Proposed Boy Scouts of America Policy That Could Allow Gay Members Would Still Exclude Atheists

This sounds like exciting news from the Boy Scouts of America:

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

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

In some ways, it’s about damn time. For too long, the BSA has kicked out excellent scouts and troop leaders because of their sexual orientation, an issue that had no bearing on anything.

This policy, if implemented, would unfortunately still allow for bigotry within certain chapters, but it would also open the door to other BSA troops welcoming gay members without reprimand from the parent group. It would mean groups like the one in Maryland would not be in danger of losing their charter because they were accepting of everybody.

It’s a big step forward for the organization and one that will only serve to make the Scouts stronger.

But it doesn’t go far enough.

Even with the proposed change, atheists would still be barred from becoming Scouts.

The Scout Oath still says:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

There is no alternative oath for atheists.

Also, Scout Law says:

A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent

Reverent, of course, refers to God.

In other words, that last line of today’s press release is a lie:

Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.

Well, yes they would.

If a chapter of the BSA welcomed atheists, the BSA umbrella group could still deny the atheists membership. They did it with Darrell Lambert a decade ago and several times before and after that.

So I applaud the BSA’s potential policy change, but they should take one more step and recognize that atheists/agnostics/Humanists, too, are fully capable of being excellent Scouts.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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