Homepage Forums Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) Pledge of Allegiance Participation

This topic contains 15 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Jay the Antelope 3 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #75846 Reply

    Keith Abbott

    One of the middle schools in my school district has a student that is refusing to participate reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. A couple of teachers did not handle the situation well, and there is now a rally planned by a parent for tomorrow morning outside of the middle school. Police will be present at the school to keep the peace.

    Which got me to thinking: how should unit leaders respond if there is a scout and/or parent that refuses to participate in the flag ceremony, pledge of allegiance, etc. It could be not particularly visible, if they just choose to not say the words. But if they choose to remain seated, people would most certainly notice.

    Also, even if parents react appropriately, youth members may not, which could create a situation that unit leaders would also need to respond to.

  • #75885 Reply


    Sounds like it would be a good time to be proactive and teach the scouts about citizenship, freedom of speech, and freedom of expression.

    Better to education the scouts prior to there being a problem then trying to deal within after it happens.

  • #75914 Reply

    Lori Reed

    I always ask myself is it better if this person is in Scouting or not. Generally yes. We benefit youth. Refusing to say the pledge is an individual’s right and that is what our service members fought for. The individual should stand. I must admit that I did this as a teenager. Now I say it begrudgingly because I don’t think we as a society should expect an oath to country. This is an opportunity for learning and discussion. Find out why they won’t say it.

    • #75949 Reply


      Ummm… no. There is no “individual right” to not say the pledge for a minor AND especially when CHOOSING to participate in a PRIVATE organization that has repeatedly won Supreme court decisions validating that we have the authority to set our own “behavior” standards and conduct.

      We teach (and build) Citizenship, and then there are several American heritage-related badges along with lessons and guidelines for Flag etiquette, flag ceremonies, and flag retirement ceremonies & etiquette, and Duty to my Country, etc…

      A Scout is OBEDIENT. If there’s a boy who won’t “obey”, then he’s simply NOT living by the “Oath and Law”, and therefore any form of “rank advancement” would stop right there. He should be educated as to why such lessons & actions are part of his Scouting career. Explain and set the expectations, but NEVER ACCEPT or make excuses for unscoutlike behavior. If he continues to refuse, then perhaps the BSA is not the right place for him.

      It’s no different than a Scout who declares himself an Atheist and fails to meet his “duty to God”

    • #204085 Reply


      There are many perfectly decent reasons not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Examples:

      • the scout might be a foreign citizen;
      • the scout might have a moral problem with the indoctrination of children;
      • the scout’s religion might consider pledging to a flag to be idolatrous.

      The pledge is not in the scouting handbook: the scout might even make the case that because it is superfluous the the handbook, the troop is in breach of Scouting’s own guidelines for forcing anyone to say it.

      That said, any individual who declines to say the Pledge should be respectful of those who choose to partake – which I would expect to be the same respect shown when other nation’s anthem’s are played at international events.

  • #75982 Reply


    Another way to challenge the scout: if he doesn’t believe this nation is something he should ally himself with, why would he want to keep company with people who have allied themselves with the republic for which the flag stands?

    We even have scouts who are citizens from other countries willingly rise for the pledge. Some even recite it with no sense of disloyalty to their home country.

  • #76154 Reply

    Michael Limmer

    We are ignoring his First Amendment rights, minor or not. This can be a teachable moment, or it can be an instance where the boy leaves scouting. Which is better? Obedience cannot be the issue here. No one is hurt by his refusal. He will be asked by his fellow scouts to explain his position in discussions that occur out of earshot of adults. This will allow the scout to justify, explain, and process his reasoning to his peers.

    • #76726 Reply


      Ummm… no. Although all citizens (regardless of age) have certain rights to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, that does not equate to a MINOR having the “full” rights of an adult.

      The Law recognizes that CHILDREN do not have the maturity, judgement, rational thought processes, etc…. that afford them to be be treated “like any other citizen”. That is why our legal system has something call the “age of majority” and in other aspects of Law, “age of consent” for marriage & sex, etc. It is also why/how institutions (like Schools & Scouting) have EVERY RIGHT to restrict the “free speech” of CHILDREN, and why court systems treat minors differently than adults.

      A 12 year old boy does NOT have a “1st Amendment right” to not say the Pledge if he doesn’t want to.

      (I mean no disrespect here) May I suggest that you re-take the BSA training? A key point that you are missing is the DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES of youth and how boys of different ages “see the world” depending on where they are in their age/maturation cycle. A 12 year old boy is not going to rationally defend a “radical” position, nor would he be mentally capable of seeking “middle ground” and compromise when his maturity level is “Fair vs Unfair” and sees the world only in black/white absolutes.

