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BSA's Religious Positions

     Below are several statements, resolutions and positions on the BSA's religious membership requirement:


National Office
1325 Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015-2079
 214-580-2000

June 24, 1991

SUBJECT: ATHEISM, GIRLS AND HOMOSEXUALITY

From: J. Carey Keane, National Director of Relationships/Marketing

To: Regional Directors
      Area Directors
      Scout Executives
      Division Directors

As you know, the BSA currently is involved in various legal issues; issues that include atheism, girls in Scouting and homosexuality. The media has been covering these rather extensively, with the usual debate of pros and cons.

Since many of you have been, and may continue to be, approached by local media, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a comprehensive package of information. The attached includes:

    - Overall suggestions on responding to the media and to the public, as well as a pamphlet on "Unacceptables" that can be used to "bridge" discussions to the positive things the BSA is doing to resolve issues.

    - Position statements and questions and answers on:

    • -  Duty to God
    • - Girls in Scouting
    • - Homosexuality

If you need further information, please contact Blake Lewis at Edeknan Worldwide at (214) 520-3555 or Jeff Sacks, Division Director, External Communications at (214) 580-2271.

sd attachments

Questions and Answers
June 7, 1991

    Duty to God

Q. Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a Volunteer Scout leader or member?

    No. The Scout Oath, which documents the basic values of Scouting, literally and figuratively addresses the issue of "duty to God" before duty to country, others and self.

Q. Why is duty to God important to Scouting?

    A. Since its founding in the United States in 1916, the Boy Scouts of America has had an ongoing commitment to encouraging moral, ethical and spiritual growth. The BSA believes that the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to the BSA's goals of teaching the values of self-reliance, courage, integrity and consideration of others.

Q. What harm would come of admitting young people who can not support the BSA position on duty to God?

    The Scout Oath and Law have served as the foundation of Scouting for over 81 years. It would be a disservice to over five million youth and adult members of Scouting to allow selective adherence to one or more elements of the Oath or Law. To do so would result in an organization that lacked the clear definition enjoyed by the BSA.

Q. How does the BSA define religion?

    The BSA does not interpret God or religion. That is the role of the Scout's family and religious leaders.

Q. What religions are involved with Scouting?

    Virtually every religion is represented in the BSA.

Q. Some people maintain that God is a tree, a rock or a stream. Would a person believing such be eligible to be a member of Scouting?

    The BSA does not seek to interpret God or religion. The Scout Oath states a requirement for a Scout to observe a duty to God, and the Scout Law requires a Scout to be reverent. Again, interpretation is the responsibility of the Scout, his parents and religious leaders.

Q. What allows the BSA to exclude atheists from membership?

    The BSA is a private membership group. As with any private organization, the BSA retains the Constitutional right to establish and maintain standards for membership. Anyone who supports the values of Scouting and meets these standards is welcome to join the organization.

POSITION STATEMENT REAFFIRMATION OF THE POSITION OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA ON "DUTY TO GOD"Click to go to the top of the page
June 12, 1991

Resolved, that the following reaffirmation of the position of the Boy Scouts of America relating to "Duty to God" be, and hereby is, enacted and that the Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, and literature of Corporation reflect this reaffirmation accordingly.

In 1985, America celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1910, 80 million. Americans have subscribed to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law which have stood the test of time.

The national Executive Board of the BSA proudly states, through its Mission Statement, that the values which the organization strives to instill in young people are those based upon the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. A Scout pledges: On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law ..."

The first Boy Scouts of America Handbook for Boys, published in August 1911, declares that "... no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God." (Page 215)

The latest edition of The Official Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1990 reads: "A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others." (Page 561)

While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of "Duty to God."

The following statements are additional information on the BSA position:

    The Boy Scouts of America has always been committed to the moral, ethical, and spiritual development of our youth. Scouting is not a religion, but duty to God is a basic tenet of the Scout Oath and Law.

    Scouting does not seek to impose its beliefs upon others who do not share them. Virtually every religion is represented in Scouting and the BSA does not define or interpret God. That is the role of the Scout's family and religious advisors.

    Scouting respects those who do not share its beliefs and it would not ask others to alter their faith in any fashion in order to become Scouts. They too are free to follow their own beliefs. Rather, the BSA membership believes that the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to the BSA goal of teaching the values of self reliance, courage, integrity, and consideration to others.

    Scouting may not be for everyone, but for eight decades, Scouting has provided meaningful programs and adventure to more than 80 million young people in the United States.

POSITION STATEMENT REAFFIRMATION OF THE POSITION OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA ON "DUTY TO GOD"Click to go to the top of the page
October 10, 1985

Resolved, that the following reaffirmation of the position of the Boy Scouts of America relating to "Duty to God" be, and hereby is, enacted and that the Bylaws, Rules and Regulations, and literature of Corporation reflect this reaffirmation accordingly.

This year, America is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1910, 72 million Americans have subscribed to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law which have stood the test of time.

The national Executive Board of the BSA proudly states, through its Mission Statement, that the values which the organization strives to instill in young people are those based upon the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. A Scout pledges: "On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law ..."

The first Boy Scouts of America Handbook for Boys, published in August 1911, declares that "... no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God." (Page 215)

The latest edition of The Official Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1979 reads: "'A Scout is reverent toward.' All Scouts show this by being faithful in their duty to God." (Page 484.)

While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of "Duty to God."

     

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