don’t pass their outdated religious test. What a poor use of their time.

  26. Was further thinking about this. Maybe a better idea since we are the suppose be leaders. In stead of asking the boy about his duty to God we should as the boy’s how our examples has helped him full fill there duty to God. Might be a very interesting discussion.

  27. The requirement “will discuss ‘duty to God’ at each rank” is a way for a scout to work out what their personal beliefs are. Some youth have no idea what to believe at a young age. Some older scouts still do not know what to believe. Some adults don’t know what to believe yet. I think the SM or Committee is helping a boy to explore what is out there with regards to religion and to make some sort of conclusion if they believe a certain way or not. I think it is an open ended question.

    • Kelly, to quote Bryan’s original post, the requirement is, “Tell how you have done your duty to God. Not demonstrate, discuss, show or prove.” This is different from what you’ve written, ““will discuss ‘duty to God’ at each rank.”

    • It is rather bold to think the SM or Committee are qualified for these discussions. SM, ASM committee members and MBC are not neccessarily qualified for this, they are not trained to be religious leaders or educators. Yes some are but some are as bright as midnight.

  28. The real problem with this requirement is that it violates the Declaration of Religious Principle and the DRP’s protection of the religious privacy of members.

    Interestingly, a long time ago the Boy Scouts of America developed its own version of the the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is found in the Declaration of Religious Principle. The DRP says generally that members should recognize an obligation to God; but then it gets all First Amendment-ish, stating that “[BSA] is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward [a member’s] 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.”

    In other words, the Declaration of Religious Principle protects members from intrusion into the private details of what their home and organizational religious training consists of, what their duty to God is, and how they fulfill that duty. So it is not the leader’s business or the unit’s business or the council’s business or the BSA’s business _how_ the member does his or her duty to God. The DRP limits any inquiry to simply _whether_ the member is doing his or her duty to God. Anything beyond that is a private matter between the member, the family, and the member’s religious organization or group.

  29. As a scouting leader, I have gone through a personal change since I was a youth. Born into a Catholic family, I slowly lost faith, first in the Catholic church, then in Christianity, then in God and the idea of religion itself. However, as an atheist adult, I still think that I do my duty, “to God,” by living in a way that was taught in the Bible, the Qu’ran and many other Sacred texts: treat others how I wish to be treated. To respect others, to not kill, or steal. And to respect the beliefs of others. While I may not believe in any one of 4200 historical “Gods,” I can live by the teachings that many of them held. And I think that is the real “duty to God” the Oath and Law teach.

    • “However, as an atheist adult, I still think that I do my duty, “to God,” by living in a way that was taught in the Bible, the Qu’ran and many other Sacred texts: treat others how I wish to be treated.”
      We’re talking out of both sides of our mouth here, aren’t we? How can you do your duty “to God” if you think no “God” exists, and why would you say that the texts are sacred? If you’re an atheist, how can you sign an application form? I don’t know much about atheists, but I’d assume that they’d think the texts are all lies and made-up fairy tales.

      • How can you do your duty “to God” if you think no “God” exists, and why would you say that the texts are sacred?

        This is pretty close to the definition of reverent. Respect the beliefs of others. if someone doesn’t think there is a god, he can be reverent and realize that other people do and be respectful of that. If I were to think your bible is just made up stories, I still respect your right to believe that it’s true, and will be respectful. So many people don’t seem to get that.

  30. I agree that the requirements, as worded, seem to be biased toward Judeo-Christian religious beliefs, but the FAQ does clarify the purpose: “The idea is for the Scout to have a self-reflection about belief and reverence.” I like that component of “character development.” I like that a Scout with no formal religion at home should talk to his parents or religious/spiritual/thoughtful leaders/teachers/adults of his choosing and should explore his ideas about his relationship to the universe, his place in the world. His answers may not lead him to the same God I believe in, but then, the DRP states that the BSA is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.”

    So his “God” might be the same as Herbert Spencer’s: the sum-total of all natural laws.

    Or it could be more like the Buddhists, who would be granted a free pass on this requirement (A Buddhist Scout might reply: “I meditate each day.”), but who would have to perform some mental reservation and private redefinition of this passage in the Declaration of Religious Principle: “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.” Buddhism lacks a creator deity, yet I doubt that, say, a Lutheran Scoutmaster would hold up the advancement of a Scout who gives that answer.

    More generally, I’ve always maintained that “A Scout is reverent” should not only describe our endless search for clarification of our relationship with the infinite universe, and our respect for the answers that others have come up with on similar journeys of exploration. It should also include the feeling of awe and humility when looking up at the night sky in the desert, or walking through a grove of sequoias, or touring one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution.

    These new requirements (actually, specifications of a long-standing requirement) may cause some problems of interpretations, and the BSA should do more beyond the FAQs to provide guidance to Scout leaders who come across Scouts who have not had religious instruction and parents who haven’t had these kinds of discussions with their sons.

    • Hi Pierre. I agree with you. The BSA chooses words that are from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and has done a poor job of choosing wording that reflects the changing landscape of religion in the United States as we have more and more religions from across the globe practiced within our country.

  31. How do we square this with openly homosexual scouts pursuing homosexual relationships that are clearly against the tenets of every major faith? Just ignore that fact?

    • And right here is the exact reason why these requirements are such a bad idea. @Ankylus would have her religious beliefs trump that homosexual scout’s beliefs. Why else would she even bring up “against the tenets of every major faith”? Supposedly we aren’t supposed to care what the other major faiths believe, right??

      No, what’s going to happen is that too many leaders like this one are going to believe that the Scout’s beliefs aren’t good enough.

      • Interesting. Why do you assume I am a woman? My handle is studiously gender neutral.

        Also, if you are going to participate, do so in good faith with intellectual honesty. I did not say one word about my personal faith. My position is predicated on my assessment of the positions of the world’s major faiths on this point. If you want to traverse that assertion, that is fair game. But nowhere is my personal faith represented.

        Your first and second questions are inter-related and show a lack of comprehensive reasoning. If we are to concern ourselves with a scout’s duty to God, and if we are to evaluate whether they comport with their duty to God, then we must necessarily consider the tenets of the major faiths of the world. How else can you do it? How can you rationally discuss one’s duty to God if one cannot consider what one’s faith considers that to be?

        I do agree that many leaders will believe that a scout’s beliefs aren’t enough, or aren’t “right”. However, you know nothing about me and slander me for no good reason. A scout is friendly, courteous, and kind and your response is none of those things. I think you might look to your own house before criticizing mine.

      • You confuse denominations for faiths. Some denominations of the faith known as Christianity, namely Episcopalians in the US flavor and Anglicans in the British flavor, are indifferent to homosexuality to the point of ordaining clergy in openly homosexual marriages (even without marriage). However, if you look across Christianity as a whole, this is certainly a very minority position. Which other major religions are not opposed to the homosexual act? Certainly all the religions of the God of Abraham are, which includes by far the two largest faiths on the planet.

  32. This looks to me as opening another can of worms that will marginalize the BSA and cause disagreement amongst ourselves. SO sad.

