Alabama pastor announces his opposition to the Golden Rule

For decades, the Boy Scouts of America excluded boys who were gay from participating in scouting.

This was cruel and unfair, as Greg Walker describes:

“It’s hard on a personal level to say to a troop of young boys who have done nothing wrong and to the leaders, ‘You’re not welcome here,'” Walker explained. “I didn’t make the decision. Boy Scouts of America made that decision.”

Walker pinpoints exactly why the scouts’ policy of excluding gay boys was unjust.

It is simply wrong — unjust, unfair, uncouth, inhospitable, immoral, sinful — to say to “young boys who have done nothing wrong … ‘You’re not welcome here.'” And that’s exactly what the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy said to gay youth for many years.

Unfortunately, the blissfully obtuse Walker wasn’t referring to the BSA’s recently overturned policy of arbitrary discrimination.

He was describing his own response to that policy — which was to ban Boy Scouts from meeting at his church, the First Baptist Church of Helena, Alabama.

If Walker isn’t allowed to single out gay youth for exclusion, then he feels he has no choice but to exclude all youth.

Pastor Walker seems not to realize that the Golden Rule is a commandment. He also seems to have forgotten about Rule No. 1.

More and more I’m convinced that the universal cartoon caption also applies as a universal response to public statements by Southern Baptist leaders.

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  • Invisible Neutrino

    Talk about your Mood Whiplash. :O

  • ReverendRef

    If Walker isn’t allowed to single out gay youth for exclusion, then he feels he has no choice but to exclude all youth.

    I was on the other end of this several months ago (might be pushing a year, I can’t remember). A Scout leader came to me looking for a meeting place because they had to leave the church where they were currently meeting. I’m not sure of the details there, but he said it had to do with the congregation needing more time and space for their own congregational activities.

    I politely declined his request for two reasons. 1) We already have a bunch of outside groups that meet in our building, so finding a time for yet another group is close to impossible; and 2) I told him that I would not let an openly discriminatory group meet in our building.

    Now it’s possible that the local group is of an inclusive nature, but when the national governing body is discriminatory, that reflects on everyone. So, sorry . . . until the BSA changes its policy, the local group won’t be allowed to meet here.

  • aunursa

    Would you prohibit the Boy Scouts from meeting in your building until they stop discriminating against girls? Or would you consider it sufficient if they stop discriminating against adult gay leaders and atheists?

  • ReverendRef

    I would consider it sufficient if they stopped discriminating against adult gay leaders and atheists. I don’t really have a problem with them not allowing girls, mainly because there is the Girl Scouts. Whether one considers that sufficient, I don’t know.

    I do know that there can be benefits to separate boys and girls for some things — after all, my daughter attends an all-women’s college.

  • aunursa

    Ending the BSA’s discrimination against atheists would be more complex than the current change ending discrimination against gay youths, since the Scout Law “A scout is reverent” and both the Cub Scout Promise and Boy Scout Oath “Duty to God” imply devotion to a religious faith. The Scouts would have to make changes to the Promise and Oath, and either change or reinterpret the Law.

    (Some have interpreted a tenet of the Scout Oath “keep myself … morally straight” as a prohibition against homosexual identity or conduct, but that interpretation is dubious.)

  • Carstonio

    “Duty to God” imply devotion to a religious faith

    The Scouts may see it that way, but in practice that effectively limits the definition of faith to only monotheistic religions. A Hindu or Buddhist or Shinto boy would have betray his own faith in order to say the Scout oath.

  • aunursa

    From the Boy Scout membership application:

    The [BSA] maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely non-sectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the [BSA] shall be entitled to certificates of membership.

    It’s not clear how the Scout Oath is handled for Hindu members and those of the other faiths.

    EDIT: It appears that the Buddhist community supports having Boy Scout members:
    Scouting in the Buddhist Community

  • Carstonio

    Interesting that the Buddhists interpret the Oath as covering spiritually broadly. The Scouts themselves are mistaken in assuming that “God” is nonsectarian. The term applies only to religions that worship a single god, so it excludes religions that fall into other categories, such as polytheism.

