2% The Two Percent Company
[ - ]
| Large Type Edition |
[ - ]
[ - ]
| Navigate the Rants




Categories

Special Collections
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
Subscribe to the
2%Co Rants:



Syndicate this site:
ATOM
RSS 1.0
RSS 2.0
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
| The Usual Suspects
On Hiatus
Carnivals
Carnival of the Godless
Skeptics' Circle
Tangled Bank

Gone But Not Forgotten
Lost to the Mists of Time
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
| Archives (Weekly)
% 2016.11.06 » 2016.11.12
% 2009.04.05 » 2009.04.11
% 2009.03.15 » 2009.03.21
% 2009.03.08 » 2009.03.14
% 2009.03.01 » 2009.03.07
% 2009.02.15 » 2009.02.21
% 2009.01.25 » 2009.01.31
% 2009.01.18 » 2009.01.24
% 2009.01.04 » 2009.01.10
% 2008.12.21 » 2008.12.27
% 2008.11.16 » 2008.11.22
% 2008.11.09 » 2008.11.15


Archives (Monthly)
% 2016 November
% 2009 April
% 2009 March
% 2009 February
% 2009 January
% 2008 December
% 2008 November
% 2008 October
% 2008 September
% 2008 July
% 2008 June
% 2008 April
% 2008 January
% 2007 November
% 2007 October
% 2007 August
% 2007 July
% 2007 June
% 2007 May
% 2007 April
% 2007 March
% 2007 February
% 2007 January
% 2006 December
% 2006 November
% 2006 October
% 2006 September
% 2006 August
% 2006 July
% 2006 June
% 2006 May
% 2006 April
% 2006 March
% 2006 February
% 2006 January
% 2005 December
% 2005 November
% 2005 October
% 2005 September
% 2005 August
% 2005 July
% 2005 June
% 2005 May
% 2005 April
% 2005 March
% 2005 February
% 2005 January
% 2004 December
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
« Put Those Stickers Where They Belong The RantsInternet Explorer Sucks »

Scouting for God
2004.11.24 (Wed) 17:05

It's been hard to ignore the stories about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) lately. They've been all over the news - or at least the news that we read. In a nutshell, the ACLU demanded that the Department of Defense cease official sponsorship of Boy Scout troops by military bases since the BSA requires religious beliefs for its members. From the Virginian-Pilot:

The ACLU sued the military in Illinois, contending it was unconstitutional for it to sponsor Boy Scout units because the organization excludes those who do not swear an oath to God.

The Pentagon recently reached an out-of-court settlement agreeing that bases should not sponsor troops.

The brass sent a directive that noted its long-held regulations against base sponsorship of non-federal organizations. Individual service members, the Pentagon said, are still free to lead scouts in their spare time.

In the same article, a BSA representative had this to say:

In Hampton Roads, home of some of the nation’s largest military installations, the Pentagon decision was unpopular, but not critical, according to Bill Deany , executive director of the Tidewater Council, Boy Scouts of America.

He said only a few of the area’s 400 scouting units are actually sponsored by a base.

“That will be easily remedied,” he said, by finding other groups to charter the troops and packs.

The main problem, he predicted, will be “a whole flock of paperwork that will confuse the commands in the area about what they can and cannot do.”

He said about a dozen of the units actually meet on bases and should have no problem continuing.

Many others have opted for off-base locations after security increased following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

So, let's recap. The BSA requires all members - be they children or adults - to swear an oath to God and to adhere to religious principles. Clearly, this is a faith-based group. As a result, the ACLU tells the DoD to stop spending tax payer money on this group since we have that whole separation of church and state thing going on in the United States. The DoD says they will comply since they have a rule already in place barring federal sponsorship of any non-federal organizations. So, even if you don't think that the BSA is a faith-based group, it certainly must be agreed that it is a non-federal group, and hence cannot be sponsored by the DoD. The BSA is stating that relatively few troops are directly sponsored by military bases, and that fixing this will not be a major issue. I mean, if the biggest problem is paperwork, then suck it up. Finally, military personnel are free to continue to be troop leaders on their own time, and no one is trying to say that the BSA troops can't meet on military bases, so long as other groups are free to do the same, and so long as taxpayer money isn't spent to support those groups specifically.

