Why Scouting, Part II

Hi Readers! First of all, a thanks to all the people who have commented. It was a good reminder to me — as was part of the speech in the original post (“I suppose there are some things I would change, like make the BSA image more inclusive…”) — that the sad fact is that there is an official policy against gay and/or atheist leadership at the Boy Scouts. I hate that. And if I’d thought about that part more the first time my son went with a friend to a meeting, maybe I would have said, “Don’t go.”

But off he went and he came back exhilarated. Apparently, the boys ran around for about half an hour before the meeting began and it was fun. Real fun — not run by a coach, not dedicated to improving any particular skill, just boys running around, being boys. And after that, it was boys sitting in a circle, working seriously on a badge. (Architecture.)

And even though I hadn’t started Free-Range Kids yet, I did realize: Wow. That’s not a thing that most of the boys I know get. It wasn’t gym class or Little League. It was something more old-fashioned, both the free time and the tinkering time.  And when my son said he’d be going on an overnight in a month — it was like falling into Robinson Crusoe-land. Suddenly there was boyhood beckoning our boy.

Do I want my sons (both have joined) to be part of an anti-gay, anti-atheist organization? No. Do I want them to be part of the troop they love, where they’ve learned how to make a fire, cook outside, hike for miles and sleep on the ground? Yes. Do I want them to learn hate? No. We do try to teach tolerance. Do I want them to be part of a group where, the higher you go in rank the more your job is to help the younger kids? Yes.

For the record, the Greater New York Council has a strong anti-discrimination policy. Apparently troops and their leadership often reflect the local community. We live in New York City. For a while the troop met in a synagogue. Now it meets in a church.

Nonetheless, nothing is uncomplicated. These comments on this blog remind me that part of my job should be agitating the Boy Scouts of America to abolish its homophobic, anti-atheist rules, which are not only wrong, but are also alienating whole swaths of boys who would otherwise join and love the Scouts.

So thank you, as usual, for helping me get some perspective. And I will now go write to the Scouts. – Lenore

175 Responses

  1. Lenore writes:

    Nonetheless, nothing is uncomplicated. These comments on this blog remind me that part of my job should be agitating the Boy Scouts of America to abolish its homophobic, anti-atheist rules, which are not only wrong, but are also alienating whole swaths of boys who would otherwise join and love the Scouts.

    This sort of clear-eyed awareness, Lenore, is why I adore you.

  2. @Maggie: I agree!

  3. I thought of my displeasure with the political attitudes of the scouts when I saw your first post, and I’m glad to see you address it here. I can understand why you want to keep your kids in the organization that they’re happy with, but for parents who are just starting to look for something similar for their kids, they might want to think about the smaller but more egalitarian Campfire Boys and Girls. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Fire_USA)

    My mother was a Campfire girl, back when the scouts probably wouldn’t have been terribly welcoming to a Jewish kid. Since their inception they’ve been a nonsectarian and multi-cultural organization, and their position on inclusiveness is made absolutely clear in their stated philosophy:

    “3. We are welcoming and inclusive. Regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity, any child, youth or adult may join Camp Fire.”

    Thanks for doing your part as a concerned parent to speak to the scouts about their political positions, I think they’re much more likely to listen to parents of scouts than to outside voices.

  4. It’s only the BSA that have the anti-gay policy. The Scout Association of the UK, from which the BSA is derived doesn’t, the same in other countries that allow people to be openly gay.

    I was a Scout and the skills I learned I still use on a regular basis.

  5. Leanore, I would really like to see you address the increasing loss of the free-range ideal within these organizations. I commented on the other thread, but everyone was on a different track. I am a Girl Guide leader in Canada, and increasingly we are being subjected to ridiculous rules made up by lawyers and paid staff at the national level, which interfere with our ability as leaders to provide good programming (beyond crafts and singalongs, which our girls are too old for anyway). The restrictions are unnecessary, and sometimes focus on perceived risk of the activities themselves (for example, “bouldering” on natural rock face is strictly prohibited) but sometimes focus more on “molestation risk” . For example, adults who do not have police records checks are prevented unnecessarily from having contact with girls, such as whenever a parent helps with a unit occasionally in a volunteer capacity, they must have a record check and/or be a full member). These policies tend to be shoved on us with no notice, cause significant issues with respect to planning events, and take attention of the leaders away from the REAL safety concerns of an event or activity. It is very frustrating. I don’t know about BSA or GSA is like, but I suspect it may be worse given that America tends to be more litigious. Currently, Scouts Canada is much better than Girl Guides of Canada in terms of restricted activities, but I hear through the grapevine that things are really changing.

    The funny thing about GGC at the national level is that they like to use “adventure, fun, challenge” and such words in their promotional materials, and quite often they have even used pictures of our particular unit’s activities in their promotional materials (mostly internal stuff). This is a constant source of irony for us, given the number of roadblocks we have encountered with the national level over specific activities we’ve tried to do in the last 7 years that I have been involved.

  6. Inclusive is a nice ideal, but could Scouting survive openly gay leaders? I doubt it. I’ll bet gay leaders could bring all sorts of skills and energy to the troops, and more leaders is going to help, but readers of this blog are only too aware of how many hysterical parents and commentators are out there. The assumption that an openly gay Scout leader must automatically be a pedophile would be instant and widespread. I dislike the idea of exclusion, but I’d hate even more to see public outcry ruin Scouting.
    (Disclosure – I was a Cub Scout, Scout, Venturer, Cub Scout Leader and Scout Leader from 1969 to 1990, and Scouting did more for me and my family than I can ever repay).

  7. Like Jill said above, the Girl Scouts of America is seeing an increase of CYA-ness too. They’ve started doing background checks on every person who works with the girls, would like them all to undergo training. Honestly, if they put too many requirements into volunteering, no one will want to do it!

    Back to the original post, I’m glad you put up this addendum post. I have been noncommital about Boy Scouts for my son for all of the reasons above.

  8. Alas, the homophobia is why we could not allow our son to join. I have so many gay and lesbian friends who are fabulous parents. I never understand why the next word after gay seems to be “pedophile.” It’s ridiculous.

    And in our area, there are some pretty strict regulations. Scouts are not “Free-Range” at all.

  9. As a long-time Boy Scout leader and parent of five children, I appreciate the spirit of Free Range Kids very much. As noted in other posts, the quality of the Scouting program varies greatly and every kid is not a good fit for the program. The Scouts help fill a need to provide experiences and learning opportunities for the young men growing up in today’s world of electronic distractions and help stem the tide of young men turning into slacker men who have no ambition to succeed in life. The Boy Scouts is an organization that teaches traditional family and religious values. It is NOT a Christian organization and many non-Christian organizations sponsor a scout troop. But Duty to God and traditional values are core principles. There are many other good organizations that boys and young men can join if they disagree with the Boy Scouts. The Boy Scouts are not anti-gay, anti-atheist, homophobic, etc. They do not denigrate, criticize, or mock others. We are not bigots. Bigots are people who are critical or mock others because they believe or act differently.

  10. @Sparsile: rubbish. When I asked my local troop leaders whether my son would be permitted to join if I deleted the elements of the sign-up form that are bigoted (demands for allegiance to a specific religion, agreement with homophobia, etc.) the unequivocal answer was ‘No. We don’t want you if you’re that kind of person.’

    The fact that US Scouting is so hateful and bigoted is a source of much distress to us – we’d love our sons to get the good side, but the bad side is intolerable. I grew up in the UK, where both my atheist mother and her girlfriend were leaders. I’ll check out the CampFire folks.

  11. “These comments on this blog remind me that part of my job should be agitating the Boy Scouts of America to abolish its homophobic, anti-atheist rules, which are not only wrong, but are also alienating whole swaths of boys who would otherwise join and love the Scouts.”

    I hope you do Lenore, because those of us who are excluded from scout leadership have no voice in the matter.

    Oh, and from my experience the new scout motto is “Be prepared… for lawsuits.” Maybe you can do something about that too.

  12. When I was young I always wanted to be a boyscout, alas, I was a girl. I could have joined the girlscouts but they didn’t build fires, play with knives or tie knots. At least not in my town.
    It’s a shame that in recent years they have become an exclusionary and bigoted group, because they do offer a lot to boys – freedom, adventure, independence, self reliance – and of course the afore mentioned playing with fire and sharp objects.
    Lenore, I wish you all the best in your new mission to straighten them out. If I had boys I’d be right there with you. As it is my daughters and I are writing letter to the girlscouts begging them to include bigger fires and more pocket knives in their program 😉

  13. go get ’em Lenore !

    It is a shame that BSA is still so rooted in the past that they, as an organization, cannot embrace the joys and growth that come with acceptance of their fellow man, I have no doubt that BSA teaches important skills to today’s youth, I always wanted to be a Boy Scout, but understood why I couldn’t join! How sad is it for young men and adults who want to be a part of a larger whole but are denied because of out-dated, small-minded thinking?

    I can only hope things change before my son (13 months) wants to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and be a Scout.

  14. I have to say I just learned about the atheist policy from your website. This surprised me since I am an atheist and a den leader in the scouts.
    No one ever asked me about my religious beliefs nor do I recall anything about it on the paperwork.
    I know there are mentions of god in several parts of the scout program but it does not offend or bother me and works for my scouts since most of them believe in one faith or another.
    My personal suspicion is that it depends greatly on the particular troop and its local leadership wether atheism matters.

  15. OK, I did not read that original post, but as a Beavers and Cubs leader in Canada, I do have some comments.

    In Canada gays can most definitely be leaders – for many, many years now. In fact a very good (and very gay) friend of mine was a Scout leader about 20 years ago. And I used him as a reference on my application to be a leader.

    Atheism is another matter completely. Asking to be an atheist Scout is like asking to be an atheist Catholic or Muslim. Sorry, but it does not work that way. I honestly think it should be different, but religion was a pretty huge part of what Baden-Powell had set up in Scouting. He originally set it up as a Christian movement, and at least as far as Scouts Canada goes, it now includes just about any religion you can imagine, and even many you’ve probably never even heard of including Zoro-Astrianism (sp?). You can even earn a badge for your religion of choice. But religion is still pretty low-key in most of the movement that I’ve been exposed to so far in my 2 short years as leader.

    But still, right or wrong, it was set up as a religious organisation right from the beginning. If you don’t like that, you should not have your kids in it. Pretty simple. I think as an organization, it could retain 99.9999% of itself without religion being a requirement, but I don’t make the rules. I do however respect the rules of the organisation I’ve joined and have my 2 kids in.

    And we’re not a religious family – not in an organised religion in any case. And we do not teach them anything religious.

  16. p.s. Scouts Canada accepts girls too. I have 1 in my Beaver Colony and 1 in my Cub Pack.

  17. Very well said, Lenore. Thank you again!

  18. Although many (most?) of the local groups seem to be very reasonable, the national organization isn’t. I just can’t see our family funding the National Council (via scouting supplies) when it excludes my son’s gay relatives.

    Is it to strong to call the National Council a hate organization?

  19. Why is it always the Boy Scouts under attack?

    It seems like anyone with a political axe to grind starts with the boy scouts!

    My husband wasn’t allowed to join the boy scouts because during the ’50’s it was declared a “Communist” organization!

    The Boy Scouts have first been battered by pedophile scout master scandals, now they are being derided for being anti gay, atheist, or whatever.

    Enough, already!

    It’s a GREAT organization that has taught countless boys survival, community service, and leadership skills.

    If you don’t like the membership requirements do what girls did, and start your OWN organization.

  20. Amen, Lenore! Well said. I hope this motivates all of us who have commented to direct our understandable outrage to the national BSA organization.

    With the myriad of options there are to distract them, our boys need all the opportunities they can find for positive activities that help them grow new skills. If it weren’t for its divisive policies, scouting is really a great organization overall. It is one of the top contributors to annual food drives, has a tremendous environmental program, offers unique and fun opportunities for boys to live a bit dangerously…

    That does not excuse its policies, which are are hateful, homophobic, exclusive and do not reflect the communities they serve. Because of their ignorance and lack of connection. scouting loses more boys and families that embrace its basic tenets of character, community and stewardship. The comments here underscore this, and that is sad for everyone.

    But maybe this can change. Maybe we can move from armchair activists on the Free Range site to true social changemakers.

    I cannot find an email address for Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon who is the current BSA president and heads the executive board. I would send emails to him. As a business person, I’m sure being swamped with emails might make a difference. If someone can find another contact, please post. We need to start a groundswell and change these hatful policies. Clearly this is a lightning rod issue that inspires people to take a stand.

    Thanks, Lenore, for starting a discussion. I hope it helps us take down some barriers and allow those boys who want to get out and hike, climb, swim, camp, raft, shoot, serve and just be boys the chance to bond with like-minded guys. God knows, much too often we’re taking away more than we give.

  21. Pope Benedict XVI still extolls the virtues of the organization he belonged to as a youth. He claims that the national organization didn’t affect his local group and that the Hitler Youth was a good place to be a boy growing up.

    I have researched the national organization of the Boy Scouts quite thoroughly. I could never allow either of my sons to join it, no matter what it gave them. There are a few things that they are strictly intolerant of that I cannot condone by my sons’ attendance or a single dollar or good word going their way.

    I would love, in my lifetime, to see the end of that organization as my grandfather saw the end of Ratzinger’s.

  22. Thank you, Lenore. I was dismayed at your first post because while I believe that scouting does have some really positive attributes, obviously I can’t in good conscience get my kids involved with the policy that’s there on the web site.

    As I said earlier, for those of us who can’t or won’t belong because of the policies, there are good alternatives out there. I can understand the impulse to participate in the program — when they advertise to the boys they certainly don’t advertise that policy AT ALL. It’s why I felt I needed to show my kids those words on the web site. I felt they needed to know there was more than one side to the group. Once I showed them the policies it took no convincing on my part to get them to resist joining. 😦

  23. Thank you, Lenore. I, too, look forward to helping change the BSA from the inside. I’d hate to completely write off an organization that has so many good things going for it, despite the serious flaws. My son has benefited so much from scouting and the amazing troop he belongs to. I’d love to give back and help improve the organization so that all boys will feel included in the future.

