November 30, 1988
SUBJECT: DUTY TO GOD TASK FORCE REPORT
TO: Henry B. Murphy, Chairman, Relationships Committee Boy Scouts of America
FROM: Michael D. Harris, Task Force Chairman
In response to a recent request from the officers and Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America, the Relationships Committee formed a task force to review and report on three specific issues as outlined in your letter to me dated October 7, 1988 (attached). The task force members you appointed--Elder Vaughn Featherstone, Father Robert
Guglielmone, Rabbi Peter Hyman, Rev. R. Chip Turner, and Michael D. Harris--accepted the challenge and immediately began their review and comments. Written responses from each member were received and those are on file in the BSA Relationships Division.
The committee met with Bill McCleery and Tony Booth on November 29, 1988 in Irving, Texas. The session was productive and constructive comments were offered by all members. Our review and response coincides with the assignment described
in your letter dated October 17, 1988. The full report follows:
Reaffirmation Statement of 1985
The 1985 Reaffirmation Statement on "duty to God" was re-examined and the task force supports the statement but does recommend the following additions and changes:
1. The additional information section should be supplemented by inserting an opening statement as follows:
"In the Scouts each form of religion is respected and its active practice
encouraged and through the spread of our brotherhood in all countries, we have the opportunity in developing the spirit of mutual good will and understanding" (Robert Baden-Powell). It was felt that this is a positive, all-inclusive and appropriate statement to highlight the reaffirmation.
2. The sentence "The Boy Scouts of America has not deleted God from...to do so." should be deleted and the following inserted, "God continues to be an integral part of
the Boy Scouts of America." The task force wanted this sentence to be a more positive statement.
3. The sentence "The principles upon which the Boy Scouts of America operates have not been changed." should be eliminated. It was felt that this sentence was overly reactive and tends to illustrate that some of our "principles" had changed or perceived to have changed. The positive reaffirmation was not enhanced by the sentence.
The task force recommends that
the National Executive Board reaffirm the BSA's position on "duty to God" in the form of a resolution at each biennial meeting.
Recommendations for future BSA Literature
A. With regard to statements which refer to God and religion:
1. In all cases (where possible) BSA literature should utilize inclusive language in referring to God. The use of masculine and/or feminine terms, pronouns, or similar vocabulary which limit the concept of God's totality and
completeness should be avoided. Care should be taken not to dilute or diminish the meaning and import of such statements. We suggest the use of the term "God", even repeatedly in a sentence, rather than the use of pronouns or other exclusive language. This will assist in communicating the philosophy and expectations of 'the Boy Scouts of America.
2. Descriptive terms for God: it is not our desire to ask BSA to define God, however, "duty to God" is integral to the
Scouting program. Therefore, we must speak of God without defining God. We urge the use of descriptive language rather than definitive language in those sections of BSA literature which deal with "duty to God." For example, page 492 of the 1986 printing of the Scout Handbook, paragraphs 4-8: paragraph 4 describes God as Creator; paragraph 8 describes a personal and loving God who accepts the gratitude of Creation. While these statements describe some aspects of God, they do not
limit God to anyone human definition.
3. BSA states both explicitly and implicitly that the discipline of religion and the power of belief in God are important components in the process of character development. BSA should not have to apologize to anyone for what the organization believes and promulgates. The language used in our literature with respect to "duty to God" should reflect these attitudes, beliefs, and expectations. "Spirituality", "reverence",
"morality", "ethical behavior", etc. are terms which reflect and demonstrate ways to fulfill duty to God.
4. With regard to reverence, it is important that the object of that reverence be directed primarily to God, but then to all life as well. Life is sacred and holy, therefore respect for people, nature, environment, etc. are included in "A Scout is Reverent."
B. Suggestions for BSA leaders manuals and training literature:
1. "Duty to God"
As "duty to God" is a founding principle of the world-wide Scouting movement, we recommend the following:
a. BSA leader training materials should provide examples of how the concept of duty to God can be lived out in the lives of Scouts and demonstrated in the Scouting experience. For example: the way we approach nature and how we interact and impact our environment reflect a response to God.
b. Reference to "duty to God"
should be apart of all boards of review for rank advancement in Boy Scouting.
c. BSA leader materials should reflect and encourage sensitivity to the diverse religious needs of Scouts and Scouters. Such materials and literature should also help and encourage leaders to assist Scouts in fulfilling their religious obligation, thereby exemplifying the concept of duty to God in yet another form.
c. BSA leader materials such as the Scoutmaster's Handbook, Handbook for Cubmasters,
Basic Leader Training, or Wood Badge should state clearly and explicitly the unique partnership relationship between BSA and chartered partners.
