The Boy Scouts of America have been in a downward spiral as an organization for years. In 2018, they considering filing for bankruptcy in large part because of financial pressures (due to low membership) and legal costs (associated with paying out settlements for victims of abuse) and finally did that this past February.
But the group still exists and it still has tens of thousands of members, and after putting out a bland statement earlier this month urging people to “become the best versions of themselves,” they have finally gotten more specific in saying “Black Lives Matter” and then some.
In fact, the BSA says it will now require members to earn a “diversity and inclusion merit badge” in order to become an Eagle Scout, its highest rank.
Among the changes:
Introducing a specific diversity and inclusion merit badge that will be required for the rank of Eagle Scout. It will build on components within existing merit badges, including the American Cultures and Citizenship in the Community merit badges, which require Scouts to learn about and engage with other groups and cultures to increase understanding and spur positive action.
Reviewing every element of our programs to ensure diversity and inclusion are engrained at every level for participants and volunteers by applying a standard that promotes racial equality and denounces racism, discrimination, inequality and injustice.
Requiring diversity and inclusion training for all BSA employees starting July 1 and taking immediate action toward introducing a version for volunteers in the coming months.
The commitment to addressing racism is important and welcome. But the broader commitment to diversity and inclusion is all kinds of ironic given that the Boy Scouts still excludes open atheists from joining or leading troops.
We know why they do this. They always point to the Scout Oath, which includes the phrase “I will do my best to do my duty to God,” and the Scout Law, which includes the goal of being “reverent” to God, as justification for the exclusion.
There’s no reason to keep the anti-atheist rule in place. It’s not like the Scouts can’t make changes to their principles — they did that already by accepting gays and girls. And if they insist that they’re in the business of teaching kids values like loyalty, kindness, friendliness, etc., there’s just no good reason to continue banning a large swath of people who might want to join. Who exactly would they be alienating by letting atheists in? Mormons and evangelicals? They’ve long abandoned the organization in order to double down on their own faith-based bigotry! Don’t worry about them!
If the BSA seriously wants kids to learn about diversity and inclusion, they shouldn’t be promoting it within their own bubble. Somehow, the (unrelated) Girl Scouts have never excluded atheists and they’ve been doing just fine. The sky didn’t fall. It wouldn’t fall if the BSA took the simple step of saying anyone can join regardless of his faith. Reverence was never a worthy goal to begin with. It’s not too late to fix that now.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)