After moving to a new city, Kate Abbott wanted to help her 8-year-old son Henry find a new group of friends, and she figured the Boy Scouts would be a perfect place to make that happen. They met with a local den leader, bought the requisite clothing and equipment, and dove right into the Cub Scout handbook.
That when she realized belief in God was a requirement for the Scouts.
Kate wasn’t aware of this before. And she wondered if there was a way to work around it. She and her husband weren’t religious and they were raising their son without religion. Since the den seemed fairly liberal, couldn’t she prove her son was “reverent” in a non-religious way?
She tells the story in an essay at Longreads:
It’s perfectly legal for them to discriminate based on a lack of religion. But is it moral? Is it moral to exclude anyone, much less children, based on their religious beliefs? Of course not. So why should it be moral to exclude children on their lack of religious beliefs? Would it be moral for my son to hide and lie about his personal beliefs just to be in a club? I can’t think of anything less moral (or what I think of as Scout-like) than lying about what you believe to be right.
You would think the Scouts would welcome an honest atheist who genuinely wants everything the Scouts offer (minus the religious bits), but they have a long history of excluding people who don’t meet their requirements perfectly. It’s a mistake that has put them in an existential crisis before and they still haven’t learned their lesson.
As Kate admits, the BSA is a private group. They’re allowed to set their own rules. (They shouldn’t get any federal funding or access to public schools because of that, but that’s another story.) Just because they can exclude atheists, though, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
The Scouts accept bigoted Christians over honest atheists. Maybe one day that will haunt them enough to do something about it.
(Image via Shutterstock)