  33. Well I’m an agnostic as is my husband. My child has absolutely no religious affiliation. My child is however a very very good person as are my husband and I. I also happen to know that our scout leader is an atheist. I also know of many “sins” and indescretions of adult members of our pack. Yet my amazing son will not be able to advance ranks if he answers honestly that he does not believe in God. That, in my opinion, is a total shame and utterly hypocritical. My son doesn’t lie, he is an annoyingly follower of rules, he gives to the homeless and wants to rescue every abused animal. He stands up for friends who are
    Bullied. Yet he’s not Good enough to be a scout because he doesn’t believe in a higher power? That’s kinda horrible

    • Wouldn’t it be hypocritical if the leaders of an organization who sincerely believe that theism is good for their country swept that under the rug?
      If one thinks one’s religion is the most valuable thing they have to offer in this life, what heinous beasts would they be if if they withheld it?

      With something as intimate as scouting, we all are made aware of one anothers’ faults (presuming they actually are faults by some objective measure) … I’m not sure how that’s relevant to the discussion.

      I do hate to see otherwise noble young people feel they do not have a place in an organization that they’ve grown to trust. But, when that happens, proof of goodness comes in parting ways and putting their energy in an independent scouting organization that hews to their values.

    • Excellent question. The pantheistic person doesn’t necessarily see the world as a gift from God, but rather sees God emanating through all things material. (That might actually hew closely to the meaning of “God” in the ancient West — before monks imbued it with personal overtones.)
      A scout’s “duty” in this context might involve something as simple as meditating on some material focal point, leaving a sacrifice, or performing some creative activity under the counsel of a spiritual guide. It would be interesting to hear from such a scout over the years.

    • At our summer camp, (which isn’t just for boy scouts), we rotate through a few different non-denomination graces before meals, one of which is the Scoutmaster’s grace:
      “And now, may the Great Scoutmaster, of all good Scouts, be the guide of our camp. And to help us better to be prepared, and to accept our thanks.”

      What’s kind of funny is how many of the campers say “Great Scoutmasters”, plural. It drives some people, (youth and adults), nuts. In looking back at the ones who get annoyed by the plural Great Scoutmasters I think that those are the people I wouldn’t want having this conversation with any of my Scouts.

  34. An even easier approach; the direction says “tell”, so I plan to instruct scouts to “tell” it to thier notebook or thier own family. Thier religious beliefs are none of my business just as my athieism is none of theirs. I have always found it ridiculous and insulting for BSA to make presumptions about my character and citizenship based on my disbelief of the existance of some magical, all-seeing entity. Just another thing to “pretend” about, like welcoming gays or illegal aliens in the troop.

  35. What a confusing message from an organization that doesn’t know what it believes. Agree with them or not, at least Trail Life has convictions.

  36. And so the next big controversy percolates within BSA. Once you leave the straight and narrow, it’s hard to get back on track. i read this thread with a wry grin on my lips. First BSA threw out “A Scout is Clean” and “Morally Straight” to accommodate the people who claimed they never knew about the membership standards regarding homosexuality. (Yes, they are still in the Law and Oath, but only lip service is given.) Soon, very soon, “Duty to God” will fall by the wayside. Instead of BSA being a model for the youth of society and something to which to aspire, now BSA hastens to conform to the society at large and drags itself down instead of working to uplift society. The buckaroos in Texas ought to be proud of what they’ve done to this organization. Keep chipping at the foundation, guys. Pretty soon you’re going to see what is unsustainable. In the meantime, though, frolic and revel with every corporate dollar that is donated. Have a good time visiting the La Cima Club. The Great Falling Away continues apace.

  37. I’ve seen several posts that basically say, “But what if a boy is questioning, isn’t sure, should he get kicked out for saying there is no God?” Well, if a boy says that there absolutely isn’t a God, then he’s no longer questioning, he’s made a decision — the logical train of postulated events I’ve seen in some posts doesn’t quite run smoothly. If he’s questioning, though, then that’s not reason to kick him out, in my opinion.

    • Not as I see it. I have seen Scouts denied their Eagle (or having to restate their statement of religious belief) for claiming they live their life according to the Golden Rule.

    • I have not seen it in my district. But I’ve read of it happening.

      Around a campfire, I’ve been known to ask a scout to extend the topic with questions like “What do you think makes that rule so golden?”

      • Districts and Councils do things very different across the country. And, remember the COR have a voice and a vote, they need to use it more.

    • Best wishes! Do take a positive tack with this and let us know which (if any) scouting organization you’ve chosen to affiliate with.

    • Is that really duty to God or just a cunning means of survival in a social context?

      One thing that scouting tries to teach is to view the world as a gift, our place in the universe as privileged, and our responsibilities to others as something other than a means to preserve self, country, or our species.

      Some atheists give ascent to that world view. Others, not so much …

      • Some Christians give ascent to that world view. Others, not so much …
        Some Muslims give ascent to that world view. Others, not so much …
        Some Jews give ascent to that world view. Others, not so much …
        Some give ascent to that world view. Others, not so much …

      • Love the impish parroting strategy … so novel. And proof of ignorance.

        The source texts of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and every interpretation that I’ve read gives ascent to that world view. Similar commentaries from other religions seemed to have influences Baden Powell’s thoughts on the matter.

        Writings from an atheist standpoint vary widely, but often fall back on self-preservation as the only reason for stewardship. Others assert that there is a nobler motivation “out there” but refute that it can or should be embodied in some cosmic power.

  38. Scouts and leaders should have to prove they are chosen by God to be able to stay in the Scouting program. Anyone not believing in and testifying about the glory of God should be publicly exiled from Scouting as they are sinners.

  39. 1) BSA is not a “Christian Organization”. Not only, at least. I have had to disabuse more than one Scouter of that idea. B-P got into trouble at Scouting’s birth with that misunderstanding.
    2) BSA is not a religion, despite what your spouse might say of your activities 🙂 .
    3) BSA is a “religious organization”, as evidenced by it’s definitions and proclamations and evinced requirements for members.
    4) The Scout Leader, as defined above, must accept (hear?) what the Scout says about his “duty to God” without judgement or declaiming. At least up to (and including?) the Scout’s Eagle application?
    5) BSA is not , and should not be , in the business of Religious Education, in any form. Faith Encouragement (see B-P’s writings), maybe, but no specifics.
    6) From “Some Fruits of Solitude” by William Penn:
    “”522. It is a sad Reflection, that many Men hardly have any Religion at all; and most Men have none of their own: For that which is the Religion of their Education, and not of their Judgment, is the Religion of Another, and not Theirs.””
    Our Scouts should be, I think, in the process of that determination. THAT is what we should be encouraging. The outcome is not ours to require or judge.
    7) It was noted earlier here, that many faiths have the attitude that their’s is the only one true faith, that all others are false and worthy only of dismissal if not outright destruction. This is very sad. If a faith is true, it needs no outward defense.
    From “Some Fruits of Solitude” by William Penn:
    “”519. The Humble, Meek, Merciful, Just, Pious and Devout Souls, are everywhere of one Religion; and when Death has taken off the Mask, they will know one another, tho’ the divers Liveries they wear here make them Strangers.””
    8) In many ways, faith/religion/God is much like the carny operators comment: “Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer choice”. All of our faith (or lack of it? see Romans 7:15 and Mark9:24.) is judged not by thee and me.
    9) Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Sunni, Jew, Wiccan, Pastafarian, Mennonite, Quaker, Pagan, Rastafarian.., Jehovah’s Witness, … ” “Show me what a man does with his hands that I may know his heart”” (Amish adage) . What is the Scout DOING with his faith , or BECAUSE of it? There’s your evidence of his faith,
    10) Let’s go camp somewhere. I need an open fire to smell….. Look up “The Sacrament of Fire” by John Oxenham….

