| The below article contains the phrase "Supreme Being" being attributed to BSA officials, in reference to a Scout Leader who is an atheist. One reporter informed us that BSA "insisted that [she] use the words "supreme being" instead of God."|
While for some people, the terms God and
Supreme Being are synonymous and interchangeable, to many faiths that is not true. This fact was driven home to BSA in 1985 when they expelled 15-year-old Paul Trout for not being able to express a belief in a "Supreme Being." He was able to express a belief in "self and self-reliance," which was eventually good enough for BSA to reinstate him and award him his Life Badge.
As can be seen by the information on this site relating to this incident, the use of the phrase "Supreme Being" caused BSA to permanently delete the phrase from their lexicon and literature, necessitated a BSA Executive Board Resolution on its interpretation of Duty to God, and the formation of a "Duty to God Task Force" to make sure that this
incident did not occur in the future.
With local and national BSA officials insisting to the media to use Supreme Being, instead of God, it is apparent that BSA has decided to revise its doctrine on the nature of God. Once again. (BSA rarely lets its employees talk to the press on these issues without having their comments approved by the Chief Scout Executive.)
As BSA found out in 1985, not all faiths define God as a Supreme
Being. With this insistence on the use of the term in this incident, BSA is finally signaling to non-Abrahamic faiths that there is no place in BSA for them. Given BSA's propensity to exclude those it does not consider to be good American citizens, it is only a matter of time before BSA defines God to be the Christian Trinity, thereby excluding Jews and Muslims from the BSA.
Before the Love administration, BSA took the position that
religion and religious teachings was the responsibility of the family, not BSA. The definition of who/what God is rested with the youth's family or religious leaders. BSA did not want to become embroiled in religious arguments. (They spent considerable time and effort in their early years to prove that BSA was not an Evangelical Protestant youth organization. It seems they've decided that they are!)
When Ben Love became Chief Scout Executive, BSA decided to
wrap itself in the Protestant flag, which curiously occurred at the time the Religious-Right emerged as a player in American politics.
Coming within a couple of years of the Dale decision, this reversal in religious policy indicates that BSA has decided to marginalize more American youth - Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, and yourself in the future.
Below are articles regarding the expulsion of Darrell Lambert and the letter sent from BSA to Darrell, as well as material from BSA on this incident, are available on this web site.
Scout not prepared for group's ultimatum: Get right with God
By DEAN E. MURPHY
New York Times
Nov. 9, 2002, 8:19PM
SEATTLE -- The Boy Scout Law states that members must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Darrell Lambert has been in scouting for 10 years. Last year, he attained the highest rank, Eagle. Now a college freshman, he volunteers as an assistant in a troop in Port Orchard, just across the Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, where his mother is the scoutmaster.
But last month Lambert got an ultimatum from scouting officials in Seattle. Eleven out of 12 was not good enough anymore. Lambert, who is 19 and has been an atheist since studying evolution in the ninth grade, was told to abide by the vow of reverence by Nov. 9 or get out.
As Lambert described it, he was given a week to find God.
"They say that I should think about what I really believe and get back to them," he said. "I have thought about this for years. Can
they expect me to change my beliefs in seven days?"
Mark Hunter, director of marketing and administration for the Chief Seattle Council, said it was enforcing a national policy. The Boy Scouts is a faith-based organization, he said, and the issue of God is not negotiable. Aside from the vow of reverence in the Scout Law, every Boy Scout pledges a duty to God in the Scout Oath.
"Advocating a belief in a supreme being has been a core value of the
Boy Scouts," Hunter said. "The 12th point of the Scout Law is `reverent,' and that includes being faithful in your religious duties and respecting the beliefs of others."
Lambert said he was aware of the national policy long ago. He admitted to sometimes mouthing the parts about reverence and God when reciting the law and oath. Other times he actually said the words. None of it really mattered until last month when he attended training for adult leaders.
At one session, a scouting official led a discussion about religion. The official suggested that the only way a nonbeliever could advance in scouting would be to lie about his beliefs, said Lambert and his mother, Trish Lambert, who also attended the retreat. The official went on to suggest that "a person who doesn't believe in God is not a good citizen," Darrell Lambert said.
Lambert took issue with the comments. Many adults considered him
a role model and leader in his troop, and he had attained the rank of Eagle after disclosing his atheism.
Last year, when a board of scouting leaders in Port Orchard interviewed Lambert for his Eagle award, he informed them that he did not believe in God. His mother said she had warned him against it.
