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  • Duty to God

    My troop is chartered by the "Parents Troop XX," and we do not have a Chaplain. In addition we have a number of the troop who are not churched, including the scoutmaster, who is born and raised in China, not churched. The SPL is his son. We are in the Northeast as well, a large mission field.

    At the most recent program launch, it was discussed that the Duty to God will be part of Scout Spirit, which in our troop at least is decided by the scoutmaster. How is this going to be evaluated?

    For our eagles who do not attend a church (and I used this generically all through to mean religious organisation) we have required a letter from his parents in place of the religious leader.

    My question, aside from the Scout Spirit thing is, how do we, or can we at all encourage the religious emblem for our scouts that do not belong to any traditonal faith group? How will these scouts satisfy the Duty to God? (None of these scouts is an avowed atheist btw)


  • #2
    What does the PLC think should be done? No one can add to, or subtract from, the requirements in Scouting. All Scouts pledge to do their Duty to God. How does the Scout leadership believe this should be handled?


    • #3
      Well, the PLC hasn't discussed it. I don't even think they think it is an issue on the table for them. As far as the adult leadership, I am one of them. Most of the committee and scoutmasters are observant, with the exception of the Scoutmaster. I am asking about how to handle it. I think with the program change it is going to become more of an issue.


      • #4
        It has never been clear what "Duty to God" or "Reverent" mean. Boards of Review are specifically instructed not to ask if a candidate believes in "God." There are B.S.A. "religious" awards for Scouts who do not believe in a god. A spokesman for the corporation mentioned trees in one statement. We do the best we can even as others do less.


        • #5
          Good post, although I fear it will be used by some as a soap box from which to promote personal beliefs.

          First let me say the SM does not decide what Scout Spirit is; he decides if the scout is showing Scout Spirit. The definition of Scout Spirit is: A scout doing his or her best live to the codes of scouting, namely (for Boy Scouts): Scout Oath, Scout Law, Motto, Slogan, Outdoor Code, and Obligation(s) of OA (if an Arrowman).

          Another very important point: A Scout Leader does not promote is own religious beliefs or faith to a scout, this is a violation of the parent’s trust. A scout leader encourages a scout to be true to his faith, follow the path set by his parents, respect and obey the clergy and tenements of his faith, while showing respect for all other faiths, and the followers of all other faiths.

          The answer to your questions are above. Religious Emblems are administered, taught, and awarded by the faith in question, not BSA. Your role is to encourage all scouts to work on any appropriate emblems, and point the scouts, and families, to related resources.

          Neither you, nor anyone in BSA, decides if a scout has done his duty to God, that’s for the leaders of the scout’s faith, or his parents. It is precisely for the above reasons that an Eagle Scout’s religious reference is from his religious leader or parent.

          Your intentions are good, but you’re standing at the edge of a slippery slope, and there's great potential for harm if you tread that path.


          • #6
            This is part of the culture of your troop. Every troop has on and every troop is different. One may suppose a troop chartered on a military base may have a heightened sense of Duty to Country. A troop with a fire department or rescue squad may be quite gung-ho about first aid.

            My religious beliefs are private. I rarely share them and certainly don't impose them on others, particularly the Scouts I serve. But we do encourage Duty to God in the troop, sticking to BSA's Declaration of Religious Principals. We offer thanks before each meal. We encourage Scouts to participate in the religious emblem program for their faith and encourage our CO and other churches to conduct them. During SM conferences I ask boys how they do their duty to God. I'll ask if they are a member of a church and if so what that church asks of them. (Weekly services, Bible reading, tithing, etc.) If they are not a member of a church I'll ask how their family demonstrates reverence. For the older Scouts I may ask how the reconcile the requirement to be respectful of other religions when they don't believe in those faiths.

            No right or wrong answers (and sometimes not much answer at all), but only trying to get the boys to think about what Duty to God means.


            • #7
              “”Reverence to God and reverence for one's neighbour and reverence for oneself as a servant of God, is the basis of every form of religion. The method of expression of reverence to God varies with every sect and denomination. What sect or denomination a boy belongs to depends, as a rule, on his parents' wishes. It is they who decide. It is our business to respect their wishes and to second their efforts to inculcate reverence, whatever form of religion the boy professes.””
              Robert Baden-Powell, “Aids to Scoutmastership”

              I concur with what has been said before. The SM needs only to remind and query the Scouts about their DtG. Unless he/she has a religious affiliation with the Scout , he/she has no reason to attempt the religious "education" of the Scout.

              One might point out that there is no requirement that a Scout earn only "his" faith's award. I was at the U of Scouting one year, and met a Scout (not an adult leader) who was wearing four medals: I recognized the Eagle, the God and Country (the old Protestant/Methodist award), the Ner Tamid, and the Ad Altare Dei. I introduced myself and said I had to ask, how had he come to wear all three of these religious awards? He said his Troop was sponsored by a Methodist church, his father was of Catholic heritage, and his mother was Jewish. He said it seemed natural to earn each of them. No one questioned his pursuit of any of these? Nope.
              I did not pursue his family dynamics further.


              • #8
                Here is what the BSA's Guide to Advancement has to say:

                The Boy Scouts of America does not define what constitutes belief in God or practice of religion. Neither does the BSA require membership in a religious organization or association for membership in the movement. If a Scout does not belong to a religious organization or association, then his parent(s) or guardian(s) will be considered responsible for his religious training.
                So basically the BSA requires a "belief in God", but leaves what that is up to the scout, his family and his religious leaders (if any).


                • #9
                  We had two Jains attend our just-completed NYLT course, Then there are the Buddhists. Both religions have BSA-recognized religious awards. Neither religion believes in a god. Wikkans, on the other hand, do believe in gods, but they are not allowed to form troops. Really clear - not. So basically, BSA requires a "belief in God" but allows a definition of "God" that excludes a deity.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by TAHAWK View Post
                    We had two Jains attend our just-completed NYLT course, Then there are the Buddhists. Both religions have BSA-recognized religious awards. Neither religion believes in a god. Wikkans, on the other hand, do believe in gods, but they are not allowed to form troops. Really clear - not. So basically, BSA requires a "belief in God" but allows a definition of "God" that excludes a deity.

                    And if that makes sense to someone, please explain it clearly to me.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by packsaddle View Post

                      And if that makes sense to someone, please explain it clearly to me.
                      People think they have a clear understanding of an issue when basically they are clueless. It happens all the time and BSA is not exempt from such foolishness.

                      Duty to God???? Okay, it's spelled out specifically to most people, but there are probably as many different definitions as there are people.

                      Duty to Country? Okay, that's easy, military veterans. Well I was 4-F, so how do I fulfill my duty to my country? I work with kids, I was a volunteer EMT in a small community with medical services, I worked food pantries, and served up food at homeless shelter. But of course not being a veteran, I haven't REALLY done my duty to my country.

                      Yo, People! The world consist of more than your personal line-of-sight!



                      • #12
                        The concept of the divine is not a simple thing for everyone. Perhaps the high and low knowledge of the Hindu best explains it. The Hindu worship many deities, but the Priest Cast know there is only one God, but each person perceives the divine in their own way. You mentioned Buddhists not believing in God, which is not exactly accurate (that would be a long discussion). Jains believe the divine manifests as life, and all life is divine (Sorta: Life = God). Another correction: Wiccan’s can form BSA units, but the Crescent and Hart Religious Emblem, offered by that faith, isn’t currently recognized by BSA.

                        Understand that the concept of God as a venerable bearded man in robes, is a simplistic, but easy to relate to; a mechanism that is uniquely western. Typically only the Jewish faith, and its spin offs, Islam and Christianity (in all their variations), embrace this simplistic view of the divine (God).

                        From my point of view BSA is very wise to not delve very deeply into the details of what “Duty to God” is. Only the individual in question, his or her religious leader(s), and parents, are qualified to define and discuss “Duty to God”. The bottom line is only the divine “God”, is qualified to judge who has done their duty.


                        • #13
                          Interesting how "what God is" is left up to the scout, but not "what a political event is." I would think the former would be far more important than the latter.


                          • #14
                            Jblake and Old_Ox speak my mind.
                            When the Puritans moved to New England, they did so to escape religious persecution. When Will Penn led Quakers to Penn's Woods, it was for the same reason. Ditto the Catholics in Maryland. And Rhode Island Plantations.
                            And so the Boston Puritans hung Mary Dyer for professing Quakerism, the Catholics and Protestants fought over religious hegemony in Maryland, and that left the Pennsylvanians to demonstrate tolerance and respect for their co-religionists. Other states founded on religious freedom (ours, not theirs) soon came to realize that success in life meant acceptance that my faith may not be your faith, and that's alright. Many of the various colonies each found the means and inspiration to enact "toleration" acts to protect the right to worship in the way one sees the light to.
                            It is, as Old_Ox reminds us: "" only the divine “God”, is qualified to judge who has done their duty"".


                            • #15
                              First a question - whose program launch - is it a launch within just your Troop and the committee made the decision that Duty to God will be part of Scout Spirit or is it from a district/council program launch? If the Troop committee made that decision, then the Troop committee owes it to the Scoutmaster and the lads to define exactly what that means (though I'd wonder why a non-denomination Troop knowing there is a large number of "unchurched" members, including the Scoutmaster and the SPL, would make that decision).

                              If it's the District - then ask the District to define it exactly or do what should be done when someone from District makes this kind of statement - ignore it and run your program the way you see fit. It occurs to me that it might be someone trying to promote the "Duty to God" program put on by PRAY (which manages the religious award's program for the Boy Scouts). If that's the case, then know that both that program (meant to promote religious awards) and religious awards themselves are optional parts of the program, are not awards given by the Boy Scouts of America (they are awarded by PRAY for the Duty to God patches and one's church for the religious emblems) but are outside awards that the BSA allows Scouts and Scouters to wear on their uniforms - no one in District/Council can require these as part of Scout Spirit for rank advancement - if you have a Scout close to Eagle and are worried that someone will try to deny Eagle rank to the scout because they have neither a religious award or a Duty to God patch, then I would howl my way up the food chain, all the way to National if needed, to keep something like from interfering with the real advancment program.

                              That being said, if you truly want a Duty to God component to Scout Spirit, here is a definition of Duty to God I found that would work with both the "Churched" and the "Unchurched": "Duty to God is an ongoing learning and incorporating of (similar) moral values that ensure that I will be a compassionate and productive citizen" (This was part of a Scoutmaster's Minute I found about Eagle Scouts so the "similar" language ties in to earlier language about patriotism, etc).

                              Now to the most important part - Duty to God comes from the Scout Oath. Let's review that for a second with some emphasis added: "On MY honor, I will do MY best, to do MY duty to God and my Country". Notice the emphasis - the Scout (and Scouter) is saying they will do THEIR best to do THEIR Duty to God - in other words - their Duty to God may not neccessarily agree with anyone else's Duty to God - and their best may not be the same as someone else's best - it's left to the individual Scout to decide what their Duty to God is, and whether they're doing their best to fulfill it. It's not a one size fits all proposition. For some Scouts, a Duty to God may mean serving as an Altar Boy - for some Scouts, a Duty to God may mean attending church every week, for some Scouts, Duty to God may mean picking up litter in the local park a couple of times a month. It's really not up to anyone but the Scout (and his Parents) to determine for that Scout what his Duty to God is.