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CA_Scouter

Agnostic Scout?

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On this question, I think the BSA rules are clear as a church bell. It is unfortunate that a 15-year old who may be questioning his faith and belief in the eternal God, would be cast aside by an organization that professes to promote a belief in the same God. I am sure that God hasn't given up on this boy, why should the BSA?

 

CA-Scouter, you have been given a tremendous opportunity to have deep, meaningful conversations with this young man (assuming his family approves) that may take both of you to new levels of understanding, maturity and a deeper relationship with God. Are you up for it? Or, do you just want to properly apply another BSA rule?

 

 

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Scouting does not use the words "agnostic" or "atheist" in the membership requirements or anywhere else in Scouting. Therefore any differences or interpretations of the meaning of those words is completely irrelevant as to whether an individual meets the membership requirements.

 

If a member makes an informed and thoughtful decision that he has no belief in God, and understands that disqualifies him from membership, that decision is his alone. No one else has "kicked him out".

 

I find such terms as "bar him from meetings", "kicking him out" and "strip him of membership" to be inflammatory.

 

With respect to the dilemma CA-Scouter presented about the boy claiming to be "agnostic", a discussion with the boy about exactly what he means and how that relates to the the Scout Oath, Scout Law, and the membership requirements would be in order. A decision to give up one's membership should not be taken lightly.

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Scouting doesn't use the terms agnostic or atheist but if you don't understand the difference you are making an ill-informed decision. Therefore their meaning is of the utmost importance. And refusing to understand the difference is nothing more than ignorant.

 

Remember, we are here to help the Scouts make ethical & moral decisions. It sound like this Scout needs that help.

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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wow, I sure find myself agreeing with Ed a lot lately! :)

 

There is indeed a very big difference. Now, whether or not the youth understands this distinction is up to the SM to discover. A heavy-handed SM may be offended by the Scout's doubts, by his uncertainties. A more nimble and sensitive SM, as Semper points out, has an opportunity to assist this young man along his spiritual journey, without pointing in any particular sectarian direction.

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What is important is whether the Scout understands what "belief in God" means and how his belief or lack thereof affects his membership. Whether or not he understands the distinction between the words "oeijak" and "kajieo" is irrelavant.

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"I find such terms as "bar him from meetings", "kicking him out" and "strip him of membership" to be inflammatory."

 

I can understand why you don't like those terms, but using a euphemism isn't going to fool anybody. If the boy tells you he doesn't believe in God but would like to stay in the troop, you're going to tell him he can't. He's certainly going to feel that he's been kicked out, whatever language you use. Whether it's appropriate to do so is another question.

 

Also, I can't agree that BSA doesn't use the words atheist and agnostic--in fact, they're right there in the language from an official BSA FAQ that Eamonn quoted. I'm not sure any of us disagree, however, that what's important is what the boy actually believes, and not the the label.

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Do I agree that someone needs to have a long hard chat with this Lad?

Of course I do.

He may well be rattling CA_Scouters cage.

He might not understand what he is saying.

But if he does stand by what he is saying, if he really is agnostic, there is no way that he can on his honor do his best and do his duty to God. He is unable to make the Scout Oath and is not able to be a member of the BSA.

The BSA does use the term Agnostic and is very clear that people who claim to be agnostic can not be members.

I have to admit to being a little shocked when people say that this is none of anyones business. I see Duty to God as a very big part of Scout Spirit don't we cover this at Scoutmaster conferences and BOR?

I don't see how asking a Lad who doesn't believe in the core values of the organization to leave is wrong. I see it much the same way as me going to a temperance meeting with a can of beer.

Eamonn

 

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Eamonn, that's an excellent analogy. Permit me, if you would, to refine it a bit (the way I see the issue).

 

There would be a big difference between a dedicated adult alcoholic going to a temperance meeting with a can of beer, and a 16 year old going to the same meeting with a can of beer. The 16 year old is still developing his identity as a person, and the good folks having the meeting might well see the kid's appearance at their meeting as a golden opportunity to help turn around his life.

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AA would never 'decline participation' for someone falling off the wagon. Rather, they would redouble their efforts in showering the wayward soul with even greater levels of love, care and concern. It is the least we can do for one another.

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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.

 

While the answer addresses the question, it seems to lump atheists & agnostics in the same basket. And they shouldn't be. And it sounds more like the company line than an actual answer.

 

An agnostic doesn't necessarily deny the existence of God while an atheist does. Big difference. And to be fair & help understand where this Scout stands, a conversation needs to be held with the Scout. Just tossing him out is not the answer. Neither is dropping him from the roster.

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Well folks, I'm with Semper on this one. This is a learning opportunity, not a situation where some hard and fast rule has to be applied. I would rather discuss/teach/educate/learn than toss him aside.

 

WWJD?

 

 

 

 

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Well, He certainly would not argue about the differences between atheist and agnostic.

 

And I doubt the WCTC would warmly welcome with open arms a boy carrying a can of beer, with strong convictions about alcohol into their organization.

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FS,

You might well be right on both of those points, but, with respect, you'ld be wrong to walk away from this boy.

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So if we are going to allow Agnostic Scouts, how should we re-word the Scout Oath?

As I posted I do think that the parents of the Lad need to understand what is going on. Both we their son and what the BSA stand point is.

I don't see it as the role of a Scouter to change the Lad, that is up to his parents and whatever church or religion they might belong too. Our role is to deliver the program. We explain the Oath and Law before a Lad or an adult joins. The statement of religious principle is on the membership application.

There are other youth groups and organizations that don't have the same values as the BSA.If he really is a agnostic, he might want to look into joining one of them.

An Agnostic Scout is like a Jewish Pope.

Eamonn.

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