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  • What does nonsectarian mean to you?

    I brought this up in a previous thread, but it didn’t belong there, it belongs in it’s own thread.

    The BSA’s bylaws state that the BSA is “completely nonsectarian”. The question is: “What does nonsectarian mean to you in a BSA context”?

    The reason I am asking, is that over the last several years, I have had discussions with fellow scouters about the nonsectarianism of the BSA, and have heard many different interpretations: from very broad to dismissive. I have heard scouters say things like: “The BSA is a christian organization, and nonsectarian means the same thing as nondenominational” too “to be properly nonsectarian means you shouldn’t open a district or council event with a prayer since no prayer can satisfy all religions”. Obviously not all scouters agree on what it means. If I remember correctly, even the BSA’s Religious Relationships Committee referred to the BSA as a Christian ecumenical organization (in a letter to the UUA back in the late 90s).

    So, what does our community think?

  • #2
    Well it obviously is not!.. It means not making rules that favor one religions beliefs over that of another religion.. It means not forcing one religion to follow the belief system of another religion.. It means hands off in the any differing viewpoints of what is moral and what is not, as well as if Jesus is or is not the son of God, or if there are many Gods, or if your higher power isn't even considered a god.. IT MEANS HANDS OFF..

    Comment


    • #3
      Pg 25 He respects the beliefs of others.

      I am not seeing much respect for the beliefs of others. A Scout should be able to join a unit that has beliefs he can respect. Be it a Catholic or Evengelical unit or a public school unit that has more open beliefs.

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      • #4
        Sectarianism is only negative. It pitches people against each other, its adherents assume superiority, and it places value on one set of beliefs over/at the cost of all others. Nonsectarian means that the BSA is unconcerned at all with which religion you practice so long as you practice one. People who think like your nondenominational example have the right idea, but their scope is limited to Christianity, and they just need to widen their perspective . People in your other example don't understand the difference between the word secular and nonsectarian. Nonsectarian doesn't mean you're avoiding any one or every religion, it means that you're not emphasizing one or the other at the expense of all the rest.
        You're always going to run into a wide array of answers on this, because its personal and its political; because some people are oblivious, and some people insist on being offended.

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        • #5
          .SURPRISE!! BSA is religious but not a religion. In our Council there are Christian Scouts, Muslim Scouts, whole troops and packs that are purely Jewish, we had a Hindu family in my home Troop awhile back, Mormon Scouts, Troops that will reject your application if you are not Catholic (Roman variety), Viet Namese Buddhist, Cambodian Buddhist, Packs open to any male human under the age of 10, I could go on.
          "Non-sectarian" implies a desire to not ay attention to the avowed faith (or lack there of) of a person. The BSA gets itself in trouble when it starts trying to act as tho it is of a particular type of faith, but being tolerant of "all those other kinds".
          Sikhs wear turbans and carrry a knife in formal affairs. Devout Jews wear yamulkas or a hat otherwise. Quakers used to wear hats in Meeting but took them off when they stood to give a Spirit led message. US military require troops to remove cover when inside, unless they are in a formal color guard. Ritual is important in most every religion, and that seems to be the biggest divider of faiths, the rituals that define the religion.
          If the BSA were truly "non-sectarian", National wouldn't be so snippy about defining membership requirements , but be more encouraging about BEING a member. It is, after all, the Scout Promise and Scout Law that defines us, and not much else. The uniform is in many respects optional. Almost any sort of "organization" can sponsor a Scout unit, within certain parameters. Any responsible adult can be a Scouter. We will train you. The most important things about being a Scout Leader is, I think, first to be able to trust the boys, and second to be able to enjoy Scouting for what it is. The Scout Skills we encourage in the earning of the ranks ,I think, defines Scouting more than the religious component. It is not necessary to be of any one faith. Any faith can enjoy and benefit from Scouting.
          I still like William Penn's thought about our variety of faiths : " . The Humble, Meek, Merciful, Just, Pious and Devout Souls, are everywhere of one Religion; and when Death has taken off the Mask, they will know one another, tho' the divers Liveries they wear here make them Strangers."

          Comment


          • #6
            Nonsectarian means I have to do my own typing. :-)

            Seriously, it simply means that the BSA does not favor one particular sect over another - be it Shias or Sunnis, Catholics or Protestants, etc. It does not imply that the BSA is or is not a Christian organization (while it does not imply it is not, it isn't).

