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BW, I tend to agree with your "plan of action" and I might add CO/COR to the list (representative at the unit or council level) especially if a religious organization is the CO. What I am saying is that we as Scouters in a particular unit (yes, that is somewhat of a generalization. I realize that not all posters on this forum are Scouters with our primary affiliation with a unit) should not unilaterally act to remove a youth member.


I also firmly believe that to ask young children to hold a belief and to hold them to it is not quite kosher. A six year old Tiger Cub can be taught the Cub Scout Promise but I'm sure if I ask Tiger Cubs at random what their duty to God entails I'll get a bunch of blank stares at best. Rather than performing witch hunts, I believe we should try to teach these children, via our actions as role models, and by encouraging their parents and extended family, to live by the ideals of Scouting. The line does blur when you start dealing with the older Scouts. I would just err more on the side of allowing a young boy to continue in Scouting before I start trying to find ways to remove him. Heck, I know of adults who firmly DO NOT believe in the tenents of Leave No Trace and I don't try and through them out! (Yes, that was typed in jest.)

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You're fufilling your destiny @InquisitiveScouter! Become my apprentice, and learn to use the dark side of the force! 

we could build a bridge out of it.

About as much as an unladen swallow?

I actually think that Bob and Acco are very near agreement on the issue. From what I've read, it seems that Acco is more optimistic about what the boy's response could mean while Bob is more pessimistic.


The way I see it, there are only a few options for why a boy would declare himself an atheist.


1. He is an atheist. In which case he cannot be a member of BSA.


2. He lied about being an atheist. This could have been done for a number of reasons. Perhaps he really didn't want to earn the religious award and thought he found a loophole, but didn't understand the BSA's policy. Such a lie does open up new issues, but if the lie comes out into the open, then I don't think it should necessarily stand as grounds for removal.


3. He is unclear on what it means to be an atheist.


And there's only one way to determine which category this boy falls into: Talk to him. A gentle conversation with the boy is the only way to determine a future course of action. I believe this is what both Bob and Acco have recommended.

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To carefully consider a youth's statement, to counsel with the youth and his parents about what appears to be an open contradiction, is to stay within every tenet that I know about Scouting and about rational behavior.


If Scouting was meant for only youth that lived up to or believed in every ideal that Scouting presents, that is when caring adults will no longer be needed and it will be when Scout Executives will find a sharp decline in the numbers of Scouts.


Most Scouts that I have dealt with in the past have broken every part of the Law and Oath. I perceived each incident as an opportunity to do my job as a trained leader and responsible citizen.


There are actions that I personally deplore from some of the Scouts that I have worked with in the past. I can honestly say that I did not enjoy sitting down with some of the offending parties and with some of parents that defended those actions. But, that is what I perceived as my duty to God and to my Country and to do otherwise would be to act irresponsibly and without courage of conviction.


Now, after I have reviewed and understood the personal battle or statement made in front of everybody or the personal belief of no God from that Scout, then it would be my challenge to the young man to rectify his action, apologize for his action, and consider that Scouting is a place that duty to God is fundamental. It will then be up to the Scout to act in a responsible fashion and not for me to show him the door. Or, if I have to bring the young man before a tribunal to depose him, that is when I stop believing and trusting in my skills and my training and in the goodness that I know that is there within him.


I have dealt with Scouts and their actions to the point where I will never get the stench out of my nostrils. But, they will get the benefit of doubt in every case and they will be given ample opportunity to act as a Scout in the future or they may choose to go elsewhere but it will be their choice to do so. As long as they decide to stay where hearing about, speaking about, and acting according to the Scout Oath and Law is prominent, then they are welcome. FB


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Thanks for all the different solutions to this question. I know this is a sensitive issue(not as much as personal hygiene though)




I am the CC not the COR.


The CO is a Methodist Church of which myself and the Advisor are members.


After talking with the Advisor and hearing his side of this situation, I have made the decision to let him handleit and only step in when I have to.


Thanks again for everyone help and different opinions.

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"If you do not stand for something, then you will fall for anything".


The BSA does not ask or expect a person of any age to understand all the mysteries of God, or to be able to follow every tenet of their religion to the letter. They are not required to have unswerving faith, as each of us have times of doubt.


They are asked only one thing, to accept that God exists, in whatever form or name you choose to worship Him in. Even to wonder about how He exists, or why He exists, or how He is present in our lives is open to questioning. But the BSA says that "no child can develop to his/her fullest potential without a spiritual element in his/her life."


I would ask this scout to be open to the existence of God, and to develop a spiritual element in his life. If the answer is no then he has chosen not to live by the Oath and Law.


With out that capability he cannot be a Scout. If our mission was to teach knots and lashings and how to cook on an open fire, then he could stay. But that is not our mission. And without a belief in God he has refused what we have to offer him.


Why join a swim team if you refuse to accept the existence of water?


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  • 16 years later...
On 1/14/2004 at 2:50 PM, evmori said:

What OGE said!


Atheists cannot be members of the BSA.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

Hard for some Christians to grasp. but Buddhists are literally atheists - persons who do not believe in a creator deity of any kind . They have been members of the BSA since at least 1926, and their religious awards are recognized by BSA.

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25 minutes ago, TAHAWK said:

Hard for some Christians to grasp. but Buddhists are literally atheists - persons who do not believe in a creator deity of any kind . They have been members of the BSA since at least 1926, and their religious awards are recognized by BSA.

Is there a reason for resurrecting this particular thread on the subject?

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On 11/26/2020 at 2:51 PM, TAHAWK said:

Hard for some Christians to grasp. but Buddhists are literally atheists - persons who do not believe in a creator deity of any kind . They have been members of the BSA since at least 1926, and their religious awards are recognized by BSA.

To return to the question, Buddhism is recognized by WOSM and BSA as a faith movement, including youth emblems and adult awards. 

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Insofar as I understand it, in Buddhism, if there is a "god", then you are it, or it is you, or both.


If you read through the eight beliefs of Buddhism, you will see they are in harmony with the Scout Oath and Scout Law.


And nothing in the DRP prevents you from claiming that you are the "god" you believe in.

The Dalai Lama called his local pizza joint. When they asked him what he wanted, he said, "Make me one with everything."

(Hope my tongue-in-cheek does not offend ;) )

Buddhists are not "atheists"...they are best described as "non-theists".

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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One would hope.  However:

"From: Victor Iwamura
To: Graham Holland

You bring up an interesting topic.  The BSA in the USA is predominantly
a Christian organization and have strong support by them.  As Buddhists
in the BSA, we have told our Scouts that they may substitute or be
silent when it comes to saying "under God".  We are trying to influence
the powers that be here but it is a difficult struggle.  I am going to
the BSA meeting in October and will mention to them what you do.

Victor Iwamura, Chair
National Buddhist Committee on Scouting

From: Victor Iwamura
To: Graham Holland

I tell them when it's not comfortable with them.

BTW:  My only minor victory was when the PRAY organization which
handles the religious awards [for BSA] was developing a religious patch for BSA,
they were calling it "Duty to God".  I objected and got consensus from
the BSA Religious Committee and we agreed to "A Scout is Reverent" or A
Scout is Faithful".  The chair went and discussed it with others and
they decided to keep the Title and work it outside the  BSA sponsorship
and promote it under PRAY. Basically the[y] circumvented the decision by
the committee and did it their way anyhow."


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