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Atheist in the Pack

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Dan, as a Wolf Den Leader the problem in the Webelos den is not yours to solve, and the actions of the Webelos Scout are not yours to question.


Even if he has asked you for help, the Webelos Den Leader should be, QUIETLY, working this out with the Webelos and his family, and the CM. Possibly the CC and COR if they decide to take this further (hopefully that will not be the case).


Opening a 10 year old child up to gossip and censure is just wrong.


The bottom line is that in Cub Scouts, even for a Webelos, the religious requirements are the sole responsibility of the parents. For a family that has no "official" religious affiliation, the parent is considered the boys "religious leader". If the parents state that their Webelos has "done his best", and requirement #8E has been completed, than that, as the saying goes, is that.


It is wrong to second guess it, and wrong to question, at this point, what the boy has meant for the last 4.5 years when saying the Promise.




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Of course you should kick him out immediately, just as you should kick out an 11-year-old Jew if you belonged to a no-Jews club. In fact, not kicking out the kid as soon as possible might give him th

Atheism is actually the absence of belief in a higher being.

There is a difference, although in this context it probably doesn't make much difference.

I love the example put forward by famed atheist Richard Dawkins: Religion is to an atheist as stamp collecting is to NOT stamp collecting.

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"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: One nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."


As American Citizens, we are all required to publicly declare that there is a God from early on in our education. (NOTE: The "under God" part was added to the pledge in 1954 by President Eisenhower.) This is apparently a non-denominational God in order to accommodate the millions of Americans who are not Christians, but does not account for atheists and agnostics. It also states "Justice for all"... I would imagine that includes those who do not believe in a God.


I was raised a Christian, my wife was raised a Christian, and our children have gone to a Christian elementary school. For the past 10 yrs, I have considered myself an atheist. I have far too often witnessed more hate, bigotry, and hypocrisy than love come from the church. I have made this decision for myself but do not impose it upon my wife or children. They are aware of my atheism.


I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout all through my childhood and feel the experience was, overall, a very good one. At the time, I was pretty religious, and so were my grandparents who raised me, so maybe didn't notice it, but I don't remember the religious parts being emphasized in scouts. They were definitely there and the troop did meet at the church as it was sponsored by it, but I don't remember ever being told that I had to believe to be in scouts. I still consider myself a person of good character.


I feel strongly that my children would have a terrific experience in scouting. There are many wonderful things to learn and do. The interaction with other scouts, the environment, and community are all very admirable and desire-able. I also feel strongly that my lack of faith should not hinder my children from having that experience. Is there a comparable organization that is not grounded on faith in a higher power? What other choices are there?


I know my son believes in God and considers himself a Christian. That should be enough for him to be allowed to stay in Scouts. But what about children who have parents that impose their beliefs upon them? Should the child be denied the opportunity?


Why is it automatically assumed that if you don't believe in a God, you cannot have good character? Good character is not dependent upon faith in a God.


In the case of this young boy claiming to be an atheist going into Webelos, I'd be very surprised if he really was and not just repeating what his parents have told him. In any event, why should the scouts or the church have a problem with an atheist in their organization? Are they afraid their faith will be challenged? Isn't that what you want? This is an opportunity to share your faith, communicate with, and have a positive influence on a child's character. Maybe he's an atheist today, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was a Christian tomorrow, or a Buddhist, Wiccan, Muslim or Satanist.


What outcome/impact do you want to have?


That is the question you should be asking.

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Hello dvan, just thought I'd mention to you that the Supreme Court has ruled consistently for the last 50 years that children cannot be compelled to recite the pledge at school. Generally speaking though, I tend to agree with you that throwing out children from the program because they are atheists is short-sighted and probably counter-productive (but the BSA has the right to do it anyway).

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"Why is it automatically assumed that if you don't believe in a God, you cannot have good character? Good character is not dependent upon faith in a God."


The BSA does not say you need to believe in God to have good character. Only you need to believe in a higher power to be the best possible citizen.


"What outcome/impact do you want to have?"


To show that such beliefs are not acceptable religious beliefs so we can save his soul for the eternal life.

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Hi all,


I think the following items may help the discussion.


When I looked at the Wolf Requirements, here's what I found:


DUTY TO GOD (Page 94)

Complete the Character Connection for Faith

Know. What is "faith"? With your family, discuss some people who have shown their faith - who have shown an inner strength based on their trust in a higher power or cause. Discuss the good qualities of these people.

Commit. Discuss these questions with your family: What problems did these faithful people overcome to follow or practice their beliefs? What challenges might you face in doing your duty to God? Who can help you with these challenges?

Practice. Practice your faith while doing the requirements for "Duty to God."

Talk with your family about what they believe is their duty to God.

Give two ideas on how you can practice or demonstrate your religious beliefs. Choose one and do it.

Find out how you can help your church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or religious fellowship.


Second, here is the BSA's Declaration of Religious Principle:

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which a member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing to subscribe to this Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of membership. http://www.scouting.org/media/relationships/manualforchaplainsandaides.aspx



Finally, here is the link to the BSA legal page that talks about the requirement that you have to believe in God to be a member. http://www.bsalegal.org/faqs-195.asp

The FAQ part of the page says in its entirety:


Frequently Asked Questions

On this page we will answer the questions most frequently asked about Boy Scouts' legal issues, from its views and policies to individual cases. In the coming days we will add new sections dealing with current and past cases.