            Folks can easily confuse nonsectarian, non-denominational and secular - but they have different meanings. Our friend Merlin may be considered part of a sect - and have no religious nor denominational affiliation. Secular is simply non-religious - usually describing an institution (not a person). For example, the Detroit Lions are a secular organization, the BSA is not. A Christian church may be non-denominational - such as the Church of Christ.

            Comment


            • Merlyn_LeRoy
              Merlyn_LeRoy commented
              Editing a comment
              For example, the Detroit Lions are a secular organization

              I wouldn't call them secular; they have an official Christian chaplain.

          • #7
            In the U.S. military, you also keep your headgear on indoors any time when you are bearing arms, SSScout.

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            • #8
              I think BSA does not know what they mean by non-sectarian. Technically, a sect is a religious branch of which isn't large enough to qualify as a denomination. Example: Methodists and Baptists are denominations. The unaffiliated "Church of God" in your neighborhood is a sect since it isn't very big and has it's own set of beliefs separate from others.

              Non-sectarian would technically mean "unconcerned with differences within a single religion." BSA uses the word incorrectly, imo.

              I'm also convinced that BSA doesn't care that they use it incorrectly, and that they are only tolerant of non-Christian religions and do not embrace them. BSA is filled with strictly Christians-only practices such as praying before meals in a Christian style, holding Sunday morning services at camps, removing hats and bowing heads to pray, and saying "Amen" at the end of any prayer. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Zoroastrians, and Shintoists do none of these things. This is all Christian behavior.

              BSA makes token efforts to be welcoming of all religions, but BSA's membership is completely untrained in religious studies and has no idea what the differences in religions are, and therefore they are completely unequipped to be truly respectful of other religions.

              BSA's fear of atheism and agnosticism is also part of this Christians-only thinking. Only the Abrahamic religions believe in a jealous God that is personable and reacts negatively to lack of belief. Buddhists don't even necessarily believe in any spiritual anything at all nor do Confucians or Daoists.

              BSA is a Euro-American Christians club which says they want to welcome all faiths, but is stupid in execution and fails.

              BSA can't even read their own oath where it says "do my best" before "duty to God," and adopt a militant stance as if being atheist means we want to watch the world burn rather than simply abstain from teaching our children the stories of religions as if they are true. Which they are not.

              I do not understand the Scout Law's insistence that we respect the beliefs of others. I think disagreeing with someone's beliefs is to not respect them by default. If you think someone believes nonsense, you cannot respect their beliefs. You can, however, be respectful of those people and their customs and not criticize them or insult them.

              And doing that sometimes means not praying or holding Sunday services.

              Comment


              • #9
                Welllll, another atheist that knows everything and nothing about religion and respect. Deriding the ignorance of BSA while your own myopia is on full display. Sectarianism does not and has never referred to differences solely "within a single religion" and in fact its usage is almost completely in regards to inter-religious strife. You are confusing "sect" with "sectarian," two words separated by 300 years. Sectarian in this context is an adjective, it describes a kind of strife between adherents of any two faith systems without regard to their relationship (same religion or inter-religious). "Non"-sectarian means just what it sounds like: That it makes no distinction between adherents of any faith system.

                Beyond that, your acerbic opinions seem to boil down to your disrespect of anyone of any faith as a ridiculous person. I hope your kid is 16 rather than 6, otherwise you've got a long, long road ahead of you being mad about purposefully joining an organization which chafes a cornerstone of your identity.

                Comment


                • #10
                  No, a sect is not " religious branch of which isn't large enough to qualify as a denomination." It is a schism from a larger branch, but in common parlance (and most dictionaries, including theological ones) it means the same as a denomination; thus, "non-sectarian" means the same as "non-denominational."

                  You claim that "BSA is filled with strictly Christians-only practices such as praying before meals in a Christian style, holding Sunday morning services at camps, removing hats and bowing heads to pray, and saying "Amen" at the end of any prayer. Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, Zoroastrians, and Shintoists do none of these things. This is all Christian behavior."

                  No. Almost all religions, Abrahamic or not, pray before meals, and most include the same elements are found as in "Christian-style" prayers: saying thanks to God for the meal, for the company around the table, and the other blessings He provides. Buddhists, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Jews, Muslims, B'ahai, Shintoists, and Hindus pray before meals.

                  Most BSA summer camps I have attended provide religious services for adherents of non-Christian faiths IF there are enough members at the camp, and IF the appropriate cleric is available to conduct the ceremony (if a cleric is required). As most camps are in rural areas, this is not always possible for all denominations or sects. If the individuals wished to conduct the appropriate observances on their own times, and on their own sabbath day or day of worship, accommodations would certainly be made. Faiths that do not remove their hats for prayer, if they are members of a troop, will usually advise the troops of the difference in modes of worship through the troop's chaplain.