  • Ross

    I don’t think you can be mistaken about what your own credo means. If the Scouts think “God” is nonsectarian, then the Buddhists are correct to interpret the oath as covering spirituality broadly, because they’re interpreting it the way the Scouts mean it.

  • Lori

    You may not be able to be mistaken about what your own credo means, but you can be completely full of crap. The Scouts can say that they mean god in a nonsectarian way but that’s ridiculous as anything other than a fig leaf that allows some kids to join whose parents would otherwise feel uncomfortable sending them.

  • Beroli

    I don’t think you can be mistaken about what your own credo means.

    Wow, what a blank check. Roughly equivalent to, “But I didn’t mean to exclude anybody, so I am blameless regardless of the actual effect of my actions”–or, “Intent is magic!”

    Lori addressed the fact that they could be lying; I’d add that they could also be simply, sincerely, choosing not to acknowledge what they don’t want to see. Everyone believes in God, even people who don’t, so there’s nothing exclusionary about “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”
    If you claim cold works better to cook food than heat does, you’re wrong; if you claim that statement (about an obligation to God) is nonsectarian you’re wrong, whether you define the statement as part of your “credo” or not.

  • Ross

    Wow. What a way to misrepresent what I said. Intent isn’t magic. But this started out with the insinuation that the buddhists were wrong in their interpretation of the credo, and the Scouts were also wrong in their interpretation of the credo, and the One True Arbiter of what the credo actually means is a third party who is neither a buddhist nor a scout.

    Intent isn’t magic. (But thanks for whipping out everyone’s favorite “accuse the other person of saying intent is magic to automatically win the argument”) Intent is intent. The Boy Scout Oath fails to say what it means. But if you try to say that it doesn’t mean what they mean for it to mean, you’re saying that they don’t believe what they believe, which is nonsense. You’re not accusing them of having a poorly written or inaccurate creed; you’re accusing them of believing your interpretation of the meaning of their creed.

  • Beroli

    Oh? By all means, then, Ross. Explain how “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God” can be nonsectarian. Without referencing anyone’s intent this time.

  • Ross

    Step 1: Ask a boy scout “Suppose I belong to a religion which believes in higher powers but objects to characterizing them as a ‘god’. Am I in violation of your oath?”

    Step 2: Wait for the boy scout to say “Nope”

  • dpolicar

    Is there a Step 3: figure out whether that particular Boy Scout’s answer reflects the understanding of the organization?

    Or is it safe to assume that the replies given by any particular Boy Scout (or perhaps given by the majority of Boy Scouts for a statistically representative sample? given by a plurality? unanimously given?) represent the attitudes of the organization?

  • drkrick

    Is the uncertainty about whether the use of the singular term “God” is meant to exclude polytheists or that it’s meant to exclude atheists? Because my understanding is that it is not intended to exclude the former but they’re perfectly upfront about their intent to exclude the latter.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Is the objection that using the singular term “God” excludes polytheists or that it excludes atheists?


  • Maniraptor

    And I don’t think you can just tack on “and we mean that in a way that means you totally can’t get mad at us for what we just said even if said way makes no sense at all” to anything and get credit for it.

    You can’t mean “God” in a nonsectarian way, at least not unless you are very very ignorant. (I suppose if you genuinely thought that every religion was monotheistic you could sincerely mean that, but you also probably shouldn’t be formulating any policies re: faith until you read a book.)

  • dpolicar

    Agreed; that said, I’m prepared to believe that the active ingredient in this particular case is ignorance.

    That is, I’m prepared to believe that they only meant to exclude atheists, and it didn’t occur to them that they were also excluding religions whose symbology is inconsistent with words like “God”, because they don’t really think about those religions much and don’t know anything much about them.

    This does not, you understand, endear them to me.

  • Carstonio

    If you’re right, then the Scouts should think about those other religions. I say that as someone whose knowledge of the world’s religions is lacking. But I’m not running an organization that professes to be inclusive of people of different religions. I don’t know if there’s a term for the religious equivalent of ethnocentrism, but that would fit the mindset you describe.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’ve seen ‘Christocentrism’, but that’s not the same thing–anybody can be ethnocentric, only Christians can be Christocentric.