  24. I did not comment on the last post, because I am completely torn.

    As the mom of a dedicated, on-his-way-to-Eagle scout, who is also an atheist, I have to walk a fine line. I find the anti- everything offensive; my kid LOVES it.

    He has his patter down. When asked his religious position, he informs anyone that he is a humanistic Jew. By the time they unpack that, I figure he’ll be an Eagle and then they can kick him out if they want. And I’ll sue, and maybe we’ll get somewhere.

  25. sparsile, clearly you don’t understand bigotry. If the BSA expels scouts and/or leaders for being gay or atheist they are discriminatory and bigoted. There is no disputing that. It is a fact. It has happened.

  26. I have two children in Scouting in Canada, and I noticed the religious denomination question was not on the national registration form this year. In previous years, I have tried atheist and secular humanist and each time it was marked “unknown.”
    I think emphasis on religion in Scouting in this country depends very much on the local group leadership.

    Our local group is a bout 50 per cent girls and my kids love it- good old fashioned mucking around doing “real” things at home and in nature with greater responsibility each year.

  27. He originally set it up as a Christian movement, and at least as far as Scouts Canada goes, it now includes just about any religion you can imagine, and even many you’ve probably never even heard of including Zoroastrianism (sp?).

    Zoroastrianism is actually a major forerunner of the Abrahamic religions. It was the official religion of Persia for ages before Islam gained more ground.

    Inclusive is a nice ideal, but could Scouting survive openly gay leaders?

    Boy Scouts aren’t the be all and end all of scouting. Why don’t we see if other organizations have openly gay leaders, and see how that affected their membership. That’ll be a fun project one day.

  28. I wonder if your boy scouts in America are different to here in Australia… I had to perform at one of the large jamborees with a medieval reenactment group I was involved in and NEVER AGAIN!
    Nor will any child of mine ever be involved!
    None of the children gave way to the car on the access road when we were trying to get in. In fact they stood right in the middle and wouldn’t move! They were all rude and acting like they should be bowed down to instead of respecting others. I’m not talking a small group. I’m talking about the hundred+ kids I had to crawl my way through to find a car park and then wade through with equipment to get to the stage area, and fend off because they wanted to touch our gear.
    If the scouts teach a lack of respect and a lack of common sense then they certainly achieved it!

  29. Greg said, “I have to say I just learned about the atheist policy from your website. This surprised me since I am an atheist and a den leader in the scouts.”

    Like many people you didn’t carefully read what you signed. From the current Adult application:

    “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God…”

    and, “The applicant must … subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle”

    Last year, when I looked, the very first entry in the FAQ on their web site stated plainly that atheists could not be scout leaders. That was the deal breaker for me personally.

    But interestingly this has now been removed and the word “atheist” no longer appears anywhere on their site. “Homosexual” does not appear either.

  30. I’m so disgusted right now that I could spit. Anyone who allows their child to belong to this organization or who supports it in any way, is condoning their hateful policies. Period. There are alternative camping organizations, inlcuding the YMCA & Camp Fire, which come without the side order of hate.

  31. I was a Girl Scout leader for 5 years and I think the way it works, is if you find a good group, you can have a good experience. We were completely free range though and it was a blast. I was a 22 year old leader of girls 14-18. We camped, hiked, took a road trip in an RV, took a limo ride in the city, and led a snow camping weekend for little boy and girl scouts. We had a diverse group of girls who were cool, funky and smart. They are all wildly successful now. Their parents loved having a young adult for their daughters to interact with. A great memory is teaching them the rules to poker so no one pulled one over on them…if you know what I mean. These parents were incredibly trusting, not sure that 15 years later the helicopter parents would go for it now. The girls directly credit their scouting experience being important to their careers as lawyers, engineers, actresses, etc.

    Girl Scouts does not have the same exclusionary policies as Boy Scouts

    Now I have a young son and I am really on the fence. Maybe we could get a group of adults who care about equality to join all at the same time and try again to change their policies.

  32. I agree with the above posts about the GS organization and their lack of free-range. A husband and wife can’t co-lead a troop, because there could be rampant molestation that the wife would obviously cover up *sarcasm*. Dads CAN go to camp, but absolutely have to sleep in separate quarters, as if they will misbehave in the middle of the night, with everyone sleeping mere feet away. I heard recently that at GS camp, the girls can only RUN if it’s a activity that specifically requires it, we don’t want anyone falling! If someone needs the bathroom in the middle of the night, someone else MUST wake up and accompany them.

    Our girls and I just returned from a trip to San Diego. While there, we visited SeaWorld and allowed the girls to go off on their own in small groups, and meeting up throughout the day at the various scheduled shows there. Our girls are 10-12. I love that my co-leader and I agree on this, but many troop leaders would PANIC at the thought of letting the girls out of their sight.

  33. I have to agree with claptrap personally, and I love Lenore to death, she is one special person with great free-range ideas.

    The main thing to me is this: even if Lenore feels as she does, that’s fine, but I don’t think it was right that everyone was jumping all over the Boy Scout’s standards when she was praising the free-ranging aspects she encountered. Moreover, I don’t think she should have compelled to post a Part 2 along the lines of “sorry I didn’t think about that before I posted as I did.”

    I appreciate that she is such a caring & compassionate woman, don’t get me wrong, but I do think often-times people get outraged way too easily over the wrong thing, or even what amounts to nothing.

    I do NOT support bigotry in how I treat people, at all, but at the same time I totally support the right of an organization like the Boy Scouts, or the Black Pride League (or whatever, I probably got the name all wrong) to create a group with standards set as they see fit, tastefully. I don’t think that is the same thing as the KKK or a white-supremacist group or a “black power” group (one that promotes violence in retaliation vs the peace Dr MLK preached about) doing what they do.

    I do not support bigotry,I totally absolutely do not, but at the same time. I personally prefer things the way they used to be somewhat, at least in regards to how we could laugh about these sorts of things without getting all bent out of shape. I love watching the old “Sanford and Son” episodes where Fred Sanford makes that back & forth motion with his hand going “you I think that guy might be a little….” [off] and the audience laughs. I loved “The Piano Movers” episode where they’re at the home of someone whose behavior seems suspect in terms of possibly being homosexual, and Fred Sanford several times makes humorous reference to it, referring to his “fruity robe” and how friends of his could probably “just fly around the room” and about a male friend of his named Dwayne Hudson and “I bet I know who Dwayne is” (his male lover).

    And the audience laughs.

    In the “Sister Makes Three” episode, he breaks up with a woman who had given him a rather “colorful” jacket, and in disgust he throws the jacket to her as she’s leaving and says “here, take this faggoty jacket with you.” (Lenore: I don’t go use the word myself, I’m merely quoting the show mainly, although I laugh at that part I will admit.) Then there is the episode where Lamont & Rollo accidentally stumble across a gay bar and Lamont is upset, saying to Rollo about how how “all the brothers were sisters.”

    I’m sorry, I do NOT treat homosexuals with shame or disrespect, I absolutely do NOT do that–but I think those sorts of shows are funny,and I frankly get sick of all the modern scrutinization of those things where people get all politically correct & bent out of shape about it.

    I am all for a homosexual not being mocked or shamed or belittled, & they most certainly should be able to get the same employment opportunities as heterosexuals, but I think, frankly, there is too much of a push with the whole homosexual thing that goes beyond just preventing them from feeling ostracized. It seems like every time you turn around they’re practically shoving it down your throat. I’m tired of it, frankly. I am not saying “I wish they would all just go away,” but I am sick of every single modern show I watch ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS introducing a gay angle to it EVERY time it seems. Enough already, and again–I don’t believe in shaming homosexuals or mocking them in the public square. I’ve worked with homosexuals before and always treated them with dignity, as it well should be.


  34. Lenore,
    Thank you so much for providing such a reasonable, measured debate and response to this interesting and complicated issue. Its so refreshing to see someone who thinks things through and doesn’t immediately reject everything that they don’t agree with 100%. Most debates these days seems to consist of two groups of impossibly polarized people screaming at each other from opposite sides of a fence, completely unwilling to allow that the other side may have anything of value to offer. It just goes to remind me once again that the first step to raising a free range family is to stop and think and make decisions for yourself rather than letting others make them form you.

  35. >>I am sick of every single modern show I watch ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS introducing a gay angle to it EVERY time it seems.<<

    LIFE has gay people. It only stands to reason that tv reflects that FACT of life.

  36. @LRH

    I am straight and your post offends ME. People who have to continually tell everyone how they NEVER belittle a group of people definitely protest too loudly. If I were watch one of those shows now, when people KNOW better, I would be shocked and offended beyond belief. God forbid my children should see it.

    I don’t find it funny to make fun of an entire group of people who are already abused practically daily, that is called bullying. Or are you completely unaware of the recent rash of suicides of young, gay men?

    The audience laughed in those shows because they were ignorant of the effect it had on others. But we know better now, there is no excuse.

  37. How would a gay leader teach a boy to be “morally straight?” How would an atheist teach a boy to “do his duty to God?” We can not afford to be inclusive at the cost of throwing our own values away. By not allowing someone to change your values you are not discriminating against them! BSA carry on, carry on, carry on!

  38. sexual orientation is not a measure of morality; neither is religious affiliation.

    Do good works.

  39. Kids have been in the scouts and we have never seen heard of or sensed all the alleged hate and bigotry talked about here.

    I do see a lot of hate in this and the other thread towards people of faith, who are entitled to their beliefs.

  40. There is also 4H which is not just about the Farming community and can be found in the middle of the City.

  41. I’m new to your blog, but hooked in less than the 36 hours I’ve been following it. First off, thank you for being such a breath of fresh air! I was raised largely a free range kid, albeit with some restrictions that seemed unreasonable back then to a young kid but in hindsight now were nothing compared to how today’s parents reign control over their kids’ lives.

    This post intrigues me.

    For the record, I am against the Boy Scout’s policy of refusing gays. However, I am strongly supportive of the organization and, although I disagree with that policy and wish they would change it, I respect their right to have it.

    I spent virtually my entire childhood in the scouts; it was not mandated by my parents but was certainly highly encouraged. I was originally a Cub Scout and later a Boy Scout; and very briefly before college an adult leader. I earned all of the highest ranks including Eagle Scout, and nearly three dozen merit badges, and I served at one point or another in every leadership position available to a scout. I loved it. I had many friends in scouting, and reaching Eagle I consider to be both one of the greatest achievements of my life, and the entirety of my scouting experiences and adventures among the greatest of my childhood. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

    My scouting troop had it’s share of problems. We had a Scout Master who was arrested, tried, and convicted for numerous charges of child molestation, and ended up serving 10-15. We had some other administrative, recruiting, and other challenges too, but clearly nothing that would trump that, of course.

    My point is that I’ve experienced the good and bad of scouting; I’m honored to have friends of all sexual orientations, and I emphasize my scouting background and achievements in the hopes that you take my feedback here with perhaps more than just a grain of salt.

    Please realize that the BSA’s policy is not one borne of “hatred” as you alluded to. It’s borne of the organizations’ belief that they want to help raise boys into men of certain values. It’s not an issue of character or morality, but one of values. And in that light, it’s no different than a Catholic church that only allows Catholics, or another Christian church that only includes Christians and not Jewish, Muslim, or other faiths among its members because they believe only in their form of morality. It’s no different than, say, the Freemasons who seek men of their view of moral character, to include a requirement of a personal faith in a supreme being. Nor any different than the YMCA: they have a world view of “family values” that they wish to embrace among their membership that does not allow for same-sex marriages or couples.

    Again, I do think the BSA should consider changing it’s policy as I personally don’t consider being gay to be immoral. However, please recognize that it’s not as if your son would be exposed to a group of people who teach and promote “hatred” for others. On the contrary, the values and leadership I learned through my many years of scouting are about respect for others and one’s community, and society. There’s no more tolerance for hatred or bigotry as there is for murder or child molestation. There is no denigration of others, and no belief that those who are not of like mind are somehow evil or maligned human beings. It is a giving, caring, teaching, and service organization for boys that has an espoused view of how to raise those boys. One can debate the merits or demerits of that approach all they want, but please don’t feel like it’s a policy rooted in a hatred for others; that’s as disingenuous as believing that all membership-based organizations hate anyone who doesn’t fit with their membership requirements.

    The same is true for atheism. Scouts and their leaders take an oath that includes a reverence or duty to God. Like masonry, there is no specific requirement. There is no requirement you belong to a certain faith. No mandated religious rituals or merit badges. No specification about what faith means or how one is supposed to define “God”; it always struck me as being more broadly a belief in a higher purpose and supreme being of one’s choosing and personal view. In fact, I knew Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, and yes, even a few atheists in my scout troop who had no more problem declaring a personal reverence than they do stating we are one nation under God in our national anthem. Those who felt slighted by such organizational values simply found other organizations to join instead. There are many great organizations, and many options for those who have a hard time reconciling the world view of the Boy Scouts against their own personal beliefs.

    Were it an organization of hatred, I would disavow any interest and resign my Eagle Scout rank. I simply will not tolerate the promotion, teaching, or espousing of hate for others. But that is, quite simply, not what takes place.

    No one ever asked me about my religious beliefs nor do I recall anything about it on the paperwork.
    I know there are mentions of god in several parts of the scout program but it does not offend or bother me and works for my scouts since most of them believe in one faith or another.
    My personal suspicion is that it depends greatly on the particular troop and its local leadership wether atheism matters.

  42. In UK we the Woodcraft folk as an alternative to Scouting or Guides


  43. Also a lack of getting 6 year olds to swear allegiance to God and country would be nice.

    I refused to take my smallest brother to Scouts. He could go if
    a) he reminded me
    b) he got ready himself
    c) his 15yo sister could supervise
    After these three conditions were met I would drive him to Scouts.


    Such a militaristic organization…

  44. LauraL writes:

    sexual orientation is not a measure of morality; neither is religious affiliation.

    Do good works.


    I am so WEARY of the idea that in order to be a decent and moral person, one must love in some socially approved fashion and believe in some ancient mythos.

    If you have to have the threat of eternal damnation hanging over you to convince you to do the right thing, how does that make you more moral than people who do the right thing simply for the sake of doing the right thing?

