Re: Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)
Anthony J. Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET)
Thu, 3 Sep 1998 09:12:44 -0400
<Snip stuff I said>
I also believe that the intent was simply "unauthorize the award for uniform
purposes". However, this intent has possible consequences.
Yes, the action taken by the BSA has consequences, not the least of which
concerns "requirements" to earn the religious award.
Does this mean that a Webelos Scout can't use the award to satisfy his
religious requirements for the Webelos Badge? Does an Eagle Scout Candidate
get to use his earning of the award as a demonstration of adherence to his
Is any other Scout required to earn a religious award to show they follow
their religious beliefs? I may be going out on a limb here because I'm not
that familiar with Cub Scout and Webelos requirements, but I can safely say
that there is no requirement to earn a religious award.
Does the Universalist or Unitarian Eagle Candidate get questioned about his
beliefs regarding "GOD", "God", or god, and homosexuals? And if so, what is
the right answer in his case? BSA or church.
Is any other Scout questioned about his beliefs? I've been in the program
for almost 27 years and I've NEVER been asked questions about my religious
beliefs except as part of the Religious Award Program. Furthermore, I have
never asked any Scout to justify his beliefs. Beyond asking their religious
preference and/or church affiliation, I have no reason to question them
about their religious beliefs.
Which gets us to crux of the problem that brewing here:
><Quote from BSA letter>
>This version of Religion in Life contains several statements which are
>inconsistent with Scouting s values... The reference to the trouble some
>may have regarding the duty to God inappropriately incorporates doubt in an
>award process that is designed to forge a stronger link between a youth s
>Scouting values and religious life.
It incorporates doubt because doubt exists, but the committee doesn't have
the conviction on the BSA's foolish/brave (you choose) position on God to
state that because of this difference the UUA is an invalid church for good
little scouts to belong.
Exactly what makes you think the BSA thinks the UUA is not a valid religion?
Such a statement would point out the BSA's inconsistent position on belief
in God and would precipitate a PR nightmare for the BSA. BSA's position on
GOD/God/god can't remain at once undefined and require belief at every level
of advancement. Belief in what?
Again, what is inconsistent about the BSA's position on God? Evidently, what
you are saying is that for almost ninety years the BSA has been ineffective
because it has said "you should believe, spiritually, in some greater power"
without defining what that greater power should be. Okay, I got an idea,
I'll propose that the BSA defines the greater power every Scout should
believe in as "Ahura Mazda" (the god of Light and Truth of Zoroastrianism),
how does that make you feel? What does that do for your membership?
<AJ said, previously>
>What the discussion on the list fails to understand is that the purpose of
>the religious award program of the BSA is to help Scouts understand their
>spiritual beliefs in the context of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. "How do
>religious beliefs fit in with my belief in the Scout Oath and Scout Law."
Some of the beliefs of the National leadership of the BSA and many of its
volunteers are in direct conflict with some of the central beliefs of the
Unitarian Universalist Association. In matters of belief it is often
impossible to compromise and just play nice. Is a scout doing his Duty to
God and being reverent if he can't reconcile the differences between what
his Church teaches and what the BSA policies state?
What we have is a disagreement between the BSA and a national religious
organization. It should be possible for the two organizations to come to
some agreement on the issues concerned. As far as Duty to God is concerned,
how exactly do BSA policies affect the individual Scout's reverence? Isn't
he an individual, with the ability to agree and disagree with others? Or is
he simply an automaton completely incapable of making a decision about what
he believes, on his own, without the interference of religious and secular
Do you, as a volunteer completely agree with ALL BSA policies? Did you need
written information from a bishop to reconcile any disagreements? If there
were differences between BSA policies and central Episcopal belief, do you
think it would be necessary to explain, in writing, in the religious award
book how to reconcile the differences. Don't you think that would be better
accomplished by people like yourself?
I believe it is very appropriate for a religious body to call attention to
differences between its beliefs and those of other organizations, otherwise
the church is perpetuating a hypocrisy.
The Catholic Church has many differences with Planned Parenthood. The
Catholic Church even calls attention to those differences. What the Catholic
Church doesn't do is distribute information to Catholics concerning the
differences between the Church and Planned Parenthood in documents published
and distributed by Planned Parenthood. That is the BSA's argument. The BSA
distributes religious award program materials as part of the religious
awards program. The BSA also sets the guidelines for these awards but leaves
the design and content of the awards to the individual institutions. Because
the BSA distributes the awards and materials, they should have the right to
approve the material distributed. That doesn't mean the BSA can tell a
religious institution what they can tell their members. It means the BSA can
tell the religious institution what they can tell their members IN A BSA
PUBLICATION. That's the important distinction between the real problem and
all of the rhetoric being generated concerning the inherent differences
between the BSA and the UUA.
I don't want to get into a 3Gs debate over this issue, but as a scout leader
with several non-Christian scouts and even a few non-mainstream church
members how am I supposed to judge their piety? Should I even be placed in
Unless you are familiar with his religious beliefs, you can only take his
word for it. So you, and I, have a choice. We can either judge each Scout's
piety based on our own beliefs (not my choice), or we can try to understand
their beliefs. We aren't required to judge their piety anyway.
Must each Eagle Scout candidate show perfect performance in each of the 12
points of the Scout Law? How do we define Clean? Do we check the candidate's
toenails and underwear? Do we require the boy to run around the examination
room endlessly to test his obedience? Why to we test his bravery and
reverence by asking him whether he believes in God? I seriously doubt that
any teenager has examined his faith in his religion in light of all
challenges and contradictions to undoubtedly BELIEVE in God. He is instead
on a path to believing in god that will take many years if not a lifetime.
This true belief in god can be reached through the teachings of the
Unitarian Universalist Association as easily as any other religious body.
Beyond the statement of religious principles on the Boy Scout application,
there is no requirement to prove you believe in God. There is no requirement
for anyone to ask you if you believe in God. The test for all 12 points of
the Scout Law are tests of conscience. It is simply easier to tell if a
Scout is being trustworthy, or clean than it is to tell if he is being
reverent. Remember that the Scout Oath says to "do my best to..."
Furthermore, it has been my experience that many teenagers HAVE examined
their faith to a considerable extent. Many do undoubtedly believe in God (or
a higher spiritual power). It is difficult to follow a path without first
deciding on a direction, regardless of where the path leads.
It is not the place of the BSA to stand judge of any faith and it should do
what is need to mend the breach between BSA and UUA.
You're right! It isn't the BSA's place to judge any faith, and that's
exactly why they aren't making a judgement in this case. If you look at the
letter from the BSA, you should notice that the letter doesn't say they are
withdrawing approval of the award because of the differences between UUA
belief and BSA policy (although that's what the UUA believes). What they
letter says, simply, is that the materials provided to Scouts for the award
do not follow the policies and guidelines of the BSA's Religious Awards
Program. The BSA couldn't care less what the UUA tells its youth members.
What it DOES care about is what the UUA tells its members THROUGH A BSA
A. J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org , Scoutmaster Troop 381
Home of the Unofficial Win95 Boy Scout Desktop Theme,
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council, BSA
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"
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