Statements describing the ownership of the unit and the partnership concept need to be immediately accessible and understood by local chartered organizations and their appointed leadership. These issues include the role of the Chartered Organization Representative (formerly Scouting Coordinator), the chartered organization's responsibility for
selecting leadership and the leadership's accountability to the chartered organization.
THE PURPOSE OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA AS IT RELATES TO RELIGIOUS GROUPS, No.5-202, is an excellent statement that also should be provided to all our religious partners.
Recommended Language for New Boy Scout Handbook
The draft of the handbook that has been submitted drew the admiration of the committee. The author has already done a remarkable job of improving the text.
The following changes are recommended to be incorporated into the attached excerpt "Duty to God" from the Boy Scout Handbook in the 1989 revision:
PAGE 492 of 1985 Boy Scout Handbook -"DUTY TO GOD":
1. Sixth paragraph, first sentence should read, "God has given you a wonderful body and a thinking brain."
2. Seventh paragraph, begin with "A way to thank God "
3. Eighth (last) paragraph, change last sentence to read
"This, too, is a part of your Scout Oath and a way to demonstrate your duty to God."
HANDBOOK/SPIRIT OF SCOUTING.OO2, from 1989 draft, Page 1:
1. Second paragraph, change first sentence to read, "In some ways, Scouting is like a game." It was felt that Scouting is more than just a game.
Second paragraph, delete "And like all games,". The second sentence would begin with "It has rules...".
2. Page 2:
Under "...1 will do
my best..." delete the first two words "You have..." and substitute, "It is expected that you will do your best with your...".
Under "...To do my duty to God..." change the first sentence to read, "Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and love God and the ways in which God may be served."
3. Page 4:
Under "...and morally straight..." change the first sentence to read, "To be a person of strong
character, know and understand the value of personal purity, such as virtue, honesty, and justice.
Under "(sidebar:" delete this completely. The task force feels that this oath is not co-equal with the Scout Oath and that it brings forth some images and concepts that are not appropriate.
4. Page 5:
Delete completely "THE OATH OF THE YOUNG MEN OF ATHENS". The page would resume with the heading "SCOUT LAW". -
5. Page 6:
paragraph, change last sentence to read, "If you should willfully break the Scout Law, you violate the spirit of Scouting." The committee wished to avoid any reference to "fail' or "failing".
6. Page 11:
Second paragraph, change "It is never difficult..." to "It is not difficult...". The use of "never" is an overstatement.
Fourth paragraph, change first sentence under "A Scout is OBEDIENT." to read,
"A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, religion, and troop" The word "religion" has been added.
7. Page 15:
Fifth paragraph, change first sentence to read, "Swear words, profanity, and dirty stories are ". The addition of "profanity" makes this statement more precise.
8. Page 16:
Under "A Scout is REVERENT." the paragraph should read:
"A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He
respects the beliefs of others.
The word "reverence" refers to a profound respect for God. The wonders of the world remind us of the creative power of God. We find it in the tiny lines of a leaf and the great mysteries of the universe. It exists in the kindness of people and in the teachings of our families and religious leaders.
We show our reverence to God by living our lives according to the ideals of our beliefs. The Scout benediction is "May the Great Master of all
Scouts be with us till we meet again.'"
In the following paragraph, on Page 16 and and continuing on Page 17, delete the sentence "They have many ways of expressing their reverence."
Change the next sentence (Page 16-17) to read, "It is your duty to respect and defend the rights of others whose beliefs may differ from yours."
9. Page 19:
Second paragraph, change to read, "But Good Turns are more often small, thoughtful . . ." .
The members of the task force have recognized the importance of this task with its potential for far reaching consequences. We are appreciative of the opportunity to participate.
Although the Reaffirmation Statement correctly describes the-position of the Boy Scouts of America, we did recommend a few changes in commentary to help identify the basis and rationale of the statement.
We were impressed with the number of places the concepts of reverence
and duty to God appear in BSA literature.' Our report attempts to give some guidelines on how these concepts should be treated as literature is revised or drafted in the future. We feel it is important that language be as inclusive as possible but even more important, that it not be so generic as to lose all meaning and value for the great majority of our members and leaders.
We feel that a re-emphasis on the partnership concept with our religious partners is crucial. Such an
emphasis will enhance the use of the program of the BSA by religious institutions.
While the task force did not specifically address the concerns raised in the Stedman letter, many of the issues raised by Mr. Stedman were dealt with in the discussion and deliberations. If there is to be a response to Mr. Stedman, the task force would be willing to draft the letter.
Finally, we urge that any time literature revisions are contemplated, those portions that deal with religious topics
should be reviewed by members of the, Religious Relationships Committee.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve. If the Executive Committee requests any further changes or clarifications, we would be most willing to continue to serve.
Henry B Murphy letter of October 7, 1988
1985 Reaffirmation Statement
1989 revision of Boy Scout Handbook