  45. Yeah, as mentioned above, the militaristic side of the organization is the only thing that really irks me – and quite a bit in fact. But the way I look at it, most kids these days lack any sort of discipline and so having it introduced in this manner is more good than harm. I know it is doing wonders for my boys who are now in their 2nd year.

  46. Without religious affiliation, how can you decide what “good works”are? Everyone would define it differently.

  47. For those bemoaning the girl scouts not being free ranged – get involved with your troop am make them freerange! I was in girl scouts my whole childhood – maybe the fact that my mom was the leader, but everything from the saving up money, budgeting for the camping trips, planning, shopping to buy the supplies, etc was all done by us – no leaders. We camped in the middle of the winter, knew how to build fires, hike, identify plants in the wild, etc… Girl Scouts has the capacity to be that type of organization – but the local troop has to support it.

    I’m torn on the boy scouts. My son is too young right now, but I’d love him to have the kind of experiences I had growing up, but I don’t support their views & policies when it comes to being gay, or not believing in god. I guess I’ll figure out what I want to do when he gets to the right age…

  48. Why does tolerance always have to mean homogenization? I have gay friends and fully support the right for homosexuals to marry and participate in society, while still holding personal religious beliefs that are contrary.

    The Boy Scouts have received criticism for taking public funding, thus blurring the lines between whether they are fully a private enterprise, but there is clearly a huge segment of the population that wants them to stay just as they have been because of shared values that are decidedly religious.

    Celebrating diversity means encouraging all viewpoints to peacefully have a place, regardless of our own personal feelings. If you don’t agree with the BSA, I’ll echo a previous comment – start your own club!

  49. Oh great, more people who think you can’t be a good person without some random book telling you what is good and bad. *sigh*

    I do not need religion to know that hurting others is wrong. I do not need religion to tell me that doing nice things for others is good. That book tells all of you to beat your children, did you do that? All of you mothers, do you let your husbands make all the decisions, because that book says he is worth more than you?

    You pick and choose the rules you want to follow in your religion, how is that better than an atheist following THEIR own moral code?

    Also, every religion decides what their good works are, so how do you determine WHICH religious affiliation are doing the right good works? Or are you someone who believes only Christians know the right thing?

    I really think that is the most offensive post I have read on here so far.

  50. @Sarah

    All troops are bound by certain rules and policies that the national or local councils set, the safety rules and the policies regarding men. I am a leader, so I certainly have more control over what my 2 troops do, but as leaders, we still have to follow the rules. If something DID happen to a girl under our care and we hadn’t followed the policies, there would be hell to pay.

  51. I commented in the previous thread about my husband being an Eagle Scout and the situations he personally tragic experience while in the scouts. Again if my child was gay, I would have him redirect his focus outside of overnight camping with other boys. I wouldn’t make him join the girl scouts either, thank goodness, I have a few boys so they can do things together.

    I live in Massachusetts, I went from being liberal on gay issues to being a homophobic bigot over night, WITHOUT ever actually changing my views on homosexuality over the past decade. I also live in an urban community with low rates of marriage and high rates of fatherlessness. When I say even gay people have a mom and a dad; it falls on deaf ears. So I’m use to these comments I read being falsely accused of being a hateful bigot. I’ll deal as I have been for the past six years or so.

    Anyways anyone who does have concerns with the BSA policy regarding homosexuality, and may be interested in having their son in Boy Scouts I strongly encourage them to inquire with local leadership and get answers directly on their policy and why they have it.

    Thank you Lenore for letting everyone express their views.

    Renee Aste
    Lowell Massachusetts

  52. “The Boy Scouts are not anti-gay, anti-atheist, homophobic, etc. They do not denigrate, criticize, or mock others. We are not bigots. Bigots are people who are critical or mock others because they believe or act differently.”

    Sparsile, I’m going to have to differ with you rather strongly on this one.

    Telling someone that they cannot be a good citizen IS being critical and attacking their character, which is one of the definitions of denigrating. Similarly, telling a boy or man that he cannot be a moral or clean person because of his sexual orientation IS being critical and denigrating. These are bigoted statements. If you read “Muslims cannot be good citizens” or “Hispanics are not morally straight, not clean, and cannot be good role models,” I would hope you would be appalled. I sure would be. This is the same thing. Saying that the BSA doesn’t condone its members making such bigoted statements is untrue because these sorts of statements are part of their official party line.

    Again, I don’t mind if the BSA is its own private self as long as it doesn’t try to have its cake and eat it too. If the group is going to operate as a private group that discriminates, then it shouldn’t benefit from the things that are only available to public groups that don’t discriminate. Moreover, they shouldn’t bad-mouth atheists and gay people and expect that atheists and gay people will act like they hung the moon.

  53. @ Jen

    I think this is the point Larry Harrison was making. Everything turns into about gays and their needs, rather the purpose and function of what Boy Scouting is.

    There is a reason why there are Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, sex happens. And if you’re orientated towards the same-sex, the issue arises in overnight situations.

    Renee Aste
    Lowell Massachusetts

  54. @Renee

    And as already stated, when the kids are old enough for sex to be an issue, Boy Scouts goes co-ed. So why aren’t we banning that too, if that’s REALLY the issue? (We all know it isn’t)

  55. Militaristic? Where in the world are you people getting these ideas of Boy Scouts FROM? Have any of you actually checked out your local troops? Maybe instead of sitting in front of your computer reading all of the one-sided bloggers you could actually attend a meeting and get to know the leaders. I’m so mad I could spit right now.

    These comments have to be some of the most hate-filled, bigoted posts I’ve ever read. Aren’t you all for tolerence? Then tolerate the Scouts. You don’t want to like them, fine, but there are plenty of people who DO like them. So leave us the H*LL alone.

    Lenore, I love you, but you are wrong on this.

    And for the complaints that because they are tax funded, which is a pitance by the way, so are a lot of churches I don’t agree with. Or NPR and the NEA, some of which which I find highly offensive.

  56. Robin, I’m a leader in Cubs in Canada and find it fairly militaristic, as noted above. This is first hand experience as a leader. Lining up to do inspections. The uniforms with “sixers” and “seconders” who get different stripes on their shoulders than everyone else.

  57. “You don’t want to like them, fine, but there are plenty of people who DO like them. So leave us the H*LL alone.”

    I might once the group stops subjecting my children to yearly hour-long recruiting assemblies at the public school (no warning so it’s harder to pull them) for a group that would not let them be members without lying even if they wanted to. I might once they stop having a table right there at school registration next to the PTA membership booth.

  58. I will admit that I have only read a handful of the many many comments on these 2 posts. I get the anxiety about the scouts being anti-gay, BUT I see only two ways to get the BSA to change. 1. If numbers dropped dramatically so that the association had to stand up and notice. The problem with that is that it would probably die at that point because it’s harder to get people back than to work with what you have – and a good concept would be lost. 2. Work from within.

    I am a cub scout leader. Our pack is extremely inclusive. I’ve never been asked if I’m gay or not nor have I ever had anyone mention it. Is this don’t ask, don’t tell? I’m not sure. We are encouraging boys living in an urban setting to live be good citizens and to get back to nature. They are encouraged to turn off electronic games and make things with their hands.

    I’m also a leader in a Presbyterian church. Nationally , the church is fairly liberal, but locally it is very very conservative. They have refused to allow gays to take Presbytery positions. We’ve even had churches leave because of the view that the national church is heading toward acceptance of what they call a “gay agenda.” But OUR church is the outlier. We welcome EVERYONE. We have had gay leaders and we have become an official MoreLight church.

    I’d like to hope we are making changes in our Presbytery. I think not, or not yet. But we are showing our values. And this is also what our cub scout pack does. Keeping my son out of scouts would not suddenly make scouts stand up and change. And it would definitely be a detriment to my ADHD son who needs to be in nature and needs guidelines to encourage him to be a good citizen. Scouts does wonderful things for him. While there is a LOT of CYA in scouting, there’s also the opportunity to get out in nature and just play and interact with boys his age in a FRK way – something that doesn’t happen as much as I would like in our neighborhood which is somewhat devoid of kids his age.

  59. @Renee Aste, yes 100%. Or, when I said that with modern shows they seem to ALWAYS introduce a gay angle, to me it’s not about recognizing norms of culture, but rather to me it feels like the trumpeting & even pushing of an agenda. There’s a difference.

    @Jill, you really nailed it. Yes, I’m the same–the homosexuals should be treated with dignity & have equal rights, but I do not condone their lifestyle–that is not bigotry, and that is NOT the same as looking down on a certain color-race of people, which is 100% wrong period–and I take comfort in the existence of groups that help reinforce my beliefs rather than cramming an agenda down my throat & my family’s. Yes–if you dislike it, start your OWN club, just like Lenore disliked the ridiculous reaction to letting her son ride the subway alone & wrote a wonderful book & started this blog.

    @Scott–yes, you better believe I’m seeing a lot of hate for people of faith, too, even if & when they aren’t wanting anything more than the continuation of a refuge (BSA) to feel at one with others of like mind to associate with & still treat others respectfully.

    @Jen sorry I have to disagree, I think–and many others who are NOT bigots have expressed agreement with me on this–that those old shows are not offensive they do NOT constitute “bullying” & the only thing that changed was political correctness created a ridiculous level of whining and “sensitivity” riun amok. I don’t “know better” & in fact I’ve purchased the DVDs to those shows so I will always have them, because I figure sooner or later one of those really irritating protest groups is going to raise a fuss about it & the distributor of those shows will respond by pulling them off the market.

    You will notice I’m not demanding “Will & Grace” season DVDs be pulled from the market, & I’d never allow that show in my house ever, but if others want to buy & watch it, who am I to object?

    All of that said:

    @deanne I agree 100%. I’m glad we can debate the merits without, I hope, being mean and jerks about it. I hope I’m not being a jerk.

  60. PS (sorry):

    @Robin, your last post–right on, I agree 100%. You are absolutely correct, I could not agree more.

  61. Bushidoka – lining up is military? The kids in school have to line up to go to lunch. And as for stripes, I’m in the US and the kids are very proud of their stripes and badges as they have to earn them. Is it militaristic of the girl scouts to pin all of their badges on their sashes? Do they ever have to line up?

    Allison – you have a beef with your school, not the Scouts. Our schools do no Scout promoting. There is no promotion of any other outside organizations as it should be.

  62. I know this is not quite the same thing, but there is an alternative arriving on the scene: Earth Scouts. They are re-thinking the scouting experience and making it into a more inclusive and tolerant setting. Perhaps all of the disappointment and frustration with the BSA needs to be turned around into action and change, even if that means creating replacements and moving the attention away from the historically problematic scouting orgs.


  63. Robin, I agree that it is a problem with our school. It is also a problem with the scouts, though, as the scouts are the ones asking for special access.

    Right now I have other battles I’m fighting with the school, and can only flail in so many directions at once.

  64. Interesting. Lenore’s sons were involved with Scouts before she started FRK . . . . is it just barely possible that their experiences w/Scouting were part of what inspired her son to ask for the independent adventure of riding the subway by himself?

    Not sayin’ I like the BSA’s exclusionary policies.
    Not sayin’ there aren’t other groups offering similar experiences.

    Just sayin . . . .

  65. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I’ve pretty much been an atheist since I was in high school. There’s sort of an unwritten dont-ask-dont-tell policy. It’s crappy, but unless you go around flaunting your atheism you’ll be fine. And what 10yo kid is going to do that?

    Scouting was a huge part of my life. Even today — almost 20 years after my last scout meeting, and 15 since my last event — if I see a piece of garbage (not matter how tiny) along a trail I pick it up. Because it’s the right thing to do, and if Mr so-and-so saw me walk over it w/o picking it up he’d fwap in head with his hat.

    Anyhow … I have 3 girls. And people ask me if I want a son. The answer is I don’t care — except for not being able to rejoin scouts as an [atheist] adult. Being a male girl scout leader does not suffice. And I don’t want to be part of a troop my kids aren’t even in.

  66. I like the idea of the Earth Scouts – respect the earth, be sustainable, and recycle. But it’s not the same thing at all as “scouting.”

  67. Thank you, Lenore. I really appreciated your response.

  68. Robin, they line up FOR INSPECTION. It is the inspection part that is militaristic, not the lining up.

  69. I am always interested when people loudly and belligerently proclaim that they are completely un-bigoted, than intolerance is intolerable, and then proceed to revile anyone who is Christian or reads the Bible. Tolerance is limited to what you already like, I guess.

  70. I’m an Eagle Scout. I’m also an atheist. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me to think about the fact that my sons cannot have the experiences I did with Scouting unless I am willing to teach them to worship a god I don’t believe in, or to lie about it, and that even if I do that I cannot be their leader unless I lie myself. All that these restrictions do is force people to lie. I’m just too much of a believer in honesty, as I was taught in Scouts, to lie in order to be involved in Scouting.

  71. @claptrap – “My husband wasn’t allowed to join the boy scouts because during the ’50′s it was declared a “Communist” organization!”

    Declared “Communist” by who? The Boy Scouts of America’s reputation for patriotism has been around for a long time, and I’ve never heard of anyone accusing them of communism.

  72. Lenore…Do it! Do it!

    Every journey, to every destination all start with one step forward.

    Rebecca…those types of people are hypocrites, and self-centered. These types of people usually forget to have an open mind. Tolerance is tolerance. If one believes in tolerance, then it applies to all aspects of life. Otherwise it’s just being bias to what they want to stand for.

  73. Katie writes:

    Without religious affiliation, how can you decide what “good works”are? Everyone would define it differently.

    Oh, LOL. That’s the dumbest question I’ve seen all week, and I’ve seen some pretty dumb ones.

    I didn’t need anyone’s mythos to make it clear to me that killing people is bad, that stealing is bad, that feeding the hungry and healing the sick and helping the less fortunate is good. Causing pain, bad. Easing suffering, good.

    Hell, I didn’t even need Bill & Ted, but they sum it up nicely: “Be excellent to each other.” Or, in my beloved Opa’s words, “Don’t be an asshole.”

  74. I just read this this morning and thought it was a nice, gentle way of looking at this issue. Much better stated than I could have pulled off. http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/10/22/granderson.gay.scout.leader/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

  75. @Think

    LOL – I posted that link on the previous thread!