This is all very straight forward and logical. Right? So how come we have responses like these?

% Sen. Nelson assures Boy Scouts of military links
% [Rep. Jo Ann] Davis hopes to stem ACLU attack on Scouts
% The Boy Scouts - Still Losing, Still Clueless
% ACLU Humbles DOD on Scouts Issue; American Legion Aghast
% Will Bush defend Scouts?

The thing that most amazes us about all of this is the level of incredulity that these morons who are up in arms seem to possess. They say that they "can't believe" all of this as if they had no inkling of any of the facts laid out above. It makes us wonder if they are putting on a show for their constituents, or if they are really as unintelligent as their statements seem to indicate that they are.

It would be incredibly entertaining to see this happening in another way. Imagine that, instead of swearing an oath to God (read as the Christian God by most), the BSA mandated that all members started each meeting by calling on a pagan deity of their choice, as is the Wiccan practice. Other than that, let's assume that everything else about the BSA is still true, including all of the good that they do. Now imagine the reaction of these same politicians to the Wiccan BSA. Not only would they be demanding an end to government sponsorship and funding, they would certainly be labelling the BSA as evil, blasphemous, and against the grain of proper moral values. So what's important to remember is that any time a Christian Fundamentalist or a Right Wing politician refers to something as "faith-based", what they really mean is "Christian". After all, those other religions are just silly and/or dangerous.

Let's tackle this from another angle now. Some of the people up in arms about this decision are saying that the only issue here is a small section of the scout oath that refers to God. This, they argue, does not a religious group make. Now let's visit the BSA website. Let's search for the word "God" (do this yourself since we can't link to the results - we found 106 hits on 11/24/2004). Here are a few examples of what we found:

"The anchor reminds us that a truly worthy life must be anchored in duty to God."
...

"The religious emblems program offers pathways for Scouts to more deeply understand their duty to God."
...

"Religious Principle, Declaration of, (BSA) The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no person can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, acknowledges the religious element in development of youth members, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious development. Its policy is that the organization or institution with which youth members are connected shall give definite attention to their religious life. Only adults willing to subscribe to this declaration of principle and the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of leadership."

How does their argument hold up now?

If the BSA really isn't a religious group, then they should have no problem removing references to God, and ensuring that their troops around the country stick to non-religious activities only. The fact that they have not taken these steps - in conjunction with their Declaration of Religious Principle - should speak for itself.

All that said, we have no problems with the BSA. They are a private group, and may choose to have their members follow whatever beliefs they so desire. If they mandate religious beliefs, then they should not expect government funding or any official government ties. For the record, the Two Percent Company associate responsible for this rant was a member of the Boy Scouts in New Jersey. There was no oath to God, no prayer or religious agenda, and we had - gasp - Jewish scouts in our troop. There may have even been a Hindu. Most of the time, the troop was doing arts and crafts, tying knots, building small wooden cars, and doing community service. Other than the kerchiefs, it was a good experience.

The bottom line here is that it isn't the BSA that is the problem - it is the host of politicians who are outraged by this common sense decision to stop government funding for a religious (and non-federal) group. They should really just shut the hell up, and let the BSA go about its business, whatever it may be.


— • —
[  Filed under: % Civil Liberties  % Government & Politics  % Religion  ]

Comments (2)

Ed Darrell, 2004.12.18 (Sat) 21:40 [Link] »

Hmm.

1. If a Wiccan wishes to join Scouting, that faith is acceptable under the religious requirement. Kids are not asked, by BSA, to swear allegiance to any particular faith. In point of fact, BSA has Scout units that are Moslem, Buddhist, Jewish, and other non-Christian faiths. The religious requirement, as currently interpreted by the National Council, affects ONLY agnostics who will not claim belief, or atheists. (I disagree with the requirement, by the way, because I think atheist kids can be good Scouts as they have been before in U.S. Scouting and as they are in other nations.) Units I work with have a wide array of religious beliefs among kids and leaders.