    • “Show me what a man does with his hands that I may know his heart”. It is too bad that the BSA doesn’t just leave it at that instead of hitting us over the head with a sledgehammer and creating an environment that can lead to adults inserting their religion. 40 years ago as a scout, religion wasn’t part of our troop’s program, but I enjoyed going to chapel at scout camp. As far as I can remember, I never discussed my faith with an adult scouter back then. I discussed religion, God and faith with the minister at my church and within our family, and with a couple of peers, but not with scout leaders.

    • And now, for this requirement, a scout meeting the requirement can say, “I discuss religion, God and faith with my minister, in our family, and with a couple friends.”

      • You miss the point. The requirement was not part of my experience in scouting as a youth. That was the point.

        In addition, “duty” is an action or service. Discussing religion may or may not meet the requirements of a religion. For my faith, you would actually have to do something, like help others, for example. Oh, wait. That’s already part of scouting. So let’s force religion down people’s throat. That will win lots of converts to religion and to scouting.

        • “You miss the point. The requirement was not part of my experience in scouting as a youth. That was the point.”

          That’s interesting. My experience in Scouting (ending in 1977, so about the same time frame as yours) was full of Duty to God.

          My unit was chartered by the United Methodists, but very few of us Scouts (and none of the Scouters) attended that church. But every single Sunday that the troop was together (whether for a camping trip or a pancake breakfast fundraiser) we had a Scout’s Own.

          I guess even back then different troops operated differently.

      • I agree that the micromanaging of behavior through the advancement method is a nag. 40 years ago:

        We didn’t have to invite someone to scouting for rank advancement.
        We didn’t have to count service hours to the absurdest minutiae .
        Camping nights could include those you did with your non-scout buddies, not just your troop.
        We didn’t have to memorize an acronym for an inferior teaching method.
        If we taught a scout skill, nobody cared how we did it as long as our patrol would look/act sharp. We certainly didn’t have to prove we did it for Life rank.

        Nobody trusts that SMs are doing a good job, so the good folks at National increase the number of check boxes.

        So, this is either one more base to cover … or the frog’s boiling slowly.

  40. Change is good, but why “fix” something that is not broken. There has always been the 12th law…..A Scout is Reverent. Simply asking “What does being Reverent mean to you and how has it affected your life?” has been the standard at the eagle boards my father chaired. Keep it simple, the Eagle candidates for the most part are children and not adult philosophers.

  41. So I am pretty sure that this is Discrimination…The US Constitutions says Freedom of Religion and as part of that is the to not be part of a religion or believe in God or higher being. BSA needs to look at what other Scouting Organizations have started to do…this includes allowing Atheists into Scouting and we should follow that.

    • You are confused, Mr. Trice. The definition of “discrimination” is wider than you think, and includes the concepts of making distinctions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in “The Boy Scouts of America v. Dale” in 2000 that private associations are free to set their own membership standards according to their freedom of association. To make such a distinction is not a form of illegal discrimination. People are not forced to join the Boy Scouts. If they don’t agree with the organization’s values and beliefs, they do not have to join. One wonders why someone who is so resolutely atheist would bother to join an organization that holds values they fundamentally disagree with. Was it dishonesty or inadequate investigation? Either way, the fault is not on the part of the BSA. The problem is not religion in the BSA, but the atheists who seek to undermine BSA values. Go join Campfire, BPSA or the Spiral Scouts.

      • It maybe legal, but let’s be clear: it is discrimination. This is why government and public agencies have had to disassociate themselves from scouting. They can not discriminate against anyone based on religion. And a majority of Americans find discrimination repugnant

      • I have been reading over all these comments the past few days and I was not aware that the BSA has this population of god-haters and religiousphobes. There is a lot of hate going on behind the scenes and in peoples hearts. If a person cannot see the hand of God in nature, then there is not too much hope for them.

        I am sure I will get some hate threads over this. What ever. I am sure that by your words, you are not a good representation of the uniform. The threads contain the stench of intolerance and hate.

        Everybody has a date of birth DOB and a date of death DOD. The dash inbetween the two dates will show what you have done with your life. What will your legacy be? Bitterness and anger will follow those indivuals to the grave.

        God is LOVE and if you do not believe in God, then you do not have Love in your life.

        • It’s always kind of amusing how it’s only hating if it’s done from the other side. I’m pretty sure all the Scouts who have been denied Eagle over the years for not believing in God would view this slightly different.

        • It does give one pause, does it not? Why would so many people whose beliefs are in opposition to BSA join BSA? How did the youth members advance … did they lie at their boards of review or in their Scoutmaster conferences? Were they given a “pass” – someone individually and unofficially waived the requirement? Again I’m reminded of that old Twilight Zone episode. And the Great Falling Away continues.

        • Kelly, there is no hate here. Scouts are reverent, we respect the beliefs of others. Your last sentence sort of tells a story though, you seem to look down on someone that does not believe like you do.

          Have a great day.

        • YIKES! Does anyone else see a problem with having “Never too much God” do these kinds of discussions with the Scouts?!?! Boy I feel incredibly sorry for any Scout in his troop who is doubting god, though it’s more likely that they dropped out long ago rather than face this guy’s wrath.

          Is it any wonder that we are losing members hand over fists??????

  42. This will blow up in BSA’s face far too soon and we will all be worse off for it. We need to get back to Scouting.

  43. As a former Scout, long-time Scout leader, and life-long atheist, I can state whole-heartedly this god-or-nothing policy is short-sighted and counter-productive. To which god is this boy supposed to be doing his duty? Thor? Octavius? Zeus? If it’s a god different from the Scout Master’s, is it “wrong.” Is it the Mormon God, or the Muslim God, or the Jewish God, or, etc.? (And trust me, those religion’s proponents feel their version of a god to be correct, and all the others wrong.)

    Can’t we just let it lie as we did with gay scouts decades ago? “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

  44. Boy, this monologue versus dialogue thing is quite a stretch. Using the “tell how…” is very common when discussing — 2-way conversation — many requirements, for scouting as well as personal spiritual worthiness. To interpret this as meaning that the leader cannot engage in a discussion is, like I said, a pretty big leap.

  45. The BSA is making a huge mistake by digging their heels into this. More and more civic-minded Americans are non-religious, yet hold humanity in high regard.

    Once, Boy Scouts were a respected part of the community. With these new policies, they have become a fringe organization that will be shunned to the church basements, out of the public eye.

    It is time for BSA to recognize that character is not dependent on religious belief, but that strong character can come up in many ways, including humanist and non-religious values.

        • What you call “making positive progress” is abandoning the faith that built this nation. Allowing people who do not hold that faith into Scouting is attacking the organization from within. Similarly, the nation itself is attacked from within. These people will win their victories are more and more people abandon faith. The Great Falling Away continues. And these people are going to be ecstatically happy. For a while. I’m not concerned in the least, because unlike them, I’ve read “The Book” – and I know how this all ends eventually.

