Philly Rally Against the Boy Scouts June 11, 2010

Philly Rally Against the Boy Scouts

The city of Philadelphia no longer wants to give rent-free space to the local Boy Scouts of America chapter because they are a discriminatory organization — No gays or atheists are allowed to join the BSA. So the city wants the local BSA chapter to pay the $200,000 in annual rental fees from here on out.

The local group is suing… because… well, I don’t know why. They claim they’re just following orders from the national BSA and they themselves allow gay people in their chapter. You can read about the case here.

In any case, this particular lawsuit deals with discrimination of homosexuals.

They’re ignoring the fact that atheists are also discriminated against.

The Freethought Society in Philadelphia wants to draw attention to that particular fact and they’re hosting a rally at the Philadelphia Federal Courthouse on Monday to raise awareness:

The rally will start at 9:00 AM. Rally participants will show that nontheists are nice people who deserve to be given equal access to the world’s largest youth group. The rally will end at 5:00 PM.

“The media and the public are largely unaware that BSA is harming society by teaching children to separate from and discriminate against nontheists and gays,” said FS president, Margaret Downey.

You can read the press release here.

If you’re in the area, consider going, taking pictures, and help people realize that the Boy Scouts of America is not an organization they should want their children to join.

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  • Wow…they are discriminating against nontheists and homosexuals and they are the ones that are suing?!
    I know they have their own guidelines and policies, but that seems illegal to me.
    I hope everyone in that area goes to the rally and keeps it a PEACEFUL rally.

  • Will

    I find this funny because I was in the BS when I was younger and I’m a gaytheist. Goes to show that you can’t keep us out even if you try.

  • sarah

    Wow, I didn’t know they were anti atheist as well.

  • Richard Wade

    I’m glad that this local group permits gays to be members despite the national BSA’s bigoted rules.

    BUT even if this local group were to also permit atheists as well, I think they still should be charged the rent or forced to vacate the facilities because they are still a part of the discriminating organization. They have not repudiated the bigoted policy, they’re just ignoring it. It’s still in their written by-laws. If their local leader leaves, the new leader could begin to enforce the policy.

    Let them fully and publicly secede from the BSA and call themselves the Free Scouts of Philadelphia or something. Then because they’re benefiting the community without discrimination, perhaps they should be afforded some kind of help, like lower rent for the facilities.

  • mike

    I second what Will said. I’m an atheist and an Eagle Scout and a brother.

    And I must disagree with you on this:
    “help people realize that the Boy Scouts of America is not an organization they should want their children to join.”

    The Boy Scouts are an organization I would like my kids to join. And that is why rather than protest to get rid of the Boy Scouts, I am happy to see protests that shame the Boy Scouts into changing their discriminatory policies. I bother both my local council and the head office in Texas (is Texas just trying to be viewed as a backwards state?) quite often with mail on the subject, as should all former scouts.

    Edit: I fully support the city charging them full rent, and the BSA otherwise loosing perks bestowed on them by gov’t until such time as the BSA fully ends is discriminatory policies.

  • Ironically, back when my kids were in Cub Scouts, they held a church service at a summer camp one morning and I was the only one who knew any of the songs, so I, the atheist, led the singing. Ironically, also, when it rained, I, the single female parent, was the only one who had waterproofed her tent, and thus our sleeping bags were dry. When you look at it from the inside (I was an assistant leader), you find even less to like about the Boy Scouts of America.

  • Evilspud

    The article doesn’t say whether or not they are discriminating against atheists.

    “If you’re in the area, consider going, taking pictures, and help people realize that the Boy Scouts of America is not an organization they should want their children to join.”


    Yes, let’s assume that all Scouting chapters are the same and now focus on teaching kids political and religious viewpoints.

    As someone who became an atheist while in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, I would like to point out that all of the adults in my troop (including a devout Catholic preacher) were incredibly supportive when I was honest and open with them. I was just told not to flaunt it, or “bait the dog” if you will.

