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Boy Scout leaders should 'be prepared' to include skeptics

Online News Developer

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 22:02

Matt Frazier | The Houstonian

Matt Frazier | The Houstonian

The Boy Scouts of America announced today it has delayed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals until May. The BSA has been accepting input from everyone, both members and non-members, on whether they are for or against the ban being reversed.

Currently, numbers are not known for which side has larger numbers, but things are looking quite promising. If this passes in May it will be a great step forward from the BSA.

However, even if the ban is lifted, Scouting will still not include everyone. In addition to historically excluding homosexuals, the BSA has also had a policy against atheist, agnostic or non-religious members. The BSA’s argument for this is different than the argument for excluding homosexuals. They cite the Scout Oath, which mentions “Duty to God” and the Scout Law, stating “A Scout is Reverent.”

The ideology of some non-religious people is that they are “their own god,” doing the best they can for themselves and the benefit of others. Given the wide range of religions that the BSA accepts, there is no reason that the non-religious cannot be accepted with their own personal philosophies. Deron Smith, a spokesperson for the BSA, said that changing the policy toward atheists was not considered. It makes the policy change against homosexuals a disappointment as it seems like only a baby step to be all inclusive.

Many would argue that the BSA is a religious organization therefore excluding non-religious members makes sense. In reality, it seems more like religion is hardly a part of Scouting.

The only religious requirement is belief in a god or godlike figure. This means that as long as a member has a religion he is allowed in. This includes non-Christian religions such as Buddhism, Baha’i, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.

There is even a religious medal program in the BSA for many religions, including the four previously mentioned. On the path to Eagle, religion-related requirements are a rarity, if at all. At most campouts and summer camps there is an optional religious service held. Some troops attend it as a whole while others let their members decide individually if they wish to attend.

It would seem absurd if the BSA really believed that the non-religious cannot be good Scouts. The lack of belief in a god or godlike figure does not make a human being any less of a functioning, moral and upstanding member of society.

The BSA is all about developing the character young boys as they grow older. It simply does not make sense to say that those without a religion cannot develop character and morals. That can be safely said because plenty of people live their lives and accomplish great things for the world, all without having a religion.

George Orwell, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Hellen Keller were all atheists. Would these people have made great Scouts if the BSA had existed in their time? Absolutely, we know they accomplished great things and lived with high morals in their lives.

It can also be safely said that atheists make great Scouts because many of them already are Scouts, some even have achieved the rank of Eagle.

Right now they have to keep their beliefs, or lack thereof, hidden because they would be removed from Scouting if the wrong people were to discover them. This probably sounds quite familiar, as it is exactly what homosexuals in Scouting have to do. Hopefully the BSA will make that end in May.

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