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  • How many religious discussions actually happen?

    I have been reading the posts about people getting kicked out for religious reasons and was wondering how often religion actually comes up in a scouting context.

    In my own unit the only time the topic ever comes up is when one of my scouts has to miss a meeting or a weekend event due to a church thing. Occasionally scouts talk to each other about what they believe and all that, but it is really just a certain pair that have quite different beliefs and they are both trying to understand the other's, plus the usual friendly joking (half my crew acts like they are siblings).

    Outside of my unit the first time I ever had cause to talk to someone about religion was at an event at the end of May. That was just a lighthearted couple of comments about how every nondenominational service we have been to was decidedly christian. Then a few of us went and got coffee during the services that sunday morning because we didn't really feel right attending a christian service. The rules of the event say everyone has to either attend the services provided, or make their own arrangements and return in time for competition to start.

    So yeah, my original question, how often does this actually come up.

  • #2
    My units, hardly ever. I have always been part of units that are not of one denomination.. So maybe to let scouts know of a nondenominational service that they are invited to but not required to attend.. When someone needs to do a prayer before a meal for sign-off (if no sign-offs needed prayers are not done).. None of that is long religious discussions of course. I am sure there have been the conversations among youth if the conversation for some reason leads there.. Mainly though it is seen as the parents job to do that part..


    • #3
      Formal ... never ... except as prayer before and Sunday church service. But ...

      Scouts talk to each other all the time. And many many many parents that choose scouting choose it because it does have a faith component, even if it is not strongly pushed. In fact, that is an attractive thing as they can do the outdoors, character building, leadership, share faith without a strict tie to a church. But still with a faith component.

      Many kids experiment with atheism. I think the fear is having other families that strongly represent support atheism and the affect that has on their own kids.

      That's the trouble with scouts these days. Is it a church program? Is it a community program? Is it a school program? Is it an outdoor program? 40 years ago, you could do all those.

      Today, you need to choose your niche because if you try to be everything to everyone someone will pick a fight with you.

      That's why BSA needs to be about the program and let charter orgs choose the niche (faith, community, school, etc.).


      • #4
        When a certain individual in my unit end up on a BOR and decide it is their chance to interrogate a Scout about how they follow the Law of Reverance.

        Other than that, a little at Scout's Own and some interesting ones on the trail, especially from the older Scouts who are moving from Sunday School memorization to young adulthood questioning.


        • #5
          Only time I discuss it is when Scouts don't understand why I go to the Catholic service instead of the Non denominational service. Or why I after grace at meal times I do the quirky Catholic things like making the sign of the cross. I despise the Non-denominational services in our council, which always end up being some sort of fuzzy Christian service. I feel bad for religious minorities (non protestants) who attend non-denominational services.

          At least in our unit, Duty to God isn't really pushed. It's supported by a few of our leaders being religious emblem advisors if enough of the Scouts wish to partake in that, but we don't really push it as Adult leaders in our unit.

          I think discussion of religion should not be a taboo thing. So much of the issues between religious groups (especially with teenagers) is they simply don't know what a Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Pagan, Buddhist, Hindu believes, and they certainly don't know what agnosticism is. These groups are complex and have many similiarities and differences.

          Especially in the teenage years where youth are still trying to figure out what they believe and who they are, Scouting can certainly help them discover that. However, Adult leaders who discuss with religion (Or he lack of religion they might have) need to avoid proselytizing or being condescending. Some of the best discussions I had as a youth was with other Scouts about their beliefs, and what they believed and why. I remember in my patrol having a Methodist, a Seventh Day Adventist, A Baptist, several non practicing Christians, a closet Atheist (He earned his Eagle Scout) and myself the Catholic. It was a wonderful dialogue, especially when my Atheist Friend learned that Catholics believe in evolution. =P

          Sailing PJ, I don't know what beliefs you hold, but if you are uncomfortable with the services, then you should talk to somebody within the council. Or do what you did and don't go. Maybe run a troop non-denominational service instead of the camp one? If you are uncomfortable and left out, then I'm sure many of your Scouts are too. I wish you the best of luck in whatever direction you go in.

          Yours in Scouting,



          • sailingpj
            sailingpj commented
            Editing a comment
            Yeah, this is the only Sea Scout event in our area that ever even gives time for religious services. Everywhere else just at the most starts events an hour later on sundays. It is not at all part of our program. In fact it is so not part of our program that it wasn't until I found this forum a year and a half into my scouting career that I was even aware that the BSA had a religious component (no I did not read the application, I just thought of it as the TOS).