    But that’s beside the point. Troop meetings, camp outs and activities are all conducted by the scouts themselves. We elected fellow scouts for six month terms to plan each camp out and troop meeting. The adults merely acted as supervisors who only butted in to suggest more efficient alternatives, and to keep us focused. The discrimination that is occuring is, for the most part, being condoned at the national level. We watch one thirty minute video on sexual abuse (not homosexual behavior) and children of different faiths are actively encouraged to earn a nonrequired religious pin of their choosing.

    Hell, we had a chapain, but apart from minutes of silence for our troops overseas, our closing prayer went like this: “May the great scoutmaster, of all great scouts, be with us all, until we meet again. I would support. Instead of attacking an organization that rarely, it breaks my heart to see an orginization that has taught me so much be hindered and hurt by the bigots who control it. The BSA is a victim here as wel.

  • Evilspud

    Mike, what was your Eagle Scout Project?

  • Siamang

    A suggestion….

    Instead of saying “we’re boycotting the boy scouts”… which is bad pr. You’re picketing children!!!

    Instead, Picket the leaders of the organization, by name and by big color photograph.

    Show those stinky old bigoted men.

    Just a suggestion.

  • Grook

    Another atheist and Eagle Scout checking in, and I have to say I agree with the other former scouts here. I personally had a wonderful and life changing experience in the Boy Scouts, and I think it’s horrible that some people are denied that due to their beliefs or sexual orientation (or sex, for that matter; don’t forget that the Boy Scouts discriminates against girls too). Many of the international scouting groups are all-inclusive; hopefully one day the BSA will follow.

  • Evilspud

    Not if you count venture patrols. And of course, mothers and female volunteers are welcome to be adut eaders in the patrol, and teachers.

    I think that woud have to be pondered a little further though, after all, the purpose of scouting was to make independent leaders, but on a personal level, I have a lot of memories in scouts just being with guys, being guys.

    Although I love the idea of teaching both boys and girls to cooperate and communicate together. It’s worth a shot, but the scouting experience would change, and I don’t know what the kids themselves would enjoy more.

    I keep playing this over in my head: The boys want to go off on their own and be guys (we talked about sex, girls, told crude jokes, pulled pranks on one another), and the girls want to get involved to. I know we shouldn’t discriminate, so why do I feel bad for the guys?

    Also, tents would be an issue.

  • Shannon

    Hmmm. I’m not a fan of the boy scouts but I read a few of the links and in one it says there are other “exclusive” organizations that use city space rent free. If that’s true, the city will have some explaining to do.

  • Richard Wade

    Grook said,

    Many of the international scouting groups are all-inclusive; hopefully one day the BSA will follow.

    It won’t until the pressure and embarrassment gets much stronger than it is now. People have been protesting this for several years, but the BSA hasn’t budged. The monolithic mass and inertia is still greater than the force being applied to move it.

    Large organizations that become corrupt or anachronistic change in one of two ways. Less commonly, they reform from within. More commonly, they fracture, with small groups breaking off to follow their own more modern values. The original group can remain for a very long time, but it is smaller and continues to become increasingly irrelevant, insular, fossilized, and self-important.

    There’s a big organization like that centered somewhere in Italy, I think.

    I admire scouts and scouting by the way, and I’d really like to see the BSA reform from within, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • Erp

    Depends on the type of ‘exclusiveness’. For instance veterans organizations, youth only organizations, and senior citizen organizations are all exclusive yet legal for government support.

  • jemand

    they also discriminate against girls.

    Everybody seems to forget that every time this comes up.

    And no, girl scouts is not really an acceptable solution “separate but equal” never was.

  • Julie

    I’m a girl and an atheist, but my family has always been involved with boy scouts. My brother and boyfriend are both eagle scouts, and my dad is a leader of the local troop. I also got involved with “Venture Crew” which is run by the BSA and allows girls (as do the sea scouts I believe, who are also run by the BSA). Our local scouting is not very religious at all, in fact, I never knew about the BSA’s discriminatory practices until after my boyfriend had his Eagle.