  46. In addition to a trend toward micromanaging scouters, this also reflects a polarizing of BSA toward religious mindfulness. Concerned parties successfully sued to prevent government facilities from chartering troops. This increased BSA’s reliance on religious COs for facilities and guidance. It diminished the influence of parties who would more willingly accommodate atheists.

  47. As a former Scoutmaster, I think this policy is wrong and will drive good Scouts and good parents out of Scouting. Religion is a private matter and a Scout’s beliefs and his relationship to a higher power are none of my business as a Scout leader. This is yet another strange, self-destructive idea from somewhere in the national Scout leadership. To ask a Scout to speak to his Scout leaders about his (and therefore his family’s) beliefs in order to gain rank advancement is dead wrong.

    Scouting is not a religious organization! As such, we have no business pushing religious beliefs on Scouts. Making Scouts answer this question is pushing religion on Scouts. There is no doubt that this requirement will result in the loss of thousands of existing Scouts and eliminate thousands more who were thinking of joining. All these boys will miss out on all the great benefits of Scouting because someone chose to push religion through Scouting. Why would someone think that we have to “test” them on their private religious beliefs by asking them about it at every rank advancement? This is crazy.

    • Former Scoutmaster, you are wrong. Scouting is not an exclusively religious institution like a congregation, but religion and that deference to God called “reverence” are fundamental to Scouting. Go back and read the “Charter And Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America,” Article IX, Section 1., Clauses 1 through 5. If you cannot assent to these, then what you want isn’t Scouting, but a kiddie camping club and hobby for adults. How could you miss this all the years you were in Scouting?

      • Maybe it is willful ignorance, just like the people who claimed they spent years in BSA and knew nothing about the “old’ membership standards.

    • Yeah, I can’t hold much longer either. I stayed in through the gay debate, but this is just getting crazy. Just when you think that Irving couldn’t screw things up any worse they come out with stuff like this. There are enough parents in my Troop who will rebel at this that I don’t think the scoutmaster will even bring up these questions.

      And if he does I’m going to tell my boys to tell him it’s none of his business.

      • Excellent idea. Tell Scouts that if a leader asks them how they have done their duty to God and thus intrudes into their personal relationship with and belief in God, the Scout should tell that leader that this is none of their business. Would this BSA policy make that Scout unsuitable for advancement?

        I hope that whoever dreamed up this new policy, is reading all these comments. The overwhelming majority of those commenting disagree with this policy. If BSA wants to kick us all out of Scouting, so be it.

        • The buckaroos in Texas may be reading these comments (although I doubt it) but even if they are they will pay scant attention. Although it may come as a surprise to them how many atheists and agnostics have infiltrated BSA over the years, I seriously doubt anyone’s going to be kicked out. Too many people with too many dollars would be affected. Think of all the FOS donations, popcorn sales, other fundraising revenue, exorbitant fees for ***HIGH ADVENTURE*** bases, and lest we forget, corporate donations, that would be lost. Nope … nobody’s going anywhere. Too much money at stake.

  48. The new November-December 2015 edition of Advancement News just muddies the waters on the “Tell” versus “Discuss,” monologue versus dialog issue. The article on page 12 includes the following:

    “The new Boy Scout rank requirements call for a Scout to ‘Tell how you have done your duty to God…’ It is appropriate for leaders to ask that question of a youth, but then leaders need to listen. Asking an additional question to clarify a youth’s response is reasonable—or if the youth responds, ‘I don’t know,’ a leader might ask a more thought-provoking question.”

    Nothing like undercutting your own FAQs.

    • “Asking an additional question to clarify a youth’s response is reasonable—or if the youth responds, ‘I don’t know,’ a leader might ask a more thought-provoking question.”

      Right there. That is the first step onto the slippery slope in which BSA allows the Scout leader to judge whether a youth — a youth who acknowledges an obligation to God — is religious enough to advance.

      This is why this requirement violates the Declaration of Religious Principle, which says that BSA is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward [a member’s] religious training,” and that a member’s religious life is the province of “the home and organization or group with which the member is connected.”

      • This is an interesting interpretation of the DRP. I like it. This would mean that all the new cub scout “God related” requirements should be modified to say that they need to be done at home – or whatever it means by “org or group” which the member is connected. What does that mean? The church you attend as individuals? Or does it mean the Chartered Organization?

        • On page 2 of the BSA youth application, under “Program Policies” (a bit above the excerpt of the DRP), one of the bullet points is: “While the Boy Scouts of America recognizes the importance of religious faith and duty, it leaves sectarian religious instruction to the member’s religious leaders and family.” I think it is reasonable to understand “the member’s religious leaders and family” to be a more concise and less formal restatement of “the home and organization or group with which the member is connected” language of the DRP.

    • Dan, I think this is a pretty flimsy “straw man” that you are holding up.

      I’ve never considered talking about religion in a scouting venue to be a violation of the “DRP.” I’ve never hushed a scout away to his family when he brought it up, and I would never want my adult leaders to sweep their faith under a rug.

      But that’s just me. I can certainly understand scouters who would not rather not let such discussions transpire (as we’ve heard from a number of folks in the room) — at least under such contrived circumstances. I can see a parent “getting at” an SM because he didn’t follow this requirement to their satisfaction.

      And thus my concern about micromanaging the SM conference (and scout spirit in general)

      • q wrote: “I’ve never considered talking about religion in a scouting venue to be a violation of the “DRP.” I’ve never hushed a scout away to his family when he brought it up, and I would never want my adult leaders to sweep their faith under a rug.”

        Thanks, q — That is not what I’m talking about at all. Voluntarily discussing faith in casual Scouting conversation or even generally in the Scouting context, and a Scout or Scouter being open about his or her own faith, are certainly not violations of BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle.

        The issue is, once a Scout “subscribes” to the Declaration of Religious Principle (that is, he recognizes an obligation to God), can he be compelled to go further and describe particular beliefs and practices of his faith? In order to advance, a Scout must satisfy this new requirement: “Tell how you have done your duty to God…” In order to do that, the Scout will necessarily have to tell something about duty to God in his particular faith or he will not be able to participate fully in the Boy Scout program, even if he is devoutly religious.

        There are many valid reasons why an individual youth member would not want to tell anyone about the specifics of his or her religious sect or religious views. These reasons could include the view that the individual’s relationship with God is a highly private matter; that a Scout leader of another faith or belief system may disapprove of the youth member’s faith; that particular practices of that faith could become the objects of ridicule or lead to bullying; or that other members of the unit may draw the member into uncomfortable discussions about their beliefs or attempt to “convert” the member.

        If the BSA is “absolutely nonsectarian,” as the DRP says, then the specifics of any member’s religious beliefs are irrelevant to advancement and to any other aspect of the Scouting program. Under the DRP, the only relevant question is whether the Scout recognizes that he has an obligation to God — yes or no. If the answer is yes, that should be the end of it. And that is a membership qualifications question, not an advancement question. Any issues about the Scout’s particular beliefs and religious practices are specifically identified as matters for the family and religious group, not Scout leaders in the unit.