"I said, `No, just keep quiet; you aren't going to get your Eagle,' " she said. "He said, `No, I have to tell them.' He is that way."
Lambert got his Eagle. His mother said several board members complimented her for having a son with courage.
On Oct. 30, leaders of Trish Lambert's troop, No. 1531, stood behind her son again. Sixteen parents -- representing all of the Scouts in the troop, she said -- signed a letter urging the Chief Seattle Council to allow him to stay on. The letter said his atheism had never been an issue in the troop, and it did nothing to change the spiritual
foundation of scouting. Trish Lambert said that she believed in God, as did the other leaders, and that her son should not be punished for "questioning himself and his spirituality."
Boy Scouts oust atheist would-be leader: Darrell Lambert, who has received worldwide attention, plans to appeal the decision
By Marietta Nelson
Darrell Lambert, the atheist Eagle Scout from Port Orchard who
made international news for taking on the Boy Scouts of America's membership policies, has been kicked out of the organization.
While in Seattle on Monday taping an appearance for Connie Chung's CNN talk show, Lambert received a call from Brad Farmer, an official with Chief Seattle Council Boy Scouts of America.
"He asked me if I had enough time to confer with my family and friends about this. I told him that I had, but that I hadn't changed
my mind. He said my (leader) registration would be sent back to me, and I'd be getting a letter in the mail soon," Lambert said.
Farmer and Chief Seattle spokesman Mark Hunter did not return repeated telephone calls Monday.
Lambert will appeal the Seattle council's decision to the Boy Scouts' regional office in Arizona. If that appeal is rejected, Lambert said he will appeal to the national office in Irving, Texas.
Lambert was in Scouts for 10 years and achieved his Eagle Scout award nearly two years ago. He wants to continue as an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 1531, based in Port Orchard.
But the Seattle Council will not allow Lambert to serve as a Scout leader because the 19-year-old does not believe in a god.
Boy Scouts requires its leaders to profess belief in a god - a requirement upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2000 decision.
The court held that as a private organization, Scouts could disallow gays and atheists.
On Oct. 28, Farmer gave Lambert a week to think about whether he could profess belief in a god and meet Scout leader requirements.
On Monday, Lambert was undaunted. "God would have to drop down in front me, smack me on the side of the head and say, 'You're wrong' to get me to change my mind now," Lambert said. Parents of
the boys in Troop 1531 sent a letter of protest to the Chief Seattle Council last week.
Trish Lambert, Darrell's mother and Troop 1531's scoutmaster, said her son will continue to attend Scout meetings as assistant scoutmaster until he receives formal notice that his leader registration is rejected.
After that, Trish Lambert said her son is investigating whether he can continue to attend meetings as an "unregistered" adult. Darrell's
presence could put Troop 1531's charter as an official Boy Scouts of America organization in jeopardy. Troop 1531 has existed since 1927.
How the parents of the boys in the troop want to proceed is still being discussed, said Trish Lambert.
Lambert's story continues to attract national and international attention.
The South Kitsap High School graduate's story appeared on ABC News and in The New York Times on Sunday. He was interviewed by
Chung and National Public Radio on Monday. The British Broadcasting Corp. picked up the story Monday as well.
Trish Lambert said she's been "overwhelmed" by the attention. She has received dozens of e-mails and phone calls - all from people who support Darrell's position.
"I wish it would help" change BSA's policies, Trish Lambert said. "He's going to fight this all the way, not just for himself but for boys
who would be Scouts if it weren't for the religion requirement."
AN ATHEIST EAGLE SCOUT IS GIVEN A WEEK TO RECANT OR LOSE HIS DREAM OF LEADING
Port Orchard teen battles Boy Scouts
By Marietta Nelson
In Darrell Lambert's world, "Capture the Flag" is the ultimate entertainment. A meal cooked over an open fire is gourmet cuisine. And there's no higher honor than the Eagle.
But there's no god.
And that's unacceptable to the Boy Scouts, an organization he loves and calls "the best place in the world for kids."
The 19-year-old Port Orchard resident, an atheist and a leader in Port Orchard's Troop 1531, has been given a week by the Boy Scout's regional governing executive to declare belief in a supreme being and comply with Scout policy, or quit being a Scout leader.
"We've asked him to search his heart, to confer with family members
to give this great thought before any decision is made," said Brad Farmer, council Scout executive of Chief Seattle Council, Boy Scouts of America. "If he says he's an avowed atheist, he does not meet the standards of membership of our traditional programs and as such cannot participate. We would return his registration fee to him and wish him the best."