    So I support the Boy Scouts’ mission, because they and give boys (and occasionally girls like me) the opportunity to do a lot of great things for themselves and their communities. Kids need every opportunity to get outdoors these days, and an organization that does that is awesome. However, I also disapprove of the discrimination, and think the BSA should lose government funding until they fix it.

    I also happen to live in Philly (just moved here!) and work a few blocks from the rally. Maybe I’ll stop by on my lunch break!

  • Trace

    My boy belongs to the cub scouts (just got his Bear Insignia). Small group. Parents organize different activities. Female siblings participate in everything if they choose to. Leader is female.

    Achievements 1 (Ways We Worship) and 2 (Emblems of Faith)…I personally find the motto of the Baha’i’s religious emblem the most appealing: “Unity of Mankind”.

    Son loves the group, me not so much…

  • I, too am a former scout. While I agree that the Boy Scouts of America often do affect positive change in their communities, their discriminatory practices and policies remain.

    Saying “my troup didn’t discriminate against me” does nothing to excuse the fact that many troups do.

    Even if every troup in America ceased to practice irrational discrimination, the policy remains in the bylaws…literally in black and white.

    If the BSA wishes to continue such policies they have every right to do so, in my opinion. They do NOT, however, have a right to do so with my support or the support of the Federal government through tax breaks, grants, etc.

  • flatlander100

    Couple of points:

    The Philadelphia group does not admit gays. It did, until National told it to conform to policy or lose its charter. It conformed.

    I was in Scouts as a youngster, and became a Packmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster as my oldest child went through. I loved it and so did he. At no time when I was a scout did anyone ask me if I was gay. At no time I was a leader, did I ask any kid if he was gay. In my experience, in a lot of troops, “don’t ask don’t tell” operates effectively to thwart the ossified Christian wingnuts who sadly make up the National Scout office. The best troops I was involved with routinely ignored most of what came down from National and half of what came down from Council most of the time.

    The legal question seems to me to be very simple. The Scouts went to court to establish they are a private membership organization and as such, do not have to comply with the non-discrimination rules public organizations have to comply with. OK. But then they cannot turn around the next day and claim they are a public organization and so should get to use public facilities at nominal cost. If they’re a private group, as they insisted in court they are, they don’t get the freebie public building. If they are public group, they don’t get to discriminate in ways forbidden to public organizations in Philadelphia. Real simple, seems to me.

    I feel sorry for the Philly organization, which is as someone above noted, caught between a rock and a hard place. It wants to be a Boy Scout organization doing the right thing, but the National office won’t let it.

  • My boy belongs to the cub scouts (just got his Bear Insignia).

    It was my impression that parents had to sign a statement affirming the BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principles in order for their children to be admitted.

    Sure looks like it’s a requirement:

    The Boy Scouts of America 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 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. Only persons willing to subscribe to this Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of membership.

    Cub Scout Application

    In effect, parents are signing for their minor children and are pledging their support of the Declaration of Religious Principles, including the expectation that “the home … shall give definite attention to religious life.”

    How do atheist parents get around that? I mean, I suppose you could just lie on your application since the requirement is so reprehensible, but (for me) it wouldn’t feel right. My advice to atheist parents with their children in Scouts: Be careful! The Boy Scouts can and do kick out people for not toeing the party line.

  • MH

    jemand, the girl scouts don’t discriminate so it might be better if boys could join the girl scouts! Plus their cookies are much better than the boyscout popcorn.

    Richard, the local councils can’t withdraw from the BSA and keep the Scouting in their name. The BSA was given a monopoly on the name in 1916 by their Congressional charter.