  49. Whew! There seems to be a lot in regards to position on duty to God. I still have not heard on ideas as how to approach duty to God when there is no brick and mortar church from BSA standpoints. I asked this to be a topic with scout cast two years ago.

  50. The really sad part about this is that we all know this just comes down to money. The BSA looked at how many CO’s, (and groups of CO’s), dumped the BSA after the membership change, (which was done for monetary reasons), and decided they need to do something to stemp the loses. The requirements were a result of that.

    But just like the BSA fought the gay issue all the way to the supreme court to keep a few larger chartering organizations from leaving, only to suffer much worse over the following 14 years, this doubling down on the religious front is going to do the same thing.

    Yes, a few old men who control the checkbooks at the larger CO’s will be thrilled with these requirements, but the younger demographic, (the ones actually having kids), who tend to be a little less religious, (as surveys are showing), are less happy with these requirements.

    Yes the 300lb gorilla in the room, (the one that pays for every boy in the church to be a member of the BSA), will be happy, but is that good enough? As is painfully obvious from this discussion there are a LOT of regular parents and leaders who are unhappy with this change. If enough of them leave, (and taking their dues, FOS, camping fees, HA fees, popcorn sales, and so on with them), at some point the scales tip to this being a VERY bad financial decision for the BSA.

  51. @3rd Generation Scout – We all know why the BSA doesn’t allow girls. Yes, no one wants to say it out loud, but it comes down to the one church that registers 20(?)% of the total Scouts out there, and yet doesn’t allow any women to be leaders. That church doesn’t want girls in their program, so there are no girls allowed in any Cub or Boy Scout programs.

    This is what happens when you let one special interest group control too much of an organization’s policies. Was anyone really shocked by these new rules? When that church threatened to cut off all ties with the BSA over the membership change I KNEW something like this was coming, and sure enough it’s here.

    Don’t be surprised when the BSA comes out with some MB’s about religion, and how eventually they will be required MB’s.

    • Royal Rangers already has a merit badge for every book of the Bible as well as a special award for earning all. They have brown and orange boarded threads. Perhaps in the future the BSA will offer them as well as a saleable product. A purple colored sash could be offered to sew all of the youths Bible merit badges. Purple is the color of divinity. Any scout troop can set up an account with GPH and order the badges and a sash.

      Why would the BSA come out with religious awards when they direct interested scouts to P.R.A.Y.?

      TrailLife USA, Royal Rangers, Boys Brigade also do not allow girls to become members. They have a similar program for the girls that is similar as the boys. Royal Rangers does offer the “Together” Program because the churches wanted one program instead of running two separate ministries/programs. So actually Royal Rangers is moving towards a mixed sex ministry/program. Girls like to do the outdoor stuff as well.

      The BSA is a guest in various churches. The BSA knows not to step on the toes of the 70% section of scouting. The churches that host BSA units are the stake holders and owners of the scouting unit. They approve or disapprove ALL adults leaders. If a BSA unit crosses the sponsoring organization, they will be asked to leave. If a scout leader makes statements on a forum like this and the charter organization is a church, then they may ask them leave. So the speech on a forum like this needs to be tempered and people need to think before they post something.

    • I’m a merit badge counselor for American Cultures. I think it would actually be a good tie in to “duty to God”. Encourage the boys learn about Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism and to respect other religions as stated in the “reverent” section of scouting.

    • There was another topic a few months ago wherein BSA claimed one very large religious organization was not given special treatment. But, honestly, I do not know who to believe anymore.

    • “”We all know why the BSA doesn’t allow girls””. We do? That requirement, really, goes back to the original founding of Scouting and BP. He was originally looking to improve the quality of incoming recruits to the British army, then found out the program was good for ANY boy. When his good wife insisted that, contrary to society’s expectations of them, girls also liked the more rugged outdoor activities, he replied that they couldn’t be BOY Scouts, and if she wanted a girl program, it couldn’t be called “Scouts”, that was reserved for the male program, and “Girl Guides” were invented . “Equal time”?
      Of course, now, there are Girl Guides all around the world and Girl Scouts (I don’t know why Julliette Low didn’t call the US version “Guides”) here in the US of A. If the GSUSA doesn’t agree with the rough and rugged attitude of the BSA (there’s another discussion… are we still R&R?) and they lose members because the fems join Venturering, well, maybe that indicates something else.
      Many Scout associations around the world have already gone co-ed, and some haven’t…. Let’s see if there is room in the house for both types.

  52. The last question in the FAQ is what gets me. “A Scout’s declaration that he does not believe in God is grounds to deny rank advancement and could affect his continued membership in the troop.”

    So we decided to end the gay witch-hunts, but atheist witch-hunts are OK? A young man who does not believe in God stands to gain just as much in the way of valuable experience and character development as an upstandingly religious young man from Scouting.

    On another note, religion is an area BSA National is ill-equipped to handle. If a Scout honestly comes to the personal conclusion that there is no God, or that he cannot know if there is a God, what is he supposed to do to do right by National? Lie to the world and to himself about beliefs he doesn’t have? And who is more spiritually developed, a shallow Christian whose faith is a carbon-copy of his parents’, or an atheist who has spent serious time evaluating and questioning what he believes?

    Overall, I think a troop’s loyalty to its own will cause this policy to be one that exists officially, but almost never in practice. The ones that do use it as grounds to excommunicate a Scout are probably already being too forceful in religious areas anyway.

    • When were there “witch hunts” in BSA? The people affected by the “old” membership standards “outed” themselves in order to get attention or to make a point. And, after a sufficient number of years of pressure, BSA caved like bubble wrap under a gymnastics class for elephants. In a very short time we went from “the Scout Oath and Law are inviolable” to gay is the way! Just wait a few years. BSA will drop the “Duty to God” requirement like a hot potato. Homosexuals merely had to keep their mouths shut and they’d advance through the ranks, but some decided to make a scene for whatever reason; now their way of life is welcomed in BSA. The atheists and agnostics have to verbally lie about duty to a deity in which they do not believe, but get enough to complain and this too shall change. I think the writing was on the wall when BSA decided to quit teaching “high ideals and proper behavior” and start teaching youth to make choices.

      • The only time i have experienced a gay witch hunt, Yesterday’s Scout, was entirely different than you portray. We had a kid in our unit who had two moms. One of the moms attended committee meetings as we sent a general invite to all parents. An ASM of ours found out about the second mom and took it to the priest (we are a catholic unit). To his credit, the Priest said that it was none of his concern as he knew the boy and he was a fine scout. However, the ASM appeared before the committee and made a big stink. As you can imagine, the boy got wind of it and no longer felt welcome, despite all the rest of us could do to reassure him and his moms that we valued him as scout and the moms as parents. He ended up transferring out and we lost both a great scout AND a set of involved parents. The issue of his Moms’ sexuality was never something we discussed as a troop, just like the sexuality of the other leaders and scouts really was just not something to discuss at scouts. So, say what you will, but it has been my experience that the issue has been pushed by the persecutors not the persecuted and without any regard for the actual persons involved.

    • There are only two countries in the world where boy scouts are not co-ed. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Shall we start having females dress in Burkas as well?