  76. Thank you, Lenore.

  77. @Maggie – I was trying to think of a sensitive, non-offending way to say what you just said.

    I’m sure there is a way to do that, but I couldn’t find one. Thanks.

  78. “Inclusive is a nice ideal, but could Scouting survive openly gay leaders? ”

    Girl Scouting survives fine without excluding gay or atheist members or leaders.

    Boy Scouting in other countries survives fine too.

    BSA’s policy isn’t a necessity, it’s an anachronism. A bigoted, hurtful anachronism.

  79. Reading some of the stories you folks are linking to, I can see that Boy Scouts of America is a very different organisation than Scouts Canada.

    For one, the Canadian organisation accepts gays no problem at all. Then again, that basic difference in our two countries seems to be visible in far more places than just Scouts.

    Further with regards to religion, yes, our organisation does not technically have room for atheists and your kids will have to swear allegiance to God, but if you read up on it, you’ll see they define “God” as basically whatever that term means in your own religion. Even religions like Buddhism that do not really have a notion of God per-se are accepted.

    Basically it comes down to this – should every organisation accept everyone no matter what? Ask yourself this – should there be woman-only gyms? If you think the answer to this question is “yes”, and yet are all bent out of shape about BSA and religion, then I think you have some contradictory beliefs that need to be resolved.

    The gay thing is another issue altogether – it is deplorable that BSA does not accept gays. But clearly, they are not alone in America in this regard. There is a pretty major gay backlash going on right now right across America. “Land of the free”, my backside …

  80. I think all the people lining up to defend the policies of BSA are missing the point. Yes, certainly BSA have a right to set their own rules and admit whom they like. But they definitely should not have the right to special treatment from government bodies in that case ($1 rents, recruiting in schools etc). They should be left to fend for themselves. How do all of you BSA supporter justify the BSA receiving these perks (which no church is able to receive)? And similarly, anyone has the right to state whether or not they agree with the BSA policies, and join or not join as they see fit.

  81. As a kid growing up in the bible belt, I was continuously encountering teachers, scout leaders and parents of friends who were evangelical Christians and did what they could to encourage me to be Christian too.

    These pressures were unofficial. The Bible was read on rainy days when we couldn’t go out for recess. There were moment of silence encorporated into camping trips and subtle and not so subtle references to worship. One Sunday morning after a sleepover, my friend’s mother styled my hair in a boufant up-do, dressed me in a grotesque lavender dress, patent leather shoes and dragged me to church, (where I asked embarrassing questions like where Caine’s wife came from).

    On the whole, these experiences made no difference to my beliefs. Children are not sponges. Not every child in Catholic School believes in God. Just because a child enrolls in Boy Scouts does not mean that he will aquire the prejudices of its leadership.

    In my experience the opportunities children have – or at least used to have as part of scouting, far outweighed any ideological agendas. The opportunity to learn to make fires, handle knives, dress wounds, catch and gut fish, these things that required being responsible gave us the opportunity to rise to the occassion.

    Yes, the policies of the leadership are awful but boy scouts really vary depending on where you are. Our local boys scout troop includes girls. It’s through engaging with these organizations that we change them. We change them by refusing, when push comes to shove, to endorse or act on those policies.

    We will not always agree with everyone we encounter in life. Real tolerance is not about refusing to engage with people whose values we do not share it’s about engaging with people and learning when and how to make a moral stand and even how to win people to your way of thinking.

    In my opinion, the outlook expressed by the scouts leadership is doomed. The vast majority of young people do not share these views and actually find them difficult to comprehend. What’s more dangerous is the idea that we should never have anything to do with people who don’t think exactly the same way we do.

  82. I was a girl scout and it was one of the best experiences of my childhood. I love scouting, just hate what the Boy Scouts represent and instill in youth.

    There is an awesome alternative to the Boy Scouts: The Spiral Scouts. It is a co-ed, gay-friendly, non-denominational (but started by pagans) scouting model complete with curricula and badges.


  83. As a former boy sprout and father of a current boy sprout (and leader in his troop), I’ve thought about these issues, and am glad to have had the chance to skim through this detailed and thoughtful conversation. Thanks to those who have posted.

    Like many who have posted, I abhor the anti-gay official policy of the BSA, and dislike its Christian-oriented religious requirements. However, as has been said about politics, all scouting is local. The experience of the boys is almost entirely a product of the particular troop, which consists of its traditions, its leaders, its sponsoring organization, and its boys and families. In neither the troop of my youth or the troop of our current life have I ever caught a whiff of thought about the gay restriction. Not only is it not discussed, it doesn’t even seem to be thought about. Neither has there been much emphasis on religion; we say the “under god” line of the Pledge of Allegiance, and every once in a great while someone in our current troop will lead the group in a brief, (quite) non-denominational ceremony on Sunday morning of a campout, but despite the fact that both troops meet in Protestant churches, it’s just not an issue. To wit: I have served as an Assistant Scoutmaster for some years now, and have never been asked my views on either sexuality or religion. And our troop’s registration form asks about neither.

    Some troops have a religious emphasis, or consist of members of a particular congregation. Some are led by military veterans who bring those views and traditions to the meetings and outings. Some have intolerant leaders, and I have no doubt that some troops are interested and inquisitive about such subjects. But again, from the boys’ point of view, it’s entirely local. If I saw any evidence that my son was being fed a message that I found objectionable, I would consider moving us to a different troop. (Same goes if I observed that the troop was either too lax or too strict-n-scared about safety.) But I have not.

  84. No, @ewan, the application does not require any allegiance to any specific religion. It simply asks for a belief in God and a commitment to the idea that religious practice can help a boy develop a strong character. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Mormon, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Quaker, Pentecostal or any one of a number of smaller religions — it is nonsecrtarian. Further, scouts are taught to be accepting of other people’s religions.

  85. I am an Eagle Scout and will not enroll any of my children in the BSA until these policies change. Lenore wrote: “…an official policy against gay and/or atheist leadership…”

    It’s not just the leadership, Lenore, but the Membership as a whole.

    It seems to me that some of the kids who MOST need to be included in SOMETHING are adolescents who are just discovering their homosexuality. Our newspapers are full of stories about the sometimes tragic results of excluding kids from one group or another.

    I’m glad to see so many alternatives to the BSA listed here. I loved my time in scouting and learned so much from it, but I cannot and will not support an organization that turns its back on some of those who need it most.

  86. The British Scouts, where it all started, are not anti-gay … they are fully inclusive of all except for – I’m afraid – atheists. This is because the founder of the ‘club’ felt very strongly that a faith, of any type, was necessary in a well-rounded, developed, human being. We can disagree with that (I do) but I feel that we have to respect his opinion and the society in which he lived at the time, Anyone who is unsure about religions can join the Scouts as it was accepted that faith is something that develops over time, but a person whose faith, conviction, absolute belief, is in no god figure at all, a total lack of spiritual belief, was considered to not be ‘in tune’ with what Scouting was developing … so cannot be a member of the Association … Atheists can however be non-uniformed helpers, badge assessors, supporters of various kinds … just not a member.

    I have known Atheists who have been quite closely linked to Scout groups, accepted to take part as much as they were able in respect of their beliefs … if a Muslim or a Jew were unable to take part in certain activities due to their faith I hope that we would all accept that and work within their restrictions as well … it doesn’t make them any less valued.

    Something I feel this thread is lacking is the perspective that anyone can form a club or society for any interest, including as many types of people as they feel fit and – yes – because freedom of speech is available – excluding those that don’t meet their ideals as well, or their policies, or the beliefs behind their activities. This is not nice but it is the ‘real world’ that we live in, I hate football and would rather clean the the toilets at the stadium than talk about it … I see this as getting me excluded from a good many football clubs. (and for many people their sports club is akin to a religion ….)

    I don’t know about the demand to swear allegiance to the USA’a constitution, flag, etc. In Britian most swear to do their duty to the Queen but it is perfectly possible to say ‘The Laws of the Country in which I am living’ I know this because we have some boys from Luxembourg who were members of our Welsh Scout troop through me – holidays on Scout camp and badge work in between – and they made that form of the promise when they were invested.

    Either the BSA have moved to an extreme position on these issues of personal faith or sexual orientation, or individual Scout Counties and Groups have done so ,,,, a lot of this is unnecessary when the true ‘Policy, Organisation and Rules’ document of Scouting is consulted.

    I fee this is very relevent to Free Range Parenting as it seems very similar, to me, to the schools that take Health and Safety advice as the iron rod of rule (rules against children walking to school, and so on) and all the other issues that are debated on here ….

  87. You don’t want to like them, fine, but there are plenty of people who DO like them. So leave us the H*LL alone.

    In case you’ve not noticed, those of us that do not support the BSA do not bother them. We don’t go to their meetings or their camp-outs, we don’t go to events sponsored by them, we don’t go to their jamboree, we don’t go to their community parties.

    We DO leave them alone.

    Now howzabout they stay the hell out of the public schools, stop banging on my door to beg me to buy their grody popcorn, stop blocking the exit at my grocery store to do more begging, and generally leave ME alone?

    And while we’re at it, howzabout people like you attempt to grasp that refusing to support the BSA is in no way “hating” them or “bothering” them? No one is forcing you not to support them, if that’s the kind of philosophy you want your money to go to. I have more worthy causes for my money and time.

  88. @Katie, on October 22, 2010 at 20:25 “Without religious affiliation, how can you decide what “good works”are? Everyone would define it differently”

    Really? As an atheist this baffles me.

    Are you telling me that you have no idea if something is good or bad without some one telling you? Good thing you are religious then… otherwise clearly you would be an axe murderer or adulterer or do ‘bad’ in some other way. :roll eyes: Of course we ALL know what good and bad are. Sure there are some differences, but for the most part we overlap.

    I fully believe that “evil done in the name of good is still evil” and its corollary “good done in the name of evil is still good”. If an action is good or evil depends on the action, not on the person labelling it.

    As for Scouting… I was a member for over 15 years both as a youth and as a leader. I was agnostic at the time, and wrote that as my “religion” and it was accepted. As others have said the organization was formed around certain specific beliefs of one man -Baden Powell. If you don’t like it, don’t join. Yes, the organization has a booth next to the PTA at some schools. But so can any organization, BSA just asked for it.

    Now that my beliefs and thiers have parted ways, I am no longer a member. But I got a lot of good out of those years, and wouldn’t give that back. Other organizations can ALSO provide similar activities/learning, but that doesn’t mean that this one can’t.

  89. @Russell: Replace “gay” with “black” in your paragraph and you’ll see the problem. I say (as a former Scout), if the Scouts can’t survive including black members and leaders, then good riddance to them! Same with Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Hispanic, etc. If we wouldn’t accept this “I dislike exclusion, but we can’t rock the boat” logic for any other minority, we shouldn’t accept it for sexual orientation or atheism.

  90. The $1 rent comment is interesting. The middle school where we meet is on land OWNED by the boy scouts. The school received it free in return for allowing scouts regular meetings there in perpetuity (about 2 hours a week). That’s a pretty good deal.

  91. Jay, Maggie, BrianL etc all expressed this similar belief Of course we ALL know what good and bad are. and all underestimate the influence of judeo-christian values on their definitions of “good” and “bad”.

    To borrow from Richard Dawkins, your view of “good” and “bad” are overwhelmingly probably the same as your parents. For example, if you had been born an Apache child 400 years ago you would think nothing of stealing from other groups.

  92. I want to chime in as another Atheist Den Leader in the scouting organization. Scouting is not perfect by any means, but I think it would be fair to say that a part of Free Range parenting is to not give up the good things in pursuit of the perfect.

  93. @Mike D: “…part of Free Range parenting is to not give up the good things in pursuit of the perfect.” I like that. I’d like to also add that nothing is perfect. You can get as close to it as you possibly can, but it will never be perfect.

    So needless to say, the pursuit of perfection is unattainable. The pursuit of what is good, is within everyone’s grasp. They just have to make the effort. This not only goes with Free Range parenting, but life itself. And goes for both young and old.

  94. *snicker*

    Christians did not invent morality, Lucy. “Don’t be an asshole” has been the essential core of MANY religions that far, far, far pre-date yours.

  95. Not sure about these alternative scouting groups that are co-ed. I just asked my 12 year old daughter about it. “Horrible idea,” she said. She went on to basically say that she and her Girl Scout troop members see their twice-monthly get-togethers as a refuge from the bathroom humor, incessant talking, and giggling about private parts that they hear from their male counterparts every day. I’m guessing boys may feel a similar thrill in being boys-only. Maybe the freedom to do the above without censure?

  96. I am currently a leader in Girlguiding UK. They are most definitely not anti-gay but atheists can cause a bit of a problem. The promise includes the line “I promise I will do my best to love my god” which is an issue for atheists. However I have known plenty of people who have made their promise with their “god” being science or nature or something else that they believe strongly in. As it is mainly a promise to themselves it is up to the individual exactly how they interpret it.

  97. Sorry, but the Boy Scouts’ stand on these issues is not going to change. And here’s why: the largest single Boy Scouts sponsor in the US is the Mormon Church. The Mormons have Church programs for “young men” and “young women” (i.e. kids ages 12 to 18). The Young Men’s program in the LDS Church IS the Boy Scout program. And the two things the Mormon church hates most are gays and atheists.

  98. 1. It seems like every time you turn around they’re practically shoving it down your throat.

    That is a… very poor choice of words.

    I’m tired of it, frankly. I am not saying “I wish they would all just go away,” but I am sick of every single modern show I watch ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS introducing a gay angle to it EVERY time it seems.

    If you say so. I don’t watch that much TV, but except for HGTV (which also have an abundance of mixed-race couples – nice, but a little disproportionate!) which my mother watches, I don’t see very many out and gay people on TV. And what I do see tends to be a lot of humor at the subject rather than people acting like normal people, which is what I see in real life.

    About the only modern show I can think of with a lot of gay-gay-GAY and NOT for the sake of cheap jokes at the expense of others (admittedly, much TV humor seems to be like that) is Torchwood, and they’re not so much gay as “everybody is bi deep down”.