    My son is in the cub scouts and our council and others in our state have non-discrimination policies. Religion or sexual preference never comes up. It is my understanding that their funds from the local United Way and their access to the state parks would be lost if they did discriminate. But they can’t effect the policy of the national which is headquartered in Texas and influenced by the LDS and Southern Baptists. The national doesn’t want to force the local councils to discriminate because it would end up in a nasty public fight that would likely result in the local councils losing their charters from the BSA or losing access to funds and the state parks. Either way they would be gone.

    I had considered seeing if my kids wanted to join Campfire, but they didn’t have a chapter nearby.

  • MH

    Anna, I asked a local pack leader about the religious requirement before my son joined. He stated that the parent determines if the child met the requirement, the family defines the meaning of the requirement, and no outside adult is involved.

    Since the local Unitarian Universalists count as meeting the requirement, I defined it as essentially secular humanism. So with my son I discussed values, doing things to help other people, and not being mean.

    Also, flatlander100 is correct that this is largely a problem of wing-nuts in the national office.

  • Carlie

    Defense of the Boy Scout Organization sounds an awful lot like “but he’s a great guy all the time when he’s not beating his wife”.

  • Beijingrrl

    For those defending the Boy Scouts, I find your arguments very similar to those of Catholics. Most Catholics I know are much more progressive than the church, but I still cannot understand how they can continue to call themselves Catholic even if their particular church disagrees with the teachings of Rome. For those of you still supporting the Boy Scouts, how is this different?

    We did Campfire for my son (it is a co-ed organization now which focuses on whole families) as part of a virtual council last year because I was not willing to sign a declaration of faith document to be involved in the Boy Scouts and I don’t agree with their discriminatory practices despite very positive memories of my brothers and parents being actively involved when I was a child.

    My daughter did Girl Scouts, which also has no discriminatory policies and provided wonderful opportunities.

    I prefer Campfire because as part of the virtual council (they don’t have a council near us) I was almost completely autonomous. We had a few other families also join independently (it’s the Fire Tender program) and were able to run our own Cluster (troop). No silly reporting and training and very few bureaucratic hoops. And had we chosen to sell the candy, we wouldn’t have had to share our profits with a council.

    There are also some other alternates out there: Spiral Scouts, Earth Scouts, Roots and Shoots, maybe a few more.

    If all of the people who disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policies stopped supporting them, I think they’d either be forced to change or they’d cease to exist. I know they’re already hurting financially and it really is beyond time that people used their power to change them.

  • evilspud

    Well, the BSA, like the church, has a high bureaucracy, but that is not the level that interacts with the members (the people you know and love). that much is similar.

    These are trustworthy, hardworking, mentor-worthy individuals who wanted to go camping with their kids, give them life lessons, impart upon them the importance of helping others, give them accomplishments they can be proud of and mostly have a good time.

    Action is slow, but honest; I’ve actually kept in close contact with my scout master, and we are working to petition the Goose Creek District so that we can start to put pressure on the national level.

    The BSA has a magazine called Boy’s Life which is sent out to all members, I recommend writing to them, tell them how you feel. Flood them with letters from children asking why their friend with two daddies isn’t allowed in.

    If you want a difference between the catholic church and the BSA, the BSA doesn’t preach it’s message of hate. In fact, it hardly teaches at all. Our Troop never focused on politics or religious beliefs, because we knew that wasn’t why the kids were there. In my opinion, I think that makes the BSA far more likely to reform itself rather than fall apart.

    But I do admit it’s difficult for me properly comprehend the problem here. As an Eagle Scout myself I am biased. I can only tell you what I’ve seen.

    I have to go do some reading.

  • Beijingrrl

    @evilspud – I still don’t see any difference between Boy Scout apologists and Catholic apologists.

    In a lot of Catholic churches with progressive congregations, the priests don’t preach negatively about birth control, homosexuality, etc. Many quietly contradict Rome. Even in the 70s, my mom’s priest counseled her to use birth control as another pregnancy would have put her life at great jeopardy.