  53. We discussed these requirements at our Troop Committee meeting the other night. About half the people present were uncomfortable with the requirements, 1/4 liked them, and the other 1/4 didn’t care either way.

    The Scoutmaster wasn’t comfortable at all with the requirements and told the parents that he would bring subject up, and if the Scout wanted to talk about it they would. However if it was obvious the Scout didn’t want to talk about it then he would just rattle off his standard thing about reverent meaning being open and kind to all religions thing.

    1 of the newer parents didn’t like that at all. He didn’t think we should be protecting any atheists in the Troop. When it became obvious he was in the minority he stopped complaining about it. None of the rest of the Committee wanted to kick any of our Scouts out because of these requirements.

    It’s kind of sad that the BSA is coming to this. Now we are getting into religious debates at Troop Committee meetings. Nothing good is going to come out of that.

  54. I wholeheartedly support the duty to God requirement. It’s simply a nonjudgmental and gentle but necessary reminder to Scouts that they need to think about God, which is getting harder to do because many schools and sports groups are scheduling games on Sunday.

    • Joining Scouting requires a choice: A person can choose to join or not. No one’s arm is being twisted to adopt values he or she disagrees with. If someone doesn’t like Scouting’s values, he or she is free to start their own organization. As a CEO once said, “If you don’t like it, vote with your feet.”

  55. Look at this discussion board. Such a hard question for Adults. Does anyone remember that we are dealing with 11 year olds?? A hard question, that will require dragging out an answer. And if you think our Adults can do it in a non-biased way, then you are dreaming.

  56. Someone posted that they were agnostic, had lied in their Eagle BOR, and that their younger brother, also agnostic, was about to go for his Eagle BOR. This was my response:

    Come on, a Scout is Trustworthy, it’s the first point of the Scout law. If I were you, I wouldn’t broadcast that I’d lied just because I really wanted something and I thought that it wouldn’t have been given to me if I’d told the truth.

    That being said, you didn’t need to lie to pass. I know you may have felt that way, but agnostic is different from atheist and agnostic people may freely pass the Eagle BOR. If asked “Do you believe in God,” the answer should be something along the lines of:

    > “I don’t not believe in God. I’m searching for more answers, and evaluating what I believe in. That being said, I have not personally seen God with my own two eyes and as such I suppose you could say that I’m agnostic, going by the Greek definition, meaning without knowledge, since I haven’t personally had the presence of God confirmed for me in the same manner that the presence of this table in front of me has been confirmed. But I don’t not believe in God, if that’s what you were asking.
    > “I have helped plan, support, and actively participate in periods of reflection, as suggested in some places in the BSA literature (from Cub Scouts on up), and I demonstrate reverence when I meditate (or insert what you do here). This helps me demonstrate and live my duty to God by exemplifying the Scout Law.”

    You could also go as far as emulating Benjamin Franklin, in his personal search for morale reformation to make himself into a better man. He kept a “virtue journal”: “The page on the right is used for journaling and answering the questions Franklin posed to himself each day in his diary: 1) What good shall I do this day? and 2) What good have I done today?”

    If you’d said something like that, you’d have been perfectly accurate and truthful in your statement about being agnostic, and you’d pass with flying colors. But, come on, a Scout is Trustworthy.

  57. Over the years I’ve found many scouts, and families, are tight lipped when it comes to religious beliefs and practices. I’ve found this reluctance stems from fear of the youth being treated differently when his beliefs differ from the majority of members in the unit. I’m opposed to this change because it unnecessarily exposes scouts, and their families, to unfair bias and discrimination on the basis of religion. I’ve been a scout leader for over twenty-five years, and have always deferred all things faith based, that relate to religion and worship, to the parents of the scout, and those they choose to guide the scout’s religious education. Scout leaders have no business being involved in a scout’s religious education; our role is to support the families choices, not delve into them.

  58. This is one of the saddest comment sections I have ever read. No one appears to have actually carefully read the requirement or Bryan’s column. More importantly no one seems to have ever spent time listening to Scouts talk about how they view DTG. Everybody seems to be intent on talking about their point of view. In this area we need to think about how to train our leaders to the difficult task of keeping their mouths shut and let the youth do the talking.

  59. Wow! I see a lot of missing the mark in the practice of the Scout Law throughout this thread. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and likewise anyone and everyone is entitled to agree/disagree without being disagreeable in the process. There are very good pros and cons regarding this new, specific, requirement that should be aired without animosity. And ,if anyone wishes to affect a change in policy or action ,one should be able to put forward comments, suggestions, concerns and ideas in a reasonable form, without being attacked, vilified, or told to “get out” (even politely). However, if one cannot, in good conscience, subscribe to the core principles of a organization, why would one choose to belong to it, especially when there are similar organizations available with different sets of guiding principles, aka mission statements.

  60. As a non-Catholic, I can still attend mass. I don’t ascribe to everything the Catholic church embodies, but I still can benefit from the service.Catholics are welcome in my church. I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. I think nuts are called to violence by what they believe is their religion.
    None of that has anything to do with the requirements as written! The requirement for the scout is simply to tell. The requirement for the adults is to listen. The latter is a concept that too many are having difficulty doing.

  61. Expect to see a metric-boatload of lawsuits as soon as this policy is implemented.

    Why? Because some overzealous ASM is going to fail to keep his yap shut during a Scout’s recitation of his DTG, and will, instead, do what he is explicitly not supposed to do, which is to turn it into a discussion/evaluation of said Scout’s response.

    Unless the policy expressly FORBIDS any adult from responding to a Scout’s answer to ‘How have you done your Duty to God?’, except with “Ok”, this policy is only going to put BSA at risk for a ton of needless, expensive, and, ultimately, fruitless, litigation. In the end, BSA will still have prior Supreme Court rulings on its side, but the public relations fallout will be very damaging, BSA will have pissed away exorbitant sums of money on attorney’s fees, and membership will take yet another big hit.

    But the very worst part of it all is that the Scouts will suffer because of it when:

    a) they see their friends drummed out of Scouting along religious lines,
    b) they realize that they or their fellow Scouts may have to lie about their true feelings regarding faith in order to avoid getting drummed out of Scouting because of religion,
    c) they realize that Scouting, like the rest of America, is fast becoming a fragmented community.

    And all because of a policy change that was completely unnecessary in the first place.

  62. Are atheists allowed to be American? yes, of course (hopefully!)
    Are atheists allowed to be scouts? apparently not.

    So, should I conclude that “lying” when reciting the pledge of allegiance is a less serious offense than “lying” when reciting the scout law? What would the US Supreme court say about it?

  63. I passed my Eagle board 25 years ago, went on to become a PhD in Astronomy, and have a father who still is part of Eagle boards. I was OA, summer camp instructor, and during my entire time in scouts, I had not a single instance of anyone being required to talk about their religious beliefs, either in one on one, or during the boards. We were a non-religious family and felt it was none of anyone else’s business what we believed. The scoutmasters, the boards, and the church that we based our troop in, all respected that, and required no one to believe anything to enjoy the benefits of scouting.