    As for real life, most of the gay people I know I wouldn’t know if I hadn’t seen them with their partners or, alternatively, seen their rainbow flag/bumper sticker. Admittedly the last is telling it to the world, but it’s not exactly shoving stuff down my throat either. I see Irish flags on people’s doors and American flags and Italian flags as well, and Puerto Rican flags, for some reason, on a lot of car hoods. Whatever.

    2. How would a gay leader teach a boy to be “morally straight?”

    Well, he might focus on the top ten – no stealing, killing, or coveting, that sort of thing.

    How would an atheist teach a boy to “do his duty to God?”

    By reading from a book…? Or maybe by passing that job off to another scoutmaster while HE focuses on the knot-tying and firebuilding?

    3. If you have to have the threat of eternal damnation hanging over you to convince you to do the right thing, how does that make you more moral than people who do the right thing simply for the sake of doing the right thing?

    Some of them are in it for the carrot instead of the stick. But yeah, it’s not an argument that makes much logical sense.

    4. Without religious affiliation, how can you decide what “good works”are? Everyone would define it differently.

    No, they wouldn’t. One major overarching “good work” that most everybody agrees upon is the ethic of reciprocity. You may know it as the golden rule. It goes something like “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” or “Do not do what is hateful to you”.

    And you know, people with *wildly* different beliefs about the specifics – whether there’s any deity at all, how many deities there are and what their attributes may be, whether deities care about the state of humanity, whether there’s any sort of cosmic reward or punishment for how you act, whether killing is ever justified, or stealing – tend to agree on that one statement. Above all else, don’t go around hurting people, it’s just not nice.

    This idea is found in religious traditions around the world – and plenty of non-religious people more or less agree with it as well. It’s a sensible proposition, it makes clear sense, and it’s immediately beneficial to you if everybody follows it. It’s a simple starting point that doesn’t really need a god to enforce.

    Of course, you can go the other way – even WITH religious traditions, people mostly disagree about the specifics of right and wrong anyway. Oh, they agree in a general way about that golden rule thing, but then they get bogged down in the details. Is it okay to eat pork, to sleep with another man, to pray in the wrong church, to die unbaptized, to baptize infants, to NOT baptize infants, to cast out criminals, to execute people for heinous crimes, to go to war, to eat meat at all, to steal if you’re starving…? And if it’s not okay, how not okay is it? Will one misstep put your soul in grave danger, or does it just make God frown a little, but once you say sorry you’re in the clear?

    As an atheist, I have three decision making processes for Is This Good or Bad:

    A. How will I feel if I do this? If I will feel guilty and bad, it’s probably a bad idea. If I will feel warm and fuzzy, it’s probably a good idea.

    B. How would I feel if somebody else did this sort of thing to me? If I would feel bad, it’s probably a bad idea. If I would feel happy, it’s probably a good idea.

    C. Would this action harm others? If yes, it’s probably a bad idea (theft). If no, it’s probably a morally neutral idea (masturbation). If it would BENEFIT others, it’s probably a good idea (giving to charity). If the answer is MIXED, then I have to weigh my choices – does the harm caused by calling 311 on my loud neighbors outweigh the benefits of this act? (It doesn’t matter, soon as I pick up the cell phone they invariably shut up anyway.)

    Obviously I’m not perfect about it – but then, neither are you 🙂

    The trouble with this outline is, of course, that many real-life situations are more complicated than it allows for. In times of crisis, you might turn to your holy book or religious leader, or you might pray. In times of crisis, I ask friends and family whom I respect and whose opinions I trust, and I try to learn more about the possible consequences of the action I’m considering. More facts mean I’m less likely to do something I’ll regret.

    Sometimes the two of us might come to the same conclusion about an idea. For example, I bet we both agree that stealing jewelry from old ladies is wrong. Sometimes we wouldn’t – but then, even if we both shared a religion, we might not agree either. But either way, we still have the same starting point – we want to avoid harming others as much as possible. Most everybody has that starting point. Isn’t that lucky of us?

    5. The Boy Scouts have received criticism for taking public funding, thus blurring the lines between whether they are fully a private enterprise, but there is clearly a huge segment of the population that wants them to stay just as they have been because of shared values that are decidedly religious.

    Well, there’s the rub. If they kept the same policies and the same rules as a private organization, I wouldn’t care what they did. I wouldn’t join them or allow my hypothetical son to join them – but then, there are a lot of groups I wouldn’t join.

    But they don’t. They take public money, and that means they have to follow the same rules as everybody else. They absolutely can’t have it both ways.

    6. All of you mothers, do you let your husbands make all the decisions, because that book says he is worth more than you?

    Some people do. 0.o

    7. It’s crappy, but unless you go around flaunting your atheism you’ll be fine. And what 10yo kid is going to do that?

    You mean, being honest? Like the Boy Scouts encourage?

    There are 10 year old kids who would do that. They have integrity.

    8. For example, if you had been born an Apache child 400 years ago you would think nothing of stealing from other groups.

    LOL… uh, no.

    I mean, yeah, plenty of people today think nothing of stealing (or at least taking without fair compensation) from other groups so long as they don’t have to think about it (how many children did it take to make your bag of M&Ms, do you think?), but that’s all beside the point. “Do unto others” and all that predates Christianity and Judaism by a fair margin… and pops up in places where they’re unlikely to have made much of an impact.

  99. I have a Scout’s Handbook from 1972 (eighth edition) that belonged to my uncle, which I find interesting to read. Here is what it says about religion, just as a point of comparison:

    The last part of the Scout Law is to be Reverent. ‘A scout is faithful toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

    There is also a page describing Religious Emblems Programs: ‘These emblems are awarded by the related religious groups. They are not a Scouting recognition. Each faith has its own requirements for earning its emblem. …’ There are emblems for various Christian denominations, plus Islamic, Jewish, and Buddhist.

    Not sure what the current book says, but this is how it was in ’72.

  100. […] Why Scouting, Part II Hi Readers! First of all, a thanks to all the people who have commented. It was a good reminder to me — as was […] […]

  101. Great post as always Lenore. I would just like to say I’m a scout leader on Australia and am pleased to say the level of acceptance here is much much greater that the BSA!

  102. The Boy Scouts are not trying to stop people from having atheist organizations or gay organizations. Why can’t the forces of “tolerance” tolerate a straight, theist organization?

    Look up “bigot” in a dictionary, folks.

  103. Please tell me what “athiest run” organisations have in their constition a passage that states religious folk cannot join or hold office… I can’t think of one.

    Christians of the audience please stop taking umbrage with the non-christians. Nowhere here have they been bigoted towards your beliefs. I think they are more mystified that a group that preaches tolerance and acceptance could be so intolerant of gays and athiests.

    Why should you stop gay people or athiests from being part of the scouts and holding office? It is not like you can “catch” gay and religion doesn’t seem to play a part in whether a person is kind and good or not.

    I do not understand why we have to have any organistion – school, group, etc – except for the churches themselves which would have a religious focus. Excluding and fearing what is different is crippling and negative. Stop preaching (this goes for both sides), save the beliefs for the church, mosque or temple, and we’ll all get along a lot more.

    There should be no organisation that prevents anyone from participating because of their race, religion, sexual preference or gender. If it does, that is discrimination.

  104. Actually, as a point of reference, Scouting did not always discriminate in such a way. Seriously, up until 1972, Scout leaders weren’t even supposed to put forward any opinions on the subject, as outlined in the 1972 boy scouts handbook. The reason was simple, and will quite likely make sense to everyone here: A Scoutmaster is not qualified to comment, or make judgments on those matters.

    So to a certain extent, Scouting does not need to evolve, it need devolve to its earlier state.

  105. I don’t know if someone already said it (I didn’t read every single comment)…but just because someone is gay doesn’t make them a pedophile. Isn’t THAT what we should be concerned about?

  106. @Maggie, “And while we’re at it, howzabout people like you attempt to grasp that refusing to support the BSA is in no way “hating” them or “bothering” them?”

    I agree here. My not giving the BSA my boys (who they say they don’t want anyway) or my money is not the same as hating or bothering them. Why SHOULD I give money to an organization that has a national policy insulting people like me? Come on, be realistic!

    While we’re at it, howzabout accepting that when someone says “Your national policy says that my boys are not welcome, so I’m not going to enroll them.” people take that as respecting the group’s right to have a policy of its own and as abiding by their policy rather than as an insult? When my kids make a promise (which an oath is), we expect them to take it seriously and they actually DO tend to take it seriously as a result. We have things we do believe, and reverent we can manage, but the god stuff we just can’t.

    @Susan2, my boys are part of co-ed groups. They’ve not reached the age of 12 yet, but we are really glad that they have the opportunity to be in such groups. Their closest friends are girls, and we’re always sad when they don’t get to hang out together. I also like that it helps them stretch to things that are not stereotypical for their gender. I don’t see the boy scouts doing many bake sales, but my oldest LOVES doing them for 4-H and bakes his own stuff for the sales. The scones he made were a big hit last night! Having the boys around may give the advantage of having a larger part of the group wanting to do something more active as well.

    I don’t know…….I’ve taught at a men’s college and a women’s college, and gender segregated groups can really bring out a lot of pressure to stick to the norms if one is not careful. Co-ed groups have real benefit.

  107. Why can’t the forces of “tolerance” tolerate a straight, theist organization?

    We do tolerate them, actually.

    We do NOT tolerate them getting special privileges that other groups that do NOT discriminate don’t get (and yes – excluding only a minority of potential applicants is discriminating. They’re allowed to do so, and I for one am happy to let them do so, but let’s not mince words here). We do NOT tolerate being told they’re our only option if we want our kids to be honest and prepared and whatever else. (Heck, they’re not even the only scouting option!) We do NOT support them – but not supporting somebody is not the same as not tolerating them.

  108. maggie, uly, ignorance is bliss. That’s why the government teaches “social studies” instead of history in their schools. Still, as americans you would do well to learn a little bit at least about the cultures that predate the European culture in this country, if you can.

    The problem of course is that when you all repeat history, you inflict it on the rest of us.

    Btw, to whoever wanted to see the BSA go the way of Hitler youth, you do know that the Hitler youth were created to replace the BSA which it banned. Right? Or is this another ignorant history repeating itself?

  109. I am an atheist and so is my son. We are both actively involved in our pack (I hold a leadership position). When I say the pledge I do not say the line “under god” and we do not have prayers at meetings. In our Den we have a family where the parents are two openly gay men. We live in the deep south but near a major university so we have a very diverse population so we flex the rules of Scouting to fit the values of our community.

    On a personal level, every year my son struggles with his “Duty to God” requirement and how to fulfill it while staying true to his values… so far he has decided that the pros of scouting outweigh the cons…

  110. Lucy, I’ll say it again. You’re ignorant and stupid. If you really want to think that it was ONLY one group of people who invented that “Let’s all be nice” credo you’re welcome to do so, but you should understand that you are the one who doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

    Btw, to whoever wanted to see the BSA go the way of Hitler youth, you do know that the Hitler youth were created to replace the BSA which it banned. Right? Or is this another ignorant history repeating itself?

    1. No, it wasn’t. There was no Boy Scouts of America in Germany. This should be obvious to anybody with the ability to spell “America”… but then, if you knew how to spell you’d know it has a capital letter.

    2. Even if that had actually been the case, what does that have to do with what we’re talking about here? This is right up there with “Hitler was a vegetarian, you know” in terms of arguments. If Hitler disagreed with the Boy Scouts (and other scouting organizations) because they threatened Nazi control over the youth, that doesn’t mean that we MUST agree with the BSA even when they have beliefs, attitudes, and policies that are harmful.

  111. Being a scout leader is not for the weak – or anyone with a heart condition. 🙂 Case in point:

    When I was 15 years old and in girl scouts we routinely booked the girl scout lodge for weekend campouts. One weekend we ended up booking our campout at the boy scout lodge a few miles away… as the girlscout logde was already booked and the boyscout lodge did not have any reservations that weekend.
    We arrived at the boy scout lodge and got settled in. Around 11PM a vehicle arrived – which was weird, since we were so remote in the woods.

    Our leaders went out to investigate. When they came back inside the lodge… they were completely white as ghosts. We all wondered… was the vehicle being driven by zombies?

    Nope. Worse. The vehicle was a 16 passenger van full of 15 year old boy scouts.

    Oh.. the joy in our teenage faces as we laid eyes upon each other!

    They had driven several hours to get there and it was way too late to have them drive home and the weather was getting bad. So they needed to stay the night.

    The next hour the leaders spent together discussing how to “manage” the situation… and how to best keep 30+ hormone laden teenagers apart.

    The agreement was that the girlscouts would leave in the morning (we only had to drive an hour to get home).


  112. Imagine our joy when we woke up in the morning to discover we had been snowed in!!!

    3 days of stress for our leaders…. 3 days of teenage memories for us kids!


  113. Oh, to heck with it. Lucy, once again I find your attitudes and ignorance to be so offensive that I have decided to spend a few minutes proving how very very wrong you are.

    Would that I could just throw some books at you, but my aim is bad and they might knock you out or something. So it’s… back to google! (Please insert your favorite theme music here, I’m humming away as I type and posing in superhero fashion.)

    First, let’s go to ReligiousTolerance.org for their short list of quotes. (I have delinkified everything so this doesn’t get bumped into moderation.)


    Wikipedia also has a page on it:


    You’ll note some of these statements greatly predate Christianity. Some of them may have been incorporated into Judaism and Christianity as they developed… but it’s unlikely there’s much Hindu influence there.

    There are many other links with largely the same groups of quotes:


    As far as the people who lived in the Americas before the Europeans arrived (and who still live here, of course), they’re not one monolithic group. There are many different cultures here, and they have many different ways of living. I simply do not have the resources to track down every (or at least most) possible group and ask them what they traditionally have held as their overaching moral code.

    However, I strongly doubt you can do better. I’d dearly love to learn the source of your “education”.

  114. One thing I’ve learned being a Girl Scout leader for the past 3 years is this – you can run your troop however you want. No one from Council comes and checks up on you. No one “puts the hammer down” and makes you do things the “right way”. No one threatens to kick you out if you don’t.

    So what I am saying is this, if you don’t like how your local troop is doing things, start your own.