  • Carstonio

    I know a stanchly conservative atheist who defends what would reasonably be called Christian privilege, but she insists that it’s US culture. Things like proposals to teach the Bible as literature in public schools, not caring that these are obvious attempts to foil the First Amendment.

  • dpolicar

    I entirely agree.
    For that matter, I also object to the whole framing, since I disagree that atheists are somehow lesser.
    And “ethnocentrism” seems like the right word to me, even as applied to religion.

  • ReverendRef

    I agree that working to allow atheists would be problematic/complex for the BSA. As a private religious organization, though, they can make that choice based on religious/theological grounds.

    And as Carstonio points out below, they also have problems with other forms of religion.

    I suppose what the BSA should do is change their name to the Really True Christian Scouts of America. At least they’d be more honest about defining who they are, who they want to be and who they don’t want contaminating them.

  • Carstonio

    You’re right that they’re entitled to choose Scouts based on religious affiliation. The ethical issue is whether they claim to admit any boys who follow a religious faith but push Christianity at the expense of other religions.

  • Carrie Looney

    If they called themselves the Really True All-Male Christian Scouts of America, I’d have less of a problem with them, for sure. Own it.

  • stardreamer42

    Yes, they can make that choice on religious grounds. What they cannot then do as well is claim preferential treatment for things like access to government-funded park camping sites, which many of them do.

  • ReverendRef

    I totally agree with you. If you want to be a religious entity and enjoy the right to discriminate based on religious beliefs (because, you know, separation of church and state), then by all means — go ahead. But if you want to be given preferential treatment because you believe you are RTC and, you know, AMERICA AND GOD, well then you had better look at least at the Pledge of Allegiance:

    . . . one nation, under God, indivisible,with liberty and justice FOR ALL dammit. (Okay, I added the “dammit.”)

    Regardless of how you feel about the Pledge, even there All means ALL.

    And it’s late, I’ve just spent 4-1/2 hours in the car driving to a conference, including through some rush hour stuff, I’m slightly grumpy and damn these religious twits piss me off.

  • AnonymousSam

    Heh, and depending on that, it might not hurt to keep in mind that the “under God” part of that was a late addition.

  • ReverendRef

    Oh, I know. But I find it rather humorous? ironic? annoying? that all these RTC groups claim “God and Country,” yet are willing to not only ignore that both Scripture and our own national documents (the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge for starters) claim equality and justice for all, but fight for the privilege of remaining hateful, exclusionary bigots.

  • The_L1985

    No, because then all those lovely Jewish and Muslim religious merit badges wouldn’t have any boys to earn them anymore.

  • Lori

    since the Scout Law “A scout is reverent” and both the Cub Scout Promise and Boy Scout Oath “Duty to God” imply devotion to a religious faith.

    Reverent doesn’t necessarily denote religious belief. One can have deep and solemn respect for things other than god. As for the oath, if they wanted to do so it would be a fairly small thing to replace duty to god with something more inclusive. The original Promise, Oath and Law were not handed down from on high. People wrote them and people can change them. The wording isn’t remotely the issue. The issue is that Scouts don’t want to include non-believers.

  • aunursa

    As currently taught by the BSA, reverent does imply religious belief…

    A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.

    Which is why I said that they would need to reinterpret that tenet of the Scout Law.

  • Lori

    Which would be a trivial thing if they actually wanted to be inclusive. Which they do not.

  • The_L1985

    Um…you know that there is an organization called the Girl Scouts of America, too, right?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Different organizations entirely. Girl Scouts is less into outdoorsy stuff and more into accepting all girls regardless of factors including but not limited to sexuality and assigned-at-birth gender. I’d rather both the GSUSA and the BSA were gender-neutral, since I think some girls would get more out of the BSA than the GSUSA and some boys would get more out of the GSUSA than the BSA, but.