    Someone above mentioned that “atheists have infiltrated scouting over the years” and that is simply not true. They have always been there, mostly due to the kindness of the leaders not adhering to either church or BSA dogma on the letter of the law. I always felt that scouting was there to help people do new things, protect and admire the outdoors, and be good people by example. Whether the scouts were religious or not, gay, straight, or whatever, that was not our concern, only that they were good people and we were there to help them out, support our fellow humans.

    There is so much scouting has to offer to everyone, regardless of religion or lack there of, and really from what I learned from my experience is that it really should be open to whoever wants to join.

    I saw hundreds of former Eagles send back their award in support of allowing gay scouts and leaders to remain (especially since we all know or knew some of the scouts and leaders in the past were gay and it didn’t destroy scouts by accepting them as who they were). There are many many people, including former scouts that learned a lot from scouting and would likely send their children into scouting or first timers that would love to join, but this rule would likely limit that impact as even the religious people that I have talked with would not want to have what is essentially a pass/fail grade by someone who many not believe what they do.

    Believe what you want, let others believe what they want.

    Hard to believe that all of the above tolerance happened in the deep south as well.

  64. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) wants scouts to believe in a higher power before advancing in rank, as explained in this blog.

    My personal hope and prayer is that scouts, venturers, cubs, webelos, and all people accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Jesus is the only higher power who is both necessary and sufficient. It’s not my opinion, it’s the absolute truth from the bible. And Jesus Christ is the personification of Truth.

    John 14:6 New International Version (NIV)

    6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    Whatever problems there are in America, I want BSA to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. The BSA doesn’t want to turn anybody away from scouts. They (we) want to make the scouting program available to almost everybody. It would be a lot easier for me if we only allowed Christians, but our commission as American Christians is to share the Gospel with everybody on the planet and make disciples for Christ. Welcoming non-Christians into our scouting programs enables unlimited opportunities for evangelism.

    We have to be brave to stick with a program that hardly ever exallts the name of Jesus the Christ. But just remember that Jesus loved to spend time with sinners. At least when we attract non-Christians, it gives us an opportunity to teach our young people the absolute Truth from the bible. And they can eventually make a decision either for or against Jesus Christ based on facts presented to them.

    Thanks for clarifying the BSA’s ‘Duty to God’ policy, and Merry Christmas 🙂

  65. Once again the Boy Scouts have overstepped at bit. To have an adult regularly challenge a boy on explaining his beliefs, its a bit like bullying a kid into believing. It also assumes a Judeo-Christian-Abrahamic slant. What about the Buddists and Hindu’s in the ranks?

  66. If you don’t believe in God, don’t join the BSA. This is not an organization for everyone. A scout is reverent. All scout need to reflect on this element of the law if they are to advance in rank. Where is the tolerance toward this PRIVATE organization to maintain its standards?

  67. I find it fascinating that athiests tout letting children “find their own way” so long as any organization a child joins does not raise the prospect of the existence of a supreme being. How about a little tolerance and exposure to diversity???

  68. As a parent it is your responsibility to investigate any organization your children are involved in. If you do not believe in or adhere to “Duty to God” don’t let your child join. It really is that simple.

  69. Eagle Scout here…….did we forget that Lord Baden-Powell, our founder, created this organization based on Christian morals. That said, fulfilling a Duty to God should not be an issue. Our organization has already fallen victim to politics and has sustained some monumental setbacks, so it is nice to see that even in the most PC way we are returning to an organization that is devoted to turning young boys into men.

  70. As a Scout leader, I feel that it is my duty to help any youth that wants to be in Scouting. I can’t imagine turning away a youth because he didn’t believe in God, or couldn’t explain his faith to my satisfaction. To pick just one religion, Jesus famously reached out to everyone, and called everyone to Him – especially Children. He didn’t turn people away, so I will not be turning away anyone.

  71. I find it interesting that the BSA is concerning itself with regard to the matter of honoring God. I’m certain that it has less to do with strengthening the spiritual aspects of a boys life and more to do with Scouting’s plummeting membership and rechartering of religious organizations. When the BSA’S leadership made the decision to accept gay youth and then later gay leadership they unknowingly compromised something that was more important to the charter organizations than it was the organization itself. Integrity. See, the BSA was and is more concerned about corporate sponsorship than it was or will ever be about standing on principles. The BSA stood to lose literally billions of dollars from companies like FEDEX and General Electric if they were to maintain their position on excluding homosexuality from the organization based on religious principles. So based on financial pressure they compromised their (the organizations) integrity solely for financial gain. And now when membership is at an all time low, they are once again willing to compromise their position in a failed effort to retain those chartered organizations that actually believe integrity means something. The BSA is on the decline not because of the gay issue primarily, but because they were willing to compromise the very core of their beliefs for the all mighty dollar. When an organization is so willing to cast their moral compass aside for the sake of 30 pieces of silver, they have turned a corner in which they will never be able to recover from. I had been involved in scouting for over 40 years, but found that I, in good conscience, continue as a member of the organization because of their compromise. To make it even worse, they wouldn’t take responsibility for their actions but cast that responsibility to the chartered organizations to deal with the fall out If they were to hold to their convictions. Folks, that’s not leadership, that’s not even good management. No, requiring God in an organization who has abandoned God, is as hypocritical a move as a misguided organization could make. That’s my 2 cents,

  72. Wow- did you guys just wake up and READ the requirenents? All of this supports my long time argunent that scouting would be more fun if we could figure out a way to kick the parents out! Having a faith in a greater being- whom ever or whatever it is has ALWAYS been a requirement in scouting, and a question that is brought up in some form or fashion about God and the scout. And if a scout denies God, then he denies scouting. Plain and simple.
    What does this have to do with gays? Nothing really- except if the United Way decides to withhold money, then God will certainly be removed from scouts. And that’s about the time I will burn the uniform.

  73. I’m far less worried about scouts who don’t believe in God than I am about scouts who have no idea what the word duty means. I can imagine asking this question: how have you done your duty to God and getting completely blank stares from religiously active boys.

  74. My son is sincerely Buddhist and clearly lives his faith. Yet “God” does not have a role in Buddhism (which BSA does recognize as a religion). How will he and similar Scouts be expected to respond to this question?

  75. Athiest Eagle Scout here…fortunately 25 years ago this wasn’t an issue in my rural southern troop. We met at a church and even had a prayer at each meeting and a service on each camp-out but I don’t remember ever being asked about my beliefs.
    Now I want my son involved because of all the positive benefits of Scouting but requirements such as these make me wonder if I should bother.

  76. Allow me to simplify this for the incredibly simple-minded: When you join the BSA, you sign an application that says you subscribe to the principles of the BSA. Those principles include a belief in God. The Scout Oath is staring at you from the very front of that application, and in that oath you affirm your duty to God and country, others, and self. If you decide to sign that application, you have signed that you do agree to these same principles. If you now declare that you in fact DO NOT and never have agreed, then you have signed your own personal oath to a LIE!!! And you want the rest of us to believe that you are somehow a moral and truthful member of our society who understands what it means to be GOOD??

    The twelfth point of the Scout Law is Reverent. You are perfectly satisfied to allow your son to repeat this Oath and Law and know in his heart that he is LYING? And the rest of us are to believe that you are teaching him moral values that can somehow compete with a belief in a God who wants us to become more perfect?