2. The "religious emblems" program you refer to would have explained that to you. There are also awards for Hindu, Quaker, Zoroastrian. If Wiccans wish to propose an award, they may. Go see: http://www.scouting.org/nav/enter.jsp?s=xx&c=ds&terms=God (go to "Religious Emblems Program")

3. The problems with Scouting aren't being helped with an assault on Scouting. The only result so far is that the wagons have been circled and the position of the stiff-necked on the National Council staff and volunteer governing boards has been bolstered. As a pragmatic matter, and as a matter of law here in Texas, most Scout units will not pressure a Scout to profess religion past signing the membership application. Scouting could use a lot more non-religious charter organizations; and if there were more, they could change the policies of Scouting. Quiet support of the good Scouting does could end the bad. The obligation to God can be met by Buddhists who don't believe in God -- there's a pretty wide door there for driving a happy solution through, on the issue of religious belief. The ultimate goal should be to make Scouting live up to the ideals it teaches the kids.

4. Your concession that Scouting is a private group, ignoring the fact that Scouting has a federal charter, is maddening. Wishing it away won't make it go away -- and Scouting would have greater difficulty functioning without the charter. Pragmatics intrudes again: Congress isn't going to yank that charter. So assaulting Congress folk who support Scouting won't help. In fact, Scouting has been a boon to many of our better elected officials. Among Eagle Scouts, whose rectitude has been helpful in good times and bad, are Bill Bradley, Richard Gephardt, Lamar Alexander and Richard Lugar. If there were 98 others like those men in the Senate (women aren't excluded from Scouting anymore, and Girl Scouts and Campfire alums can be equally upright), the U.S. would be a lot better off.

5. Many religious groups who sponsor Scout units are nervous, too. The "no gays as leaders" rule leaves some churches in the position of disqualifying the pastors and board chairs who okay the sponsorship of the units. The National Council position is dangerously close to dictating religion to churches. Reality is that the largest single sponsor of Scouting in the U.S. today is the LDS Church, with the Methodists in at #2. Mormons believe homosexuality a sin -- but surely a solution can be found that would not dictate Mormons have gay leaders, so long as the Mormons don't dictate Mormon beliefs on other faiths. Since sex is forbidden at any Scout function -- even between spouses -- the sexual orientation of a leader should not be a problem so long as the Scout youth protection rules are followed -- and those rules coupled with Scout training are very, very good.

6. Scouting has a key role to play n American life. Well-meaning folks who concede the future of Scouting to a small slice of religious bigots do America no service in the concession. Is the Scout policy wrong? Fight to change it, with effective means. Don't make the kids cannon fodder in the fight.



The Two Percent Company, 2004.12.19 (Sun) 00:45 [Link] »

Ed,

Thanks for your comments. Your ideas are well thought-out, and we are glad that people such as you are associated (in any way) with the Scouts. With any luck, attitudes like yours will prevail, and the Scouts will one day welcome anyone who just wants to be a Scout.

Since you spent quite a bit of time composing your comments, we wanted to spend some time to reply to them:

1. If a Wiccan wishes to join Scouting, that faith is acceptable under the religious requirement. Kids are not asked, by BSA, to swear allegiance to any particular faith. In point of fact, BSA has Scout units that are Moslem, Buddhist, Jewish, and other non-Christian faiths. The religious requirement, as currently interpreted by the National Council, affects ONLY agnostics who will not claim belief, or atheists. (I disagree with the requirement, by the way, because I think atheist kids can be good Scouts as they have been before in U.S. Scouting and as they are in other nations.) Units I work with have a wide array of religious beliefs among kids and leaders.

2. The "religious emblems" program you refer to would have explained that to you. There are also awards for Hindu, Quaker, Zoroastrian. If Wiccans wish to propose an award, they may. Go see: http://www.scouting.org/nav/enter.jsp?s=xx&c=ds&terms=God (go to "Religious Emblems Program")

We agree that the Scouts do not mandate any specific faith for their members, just that they must have some faith. As you say, agnostics and atheists are not welcome, and as you say, this is a lamentable position. It also definitively makes the Scouts a faith-based organization (though not a Christian one, at least not as a whole). When we talked about "faith-based" really meaning "Christian," we were referring to the speech of the politicians who are up in arms over this, and what their reaction would be to a group associated with a more "fringe" religion, such as the Wiccans. It is these politicians who, right or wrong, are outright associating the Scouts with the Christian faith. We do not believe that the Scouts are inherently Christian — this is simply an inference that can be made concerning the politicians' (not the Scouts') feelings on the matter, based on their behavior, words, and deeds.