                  In and of itself, "Amen" does not have any religious significance. It is simply a word of Affirmation in the Hebrew language that means, "So be it," or "truly," or "verily," or "it is so." Most religions, including non-Abrahamic ones, include such statements of affirmation, so it is not an alien concept to people of faith. It is used by Jews (in fact, it is commanded to be used at the end of any blessing, even a Christian one, outside of liturgical settings, such as a non-sectarian prayer). It is used by Muslims ( آمين‎, ʾāmīn).

                  BSA volunteers rarely have degrees in Comparative Religious Studies, but they do the best they can to treat people of other faiths with the respect and courtesy they deserve. If they give offense, people of good will understand that there was no intent to insult, and will forgive them.

                  You also claim that "Only the Abrahamic religions believe in a jealous God that is personable and reacts negatively to lack of belief. Buddhists don't even necessarily believe in any spiritual anything at all nor do Confucians or Daoists."

                  If by "personable" you mean a God that is a person, not a God that is pleasant at parties, many religions who believe in a God or gods react negatively to lack of belief on behalf of their god. Buddhists by definition do believe in something spiritual, in that they deny a strictly materialist conception of reality. Karma, accepted by most Buddhists as well as Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs is not a materialist concept and is spiritual in nature, as well as Buddhist conceptions of the existence and continuances of the Buddha on other planes of existence.

                  "I do not understand the Scout Law's insistence that we respect the beliefs of others. I think disagreeing with someone's beliefs is to not respect them by default. If you think someone believes nonsense, you cannot respect their beliefs. You can, however, be respectful of those people and their customs and not criticize them or insult them. And doing that sometimes means not praying or holding Sunday services...BSA is a Euro-American Christians club which says they want to welcome all faiths, but is stupid in execution and fails."

                  And curiously, an insistence on "respect" for all religions leads to a recommendation that favors atheists only. I refer you to Forrest Gump's philosophy on stupidity in this regard.

                  Comment


                  • ThomasJefferson
                    ThomasJefferson commented
                    Editing a comment
                    AZMike: Well I am certainly won over by your friendly statements that religion has played a vital role in make you a very nice person. LOL Religion at work here.

                • #11
                  Moose Tracker, as he often does, nailed this one. The point is to not turn anyone away, exclude them, based on faith, or belief system. This is one of the wisest policy choices BSA has ever made, here we can set the example, show our young adults not only how people of varied beliefs can coexist, but benefit from their varied strengths and diversity. It is no accident that diversity is a required Wood Badge ticket. Here our children learn how to form a strong team, despite our differences, and perform at the highest levels not in spite of our diverse nature, but because of it. If only the whole world would take this page from the scout play book.

                  Yes, we do have those who want to see scouting as a christian organization, but it isn't, and never has been. Believing a cloud is a dragon does not make it so.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    O/T, Old_OX_Eagle83, Moosetracker isn't a "he".

                    Comment


                    • #13
                      Thanks for pointing that out AZMike, sorry Moose

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                      • #14
                        When I explain "duty to God" to new Cub Scouts, and their parents, I say it includes two things--

                        1) That children respect the religious traditions of their families

                        2) That Scouts respect the religious traditions of other families.


                        I hardly find it surprising that in relatively homogeneous communities Scouts reflect the patterns of prayers and such that they find and experience in their community.

                        But I personally would encourage a family with religious traditions outside that norm to provide their own example of how they pray and lead a prayer for the Scout unit.from time to time.

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          << It means not making rules that favor one religions beliefs over that of another religion.. It means not forcing one religion to follow the belief system of another religion.. It means hands off in the any differing viewpoints of what is moral and what is not, as well as if Jesus is or is not the son of God, or if there are many Gods, or if your higher power isn't even considered a god.. IT MEANS HANDS OFF.. >>



                          Oh, balogney, Moosetracker.

                          You recite the preferred position of atheists and the Supreme Court, which is to restrict or eliminate all religious expression in the public square. The only religious discussion to be accepted is that of atheists, on the theory that THEIR religious beliefs don't constitute a religion, and should therefore have a monopoly of expression in the public square.

                          Of course, that's unreasonable and absurd.

                          What REAL diversity involves is that everyone is entitled to and encouraged to express their religious and moral beliefs, and to struggle to have them accepted by the community at large.

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