President Obama: ‘Nobody Should be Barred’ from the Boy Scouts… but Atheists Still Will Be

In an interview airing before the Super Bowl, President Obama told Scott Pelley that he thinks gays should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America:

In general, he says the Scouts are a great group and there’s no reason to deny gay scouts (or troop leaders) access to the opportunities the BSA provides:

It’s the last line that gets me:

The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and… exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred from that.

Of course, even if the BSA stops kicking out gay members, they’d still be allowed to prevent atheists from joining the organization.

Herb Silverman made this point very well in his column for On Faith:

… This modified policy would still require local groups to discriminate against atheists, apparently because the Boy Scout Oath implies that an atheist can’t be “morally straight” unless he can do his “duty to God.”

Using this twisted logic, a number of courageous and honest atheists have been kicked out of the Scouts for rejecting all supernatural beliefs. Among them was my friend Darrell Lambert, an Eagle Scout, who had been supported by his entire troop.

I look forward to a day when the Boy Scouts become as tolerant as the Girl Scouts, who have refused to discriminate against any girl for any reason because they regard lesbian and atheist girls as equals. When that day comes, the BSA can claim to be as morally straight as their exemplars — the Girl Scouts of America.

There’s no reason to force every Scout to commit to an irrelevant part of an old Oath. There’s no reason the oath can’t be reworded to be more accommodating. The BSA is a private organization and we can’t force them to accept atheists, but they have never given a good reason to discriminate against us other than suggesting it’s the way things have always been done. Their principles have been in question for a long time, and their upcoming decision will move them a step closer to full inclusion, but until they accept atheists, they will still be a discriminatory organization to me.

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