  115. @HeatherJ

    That is just it, the difference between the GS and the BSA. Let’s say I’m gay or atheist. I start my own troop. I run it the way I like, everything is going great and then the inevitable happens – one of the parents complains to the council about my “lifestyle”. Guess what? I’m done, removed as a leader and my son is kicked out. This is a national policy. The GS do not have a policy like that. I AM a leader of 2 GS troops and I am atheist. And my co-leader is Mormon. You can’t get much different than that, and yet we have no problem making it work because religion doesn’t come into our GS activities at all. Why? Because religion is personal and private. And there is no reason it can’t be that way for everyone.

  116. WOW pomwa mom I would have been insulted if a the adult leaders of any group I was a member of thought I was such a slut that I would sleep with boys I had met that night.

  117. @kimberly.. well that was not quite expecting a response like that. . My post was to merely relate a funny story and a fond GS memory. None of the leaders implied that we were “Sluts” or that we were all going to start sleeping with each other. We were just normal teenage kids who probably were more likely to try sneaking off and kiss in the woods. The leaders were just trying to be responsible in a very unexpected situation.
    It was funny.

  118. AAAnnnnd we’re jumping to the worst case thinking again here. Exactly what Lenore doesn’t want us doing!

  119. I am still close with my old troop leader and several of the “girls” from my troop. We still get a big laugh out of that story.. especially now that many of the “girls’ are now parents of 15 year olds! That weekend gave new meaning to the term “Be Prepared”. It was hilarious!

  120. uly – BSA also stands for Boy Scout Association, which was banned in Germany by Hitler. The Boy Scouts of America are active in Germany today, under that name.

    I wouldn’t expect you to agree with Hitler on everything, but perhaps Colin, who stated he would like to see the Boy Scouts go the way of the Hitler youth might think for a second about the comparisons he is drawing. If ‘do unto others…’ is the only defining morality of athiests, then such comparisons might be even more meaningful.

    uly, why don’t you take a second to explain how “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” defines a moral code for concrete behaviors? Now remember, in your explanation you cannot draw on any framework of judeo christian absolute values ( e.g. ten commandments) or absolute values as defined by any other regimental prescriptive religious doctrine (koran, book of mormon, etc.)

    And tell me, how many children does it takes to make a bag of m&m’s? Now just in case you’re implying this is a child labor issue, explain how children working is instinctively and inherently wrong – without quoting the UN.

    Then if you want to know more about the fascinating cultures of early Americans, find texts written before the turn of the 20th century. “Our Wild Indians” by Dodge is a good example.

    You know the early European settlers called them “wild” because their behaviors, lifestyles, MORAL codes were so dramatically different from the Judeo-christian heritage.

    Finally, note that nowhere so far have I presumed Judeo Christian moral values to superior to other sets, I merely point out that what the athiests on this page claim they “know” instinctively to be good is in fact inseparable from their heritage.

    Some would say that is the reason Christianity was created in the first place.

  121. gusnarp – apparently you were not around during the ’50’s communist scare days of Joseph McCarthy.

    My husband was.

    MANY parents did not allow their sons to join out of ‘commie’ fears.

    Google it. Even little Shirley Temple was a communist.

    It was stupidity and ignorance masked as “enlightment”, just as the pedophile scare and lawsuits of the ’80’s were, and now the BSA “hates” gays and atheists malarky.


    My son was a boyscout for years and was NEVER introduced to gay bashing or athetist shunning.

    What is it about the Boy Scouts that gets so many of those-with-agendas panties in a knot?

    LEAVE THE BOY SCOUTS ALONE! Start your own “earth club” or whatever. Let’s see where Earth Club is 100 years from now. Good luck and Earth bless.


  122. Some would say that is the reason Christianity was created in the first place.

    Then that would stand to reason that these values were in place LONG before then if they were conveniently gathered and written on a set of stone blocks…

  123. @claptrap

    You keep saying to leave the BSA alone – how are we disturbing them? Do you see us picketing their offices? No. I don’t even know of a letter-writing campaign.

    And whether or not YOU have seen evidence, the BSA have gone to court TWICE to “protect” their organization from gays and atheists. That is a FACT. Most recently, they went to court yet again to make the city of Philadelphia continue to allow them to rent a space there RENT-FREE (one of those big perks they get that they shouldn’t since they are a religious org). I wonder what would happen if I started a group, only allowed minorities, and wanted the government to foot the bill.

  124. uly – BSA also stands for Boy Scout Association, which was banned in Germany by Hitler. The Boy Scouts of America are active in Germany today, under that name.

    I didn’t know that, thank you 🙂

    However, we are not talking about the Boy Scout Association. We’re talking about the Boy Scouts of America, something you well know. Using the same acronym for two organizations is deceptive at best.

    if ‘do unto others…’ is the only defining morality of athiests, then such comparisons might be even more meaningful.

    I’m sorry, I just have to ask – since when do all atheists have the same ideas and moral codes? The golden rule is an overarching moral that is followed by many around the world (or at least ideally followed, even those that believe in it don’t often keep it.)

    But gosh, Lucy. I guess no rule really does give clear answers for every possible situation. Um… duh?

    And tell me, how many children does it takes to make a bag of m&m’s? Now just in case you’re implying this is a child labor issue, explain how children working is instinctively and inherently wrong – without quoting the UN.

    Well, Lucy, it’s really not the age of the workers as the fact that they’re exploited and enslaved. That they’re children makes it worse, as they’re also kept uneducated. I’m not really sure how ‘child slaves’ got out of my comment in place of “children”, but rest assured that the former is what I meant to say.

    But let’s use that big ol’ golden rule again. Let’s ask ourselves: Would I like it if I or my kid was forced to work 100 hours a week and beaten for either no wages or so few that they were darn close to no wages, and not allowed to leave that job?


    No! Hey, look, my moral code wins again! It tells me that slavery is wrong!

    Then if you want to know more about the fascinating cultures of early Americans, find texts written before the turn of the 20th century. “Our Wild Indians” by Dodge is a good example.

    Written by whom? By Native Americans? By people who had lived with them for a long time? Or maybe by people who were actively at war with them and who had enormous advantages to presenting their enemies as less-than themselves?

    Yeah, that. If I want a biased source, I’ll tell you.

    You know the early European settlers called them “wild” because their behaviors, lifestyles, MORAL codes were so dramatically different from the Judeo-christian heritage.

    And I’m sure it had nothing at all to do with the fact that they were busy taking over other people’s land and needed an excuse to justify this. (Well, they didn’t need an excuse, I suppose, but it makes things convenient to have one.)

    Some would say that is the reason Christianity was created in the first place.

    So that atheists would have your moral code? I’m not really sure that follows, dear.

    My son was a boyscout for years and was NEVER introduced to gay bashing or athetist shunning.

    That’s nice. I’m glad to hear it! However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t groups which exclude atheists and/or gays, nor that the organization on the whole is accepting and welcoming to atheists and/or gays.

    What is it about the Boy Scouts that gets so many of those-with-agendas panties in a knot?

    They accept public money – quite a lot of it! – and public funding while trying to claim the right to act as a private organization.

    They can either be a public organization, in which case they need to accept everybody, or they can be a private organization, in which case they need to stop taking public funds, but they can’t be both.

    LEAVE THE BOY SCOUTS ALONE! Start your own “earth club” or whatever. Let’s see where Earth Club is 100 years from now. Good luck and Earth bless.

    We don’t have to. Fortunately, there are other organizations already out there : )

    However, as it happens, I for one *am* leaving the Boy Scouts alone. The problem is when they do not leave ME or my tax dollars alone.

    Then that would stand to reason that these values were in place LONG before then if they were conveniently gathered and written on a set of stone blocks…

    Let’s not muddy up the issue with logic.

  125. If you look at the financial statements that are on the BSA’s website you’ll see that one of their donors is the United Way. Guess you’ll all have to badmouth that organization, too? Too bad they don’t sell “grody popcorn” that you can avoid.

    When I say to leave us alone, I’m referring to the vitriol that gets spewed. Why don’t you just ignore us and let us go about our business without insulting us?

  126. Then that would stand to reason that these values were in place LONG before then if they were conveniently gathered and written on a set of stone blocks…

    Let’s not muddy up the issue with logic.

    Actually, those values were NOT “In place Long before” – it is why the man promoting them got nailed to a cross.

  127. I guess when women didn’t have the vote, they should have just ignored everyone and let the government go about their business? Maybe blacks should have just let bygones be bygones and allowed segregation?

    Because when people sit down and shut up, nothing changes.

  128. I could have sworn the man was nailed on a cross for a lot more complicated reason than the Golden Rule, my bad.

  129. Jen, on October 24, 2010 at 10:29 Said:
    I guess when women didn’t have the vote, they should have just ignored everyone and let the government go about their business? Maybe blacks should have just let bygones be bygones and allowed segregation?

    Because when people sit down and shut up, nothing changes.

    Interesting point, Jen. I never saw that women not voting/segregated blacks/unregulated boy scout connection before.

    One almost forgets that at one time “men” in general did not have the right to vote, either.

    Luckily, the right to vote just happened to float down from the sky into their selfish hands one day, where upon they used that right to subjugate hapless women and segregate people of color just to show everyone who was The Boss. This entitlement attitude still lurks in the hearts of young boy scouts every where, and must be stamped out, lest we forget the TRUE sufferings of those forced to endure Boy Scout exclusions.

    Those noble ones dedicated to not sitting down and shutting up have succeeded in no longer keeping score and handing out trophies for just showing up – those horrid Boy Scouts are OVER DUE to embrace homosexuality and reject Christianity.

    The new “Earth Club” rules!

  130. “LEAVE THE BOY SCOUTS ALONE! Start your own “earth club” or whatever. Let’s see where Earth Club is 100 years from now.”

    Pffft! Because 4-H and Camp Fire USA haven’t been around for 100 years, right? Both have strong anti-discrimination policies, too.

    I don’t need to start my own “earth club,” although my oldest did start and maintain his own co-ed group where he and his buddies did lots of volunteer work and fund-raising for charities. They’ve dropped their own little group now largely because they’re old enough to be full members of 4-H, where they can do some similar work.

    Amazingly, if you take off the blinders there are other wonderful opportunities out there for kids. That’s why in my response to the other thread on this issue I mentioned that those of us whose consciences lead us not to support the Boy Scouts of America can help strengthen the existing groups out there that do not discriminate yet still promote life skills, character-building, and the free-range philosophy.

  131. @Allison

    I wish I had sons just so I could support those groups! I don’t even buy popcorn from the BSA.

  132. @Jen, I suspect the national organizations for both would happily take your money if you offered it, as would Playworks, the group Leonore mentioned before the Boy Scout speech in her previous post.

    As far as local 4-H funding goes, if you see those kids raising money it goes directly to their local group for educational purposes that the kids in the group have voted on. They’re highly discouraged from doing door-to-door style fundraisers, with the focus instead being on things like sales of the output from their projects, baby sitting services, and socials of various sorts — on things they can produce themselves for the most part. At any rate, all fund raising is to be for specific purposes and the kids should be able to tell you exactly what those purposes are.

  133. I think people are right on in saying that experience depends on location….My son is a cub scout and I can assure you we are not religious or conservative in any way. When my husband wanted to sign him up I was horrified. I suggested we try Camp Fire and we did that. But it took forever for them to find us a troop and when we went it was very uncomfortable because the leader was clearly a little uncomfortable with my autistic son being in the group, we felt left out quite a lot and it was very clique like. So I relented and we tried Boy Scouts. We wanted our son involved in something like this because he needs an activity and he also needs the social aspect. We have gay friends/family and I was totally expecting to end up leaving in a rage of disgust but we’re going on our second year and I have gained a lot of respect for what the scouts do for boys NOT what the national group likes to focus on but what the individual den leaders and troop leaders are doing locally. We searched for a troop and found one that seemed to be sponsored by a fairly liberal (or at least not super conservative) church and went. Some of the other parents are kind of what I expected of the Boy Scouts, but our troop and den leaders have been great. We have never been asked about our religion or if we go to church, etc. I swear our current den leader is gay but who knows. My son, in all his autistic glory, refuses to say the pledge of allegiance and no one cares. But everyone has been incredibly nice to us, our son, welcoming, inclusive, supportive of his disability and very warm, etc. It has been a great experience for us. They really are inclusive in terms of treating him just like all the other kids and ignoring anything he does that they’re not sure of. I think that what the boy scouts needs is more middle of the road or liberal parents to get involved. The structure is definitely about morals but from what I’ve seen in our troop it’s about being responsible, caring for others and being respectful to yourself and others. I am still a bit embarrassed to admit we’re part of the boy scouts because people have such a negative image but it really varies based on your location and what church it’s sponsored by. Do we hang out with the other parents? No, only at events and hardly even that but our son just loves it and feels really proud of himself for his accomplishments. Campfire is cool in theory but it’s not as organized and since just anyone can form a troop there can be some really crappy leaders and again, they were DEFINITELY not inclusive to our autistic son–during the troop finding process (they had to “search for one that our son might fit in” and that took almost two months) or when we were in the troop itself. Too bad as I like the concept of Campfire better in theory.

  134. I once served on the Board of a Boy Scout troop in a Mormon Ward. Not only was it like falling down the rabbit hole for me as an out gay man, but it was the first (and only time) my foster son encountered a collision between his home and his public life. After one incident in which one of the Board dads (with an extraordinary number of kids of his own) made a pass at me in the church parking lot, my foster son and I agreed that we would not return. In all fairness, the kid probably would not have been allowed to participate much longer in any case based on his own merits, or lack thereof. Fortunately for everyone, when I finally fathered my own kids they all were born ineligible for the BSA, so their incongruous queer policy now impacts our family less.

  135. Militaristic?

    I can only state from what I have observed in three troops, in Northern NSW, Australia.
    I am lead to believe other troops are less scarily militaristic.
    Nevertheless, the apparent necessity for small children to swear allegiance to God Queen and country made me feel distinctly uneasy.

  136. The CONCEPT of the Scouts is a fantastic one, but my kids won’t be joining an organization that doesn’t allow homosexuals or atheists. I can take my kids camping and introduce them to the wilderness surrounded by friends and family that don’t discriminate.