As a side note, we wonder how a person who practiced a religion with no specified deities (such as Wicca) would fare as a potential Scout. The Scout rules clearly discuss "God," not "faith," and we wonder if faith without any god would be enough to pass muster for the National Council.

3. The problems with Scouting aren't being helped with an assault on Scouting. The only result so far is that the wagons have been circled and the position of the stiff-necked on the National Council staff and volunteer governing boards has been bolstered. As a pragmatic matter, and as a matter of law here in Texas, most Scout units will not pressure a Scout to profess religion past signing the membership application. Scouting could use a lot more non-religious charter organizations; and if there were more, they could change the policies of Scouting. Quiet support of the good Scouting does could end the bad. The obligation to God can be met by Buddhists who don't believe in God -- there's a pretty wide door there for driving a happy solution through, on the issue of religious belief. The ultimate goal should be to make Scouting live up to the ideals it teaches the kids.

We agree that the ACLU challenges have resulted in a "circling of the wagons." However, all of the recent ACLU actions — those against creationism, prayer in school, the ten commandments, et cetera — have generated similar groundswells of support. There doesn't seem to be a way to avoid such a reaction unless all such challenges are eschewed. We don't think that's the correct avenue, because we'd be left tomorrow exactly where we are today. Also, we do not see the ACLU actions as an attack on the Scouts, and we don't see a trend of Scout-hatred from the ACLU (as is oft reported). Instead, it seems that the Scouts have become a more visible group in light of their moves to block gay members; and as a result, the ACLU has taken a closer look at Scouting, and found a lot to be concerned about.

We also agree that there are many Scout units out there which seem to ignore the religious requirements. As we said, one of our members was a Scout (in New Jersey), and there was absolutely no mention of religion during his time with them. The problem, to us, is that the Scout charter mandates religious belief — the fact that some units disregard this mandate doesn't change the fact that these rules exist.

As far as the wide door which allows a lot of lenience (at least in some parts of the country), at the end of the day, if atheist or agnostic children cannot make it through that door (and it seems that they cannot), then it is narrow enough to be classified as faith-based. We understand and respect the efforts being made to embrace alternate faiths; but in the end, faith of some kind is still required.

4. Your concession that Scouting is a private group, ignoring the fact that Scouting has a federal charter, is maddening. Wishing it away won't make it go away -- and Scouting would have greater difficulty functioning without the charter. Pragmatics intrudes again: Congress isn't going to yank that charter. So assaulting Congress folk who support Scouting won't help. In fact, Scouting has been a boon to many of our better elected officials. Among Eagle Scouts, whose rectitude has been helpful in good times and bad, are Bill Bradley, Richard Gephardt, Lamar Alexander and Richard Lugar. If there were 98 others like those men in the Senate (women aren't excluded from Scouting anymore, and Girl Scouts and Campfire alums can be equally upright), the U.S. would be a lot better off.

We think Scouting can and has been an excellent influence on our youth. It promotes honor, loyalty, responsibility, and community service. The experience one gains in Scouting can certainly help Scouts all through their lives. More groups should strive to do the good that the Scouts have been doing for generations.

Regarding the federal charter, we don't understand what you feel is maddening about our position. By our understanding, this clip from a CNN.com article expresses what a federal charter means:

The Boy Scouts of America ... is one of about 90 groups with such designation, an honorary title given to patriotic, charitable and education organizations.

While it confers no specific benefits, receiving a federal charter is a mark of prestige and national recognition for a group. Among other groups with federal charters are the American Legion, Future Farmers of America, the National Tropical Botanical Garden and the National Ski Patrol.


