Duty to God (was Athiest Scouts)
Charlie Morrison (Morrisonch@AOL.COM)
Sun, 2 Nov 1997 08:46:57 -0500
First of all, let me say up front, as an ordained minister of the
Presbyterian Church in America and a conservative Christian, I do believe in
God. I also believe in the Aims, Ideals, and Methods of Scouting.
In regard to the issue of Atheist Scouts, there are some principals here
which make me wonder if the "horse hasn't already gotten out of the barn" and
Orange County Council is now trying to close the barn door.
We (in the USA) begin our meetings by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance "to
the flag, and to the republic for which it stands". The republic was
founded by our forefathers when they wrote and ratified the Constitution of
the United States of America. That constitution was amended initially by
what we know as the "Bill of Rights". The first of these amendments
guarantees that we will not have a state religion in these United States;
and, in the same breath, it guarantees that all our citizens will have the
right to freely exercise the religious beliefs and practices which they do
hold. This grants to those who hold no religious beliefs the right to be
free from intrusion by the religion of others - thus the court rulings
which prohibit involuntary school prayer, sectarian displays on public
In the Boy Scout Handbook, on p 561, National states what the 12th point of
the Law means: "A Scout is REVERENT. A Scout is reverent to God. He is
faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."
Your understanding of your religious duties differ from what I believe are my
religious duties. We each are called by this point of the Law to be
faithful to our own religious duties (different though they may be). AND we
each are called to respect the beliefs of others.
Historically, Scouting began in a country where and in a century when
Christianity predominated. In fact Christianity was and is the state
religion in the UK. But Scouting quickly spread throughout the world to
countries where other religions predominated or where the standard of faith.
In India, for instance, reverence to God means reverence to many gods. The
gods of one religion do not coincide with the God of another, yet Scouting
has prospered in many non-Christian nations and we still are enjoined to
respect those whose beliefs are different from our own. In fact the Handbook
say that we "will encounter people who hold different religious beliefs or eve
n none at all. It is (our) duty to respect and defend the rights of others
whose beliefs may differ from (our own)".
In an article in "Boys Life" several years ago, a Camporee in California was
highlighted which was set up for Buddhist Scouts. Also, I recall reading on
this list of a Wood Badge course that was organized for non-Christian
Scouters. The religion of Native Americans is respected in many of our
rituals, "Akela" ceremonies in Cub Scouts, and in the ceremonies of the
Order of the Arrow (into which mysteries I have no knowledge). Scouting has
opened wide its arms to the concept of religious pluralism and demands our
respect of others whose beliefs are different than our own.
I dare say that we could start a heated thread if creation vs. science were a
topic of discussion. (Lets not open that subject, for even conservative
Christians don't agree on this issue.) My point is that the Handbook speaks
of God as Creator of the Universe and that even the individual leaves of the
trees were made by Him. Yet many of you believe that the universe was
created from nothing by no one and all the flora and fauna of this earth came
about by chance from some primordial stew billions of years ago. The point
is that we do not have a monolithic sense of what "reverence to God" means.
If these Atheist Scouts have respected the beliefs of others and have honored
nature by keeping the Outdoor Code, what makes them any less acceptable that
anyone else whose beliefs are different than yours or mine? Maybe someone is
tilting at windmills here by trying to keep these boys from receiving the
Eagle awards for which they have worked so hard. Let's be consistent.
And tell me, have these two boys been taught anything about the other points
of the Law in their years in Scouting? Have any of you lived the Spirit of
Scouting perfectly - even though you may have received your Eagle Badge,
Silver Beaver, or Wood Badge Beads.
If you want to discuss religious "Truth" contact me privately.
Fort Benning, GA
Fort Benning District MC
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City