  137. I’m a little disturbed at the (otherwise intelligent) comments supporting the BSA’s mandates to children to be “morally straight” and “do their duty to God.” On the surface they sound like great ideals, at least until you realize that by “morally straight” they mean exclusively Christian and heterosexual, and by “duty to God” they frequently mean the (One, True) god of (one particular) scout master.

    Those particular segments of the BSA’s policy and training materials are nothing but flowery prose loosely concealing a policy of hate, not simply discrimination. Gays and non-believers are not “morally straight,” therefore they are excluded (discrimination). To be not morally straight is to be amoral, ergo gays are evil (hate). It is your duty, as a good, morally upright scout to stand against evil in all of its aspects (violence). All in all, a pretty bold stance for an organization largely supported by tax dollars, hailed by presidents, and granted all sorts of rights and privileges that other organizations are not granted.

    Kurt Gruber understood how to mold the minds of youth to reflect a set of ideals, hatreds, and prejudices. Lenin understood too. Every successful tyrant in history recognized that the key to staying in power is dependent upon how effectively you plant the seeds, not in how ruthless you are in weeding the crop.

    Bottom line: Why does the BSA have anything at all to do with sex, sexual partners, or a personal relationship with God? In my experience no one sends their child off to the Scouts while saying to themselves, “Gee, I hope this organization gets a handle on my boy’s gay tendencies and heresy before it’s too late.”

  138. My over-the-top ADD son found a warm and welcoming troop who showed trememdous tolerance and compassion for his antics. After all the years of anger and rejection in the classroom, I will ALWAYS be grateful to those wonderful moms that gave my son – and me – the first inkling of what life could be like when you are accepted as you are, which was NOT happening in his all inclusive classroom with girls,gays and atheists. He was, in fact, bitterly NOT tolerated there.

    He was able to find that same camaradorie and acceptance at a small private Christian school we enrolled him in, not for religious purposes, but because of the rejection and intolerance he constantly encountered in public school where supposedly EVERYone is accepted.

    Personally, I’ve never had a problem with pledging allegiance to my country, or taking an oath of enlistment to serve it. It feels GOOD to say “I served my country”, believe it or not.

    I’ve never had a problem taking an exlusionary religious vow to my husband, marriage and family either. Sorry if that makes divorced or single people “feel bad”, but I’m not switching to a more ‘tolerant” open door policy.

    In life we don’t all get what we all want all the time. If research were to be done, I am sure the Boy Scouts would not end up being the cause of all evil.

  139. Actually, those values were NOT “In place Long before” – it is why the man promoting them got nailed to a cross.

    I though that had to do with all the perceived “Yup, I’m God!” talk rather than the “Now, now, let’s all be nice to each other” stuff. Or, alternatively, because of fears of rebellion. Or, alternatively, For Our Sins, though the logic of that has never quite added up for me.

    When I say to leave us alone, I’m referring to the vitriol that gets spewed. Why don’t you just ignore us and let us go about our business without insulting us?

    Because (wow, I feel like a broken record) the BSA takes public money. It’s not cool to “go about your business” on public funds when “your business” is exclusionary.

  140. Your comments are heartfelt as usual, Lenore. And I have always believed in not throwing the baby out with the bath-water. But I rage at the concept of any organization set up for kids–in this land of idealsim, would not operate in the awareness that there are gay children, and that religion is personal, and above all, they are things that should exist as personal business, let alone playing a part in a public organization’s policy. Public OR private, it’s nothing to win anyone a merit badge. Unless there is a Badge of Shame.

  141. Sorry about the poorly-stated opinion above. I have a headache. 🙂

  142. Thanks Lenore, once again, for saying everything that I want to be able to say but saying it better.

    I just want to throw in my experience with the Scouts in our community: Berkeley, CA, an admittedly unusual place where the norm is to go against the norm.

    I had serious concerns about what BSA supported and didn’t support, and I know there are many folks around here who want nothing to do with the organization because of it’s anti LGBQT policies. But I needed something for my 7-year old son to get involved with. He foundered in team sports like soccer but clearly needed some more opportunities to pursue his interests in the outdoors. More importantly, he needed activities that encouraged BOTH self-reliance and teamwork. That’s what cub scouts seemed to offer — furthermore, it promoted a moral code that is based, from what I can see, primarily on the principle of choosing what is best — and even taking risks for — the strengthening of the common good. Since we are a-religious and do not participate in a church, the Scouts were actually a good way for my son to hear the message from others besides just his parents that the reason you tell a grown-up when you’ve witnessed injustice, or the reason that you chase down a plastic bag that’s blowing across the path while you’re out hiking, or the reason that you volunteer at the food bank is because we are all better off when we do. And there are very few opportunities for kids to witness and experience those truths first-hand. In Cub Scouts — my son GETS it. He sees his Scout Masters, one of whom is an open lesbian, and his den leader, also an open lesbian, model the behavior on hikes, at food banks, during pack meetings walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Oh – AND he gets to run around and be a kid.

    Do I have qualms about shelling out $100 a year to support the (in my opinion, I acknowledge) backwards notions of the BSA? You bet. But do I also think I have a better chance of contributing to the transformation of the organization from within? Absolutely.

    I really don’t want to see the end of Scouting. My gosh, there are so few opportunities for my son to feel a part of a community — and if we didn’t have Scouts then I actually might feel compelled to join a church, even though I don’t believe in god, just to recapture that feeling. And then I’d REALLY be a hypocrite. No one at Scouts has ever dictated our religious beliefs. And during the den meeting that covered spirituality and religion, atheism and agnosticism were discussed as being as valid as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, et al. as a belief system. But I’m pretty sure that at most churches, they don’t profess the same degree of tolerance.

    So, we’re sticking with Scouts as long as my son loves it. When he’s old enough to be a Boy Scout, we’ll have a serious talk about the disconnect between what the BSA’s positions (assuming Lenore hasn’t transformed them yet) on being gay and/or atheist are what our family stands for. Then he can choose, based on what his moral compass tells him is the right thing to do.

    Elisabeth – mother of a Berkeley Pack 30 Den 4 Bear Scout

  143. Hello Lenore

    Can I please ask you to direct your readers to the World Orginisation Of the Scout Movement ( WOSM – http://scout.org/) or even World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS – http://www.wagggsworld.org/en/home)

    Reading through the comments it would seem that Scouting and Guiding is being tared with a bad brush becasue of the policies of one very small part of an huge orginiastion.

    Scouting is a phenominal experience for young people, it builds world membership, committment solidairty.

    If you look aroun the globe at Pakastan, Hatti, Africa it is Scout who are present handing out aid, putting up tents helping people.

    Scouting can offer young people opptiunities of a life time, and build friendships that last for ever. One of the scout Laws says “a Scout is a member of the world wide family of scouting”

    Just be cause one part of this great orginisation choses to be Male only and Anti-gay (intrestingly the word is openly gay – I bet there are quite a few gay leaders who just keep their private life well Private)

    But I ask you all please open your minds and look at the good this much larger orginisation is doing.

    Yours in Scouting


    (my qualifications for commenting – I am a Scout I always will be. I was a cub, Scout, Ventrue Scout, Queens Scout, Cub Leader, Scout Leader, Assistant County Commissioner for Scout and currently a Assistant County Commissioner for Explorers all in the UK)

  144. uly – still waiting for you to explain how “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is anything other than arbitrarily ambiguous. For example, in your case it clearly means ‘it’s ok to cry foul when caught being wrong’.

    Now for the game of ‘how would you like it….” I could easily agree that I would not like it if I were beaten, or forced to do labor. But I would absolutely not agree that laboring for a mere pittance (by whose standard of living?) is worse than not laboring and getting nothing and spending my day on the garbage heap scrounging for scraps. And I would absolutely not agree that being an uneducated child is worse than being FORCED to go to school.

    Yes, clearly the golden rule provides us with absolute standards of moral behavior.

    Rather, to repeat myself, some argue that religions were created to control the huge range of behaviors expressed between populations following the “golden rule”.

    As for the history, by all means, go ahead and ignore whatever doesn’t promote your conformation bias, but then, by the golden rule, you will be content when the Boy Scouts of America do it to you.

  145. I was a campfire kid myself, and I really liked the fact that the summer camp was mixed gender.
    I also loved that it had a really hippie alternative earth friendly overtone to it- my particular scout leader gave us semiprecious strings of beads instead of patches, and the admin was fine with it. Also, the summer camp I attended di not require you to be a campfire kid to go- so it was very popular, and again- very environmentally concious. The camp councelors all had names like “blackberry” and “leaf” and “oaktree” and they talked a lot about saving the rainforest and recycling and being humane to animals.

    We had cabins with minimal frills, did lots of walking, climbing, boating, and whatnot. Archery, horseback riding… I don’t know if they still let kids around bows and arrows (lol) but I would make a bet that they did- they were pretty cool.

    I’m in Portland, but the camp I went to was great- if anybody’s interested and in my area:

  146. Lucy, I’m not even engaging with you any more. I’m not sure if you’re actually as ignorant as you’re trying to present yourself, or if you’re just in it for the lulz, but I’m done.

  147. It’s important to note that the BSA operates as a non-profit. Every single taxpayer has a stake in the BSA whether they love or loathe their policies. The idea that the BSA has the right to operate in a discriminatory manner without being subject to criticism holds absolutely no water.

  148. Uly–you keep using this line that “the BSA takes public money”.
    Can you cite some examples of this, and where? I have not heard of this before.
    And, where did the idea of “freedom of association ” disappear to
    (this directed to “Jen”)? If you do not want to join a group because it discriminates, you are not forced to….Maybe I should have sued the Girl Scouts for not allowing boys in ( at the time I was those ages ) ?
    jay, most churches do not pay property taxes (I think, however, they do pay payroll taxes)–but then again neither do schools, city or county-owned property or military bases.
    Back to Jen–from what I had read and understood the city of Philadelphia traded use of what was a Boy Scout-owned AND BUILT building for use of the building by the Boy Scouts in perpetuity at little or no cost to the local Scouts (the city would maintain the building and could use it for other purposes and events).

  149. Melvin, check into the funding of the Jamboree. Historically (I don’t know about 2010) the government has directly ponied up around $2 million yearly for the event. Moreover, normally groups that discriminate are not allowed to use military bases.

    I don’t normally like Wikipedia, but here’s something on the case: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winkler_v._Rumsfeld . Here’s the DoD’s estimate:

    “Total Defense Department funding for these training and public relations activities averages $8 million per jamboree. According to the government, “these funds were used to pay not only for services provided in support of the event itself, but also for the costs of transporting and billeting the population of soldiers brought to Fort A.P. Hill to perform services during the event.””

  150. I will tell you all that this thread has had me investigate the issue more than I had previously. While it does give me pause, I simply cannot discount the benefits my son gets from cub scouts. Could I start my own version of scouting? Yes. Do I – as a working mom with several other responsibilities manage it – no way! Scouts have survived and thrived because they have a model that works. It’s flexible enough to allow differences in councils, packs, dens, and troops, but structured enough to give boys an opportunity for advancement, to learn new skills, and to become independent.

    I was a Camp Fire Girl before boys were let in. I wouldn’t have liked it if boys were a part of the mix. We went camping once – at an active military base! One girl fell off of the top bunk and severely scratched her face on the splintery floor. Another got lost and they had to halt target practice for the troops! There’s no way Camp Fire camps at a military base today, I’m sure!

    I actually looked into Camp Fire, but it’s not active in my area. I didn’t have the time or energy to launch even an existing program in my area – scouting is already well established and set up here. I simply need to follow the program to help the boys learn and advance.

    When it’s time for them to become boy scouts, maybe I’ll be having a discussion with my son to make sure he’s aware of greater issues. We have a couple of years before that is the case and it just isn’t an issue right now. (He doesn’t even like to talk about boys and girls kissing!)

    As far as federal subsidies, we directly reap the benefits in our council and pack, I’m sure. I may not agree with an anti-homosexual agenda, but for the benefits we get, I’m happy to have my taxes go there. The reality is there are A LOT of things my taxes pay for that I’m not happy about. But I can’t choose 2 from column A and one from column B. There’s never a scenario where you are 100% happy with where your taxes go. Heck, I know parents of kids in private school and people w/o kids who hate that their taxes support education. It’s a misguided view, IMO, but it comes back to the fact that tax burdens are shared and we all get some we benefit from and grit our teeth to others.

    I truly believe that things will change over time. The LDS connection does make it more challenging – but a Mormon parent was recently kicked out of a den for being Mormon, believe it or not. That den met at a Presbyterian church. (It wrankles me to think it’s an affiliate of my own denomination that would do that.) I’m sure there will be lawsuits. But just as I’m sure the Presbyterian church will one day welcome gay clergy, I know that the BSA policy will one day change. The world – thankfully – is changing. It does not change as fast as we like and we need discussions like this one and we need to voice our opinions, but like my son is fond of saying – I can’t just snap my fingers and make it happen.

    Peace, y’all. We all do the very best we can with what we have. We make choices. They aren’t always the best choices, but maybe they are the best in our current situation.

  151. Sometimes the best choice is to muddle through, parsing the good and the bad, etc.

    Though I had my own (very unpleasant!) experience involving the Boy Scouts and religious beliefs/religious requirements in days of yore, I stuck with the Scouts from age 11 through age 18. Despite the negatives, I gleaned much that was positive. So, much like Lenore and others, I swallowed hard and proceeded to “allow” or “tolerate” my own son’s involvement in Cub Scouts. He was interested; my biases would have to be put on hold.

    So far, so good. The Scoutmaster is a hard worker and scrupulously fair; he tolerates “play for play’s sake” as well as advocating structure playtime activities; he either overcomes or ignores those aspects of “official” Boy Scout culture that might run counter to inclusiveness. The results, so far: a net positive. Any potential negatives Scouting might impart upon my child will just need to be addressed, by me, if and when they occur.

  152. I had a great scoutmaster all the way through Life (one below Eagle) and thought that the experience I had then was what Scouting was all about. I know that he was a religious man, but he was decent enough to keep his ideology to himself.

    When we moved, the new troop was a much less comfortable place for me and I dropped out, never completing my Eagle requirements. Scout troops are a mixed bag, so I completely understand the logic of someone who says, “The unfair policies of the national body don’t affect me or my kid.”