            For this specific event in question, myself and the other people who went for coffee really just did not want to be preached with watered down christian values and scriptures for an hour. It was not a big problem. All my scouts know that if they wish to do their own religious services during that time they just need to let Skip know and make arrangements to be back in time for competition. Nobody has taken us up on that yet.

        • #6
          A few times. A new SM wanted the entire troop to pursue the religious award through the CO as a troop activity. I had to explain that since there were at least 6 different religions represented in the unit, he might want to rethink his idea. He figured it out. The topic has come up several times at EBORs. One boy (a Unitarian Universalist) was grilled by the district guy who wanted to disqualify the boy. It has come up at roundtable, mostly as a gripe session about non-Christians trying to take over the country or some such....


          • #7
            Almost never. When I read some of these threads I consider three possibilities: that my troop exists in a Leave-it-to-Beaver parallel plane, that your troops exist in a Twilight Zone, or that there are a lot of exaggerations or lies going around here. Maybe we just have a very mature troop in terms of live-and-let-live.
            The troop used to award 5 or 6 God & Country awards every year through the mid-90s, but we've had several kids who don't hide their atheism, too.
            Our youth Chaplain's Aide prays at the end of every meeting without mentioning Jesus, but we have no adult Chaplain. The last Chaplain that we had was a Buddhist.
            We rarely do a service on weekend trips, but when we do we use that "Scout's Own" thing, which I find muddled and humorous.
            There are a couple Jewish families, and one is a mixed household with a Catholic parent and two sons; one son brings up Judaism almost every time I've ever had him in my car on the way to or from a trip always in a cynical tone about Christians (he's the exception to "almost never"), but the other son knows the Lord's Prayer better than any of the other kids.

            So, we have a religious element to our program, but it's not a topic of official conversation, and we don't bring it into Boards of Review.
            Last edited by Scouter99; 06-18-2013, 08:31 PM.


            • #8
              Originally posted by Scouter99 View Post
              Almost never. When I read most of these threads I consider three possibilities: that my troop exists in a Leave-it-to-Beaver parallel plane, that your troops exist in a Twilight Zone, or that there are a lot of lies or exaggerations going around here.
              Really? Since you haven't experienced anything like this, everyone that is reporting that they have must be lying? Is that what you intended to say? Way to show respect for your fellow scouters.


              • Rick_in_CA
                Rick_in_CA commented
                Editing a comment
                Then I apologize (I'm breathing, I'm breathing...). Sometimes irony doesn't translate well on the internet (as I myself have discovered).

              • Scouter99
                Scouter99 commented
                Editing a comment
                Yeah, we're victims of our panache

              • packsaddle
                packsaddle commented
                Editing a comment
                Oh Morticia, you spoke French!

            • #9
              In our unit the only conversations I have are during SM conferences when we discuss "reverent" and "duty to God." Those discussions are based on following the guidelines of YOUR faith as taught by your family. Of course what goes on among the boys around their campfire is another story.

              We usually have a Scouts' Own service Sunday mornings on campouts. We often conclude with a reminder that a Scouts' Own service is really just a time of reflection and reminding ourselves of our common promise to do our Duty to God. We also note that a Scouts' Own doesn't replace attendance at a real worship service and Scouts should do their best to attend to the obligations of their faith.

              Never been a problem in the troop, but a few years ago a very Evangelical unit volunteered to run the Scouts' Own at a district camporee. I wasn't there but I understand it was a real Hellfire and Brimstone service. Whether or not the snakes were native or part of the service is a bit unclear . A number of folks left the service. The next Roundtable included instruction on the purpose of a Scouts' Own which only seemed to add fuel to the fire. Thereafter the Evangelicals hold their own service, some troops hold their own in their campsite, others continue with the generic Scouts' Own and some troops break camp and go home. It's a shame folks can't sit together for 15 minutes, have a silent prayer, sing God Bless America without either forcing themselves on others or getting their shorts in a wad.


              • #10
                Leaving aside prayers that may occur at ECOH's (ranging from the very generic to the very specific depending on what clergyperson, if any, the Eagle-candidate has invited to participate), and the "prayer" we have at the end of each meeting (Great Master of all true Scouts...), and generic grace before meals at summer camp... if you are asking about actual "discussions", I would say virtually never. I have never heard it discussed at a Board of Review for any rank nor at any meeting. There is no emphasis on the religious awards program - some of the Scouts have the knot from Cub Scouts, and I believe most of those were in a pack chartered to a Catholic school where it was emphasized. Occasionally a Scout will go for a religious award on his own initiative.