Lambert can give them his answer: No.
If he professed belief in a supreme being, it would be a lie.
"I wouldn't be a good Scout then, would I?" he said.
At a meeting of his troop Monday at the chapel of the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil, about a dozen moms and dads agreed to support Lambert, even if it meant risking their troop's association with the Boy Scouts of America.
"He's willing to take care of our boys, our country, our land. What more could we ask?" said Tina Nau of Port Orchard. "I don't see
where religious beliefs come into play."
But, said Mark Hunter, a spokesman for Chief Seattle Council, "We recognize as a faith-based organization that to be the best kind of citizen we need to recognize a higher being."
The controversy started about three weeks ago when it came out at a leadership training seminar at Camp Parsons on the Olympic Peninsula that Lambert was an atheist.
In a casual conversation and again in an official meeting of the
seminar, Lambert argued with a Scout leader from a different troop about whether Boy Scouts who don't profess belief in a supreme being should be expelled. Lambert argued that Scouting should be open to any boy, regardless. The other leader, who could not be reached for comment, said non-belief is a violation of the Scout law and the Scout oath.
In the oath, Scouts promise "to do my duty to God and my country."
The law says "a Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others."
When Lambert says the oath, he omits the part about a god.
Lambert knows the oath and the law well. He surprised his mom, Trish, nine years ago by asking to join Scouts.
"Darrell was a real loner. He was real intelligent and learned things real quick, but he liked to be alone, and this was a group we're
talking about," his mom said. "I kept thinking he would quit."
At first, Darrell didn't join in, but with encouragement from his den leaders and Scoutmasters, he joined, and shined, in the activities.
"It was like watching a soaring eagle, all of a sudden he was in leadership positions and guiding other boys. It helped him a lot," said Trish Lambert, who has been Troop 1531's scoutmaster for three years.
The South Kitsap High School graduate with broad shoulders and a blond buzz cut worked his way to Eagle Scout last year, earning 37 merit badges and holding every leadership position in Troop 1531. Even if his position as a Scout leader is revoked, Lambert cannot lose his rank as Eagle Scout.
Lambert said over the years, Scouts gave him something to do nearly every night of the week, with camping trips most weekends.
"It kept me out of trouble. In high school, when my friends were out partying and getting into trouble, I was out chasing Scouts around in the woods, playing Capture the Flag," he said.
When the opportunity arose this fall to become a leader in Troop 1531, Lambert registered, "glossing over" the "declaration of religious principle" section on the form.
Lambert wasn't worried; he informed the Scout leaders who sat on
his Eagle Scout review board that he did not believe in a supreme being. The eight leaders approved Lambert's Eagle award anyway.
"It wasn't an issue," said Evie Mercer, who sat on the review board and is the mother of a 15-year-old boy in Troop 1531. In fact, because none of the adults asked about his non-belief, Lambert brought it up during the board.
"That to me said a lot about him," said Mercer.
So when an official from Farmer's office contacted Lambert on Oct. 21 about his non-belief, the Scout was surprised.
Farmer and Lambert have had several conversations over the past week. On Monday, Farmer told Lambert he had a week to think about whether he had a belief in a supreme being.
"We give great latitude to our members as adult leaders as to what they profess as belief," said Farmer. "It can be through a church or
religion or greatly unstructured. Mother Nature would be acceptable."
If Lambert does not profess a belief, his leader registration fee ($7) will be refunded and his registration revoked. There is an appeals process, but Farmer said he wasn't sure of its details. He also didn't know if any other Scouts had been dismissed for non-belief.
"I just don't know. We don't keep records of that," he said.
Scott Cozza, an organizer of Scouting For All, a California-based organization advocating for gay and atheist Scouts, said he gets hundreds of phone calls each year from Scouts who have been expelled. About 60 percent are from gay Scouts; 40 percent from atheists.
Lambert has enlisted Cozza's help in his fight. At the meeting Monday, the parents in Troop 1531 told Lambert that they would write a letter of protest to Farmer, too.
"Jacob is right on the edge of his Eagle, and I don't know how that would affect him," said Joanne Warren, whose 16-year-old son counts Lambert as his mentor. "But I'm sure if he had to make the choice, Darrell or Eagle Scout, he would choose you Darrell, hands down."
Published in The Sun: 10/29/2002