Re: BSA Discrimination
Don Newcomb (newcomb@NAVO.NAVY.MIL)
Thu, 23 Sep 1993 23:09:03 CDT
>From: Elliott Welsh <eawelsh@AOL.COM>
>My son, Mark, and I are plaintiffs in a federal civil rights lawsuit against
>BSA which arose when Mark and I were invited to participate in Tiger Cubs in
>1989. The lawsuit recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where we recently
>filed a motion (granted) for an extension of time to file a Writ of
>Since I can imagine that this issue has been pretty much talked to death
>already, I will only provide an account of the circumstances and the gist of
>one of the arguments that BSA ought not to be permitted to recruit in public
>grade-schools until or unless it refrains from discriminating against any
>person on religious grounds.
>Instead, I found myself being told by an earnest young Boy Scout official
>agnostic families like ours were "not welcome" in Scouting. I quietly went
>Mark and told him that I had made a mistake and that we would have to leave.
I must say that I have not heard a great deal about your case, but it seems
to me that either one or more persons associated with the BSA can't read
their own Statement of Religious Principle or you may have taken such
extreme umbrage at your son's initial miss-treatment that you dug in your
heels and decided to "get even" with the BSA. Having read the wording of
the BSA's Policy several times, I fail to see how the most ardent atheist
could be excluded by it unless he chose to take make it an issue. I'm
attaching something I posted to rec.scouting about 10 months back which
I think makes my point.
:In article <1992Nov3.firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com (Dan Kary) writes
:>From Advancement Guidelines Council and District Functions, 1991 printing, 198
:>edition, Copyright 1989, Boy Scouts of America, pg. 5
:> R E L I G I O U S P R I N C I P L E S
:>The Boy Scouts of America has a definite statement on religious principles.
:>The following interpretative statement may help clarify some of the points.
:>The Boy Scouts of America:
:>1. Does not define what constitutes belief in God or the practice of religion
:>2. Does not require membership in a religious organization or association for
:>enrollment in the movement but does prefer, and strongly encourages, membershi
:>and participation in the religious programs and activities of a church,
:>synagogue or other religious association.
:>3. Respects the convictions of those who exercise their constitutional freedo
:>to practice religion as individuals without formal membership in organized
:>religious organizations. In a few cases, there are those who, by conviction,
:>do not feel it necessary to formally belong to an organized form of religion
:>and seek to practice religion in accordance with their own personal conviction
: Thanks for posting this. I think that the above will show that the BSA's
:position on "Duty to God" is so general that anyone of any belief could
:easily, and in good conscience, satisfy the requirements.
:"So Johny, tell me what the Twelfth Point of the Scout Law means to you?"
:"Well, Mr. Smith, first I respect the beliefs of others and don't criticize
:them for having beliefs that differ from my beliefs. Second, I am a
:Materialist. This means that I only believe in things that I can prove.
:To me, my "god" has to work. I can't believe in a "god" that just gives
:me promises. I do believe in a force, my "god" if you like, that binds
:together all mater in the universe. It was largely responsible for
:the creation of the universe. It enforces its laws with swift and
:"So, tell me, Johny, does your god-force have a name?"
:"Why yes, Mr. Smith, it's called 'Gravity'."
:"Gravity? Johny! I have never heard of anyone worshiping gravity.
:How do you 'Do your Duty' to gravity."
:"Well, Mr. Smith, we don't have a formal church or anything like that,
:but every morning, when I get out of bed, and I notice that I am
:standing on the floor rather than the ceiling, I am very thankful
:that Gravity is still working for me. I know you may find this a
:bit unusual but when you consider that people have worshiped the
:Sun and Moon, various animals, trees, and even other people; you
:will find that my belief in Gravity is just as valid as the
:beliefs of all those others. I AM, after all, entitled to choose
:my own beliefs."
About the only system of philosophy that would not satisfy the policy
as written is <null> (a complete lack of philosophy) and even the
fact that the BSA recognizes Buddhism pushes the concept of philosophy
as religion beyond the point that "God" has any traditional "Western"
Donald R. Newcomb Naval Oceanographic Office
firstname.lastname@example.org Stennis Space Center, MS 39522
Voice: 601.688.5998 FAX: 601.688.5485
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City