Q. Can an individual who states that he does not believe in God be a volunteer Scout leader or member?


A. No. The Scout Oath represents the basic values of Scouting, and it addresses the issue of duty to God before duty to country, others, and self.


Q. Why is duty to God important to Scouting?


A. Since its founding in the United States in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America has had an ongoing commitment to encouraging moral, ethical and spiritual growth. The Boy Scouts of America believes that the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to Boy Scouts goals.


Q. What harm would come of admitting young people who are unwilling to do their duty to God?


A. The Scout Oath and Law have served as the foundation of Scouting for 94 years. It would be a disservice to over five million youth and adult members of Scouting to allow members to pick and choose among the elements of the Oath or Law.


Q. How does the Boy Scouts of America define religion?


A. Boy Scouts of America is not a religion; it is a nonsectarian association of persons who believe in God. The Declaration of Religious Principle describes God in a broadly interfaith way as the ruling and leading power in the universe to whom we are grateful for favors and blessings.


Q. What religions are involved with Scouting?


A. Virtually every religion is represented in the Boy Scouts of America, from Catholics and Protestants, to the Armenian Church of America and Zoroastrians. The Religious Relationships Committee, which includes over 30 religious groups represented in Scouting, determines whether a religion is an appropriate partner for Scouting, and reviews any duty to God material which is to be used in Scouting for consistency with Boy Scout policies.


Q. What allows the Boy Scouts of America to exclude atheists and agnostics from membership?


A. The Boy Scouts of America is a private membership group. As with any private organization, Boy Scouts retains the constitutional right to establish and maintain standards for membership. Anyone who supports the values of Scouting and meets these standards is welcome to join the organization.


Q. Don't Boy Scouts discriminate against gays and atheists?


A. Boy Scouts of America is one of the most diverse youth groups in the country, serving boys of every ethnicity, religion, and economic circumstance and having programs for older teens of both sexes. That Boy Scouts also has traditional values, like requiring youth to do their "duty to God" and be "morally straight" is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be controversial. No court case has ever held that Boy Scouts discriminates unlawfully, and it is unfortunate here that anyone would characterized Boy Scouts' constitutionally protected right to hold traditional values as "discriminatory." That is just name-calling.


COMMENT: As a CM and SM (12 yrs) I never asked anyone what they believed. I assume that if a scout repeats the oath, then he believes something. In my view a cub scout probably does not have the mental maturity to decide that they are an aethist.


Practical problem: I would suggest that the CM sit down with the parents or guardians, without the scout, and discuss the BSA's policies. This might be a great time for the family to explore their beliefs and what they are teaching their child. I'd give the family a year to figure out what they believe well enough to articulate it.


If they refuse, or are mad, then they'll be leaving. BUT it is crucial that the unit NEVER be seen as kicking someone out over this issue. If you allow that, then you will likely schism the unit, have lots of good folks leave because they don't like discrimination, etc.


I'd involve my district commissioner in the situation asap and get some guidance. I know our council for instance has folks trained to assist in this situation.


Good Luck, jim

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Lisabob, I know they cannot be compelled to legally, but having the "under God" as part of the pledge provides for an inauthentic situation for our children. To pledge allegiance to our flag and be a good citizen does not necessarily require a belief in a higher power and, IMHO, shouldn't... but the topic here is regarding the BSA, which I understand is a private organization and they can discriminate as they please.


I understand the BSA is very large and needs to take it's stand somewhere, and in line with the beliefs of the organizations leadership. I think that in order for the children to have the best possible experience, the issue of what their faith is should be left up to the children and their parents.


Could the parents of this child declare that the scientific method was his religion to satisfy the requirements of the BSA? The "higher power" would therefore exist as all human knowledge.



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Faith is a family matter when you're very young, it becomes a personal matter as one ages and is able to accept responsibility for his actions.


In reading through this thread, I hope Alabama Dan reads closely what Lisa and Beavah have to say. They offer an approach which is in spirit with the Scout Oath and Law, but at the end of the day requires Mom and Dad to make some tough choices.


Those other folk? The one who say that anything form A to Zed is inside the lines? Pretty much so, and that's worth pointing out to parents.


Let us know how this turns out. As Lisa and Beavah both stated, I hope you are a unit leader such that asking these kinds of questions is in your lane.

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I agree that all things need be cleared up and that there should be a consensus of exactly what this boy and his family's beliefs are before continuing.


Assuming this boy is a true atheist:


Although you comments seem to be having the feelings of all parties involved and they appear to be in the spirit of scouting, the parents of this boy can not simply sign off of this.


First of all, this is Webelos, the Den Leader is supposed to be signing off, not mommy and daddy. How would this be getting him ready for Boy Scouts, saying hey if the requirements don't fit get mom and dad to sign off on what they think is fair.


Secondly, you can't alter a requirement. There is no way this boy can complete the religious requirements and cannot obtain rank.


Finally, BSA prohibits atheists from being members. Although some may not like this (I do however agree with it), a rule is a rule. It should be opps sorry you misunderstood but either believe in God or out you go.

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Assuming the boy is a true atheist?

Tough assumption. But OK.

What would be the benefit to everyone impacted by ejecting the youth from scouting?

To the boy, he loses access to a great program on personal development and probably a few of his friends. No benefit to the scout.

To the parents, they lose a program that can teach their son about life, religion, leadership, self reliance, friendship and fellowship. No benefit to the parents.

To the unit scouts, they lose a friend and colleague. No benefit to the scouts.

To the BSA, they lose another registrant in an already dwindling membership. No benefit to the BSA.


What is gained?

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