      No sir… Scouting is NOT the place for kids to have this type of “confusion” introduced to them. They are much better served obeying the BSA rules and then have the “teachable moment” of Citizenship and American Heritage merit badges to help him understand why America is exceptional and different than any other country in the world.

    • #157800 Reply

      Brian Westley

      A 12 year old boy does NOT have a “1st Amendment right” to not say the Pledge if he doesn’t want to.

      Yes, he does. See West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) and Tinker v. Des Moines (1969)

  • #76753 Reply


    when did BSA start to get away from its on oath and laws?

  • #143977 Reply


    Paul, minors do have Constitutional rights of free speech. The Supreme Court has said so. See the Tinker case. Students cannot be forced to say the pledge of allegiance in school. As to your point about BSA being a private institution, yes. However BSA membership does not require assent to the pledge of allegiance. You are over looking that several religions prohibit their members from saying a pledge of allegiance to a flag as a form of idolatry. Seventh Day Adventists, for example. Whether for religious, political or other reasons, you should not try to compel the saying of the pledge. It is also not kind or friendly to do that.

  • #187991 Reply


    Why, specifically is the pledge of allegiance part of Scouting? Doesn’t this alienate and exclude foreign (legal) citizens?

    Respect for the flag, absolutely makes sense, but I don’t understand how anyone benefits from forcing recital of the pledge?

    • #204636 Reply


      It’s disheartening that we’ve devolved into a society (and a Scouting organization) where something as basic to our core beliefs (the Pledge of Allegiance) has festered into a controversial issue. WOW!!!

      This is an old discussion thread, but Tom’s response made it show up as a “new post” so I just read through all these statements. Everyone is saying factual things, but Paul was the only one putting it into proper context.

      SCOUTING BSA is a PRIVATE organization. It’s not “public school”. It is a PRIVATE organization that sets it’s own standards & requirements for membership, and that includes prayer, reciting the Oath & Law, and sure as heck includes rendering the due respect to the American Flag! What a child can do in school is not the same thing he can do as a member in a private organization.

      You people don’t seem to see the line of division here between the nonsense they proliferate in public schools and the fact that they voluntarily are members in a private club that RIGHTFULLY sets standards for behavior & membership.

      National BSA has set forth a program that includes many parts of Citizenship training & education. Love of country and citizen development are at the heart of Scouting. If a scout doesn’t want to be part of what “scouts” do or doesn’t believe in what Scouting BSA stands for, they should seek activities better aligned with their beliefs.

  • #204634 Reply


    Choosing whether to participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at a scout event is NOT a first amendment issue since BSA is not a government entity. The examples stated above are from school systems, which in those cases were extensions of a government system. If the argument is BSA can’t enforce mandatory recitation, then there goes requiring scouts to recite the law and oath.

    As for why is this part of scouting, the simple answer is because at one time BSA leadership felt it was important enough to include it. While I can’t find any sources that mandate it, which is probably a good thing, I can find several sources on how and when it should be done. The key here is to be respectful. As long as one’s desire to not participate doesn’t clearly violate the scout law or oath it should be respected.

    Keep in mind the scout oath and law gives those who are citizens of other countries a clear out in feeling they need to participate.

  • #206671 Reply


    Covered on this site back in 2015:

    How would you handle a Scout who refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

    While there are at least four examples where there are requirements as it relates to the Pledge and showing respect to the flag – notably ABSENT is any official response requiring the recitation of the Pledge during a flag ceremony.

    In other words, it seems clear that the scout should follow proper protocol during a ceremony (standing and saluting – unless one’s religion prohibits such), but it does not appear that one must recite it during such.

    If reciting was indeed a required act during the Pledge, then members of the Content Management Team had the opportunity to make such a claim in the above response – but they didn’t.

    I will also note that the 4th joining requirement states, “repeat” not “recite.” Recite requires one to say aloud, often in front of an audience. Repeating does not have the same requirement.

    Sometimes, what you don’t explicitly state conveys the real message.

  • #211080 Reply

    Jay the Antelope

    If they don’t elect to participate in the most basic demonstration of citizenship, they cannot be a Scouts.

    If their religion does not allow them to make pledges, they are not able to be Scouts.

    This is a private entity. It is not a public school. This is not a debatable issue.
    The organization has membership requirements and expectations. If members don’t wish to follow them, it’s their choice. They must not be members.

    I’m not sure I’m understanding the question.

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