Sorry to Burst a Bubble
Anthony J. Mako (ajmako@APK.NET)
Sun, 9 Nov 1997 01:57:24 -0500
Having finally gotten a chance to catch up with the mail I've received from
Scouts-L, I have read with great interest all of the posts concerning the
two Anaheim Scouts who refuse to recite the Scout Oath. While it seems
clear from the national history of this type of litigation that the BSA
will eventually get the ruling they want from the California State Supreme
Court, it is too late to stop the Randall brothers from earning their Eagle
As a Scouter I've dealt with many Scouts who were Agnostic, and several who
claimed to be Atheist, I can say I have never come across a Scout who
refused to recite the Scout Oath. For the Agnostic Scouts, it was easy
since they had no problem believing in God, they just weren't quite sure
what God is. I could go into great detail about how they managed to advance
in Scouting without a professed belief in God, but I won't because it's not
important to the subject.
The Atheist Scouts, on the other hand, also managed to have no problem
reciting the Scout Oath, which lead me to believe that these boys weren't
atheist in the first place. It took a great deal of work on my part to get
them to understand what was meant by a Scout's duty to God. Unfortunately,
none of them stuck around long enough for anything to sink in (at least as
far as I know). But this isn't why I've posted this message.
A lot of the discussion in the recent thread concerning the Randall
brothers centered on whether or not an atheist could be a Scout, and what
is meant by a Scout's duty to God. All of that is moot as far as the
Randalls are concerned, and here is why:
The Orange Country Council, BSA tried to uphold a Scouting advancement
requirement that is valid for the organization. Unfortunately, the Randalls
previous Scout leaders evidently passed the boys on similar requirements
for Bobcat and Wolf without inquiring about the reason the Scouts wouldn't
recite the Cub Scout Promise (or, more likely, not even requiring them to
do so). Even after the court case started the boys continued to advance.
Yes, the court said the BSA couldn't kick them out or keep them from
advancing. On appeal, however, a higher court said the BSA could. Yet they
continued to advance without reciting the Cub Scout Promise or Scout Oath.
In the end, I think, the Orange County Council will be told by the State
Supreme Court that the BSA can keep boys from advancing if they refuse to
recite the Scout Oath, but they won't be in time to keep the Eagle award
from the Randall brothers. Since they are compelled by the court to process
the boy's applications, the district and council advancement committees
will have very little choice in the matter. Now, I can see an Eagle Board
of Review denying the application, but that would only lead to another
court case. This time the BSA would lose simply because the boys had been
passed on the requirement for lower ranks without penalty, why should the
Eagle requirement be any different.
As a Scoutmaster, my job is to guide Scouts through the ranks. Once I am
convinced a Scout is ready for a Board of Review, the Committee takes over.
If the Committee is satisfied, the Scout advances. If I do my job
correctly, the Committee's job is a lot easier. My own rule for passing
Scouts on requirements is that they show me that they have done their best
to complete the requirement as it is written in the handbook. If it says
"do" and they try to explain it to me I ask them to try again. It it says
"tell" or "explain" and the rattle off a few paragraphs from the handbook,
I ask a lot of "what if" questions to find out what they really know. My
Scouts know that I will challenge them, and my Committee knows that they
won't have to "retest" a Scout during the BOR. It's that way with every
Unfortunately, in many troops I have seen, the prevailing rule seems to be
to "make an attempt." All a Scout has to do to pass a requirement is
attempt to do something, or explain something, and he passes even if he
doesn't get it right. It is this kind of "passing" I fear may have allowed
the Randall brothers to advance as far as Bear before anyone noticed they
refused to recite the Cub Scout Promise. This, unfortunately, leaves a
Scout with the false impression that only the minimum is required to pass a
requirement and he will never challenge himself to do his best.
Personally, I believe that the Randall brothers are a couple of nice,
well-liked Scouts who may deserve whatever rank they receive. I'm sure they
have challenged themselves to do their best in everything they set out to
do. It may be that this whole thing started simply because one Scouter
didn't do his/her job to the best of their ability. They skipped through
something, or let it slide, and now it may be too late.
Anthony J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scoutmaster, Troop 381
Great Trail Council
I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981).
"I've always said there's nothing an agnostic can't do if he really doesn't
know whether he believes in anything or not."
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City