  • JennyHegemony

    I did tons of outdoorsy stuff in the Girl Scouts. I can still taste the foil-wrapped coal-baked potatoes to this day. Girl Scouts don’t literally just sit around having accepting feelings — they do things, too. Troops have a lot of autonomy as to what things, so doubtless some troops are more outdoorsy than others, but it’s just silly to suggest you have to join the BSA if you want to camp and whatnot.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Maybe it’s just the troops my sisters and I were in, then.

  • Lori

    A huge amount depends on your troop leaders. I never got past Blue Birds, but I had friends who were in GSA for years and there was a lot of variation in the stories they told. There were some that did everything but kill their own dinner and whittle their own canoe and others that made so many crafts you’d think Martha Stewart was den mother, with most somewhere in between.

  • EllieMurasaki

    *nods* That’s the whole reason my sisters all joined Venture crews, though, lack of outdoorsy stuff in Girl Scouts. (Me? Not outdoorsy. I forget why I gave up on Girl Scouts, though.) I guess I overgeneralized.

  • Lori

    I had one friend whose troop started doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff when the got a new troop leader. She was sort of crap at outdoorsy stuff herself and she was determined that her daughters weren’t going to be. She found assistants who were good at the things she wasn’t and sort of muddled through when she couldn’t and those girls tied knots and hiked and built fires without matches and identified poison ivy from 100 paces and who knows what else. If that troop had been in my town I’d have been tempted to go back to GSA because it sounded like it was sort of riot.

  • Jenny Islander

    Our troop leadership is rather disorganized and can’t quite grok that not everybody can assemble two sackfuls of pricey craft materials on 72 hours notice, but they are very good at teaching the outdoorsy stuff. My 9-year-old has already had cold weather survival, firepit safety, canoeing, hiking, etc., and she looks forward to the annual 3-day all-troop get-together, for which she has to ride in a small boat to a nearby island and sleep in buildings that used to be a quarantine hospital and then a military base.

  • P J Evans

    We had camping at the local level. I still remember how to tie knots I learned in GS. ‘Girly stuff’ we may have had, but it didn’t stick at all.

  • aunursa

    FYI: It appears that we can now view the upvotes by placing the curser over the ^. It doesn’t appear that we can view the downvotes at this time.

  • FearlessSon

    I just noticed that yesterday.

  • aunursa

    The Boy Scouts of America is now in a position in which the organization has angered gay rights opponents over its impending admission of gay youths, and angered gay rights supporters over its reaffirmed prohibition of adult gay leaders.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    It makes me think of that Bible verse, “So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

  • reynard61

    Wither thee, BSA? Reduced to being God’s mouthwash…

  • Carstonio

    Revealing, and no coincidence, that opponents of school desegregation used the same tactic, officially shutting down the public schools and then re-establishing them as “private academies.”

    The Scout leadership may have been trying to strike a compromise between their old ban and full inclusiveness. Either way, their new policy is worse because it implicitly endorses the myth of orientation being a choice, and the even more pernicious myth that adult gays recruit kids.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Okay, everybody, on three. One, two, three:

  • stardreamer42


  • Michael Pullmann

    Was going for “Christ, what an asshole,” but that works too.

  • Lori

    Caterpillar, manufacturer of all manner of manly man heavy construction equipment, announced today that they will no longer give funds to the BSA because of their anti-gay discrimination.

    If the bigots want to keep the gays out they’re going to have to pay for it themselves because it’s only going to get harder for BSA to retain corporate sponsors.

  • drkrick

    When Caterpillar is on your left on LGBT issues, you’re really on the wrong track …

  • Charity Brighton

    Honestly, I think the Scouts were much more worried about keeping the endorsement of the Mormons instead of the SBC.

  • Original Lee

    Exactly. The Mormons swooped in and started taking over huge swaths of the BSA, and now the BSA would be crippled if the Mormons swooped back out.

  • E. Nonee Moose

    Born in Alabama and raised a Southern Baptist. It’s a wonder that I’m not a stone cold atheist at this point.

  • Otrame

    There is nothing stone cold about being an atheist. In fact, I would argue that you have to be stone cold to be Southern Baptist.