                Just to add after reading TwoCubDad's post: I do not recall any sort of religious service ever being held at any district or council weekend overnight event - that goes for both my time as a Scout (60's/70's) and as a Scouter.
                Last edited by NJCubScouter; 06-17-2013, 02:58 PM.


                • #11
                  About as often as discussions of sexuality come to never.


                  • #12
                    I think it depends on the Unit.

                    Discussions in the unit: Occasionally. We had one Unitarian lad who was questioning his faith and made plans with some of the other boys to attend Catholic and Methodist services. Occasionally one of the Christian boys will ask what someone is doing when they have gone off to smudge or something similar.

                    When camping on Sundays rather than a "Scouts Own Service" we have all the boys go do a good turn and report back. At Court of Honors or SM Minutes it is understood that whoever is leading the prayer/benediction gets to choose what is said, so sometimes you get a Catholic Prayer, sometimes you get a Native America one, sometimes you get a Unitarian one. The boys seem to be pretty accepting of everyone else and their Faith. The only times we run into problems is at District or Council Events and then it's because of the Adults involved not the boys.

                    When we were part of the Catholic Unit all the boys were required to earn their Religious Emblems and those were worked on during troop time. Everyone was required to participate in Scout Sunday, etc. But the unit was Chartered by the Knights of Columbus and the only recruited through the Catholic School, so they assumed everyone was Catholic. All the kids were required to take the religion class and attend weekly Mass, so requiring Religious Emblems as part of the units activities was not a far stretch.
                    Last edited by Khaliela; 06-17-2013, 04:22 PM.


                    • #13
                      Originally posted by Khaliela View Post
                      But the unit was Chartered by the Knights of Columbus and the only recruited through the Catholic School, so they assumed everyone was Catholic. All the kids were required to take the religion class and attend weekly Mass, so requiring Religious Emblems as part of the units activities was not a far stretch.

                      When I hear about units like this, my only hope is that there is another troop in the same town (or other such area) that has a "come one come all" attitude. While it is true that there are parents who will drive for miles at a time to take their sons to an out-of-the-way troop that fits their units, there are others who won't. I'd hate to see the Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or Wiccan or whatever kids miss out because the only "convenient" troop is closely tied into a religious institution of which they are not a member. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with a "Catholic troop" or a "Jewish troop" (they do exist in this part of the country) or an "LDS troop" (they also exist in this part of the country, there are 2 I know of in New Jersey), but I'd like to see an Everybody-Else Troop next door as well.


                      • Khaliela
                        Khaliela commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Around here we have troops coming out our ears. Our district has a population of about 97,000 people spread over two counties. The town I live in has a population of 791 people and still manages to support 3 troops. The LDS are pretty much "LDS only," just like the Catholic one is "Catholic only," the third is a "generic protestant,". The Protestant boys meet 1/2 the year at the Lutheran Church and 1/2 the year at the Presbyterian Church. I drive my son to another town for scouts and have joined a Methodist Troop, which insidently is the catch all troop because there are only 2 Methodist boys in the troop.

                    • #14
                      Seeing as how I am from AZ, and right in the middle of the Mormon Corridor, you'd think that religion would come up a lot. But really, it doesn't. Our Pack and Troop is wildly diverse, from very conservative Christians, to a Jewish family, to bordering on pagan or shamanic traditions...And we embrace that diversity.

                      When I went to Woodbadge, they pounded diversity into us (and this was a 95% LDS staff)...And when I was on staff, with a different 95% mostly LDS staff, I never 'prayed' so much in my life. But that was ok, because it made me expand my own thoughts on religion.

                      In practical terms, as far as rank advancement and the religious requirements, we intentionally leave it to the parents to complete with their children, and just ask them to report back when they have completed that requirement. We might open with a nice generic prayer, but we intentionally keep it generic.

                      For boards of review, we might talk about reverence and duty to God, but its always in the context of the boy's own beliefs, and how reverence pertains not only to their own faith, but to the faiths of others as well.

                      Do the boys talk about their religious beliefs? I don't think I've ever overheard a conversation like that. Doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, but I've just never heard one that goes for more than a couple of minutes.


                      • Khaliela
                        Khaliela commented
                        Editing a comment
                        When I went to Wood Badge they pushed diversity too, but what they called diversity had nothing to do with different religions (or different cultures, or even different colors). They spent two days talking about generations in scouting. When my son and I go fishing that's not diversity even though each of us represent a different generation.