[our emphasis]

Our interpretation is that a federal charter is an honorary title, and receiving one does not make a group into a federal organization. As a result, the Department of Defense rule preventing any sponsorship of non-federal groups would apply to the Scouts. Further, even if the Scouts could be considered a federal group, the fact that they are a faith-based group would mean that federal government sponsorship would be unconstitutional. Really, our statements were meant to show that DoD sponsorship of Scout units was a no-no either way you sliced it. If we are missing something regarding the nature of a federal charter, please let us know — we don't profess to be experts on this matter, and we will gladly do some more homework on the topic.

5. Many religious groups who sponsor Scout units are nervous, too. The "no gays as leaders" rule leaves some churches in the position of disqualifying the pastors and board chairs who okay the sponsorship of the units. The National Council position is dangerously close to dictating religion to churches. Reality is that the largest single sponsor of Scouting in the U.S. today is the LDS Church, with the Methodists in at #2. Mormons believe homosexuality a sin -- but surely a solution can be found that would not dictate Mormons have gay leaders, so long as the Mormons don't dictate Mormon beliefs on other faiths. Since sex is forbidden at any Scout function -- even between spouses -- the sexual orientation of a leader should not be a problem so long as the Scout youth protection rules are followed -- and those rules coupled with Scout training are very, very good.

Your point of view is laudable, to us anyway. You share the common sense realization that "gay" doesn't rub off based on proximity, and that all gay people aren't sexual predators looking to be Scout leaders just so that they have fertile hunting grounds for young male conquests. However, it isn't only the individual units that are causing the problems denying gay leaders — this proscription is a policy of the National Council. Until the Scout rules are changed, individual units are not permitted to have gay leaders; their personal views on the subject, whether pro or anti, aren't taken into consideration.

We do see the problem here. If the Scout rules are changed to allow gay leaders (or to remove the faith-based requirements), how will the numerous Christian sponsors react, and what impact would their reaction have on the Scouts as a whole? Without a major shift in unit sponsorship from Christian groups to secular groups, this problem will remain; and we agree that it isn't an easy problem to work out.

6. Scouting has a key role to play in American life. Well-meaning folks who concede the future of Scouting to a small slice of religious bigots do America no service in the concession. Is the Scout policy wrong? Fight to change it, with effective means. Don't make the kids cannon fodder in the fight.

Agreed. It is often the vocal minority that ruins it for others, especially in the case of radical Christians (as is the nature of religious zealots). But what are the effective means you refer to? To us, what the ACLU has done thus far seems like the best direction that anyone can take — at least we haven't heard anyone come up with something more appropriate. The kids who are the Scouts are not to blame, and we wouldn't want them to be impacted any more than necessary, but we don't think the ACLU's actions were all that harmful. Yes, it is generating grassroots support and reactionary backlash, but what actions — that stand any chance of improving the current circumstances — wouldn't do that? We also don't think that what the ACLU has done has harmed individual Scouts all that much — all they have done is to cut off federal sponsorship of a small number of troops (according to the BSA spokesman we quoted in our Rant), and it seems like the troops affected won't be without sponsors for long (in large part due to the support that the move itself has generated).

For our part, we'd love to directly influence this issue, but we doubt that anyone in the Scouting world would listen to us. We do become directly engaged with certain issues when we feel that we can have an impact, but for issues such as this one, we count on groups like the ACLU, and we provide our support to them.

Thanks for your feedback, Ed. We hope to hear more from you, on this issue, as well as any others.




— • —

|
[ - ]


Terms of Use — • — Privacy Policy — • — FAQ
[ - ]
| Protecting our Civil Liberties
ACLU
EFF: Support Bloggers' Rights!
Individual-i

Bullshit Busters
JREFSkeptic's Dictionary
QuackwatchSnopes.com
SymantecMcAfee
SophosSnopes.com

|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
Buy 2%Co Products
2%Co Stores


Visit the 2%Co Wish List
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
|
|
[ - ]
[ - ]
| Where can you find 2%Co?

Site MeterGlobe of Blogs
Atheism OnlineThe Truth Laid Bear
BlogwiseBlogarama
BlogsharesTechnorati

2%Co Search Rankings

Link to our Rants
2%Co Rants


Link to our Allison DuBois: Debunked! collection
Allison DuBois: Debunked! (2%Co)


The 2%Co Rants powered by
MovableType
|
[ - ]