    The problem is that federal as well as local monies go to Scouting. So their discrimination is tantamount to a public school saying, “We won’t accept African American students.” We had that situation and finally got rid of it. Scouts are behind the times, and they should either be accountable for their bigotry or go off the dole.

  153. Everyone is going on about public money being used.

    Craploads of public money goes into churches, and they are by definition discriminatory. Look at what George W Bush did with giving money to “faith based groups”. But even without that, churches are non-profits are they not? Which means when you donate to them, you get a tax writeoff. Which is in essence giving them public money.

    Public money goes into women’s centers – which by definition are discriminatory

    Public money goes into all sorts of things that do not include everyone.

  154. I almost forgot! We went camping with the scouts this past weekend. And the boys were using actual knives to earn their whittling certificate! What an FRK moment! The use of knives came with proper safety instructions but then they were on their own to whittle away! In fact, it’s my son’s latest obsession…wood chips all over the back seat. 🙂

  155. @bushidoka: “Public money goes into all sorts of things that do not include everyone.”

    Although we’re talking about the BSA specifically here, it’s also obviously just as wrong when it’s done by churches and the like. It’s LEGAL: powerful interests have configured our tax code to allow it. But it’s IMMORAL.

    Jefferson thought so, at least: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

  156. The Boy Scouts of America are active in Germany today, under that name.


    The Scouting organization in Germany is the Pfadfinder – literally, Pathfinders. It’s co-ed, non-religious (though groups are often led by religious folk) and openly inclusive. I belonged to a lovely Pfadfinderverbund when I lived in Germany, led by the village’s Catholic priest, a kind and loving gay man. We didn’t pray, we didn’t swear allegiance to your deity. We camped. We helped little old ladies clean up their yards. We volunteered to help out at childrens events.

    No christianity or heteronormativity required, just a couple of neurons to smash together and a willingness to help.

    Pfadfinderverbund policy is nothing like BSA policy. The Germans seem to have figured out that you don’t have to subscribe to someone else’s fears to be a good and moral person.

  157. Don’t know why this slipped my mind until now, but Scouting For All is an organization working toward making the BSA more inclusive.

  158. My husband is a third-generation Eagle Scout, and our son loves Scouts. None of us loves the non-inclusiveness, so we both volunteer with the Scouts because change happens from within. You can stand around and complain from the outside, or you can get inside and try to change things. Plus, you can rear your child in such a way that he sees the contradictions. It’s an eye-opener for everyone. Criticism is easy; change is hard. I understand critical comments completely, I’m just saying, you have to start somewhere.

  159. I was a Boy Scout many years ago. I had some great times. There are good troops, there are great troops, and there are not-so-good troops.

    I really wish people would leave the BSA alone. If you don’t like their policies, don’t join. Find something else. Freedom of association implies freedom not to associate.

  160. I too debated long and hard before signing my kids up for scouts, because I do dislike the official anti-gay policy.

    But then, the Catholic church has an official anti-gay policy too. And the Catholic community I worship in has a very active Gay and Lesbian group, and somehow the diocese lets us stay. The local community can really set the tone for a group.

    None of the religious stuff ever comes up in our Pack. As a rule, all religious stuff is done at home, with the family, and it’s none of the pack’s business how each family defines faith. And given that our pack includes Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Muslims, and a bunch of indifferents, that seems to be the best way to work it.

    None of the anti-gay stuff comes up either. It’s just a non-issue. We’re too busy camping and learning useful skills to spend time moralizing and condemning.

    In our area, there is no other scouting like organization that gives boys who are not into sports something to belong to. My very non-sportsy kids love it. They haven’t started shunning our gay and lesbian friends because of it, nor have they started beating up athiests in their spare time. If the group was really hard core about the religion/anti-gay thing, we would leave. But really, none of it comes up, and I don’t have time or energy to look for problems where there are none.

  161. Sexual behavior IS an indicator of morality, and religious affiliation IS an indicator of world view. The Boy Scouts are committed to a standard of morality and a world view that I agree with, and they draw the lines fair and square. Therefore, I would be comfortable with my son participating. If they changed their standards, they would be compromising their morality and world view, and I would no longer be comfortable with my son participating.

  162. “Sexual behavior IS an indicator of morality, and religious affiliation IS an indicator of world view. ” Jeff says.

    The only “moral issue” regarding sexuality is consent.

    And I think I might characterize your religious world view as “narrow”.

  163. “Randy, on October 24, 2010 at 23:59 Said:

    I’m a little disturbed at the (otherwise intelligent) comments supporting the BSA’s mandates to children to be “morally straight” and “do their duty to God.” On the surface they sound like great ideals, at least until you realize that by “morally straight” they mean exclusively Christian and heterosexual, and by “duty to God” they frequently mean the (One, True) god of (one particular) scout master.

    Those particular segments of the BSA’s policy and training materials are nothing but flowery prose loosely concealing a policy of hate, not simply discrimination”

    You make a few logic mistakes here which invalidate your point.
    1. You leap from discrimination to hate. BSA is discriminatory, yes. But they are not a hate-filled, hate-based or in any way bigoted. In fact, the Scout Law which says scouts are ‘helpful, friendly and courteous’ (among other things). And, despite popular arguments, it is possible to discriminate and be those three things, but to be hate-based would preclude them.

    2. There is no explicit or implicit directive that ‘doing my duty to god’ is about being Christian. A belief in God – any God – and a willingness to be dutiful as you describe it is the only requirement. BSA has a religious medal you can earn through work with your own church. Religions with these medals include Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, Zorastrian, and Buddhist faiths.

    3. Your ad hominem argument about the ‘otherwise intelligent’ commentators is in poor taste, and undermines a point about accepting other frames of reference. I assume that your argument is based on personal or second hand anecdotes, and by questioning the intelligence of those who don’t share your experience/inferences you especially undermine an argument about inclusion.

    I’m a supporter of Scouts, and also of gay rights groups. I think its unfortunate about the discrimination against gay men and boys that BSA does, but realize its a complex issues given the pedophiliaphobia rampant in our nation. Unfortunately, as long as the second is an issue, the first is a necessary step to keep the organization alive.

  164. Lenore, I say keep the kids in Scouts and work from within. It’s also a chance to teach them at some point that no organization is perfect, and that sometimes they have to make choices. At some point down the road your sons might ask why you kept them in scouting if you don’t agree with the anti-atheist/anti-gay stance; I assume you’ll have a good answer for them!

  165. I would love for my son to be in scouting but there are very few around here and they are all run by women. I am not saying that women can’t do the job but I want my son to have interaction with abult males other than his father who he sees one day a week. Boys need good adult males in thier lives that is how they learn to be good men.

  166. forgot to add.

    The anti gay thing is what is another reason he isn’t in it. I had forgotten about that. If they allowed it maybe they would have more groups because there would be more men available.

  167. Lenore, as an Eagle Scout I really appreciate your position. As a boy scout in the 90’s I never really felt that there was a lot of bigotry, the issue of sexuality wasn’t directly addressed outside of being true to yourself and kind to others.

    I am sorry to hear stories written here about experiences with the BSA and I agree that the organization would do well to become more open. Every troop is different, and those troops openly refusing a boy who has come to them is not upholding the spirit of scouting. I am happy to lend any support as an Eagle Scout to your agitation efforts.

  168. As an Australian scout leader I was very interested to read all this debate about the BSA and it’s discriminatory policies. I can at least reassure all you guys, that here in Australia there is no discrimination for race, creed, religion and sex, and not that of sexual preference either, in scouting. Yes, we have gay scout leaders and also girls participate in all levels and age of the scouting program, combined with the boys. Scouts are just fine here thanks and flourishing, the sky hasn’t fallen in and the wheels haven’t fallen off. It WILL work if you give it a chance. I also note that there is no influence or chartering by churches and religious organisations in Australia, perhaps therein lies the BSA’s problems… From the perspective of scouting for all in Australia, we are following the original ideals of Baden Powell who founded the movement and offered scouting to all youth. Perhaps the BSA has deviated somewhat from this path and is not really scouting any more? Perhaps they have tarnished the scouting brand? Perhaps from that perspective they should not be allowed to function using the brand of “Scouts” any more, they are actually something different. They should change the name and remove scouts from their moniker, as from the original ideals of BP they are not that any longer, unless of course they open up and revert back to BP’s original ideals of scouting for ALL youth.

  169. Where did all of these hippies come from? “Spiral Scouts”? “Earth Scouts”? The militaristic part of the Boy Scouts was one of the fun parts.
    (I am an Eagle Scout.)

  170. Uly, LauraL, read the Book of Joshua. Read Confucius. Read _The Song of Roland_. Read the _Tain bo Cuailgne_. Read _Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches_, _War Before Civilization_, _Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest_, and _1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus_. Find a good book on the Barbary Corsairs, or the code of bushido, or Rob Roy MacGregor. Read St. Thomas Aquinas — or, even better, St. Augustine, the exemplar of the Christian version of Apollonarian civilization. (His conception of just war is quite different from our own.)

    The morality that you think is a human universal is unique to the Enlightenment. I won’t quite say that it’s flat-out inferior to other systems out there, but I will say that it could stand some improvement. We might try importing a sense of chivalry, for example.

    As for the militaristic character of the Scouts: Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts to provide English youths with the same pleasures that he found campaigning in South Africa, in the milieu that later produced the legendary Selous Scouts. (Did the British have any business in South Africa? Of course not — but that’s not the point.) Speaking as a Life Scout (one rank below Eagle, as I never had the self-discipline for an Eagle project), the militaristic character was one of the best parts of the whole system; so was seeing the religious achievements (not exactly merit badges) for the Zoroastrians and Baha’i.

    Now that I think about it, I should see what those two contain — I know a fair bit about how Zoroastrianism has developed over time (alas, one too many Westerners who could explain everything, and now they’re stuck in a variant of Zurvanism!), but a lot less about the Baha’i, and it would be interesting to see what their counterparts are to the Christian religious honors.

    I wonder whether the Sikh one involves killing a tyrant…

  171. I can’t help but notice something else from this thread, too.

    “Maggie, on October 23, 2010 at 05:39 said:


    Christians did not invent morality, Lucy. “Don’t be an asshole” has been the essential core of MANY religions that far, far, far pre-date yours.”

    However many religions may or may not have “don’t be an a——” as their essential core, they evidently don’t include Maggie’s.

    Is not being an a—— the essential core of my religion (Roman Catholicism)? No. When given a choice between being nice and chastising the sinner, the Catholic — at least the School of Salamanca Catholic, like myself — chooses the latter.

  172. On re-reading my first post, I think I argue too forcibly. There certainly is such a thing as natural law; that is to say, actions have natural consequences, which are the same in all cases in which the actions are the same. (For “the same,” I mean sharing matter, form, first cause, and final cause — Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family is not doing the same act as a hoodlum stealing a loaf of bread because he can.) Religion, in the end, has nothing to do with this sort of morality — Confucius thought that religious belief was a distraction from the task of living a virtuous life.

    However, one of the things about the natural law is that it is… inflexible; and it has a way of producing destructive consequences several generations down the line. (The Greeks called this “the justice of Zeus,” which was proverbially tangled and hard to work out.) In Christian belief, Christ comes to free the world from the guilt of their sins, that is to say, their violations of the natural law; the _physical_ consequences of sins remain unaltered, but the individual’s soul (“organizing principle,” in Greek cosmology) can be healed of the harm it has sustained.

    So, on the one hand, there is an objective moral standard, which exists outside of and before all beings, as something purely emergent from the character of the universe, like the laws of logic and mathematics; this is how we can say that God is good, which is to say, “in conformance with the natural law.”

    However, people make mistakes, sometimes dramatic ones; and they emphasize one part of the natural law while de-emphasizing another. Medieval Europeans and WWII Japanese were more keenly aware than we are of the part of the natural law that says “fight valiantly;” they were less keenly aware, to say the least, of the part of the natural law that says “fight humanely and spare civilians.”

    The Iroquois were an even stranger case: they (and the Hurons, the Algonkians, and most of the pre-European peoples of the modern US Northeast and Southeast Canada) tortured some of their prisoners to death: partially, I fear, for the pleasure of it, but also so that their prisoners could show how brave they were under torture. Part of their interest in Catholicism came from how bravely St. Jean de Brebeuf, St. Issac Jogues, and their companions endured torture at their hands… although unmixed motives are rare, and another part of their interest came from a desire to replace the Hurons, who they had wiped out, as the main trade partners of the French in the region.

    Sometimes, too, people can get snarled through religion. Calvinism and Islam explicitly teach that there is no natural law — that good is what God says it is, and nothing else. The Greeks believed in natural law, but also that their gods were more or less actively opposed to it — at least, before Plato and Aristotle.

    So, is there an objective moral law? Yes, there is; to that extent, Uly, LauraL, and Maggie are right, and Lucy is wrong. But does the extent to which different peoples understand this moral law differ, and do they put different priorities on different parts of it? Absolutely; and this, I think, is Lucy’s larger point. Insofar as one wants to perpetuate a particular moral system, teaching the religion associated with that moral system is, to say the least, prudent.

  173. I am an Eagle Scout, but if I had/have a son I would hesitate before encouraging him to join (though I doubt I would forbid it). Theism is an integral part of the BSA and they are justified to require that its members do not (at the very least) contradict the religious elements of the program; “don’t ask don’t tell” is probably viable when it comes to religion. But the homosexuality ban would need to change before I became comfortable with the BSA again. My guess is that the homophobia comes from the same place that keeps them from allowing female membership: they don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of Scouts having sex together while on camping trips. In a heterosexual world, sex can be prevented simply by splitting up boys and girls; add homosexuality and it becomes a lot harder.

    All that said, if we were to boycott every organization and business which did reprehensible things, we could hardly buy anything. You pick your battles, and I would never condemn someone for joining the Scouts, any more than I would condemn a soldier in the US military for DADT. And it really does come down to the local council and the individual troop. Twenty years ago when I was a Scout, there was a member of my troop who was an atheist, and the question was raised about whether he deserved to become Eagle Scout because of it, but ultimately he passed his board and earned the rank. If you’re considering Scouting, don’t go by the headlines and the national court cases, but look at the local troop and see what they’re like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: