Last week, I posted about how the Unitarian Universalist Association had once again joined forces with the Boy Scouts of America. The UUA had cut all ties with the Scouts in 1998 due to its anti-atheist and anti-gay bigotry, but since the BSA is finally accepting of gay scouts and scout leaders, they figured now is the time to reconcile.
The problem is that the BSA still doesn’t allow openly atheist scouts to be part of their organization. So why is the UUA — which prides itself on being inclusive — lending its support to an organization that will kick boys out for being atheists?
When John B. Hooper, President of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association, reached out to UUA President Peter Morales (a Humanist himself), Morales argued that it was easier to create change from within. I don’t believe that’s possible. The BSA finally accepted gay scouts and leaders only after there was intense pressure to do so from the outside. No pressure at that intensity exists to get them to include atheists. Instead of creating change, the UUA may inadvertently be lending support to a BSA that excludes atheists and plans to keep it that way.
Yesterday, the UUHA (the Humanist wing of the UUA) issued a public statement on the matter, responding to what Morales said. It’s clear that members of the UUHA are furious at their parent organization’s decision.
… the UU Humanists continue to object because a) this does not push back on the religious discrimination, b) this does not help the non-UU scouts and adults who do not believe in God, and c) this does not adequately address the needs of nontheist UUs who cannot, with integrity, express an “obligation to God”, and d) because all decision making, including approving membership and boards of review for advancement, involve people from the council and district level, not just the unit level. On this latter point, the national organization has shown its intent and willingness to reject nontheists.
The same statement acknowledges that the decision may have been easier for the UUA to make because it already promotes “extremely liberalized religious language” in its own materials. So when UU congregations talk about the “Spirit of Life and love, great mystery, God of many names we pray…,” it’s not a far cry from the BSA requirement that all members believe in a Higher Power, whatever it is.
That doesn’t mean the collaboration with the Scouts is okay, though.
We do not seek to break the agreement, nor for the UUA to stop using religious language, but we must have a leadership that stands up against prejudice against us and that does not expect us to pretend that we are something we are not in order to be welcomed. We have asked for an official meeting with our UUA leadership where we will seek their help in resolving this issue. We are confident that the outcome of that meeting will remove the need to seek justice some other way, and we promise to keep everyone informed until it is resolved. We are not angry outsiders, we are the nontheist clergy and members who lovingly value our UUA and its seven principles.
I would love to see UUA officials admit they made a mistake and tell the Boy Scouts they’re walking away unless atheists are accepted. That would be bold. That would be encouraging. That would be a powerful statement that the UU Church isn’t just paying lip service to its non-theistic members.
That’s… never going to happen, is it?
If it doesn’t, then I have to ask: Why on earth would Humanists remain part of the organization? UUA leaders are basically admitting they don’t care about the needs of the Church’s non-theistic members.
If the UUA doesn’t sever its ties with the Boy Scouts, maybe the UUHA needs to sever its ties with the UUA. There’s no reason for Humanists to remain loyal to an organization that throws them under the bus in order to march hand-in-hand with a bigoted organization.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)