    And at the instance of reading a blog, you suddenly “discover” this “little secret” that BSA membership includes a tenant of belief in a higher being? And because your son might possibly be asked to tell how he has met his duties that he repeats in his oath he will follow, you now want to proclaim that BSA is “sneaking religion” into the program?

    If some of you wish to get upset that your son is asked to tell how he has met his duty and shown his ability to live by his oath then it is very clear that you have absolutely no understanding of the entire advancement process, the Scoutmaster conference, and the boards of review. I would have to question if you have any understanding at all.

  77. I just looked at the new requirements again. In our troop the requirement of scout spirit is something that must be evaluated over the whole week and not just the small sliver of time that we have a scout at the meeting or activity. So we usually have the parent certify that the scout spirit issue is fulfilled; as long as the parent has signed off on scout spirit a youth leader will sign in the box.. It is the only requirement, aside from the BOR and SM Conf that can be vouched for by an adult in our unit, unless there is some special circumstance. All the rest of the requirements must be signed off by a scout, usually a more senior scout. So, while a SM may go over some of this stuff in his SM Conf., the actual retirement of telling is probably done to the parent, who we look to to tell us if the scout has fulfilled that requirement.

    So, since you can’t fail a SM conf (Guide to Advancement as you only have to participate in one, the only place where you could get a no-go would possibly be in the BOR. But the BOR is not a retest, according to the GtA, and thus if the requirement is signed off, you must accept that. So, I am having some trouble seeing where there will be boatloads of scouts that get rejected for these issues, at least before Eagle.

    Even if the CC and SM refuse to sign off on the Eagle app, or the SM just refuses to give a conference, the scout still can get his EBOR under disputed circumstances (GtA which is conducted away from the unit level entirely. I just don’t see this being a big deal, given all the ways you have to appeal and such. By the time you are close to eagle you should probably know your unit and if it is not a fit, get another unit or start your own.

  78. I don’t know if my perspective is typical but I was a scout for about three years. I got my Handbook in 1983. While it does mention being reverent which I understood to be a respect for religious beliefs, there is no requirement listed in that edition for advancement at any level. I’m surprised at the religious requirements listed in my son’s new Bear Handbook. I’m surprised to find that apparently my parents must have filled out my original application which included the Declaration of Religious Principle of which I was unaware. They may have been unaware also or didn’t care–at this point, I don’t think they would remember and asking them now is moot. Now I have to debate taking myself and my son out of the program and finding another program or staying with the program and trying to figure a way to reconcile my wife’s views, my views, and my son’s views on the matter. We all have a different perspective. Some people in this thread of comments it seems will miss us and some will probably want to tell me to make sure the door doesn’t hit us on the way out. That’s fine. I just thought it would help both sides of the conversation to understand one person’s experience is that after 30 years of thinking “Once a scout, always a scout,” how did I not know I’m not supposed to be a BSA scout. As someone pointed out, I can go somewhere else. I am interested in the BPSA program because of this issue. I don’t think I have the time to invest in starting my own PBSA pack in order to make it happen in my area. Baden-Powell’s writings include “No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws.” I disagree. Where he says, “We realize that in addition to the interests of our particular country, there is a higher mission before us, namely the promotion of the Kingdom of God; That is, the rule of Peace and Goodwill on earth.” I agree in the quest for peace and goodwill on Earth. Peace be with you.

  79. a Scout does have to ascribe to the declaration of religious principles, and express belief in a higher power. This condition of membership is acknowledged by the parent or guardian’s signature on the BSA Youth Application.

    Not a fan of this as an atheist

  80. QUESTION (Google has failed me, or I have failed it.): Can a troop with a church CO exclude a boy from membership because: 1) he belongs to a different religion; or 3) while professing a belief in God, he does not belong to a church?

  81. Not that I’m aware of. I understand that BSA includes people from any religion. Also that troops chartered by LDS groups may have differences in their programs from the regular scout programs.

    I find it interesting that Thomas Jefferson said, “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” There’s a logic there that makes sense to me. For some reason, Baden-Powell and BSA don’t mind if a neighbor says there are twenty gods but do mind if someone says he’s not sure. That only makes sense to me if people believe morals can only be learned through religion. The implications are something to think about.

  82. why must it be told why cant the ” DUTY TO GOD ” requirement be fulfilled though the observation of the persons actions by his troop( including scoutmasters). if they believe he has shown reverence in his life he should advance.

  83. Just a note about the greater world scouting organization, The British Scouts have removed the requirement to believe in a god/higher power from advancement. They have it as a recommendation and something that a scout should do but not required to do.
    Scouts was started in England not the US. They did this for very specific reasons amongst them include opening scouting up to a more diverse group of people.
    Would it be so bad to follow their lead and show we are an organization open to all boys and their families?

  84. The scout law. The twelfth scout law, reverent, means to be respectful and goes far beyond respecting another’s belief in God. Reverent does not mean belief, or disbelief, in god. Of paramount importance in scouting, and certainly, I aspire, to teach others to be respectful – in deed a great virtue. The scout oath. What does a scout do to show ones “Duty to God” as scribed in the BSA oath? I would like to be able to explain to an 11 year old how they can meet this new requirement for rank advancement. Sorry I did not read through the hundreds of post to find what was perhaps already answered.

  85. The twelfth scout law…was not part of the original Scout Law. Nor did the Pledge of Allegience originally contain any reference to God, nor our money. these things were added by those afraid of Communism or simple secularism. We need not treat them as sacrosanct, for they are not.

    B-P’s family was badly burned by organized religion (his father was an ardent supporter of Charles Darwin and clergy made him pay for it). My sense from biographies was that many things he designed in to Scouting were basically required for it to be accepted in Victorian society. With regard to God and Girls…we should follow the lead of other sister organization, not cling to policies like those in Nigeria, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.

  86. It’s just wrong that we ask a child to declare his faith in order to advance. Scouting numbers are decreasing at an exponential rate, perhaps these requirements are the root cause. We are forcing our child to feel shame when they do not have a faith, or causing them to lie so they can advance as the result of their hard work. It’s the work that should be recognized, not their faith. I embrace having our scouts have the OPTION to meet duty to God Requirements, but to be REQUIRED is wrong. Your belief is not better than no belief, it’s just different. It doesn’t make you a better person. I am surprised there is not more of an outcry regarding this, seems to go against a lot of what our men and women fight for our Country. So because we do not believe in a deity, my son doesn’t get the right to be a scout? My son believes in being good to one another, helping one another, being respectful to one another, but because he doesn’t pray to a deity, scouting shuns him? I thought the law was to be respectful and kind? Reverent simply means feeling or showing profound respect. You can do that without praying to a deity.

  87. In our pack & troop both, the duty to god requirements are done at home, with your family and the beliefs that you have.
    You come to your scout masters to get signed off on and talk with them about it but they don’t say what you did or didn’t do is wrong or put their religious views on it. Thankfully our leader are great about separating their beliefs from others…

    We have a wide mix of believes regarding religion and this is Scout meetings, not church, so we see no reason to put the pressures of all of it on our boys and families.

    There is a way to let ALL boys join scouts without adults nit picking and throw in their religious views.

    For a commentator above, In some areas Scouts is the only thing these boys have so yes non believers will join and work around that area of it.

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