    Many priests and lay people are “trustworthy, hardworking, mentor-worthy individuals” and have the same goal of imparting life lessons.

    The BSA, on a national level, do actively “preach” their message of discrimination or nobody would even know about it. They are extremely vocal in the press and in pursuing legal action.

    I understand how people become conflicted. Especially when they never encounter anyone enforcing these policies on a personal level. If Boy Scouts were to drop their policies on homosexuals and religion, I’d sign my son up in a heartbeat. Those were good times for our family. If the Catholic church reformed, I might possibly accompany my mom to a mass every now and then to please her as long as she could accept I was there to be with her and not because I believed in it. As it stands, I cannot compromise myself to do either.

    I guess I’m just not satisfied with slow action when it comes to moral reform. As I believe discrimination is wrong, any organization I support must not currently engage in it. I chafe at “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies because if we know it’s wrong to ask, if we’re willing to look the other way, then we should just be forthright and abolish those policies.

    In these cases, I’m willing to throw the baby out with the bath water. If Catholics refused to send money to Rome unless they changed their policies, Rome would change. Or unsatisfied Catholics could just keep the parts they want and reorganize and start calling themselves something else. People who don’t support the Boy Scouts policies could do the same. It’d be a shame to lose the historical ties, but it wouldn’t be that difficult for individual troops and councils to band together and run exactly the same program without the discriminatory policies.

  • flatlander100

    I should add that when I was a scout myself, and then an adult leader, no one ever asked me to sign a statement of faith such as someone described above. That apparently is a new wrinkle, or at least new since I was involved [about fifteen years ago]. Seems to be a sad indication of the stuffy holier-than-thou sanctimoniousness infecting National. Sad. But I notice sane troop leaders find a way around the nonsense. [The parent decides what the statement means and if the kid fulfills the requirement. No one else asks.] Decent local leaders can often find ways to sidestep the nonsense. And do.

    But I know what the Scouts did for me. Got me out of the city, regularly, camping, hiking, canoeing. For an only child, the resulting self-reliance and independence mattered, and I picked up a life-time recreation [backpacking] that’s brought me [later my eldest son] immense pleasure over the years. No one else in my family had ever camped a day in their lives, except my Dad, in the army, and he hated every minute of it.

    You think it’s not something you want your child involved with, that’s fine. You have other youth organizations available you like better, that’s fine too. But I have to confess, I’m a little leery about using a child to “make a statement.” If there was a good troop locally, run by good people, who knew what to ignore and how to ignore it, and I had a kid who wanted to be part of it, I’m not sure I’d insist he make my statement by not taking part.

  • mike


    I think the comparison to the Catholic church is unfair. At least compare it to the baptists. The BSA does not seem to have institutionalized pedophilia, and it is much more loosely controlled that the Catholic church.

    And the BSA is clearly not a religion, even if it is currently run by religious bigots. If it the discriminatory policies were changed, it would be a great organization, whereas the Catholic church would have to deny its central dogma to become an organization worth keeping.

    In any case, a good many of us who feel conflicted, manage to find some resolution in campagining to get the BSA to change. And folks have rightly pointed out, this includes female membership as well. It seemed to work just fine in the UK.

  • Trace

    Anna, Confucious says: “Involve me and I’ll understand”

    Mom and pop Akela try their best 😉

  • plutosdad

    Local BSA chapters can be great. We had several gay kids, it possibly could be considered one of the few social outfits where adults would stop bullying (school sure as hell didn’t). And it is christian, not particularly any one denomination, but apart from sunday morning worship it never comes up. If only the heads of the BSA would change, I’m sure they could change “reverent” to something else.

    That doesn’t mean they should get government money they way they are now.

  • Edmond

    Everyone should be aware that discrimination is not the ONLY shame that plagues the BSA. Familiarize yourselves with ANOTHER despicable BSA policy:

  • Siamang

    I’m glad I have a girl.

    I’m a former scout, I enjoyed scouting a lot.

    But I’m glad I don’t have to explain to my child that she can’t belong because of what the BSA has become.

    They disgust me. It’s reprehensible.

    My daughter has gay grandparents. It would break my heart to have to explain to her at this age what a terrible organization they are.

    And for everyone still involved in BSA, who make excuses… it’s been enough time already. You’ve had time to change your organization, and you haven’t. It’s way past Time to stand up, now you’re just the silent enablers of bigotry. Which means you didn’t really mind the bigotry at all. When the cup came to you, you let it pass to someone else.

    I would never, EVER, belong to a private club that excluded gays for any reason. It’s shameful.

    Hell, it’d be shameful if this was the year 1980. That it’s 2010 makes it fucking unbelievable and morally indefensible.

    Great lesson you’re teaching your children. YOUR children, the children who don’t pay the price of the bigotry.

  • Evilspud

    Well, what the hell do you want me to do?

    You can speak for youself by taking your children out of the program, but just because I’m fighting a slow battle, and for the most part, following my own scouting members and ignoring the national council, it doesn’t mean that I feel the bigotry is wrong. It’s going to take protest from within the BSA, and the eventual changing of hands of the National council to change their stance, but most of the leaders are doing their small part.

    The easiest option would be to buy out the BSA, or apply economic pressure, but that’s not gonna happen unless the national council cracks down harder on local troops.

    That being said, I looked through my old handbook and found this quote by Baden Powell:
    “I have had a most happy life and I want each one of you to have a happy life too. I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career, nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man. Nature study will show you how full of beautiful and wonderful things God has made the world for you to enjoy. Be contented with what you have got and make the best of it. Look on the bright side of things instead of the gloomy one. But the real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate you have not wasted your time but have done your best. ‘Be Prepared’ in this way, to live happy and to die happy — stick to your Scout Promise always — even after you have ceased to be a boy — and God help you to do it.”

    Hopefully this can give some people an idea of what Scouting is meant to be. As outlined by it’s founder.

  • Evilspud

    Of course, Powell did not believe you could be an able-bodied citizen and not believe in God. However, I do not think it unreasonable that, had he met and talked with atheist Eagle scouts today, he would adjust his stance.

  • Jason

    I am currently working on my Eagle Project and I have found scouting to be some of my favorite memories. It is a great way to meet friends and to travel. My scoutmaster was talking once about the scout point “revrent” and mentioned that atheist could not get their Eagle. I was annoyed by this for obveious reasons. I asked him about it later and he said that even though they allow any faith to join if your atheist you can’t get Eagle because you need to believe in a higher being. I was ticked off by this and asked that couldent you go to court and say it was against your first admendment right? He said no because the BSA is a privite orginazation and could make any rules it wanted to. Because of that I sm keeping quiet about my beliefs because I still want to get my Eagle and I see no other way to accomplish it if I do anything against the rule.

  • Dan

    Just came back from the rally. I have some video, which I’ll post when I can. But here is my quick little rundown.

    I held a sign reading “Hi, I’m your friendly neighborhood atheist.” It was interesting to see the range of responses. The negative ones were disappointing to me though.

    One guy shaking his head said “It’s all about Jesus” to which I responded, “Only in parts of the world. You wouldn’t think that if you grew up in Iraq.”

    To which he replied “I feel sorry for you, you’re going to hell.” To which I then replied “How do you know hell exists? Did you die and come back to life? Do you know anyone who came back from the dead to tell you about it?”

    To which he then just repeated “It’s all about Jesus.”

    I mean c’mon! That’s IT?! I barely got started, he could have countered what I said a bit better!

    Another guy passed and just said “No.” So I asked him, “What does ‘no’ mean?”

    He just kept walking, and shook his head in disappointment, wagging his finger and said “Bad!”

    Lame! I wan’t more!

