Re: Religious Toleration ?
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Fri, 21 Jul 1995 02:40:16 -0400
Randy Finder and Bob Meyers were troubled with the my statement:
> The Boy Scouts of America does not require membership in a particular
> church as a criteria for membership, nor does it define what beliefs a
> Scout must have other than a belief in God (which is loosely interpreted
> to encompass faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.). When a Church
> agrees to a charter, it also agrees to admit Scouts of all faiths.
Which of course prompted me to dig through my resource material to try
and do a little better. Its at these moments that you learn a little
more and begin to recall what you once knew but forgot. Anyway, let see
if this helps:
Under the authority of its Congressional Charter, BSA issues two kinds of
charters. One is to Councils and the other to community organizations
such as a church or religious institution or one of its affiliate groups
to use the Scouting program (one or more parts) under its own leadership
to serve the youth and families for which it has concern and which will
help it accomplish its own objectives. As such, Scouting is not
something that a religious group "sponsors" for the BSA. Scouting is a
resource, a way to help with youth outreach. A religious organization
provides the Scouting program according to its own principles, and
follows the recognized ideals and practices of Scouting. (This is a
condensed version of material presented in "Purpose of the Boy Scouts of
America As It Relates To Religious Groups")
Among those recognized practices is Article VII of BSA's Bylaws which
states that "both membership in Scouting and advancement and achievement
of leadership in Scouting units are open to all boys without regard to
race or ethnic background, and advancement and achievement of leadership
in Scouting is based entirely upon individual merit."
Article IX of those Bylaws states BSA's policies on Religious Principle
and at clause 3 assures that "In no case where a unit is connected with a
church or other distinctively religious organization shall members of
other denominations or faith be required, because of their membership in
the unit, to take part in or observe a religious ceremony distinctly
unique to that organization or church."
Clause 1 of Article IX of those Bylaws states "The Boy Scouts of America,
therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of a member,
but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious
training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with
which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious
Now that's about all the written rules have to offer in response to Randy
and Bob's concerns.
This leaves a lot of room for interpretation as both have observed. BSA
itself does not require membership in a particular faith. That much is
true. Where the confusion comes into play is that the way BSA operates
is through charters to community organizations that can use the program.
BSA does not explicitly state that such an organization can't restrict
membership to only the school where the unit is located, a Church, etc.
And this is where the questions and differing interpretations begin.
I concede that you have valid points and that it is a reasonable
interpretaion to say that an organizaiton may well be able to restrict
membership, although I would discourage it from doing so. As a chartering
organization it agrees to follow Scouting ideals and practices. Parts of
those Scouting ideals and practices are also stated in Article IX; e.g.,
Tolerance and respect for the beliefs of others. And while not strictly
prohibited from doing so, I think it would be more in the spirit of
promoting Scouting's programs for such organizations to be open to all
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
DDC-Training, GW Dist. Nat Capital Area Council mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City