RE: atheist policy?
Settummanque, the blackeagle (WALTOML@WKUVX1.BITNET)
Sun, 28 Mar 1993 16:43:41 CST
Without starting another long discussion on the merits/demerits of the
BSA's policy in this area, the policy is very simple and straighforth:
Each member, each leader, each person employed in the BSA MUST BELIEVE
IN SOMETHING HIGHER THAN THEMSELVES. This could be God, Allah, a
Tree, the sky or (as Don Izard suggested in a posting when we
discussed this a while back), the devil (YUCK!!). Be it as it may,
the BSA developed this policy when the program was "imported" to the
States and the Americanization of the program started. The inclusion
of the three additional points of the Scout Law, and the insistance
that Scouts develop some sort of appreciation for the creation and
development of life on earth made this not just a "nice to have" part
of the Scouting program, it became a MAJOR part, one that we cannot
"push away" just because those few of us are not confortable in a
spiritual setting, either with adults or youth.
That *is* the policy, cut down from the page and a half of Scouting
policies that have been sent to each member and each Council has been
TOLD to print and make available to EVERYONE in their local Council
service area in the past two years (and specifically, last year!).
I support the policy because it gives Scouts a rationale for many
things that cannot be explained to them, for example the concept of
The BSA does a great job developing youth to do camping and hiking, to
allow Scouts to understand the delicate balance between nature and our
environment, and to develop their minds and bodies physically and
mentally. It don't do a great job explaining why people close to them
have to die or what happens to them when they do die.
That's where the religious upbringing of each youth, led by the
parents and religious leaders of the youth comes into play. They
teach the tenants of their faith to the Scout, and Scouting merely
reinforces the tenants by allowing a place to practice (daily prayer,
time in which to conduct devotionals or just to think, interaction
with others whom believe similarily or differently and opportunities
to "state your case" on why you believe the way you do to other youth)
what it is you beleive in.
Scouting also calls those tenats of your faith into play when things
become difficult for you to gather strenght from other sources. For
example, I saw an interview a few years back in which a former
prisoner of war during the Vietnam War told the interviewer that
"nothing really helped him....not even the things he learned as a Boy
Scout except the part about being brave and reverent. I held on only
because of my faith in God and the belief that my country will get me
out of here alive..." Now, I can see this man, beat to a pulp and
almost dead relying on simple words and a faith in something higher
than himself to gain relief.
The BSA states, and affirms in several places that they do NOT stress
the Christian or any other religion over any other. This is despite
the large number of "Mormon" (LDS) and Catholic units that are
chartered in many local Councils. Those churches see Scouting as
another place to "demostrate" their faith among its members and the
general community. This makes non-Mormoms or non-Catholics nervous,
especially when professionals are hired to service their units
particularly and when there are "special" programs or weeks in camp
just for those units. Nope, this too, is an application of the
Scouting program to meet the needs of their communities.
Again, you *must believe* in some form of "organized religion" in
order to become a Scout. Scouts *may* substitute the word "god" for
whatever they call their Deity, but they cannot "delete it"
completely, as several court cases have affirmed. Scouting is a
program to develop youth along physical, mental and "morally
straight" lines. As long as the BSA is not telling me HOW or WHOM I
*must believe* in to serve as a leader or a Scout, I am not too
concerned about what or whom (okay...a little!) my Scouts or Explorers
do believe in!!
I hope that I've answered the question in a way different from the
BSA's "written record" and in a way that makes sense to you as you
try to figure out what the policy is.
Mike L. Walton
( Settummanque, the blackeagle... ) )
((MAJ) Mike L. Walton (among other "endearing" names) ( )
( AIS/MR Recreation/Leisure Specialist, Lifeskills Inc. ___)_ )
( Phone 502-782-7992 (home) 502-842-2274 (office) |-=-|] )
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