    But I had a girl pass who said she was her neighborhoods friendly agnostic! Aww, yay! And another woman came buy who was a Unitarian, and married Lesbian who supported us. Her wife happened to be an atheist! Woo! And we had a handful of non-vocal supporters who just kinda smiled and gave a thumbs up to us. Thank you, friends!

    A group of school kids came by. In the back of the group was a tubby white kid – who was shouting at us as he passed, “Where’s my sign?! Where’s my sign?!” And I was literally going to yell “Sorry, we don’t have a sign that reads ‘Small Dick. Small Mind’!” But I kept quiet, tried to be professional about it!

    That’s it so far 🙂

  • Jason

    Sounds like fun. I do the same thing on a site called omegle and the reactions are quite funny.

  • cathy

    @jemand, thank you. That’s what I always think too. This is a group that explicitly excludes girls (and trans boys). I wasn’t kicked out of scouts for being a queer atheist, I was not eligible to join by virtue of by genitals. Sexism, homophobia, and christian nuttery, what a nice trifecta.

  • Dan

    Video of myself at the protest. I’ve only just began ‘debating’ with people in person. I’m much better at written debates as I can form sentences properly in my head. I have a delete button. All the text is sent at once so it’s as if I never stuttered trying to express what I’d like to say.

  • But I have to confess, I’m a little leery about using a child to “make a statement.” If there was a good troop locally, run by good people, who knew what to ignore and how to ignore it, and I had a kid who wanted to be part of it, I’m not sure I’d insist he make my statement by not taking part.

    The BSA does exclude child atheists as well as adult atheists, so unless your children are willing to promise to “love God,” it’s going to be a problem from Tiger Cubs all the way to Eagle Scout. If my son is an atheist (and, at five years old, he would be if I hadn’t introduced him to religion), then he wouldn’t be allowed to join. Check out the case of Remington Powell in Oregon, who was refused admittance in elementary school.

    But even if our own children were not targeted, don’t you think it’s appropriate for parents to take a stand and say that the family doesn’t agree with discrimination? I realize it’s hard to break ties with an organization you love, but why are so many people willing to look the other way? This is no different from any other kind of bigotry. Would you let your children attend an summer camp that didn’t allow non-whites? Even if all your child’s friends were going, isn’t it more important to take a stand against such a hideous policy?

    For me, it’s not just my statement. I will not be raising my children to tolerate bigotry, and I don’t want them learning that it’s okay to lie about their beliefs in order to be accepted. So while they may be disappointed at not being allowed to join a group all their friends are joining, I would hope that (even at the tender age of five) they would agree that discrimination is wrong. And if “our kind” isn’t officially welcome, we’re not going to join. Even if the people who run the local troop are really nice. Even if they have a great program otherwise. Because it’s not right to support an organization that promotes intolerance.

  • Scouter

    The point that is being missed here is that the BSA is a private club. The principles they are founded on are of religious reverence and moral fortitude. The mission of the BSA is to mold good citizens and men of strong character. They are very upfront with the fact that whereas they prescribe to no particular religion, but they offer a program that is religiously founded in its principles. There are other clubs that offer similar programs to children such as 4-H that require not declaration of religious faith and do not have a moral code, that would exempt anyone as a member. If the BSA principles are not in agreement with your own, don’t join it. But leave them alone and let them run their program the way they see fit.

  • Scouter, private clubs have a legal right to discriminate. That doesn’t make it any less reprehensible.

    If they want to make a stand, they can do it as a private group, but those of us who are excluded by the policies have every right to stand up against such bigotry and speak out about it. It’s not right to exclude children because of what they believe about deities, or because of what their parents believe, or to promote the falsehood that only theists can be “the best kind of citizens.” That’s flat out wrong, and it should be condemned.

    As I said, the BSA can do its thing, but if they truly want to be a discriminatory private group, they should not receive government support or be allowed to recruit children in public schools as long as they discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.

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