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Appropriate Questions at BOR

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NeilLup,

My purpose of asking the question "Do you believe in God?" not to weed out anyone. The purpose is to ensure the Scout is living his everyday life according to the Scout Oath. If one doesn't believe in God, one can't do their duty to God.

 

Just curious, what does reverent mean to you, NeilLup?

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Ed, what I and NeilLup are both trying to say, I think, is not that you shouldn't ask a scout about his religious views and activities at a BOR, but rather that asking him "Do you believe in God?" is a rude and unfriendly way of doing that, even if you want to find out whether he believes in God or not. Why not ask him how he does his duty to God, and if the answer leaves you with doubts about his beliefs, then probe more deeply? To put a finer point on it, I think questions at a BOR should assume that the Scout is doing what he has promised to do and that he has done what his records indicate he has done, unless you have a good reason to think otherwise. If we don't make that assumption, then we don't really believe that a Scout IS trustworthy.

Thus, for example, I wouldn't ask "are you friendly," but rather, "how do you live out the "friendly" part of the Scout Law?" I wouldn't ask, "Did you go on a five-mile hike," but "Tell me about the five-mile hike you went on." Even if you were to ask, "Can you tell me your idea of what God is, and what duty to God means," it would be better than "Do you believe in God?"

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Hunt has spoken very well part of my concern. Thank you.

 

Another part is that "God" is a particular Judeo-Christian nomenclature for a supreme being/higher power. It is not surprising that the BSA uses this terminology considering when the BSA was founded and the predominant religions in the USA. But there are other religious which are in the USA and which have many adherents in other parts of the world that either do not believe in a monotheistic "God" or else use some other terminology. The BSA has indicated that participation in these religions or indeed in any bona fide religious belief, satisfies the requirements of the the 12th point of the law. But if you ask one of these people "Do you believe in God?" the answer is no.

 

Finally, many youth are searching for their religious beliefs and for their personal beliefs. If you ask them "Do you believe in God?" they may say to themselves "I'm not sure" but not be comfortable answering with a firm, confident "yes." I believe that our mission is to help those youth by word and by example and not to exclude them nor to make them feel unwelcome or excluded.

 

As far as my own interpretation of the term reverent, if I have the privilege of sharing a campfire with you at some point, or of participating in a Scouts' Own service with you, I'll be happy to discuss my religious beliefs. I don't believe that personal matters like that are really appropriate for a public message board. I am comfortable stating that the second paragraph of the fine print of the 12th point of the Scout Law is important to me. " He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions and beliefs of others in matters of custom and religion."

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I am Troop Advancement Chair, which means I chair Eagle BoR's for our troop. "How do you honor the 12th scout law?" is an excellent way to phrase that question. In a discussion at my Wood Badge course we were told that "A scout is reverent" has two parts; that the youngster follow the tenants of his faith and respect the religious practices of others. BP and the others who started the scouting movement were very careful to require that a scout be reverent, not Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Jewish, et al.

By the way - Our troop is having an Eagle BoR tomorrow night. A very timely read for me.

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I agree with Ed. I think the question is straight forward (Do you believe in God?) and does not have the implication that other folks have voiced (i.e. Are you lying to us?). If the BOR is to judge the Scouts attitude and his acceptance of Scouting Ideas, I think its perfectly reasonable for them to ask a few pointed questions. I doubt my grandmother would even find this question offensive...and shes not attempting to advance to the highest rank in Scouting.

 

And frankly, while I happily accept the judgment of the BOR (those who actually see and hear the boy directly as he answers each question). Im not convinced Im not sure is a good enough answer, even with the expository remarks. But thats another debate, which requires more energy that I want to expend at this moment. In short, I think duty to God should not be glossed over. Its just as important as any other idea of Scouting some would say its the most important.

(This message has been edited by Rooster7)

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Neil asks:

 

This is a tremendously difficult situation, particularly if the boy is not particularly articulate as many preadolescent and adolescent boys are not.

 

Boy, ain't that the truth, and the lack of articulate-ness displays itself even on questions much "easier" than those about reverence or belief in God. In fact the whole BOR situation seems to reduce even boys who are very articulate, to blabbering idiots, or sometimes, to seemingly rob them of their power of speech entirely. I was in a Life BOR for our troop's current SPL, a kid who (as I once heard someone say) could talk the hind legs off a mule, and yet in the BOR he could barely complete a sentence until he got "settled in" and things went smoothly from there. We also have a practice in our troop of boys being asked to repeat the Scout Law and Oath during both SM Conferences and BOR's (ok, it's probably not supposed to happen but it does and in my opinion it doesn't hurt anybody) and we have boys (including this same SPL, in his SM Conference) who know it all cold and have said it without stumbling hundreds of times, suddenly when they are on their own, various words get twisted inside out and backwards, or just left out completely. I am told that my son, in his recent First Class BOR, had the same problem. And this is a kid who recites the Oath and Law at home, by himself, for fun, to see how fast he can say them (pretty fast, with no slipups.)

 

So I can just imagine how a boy would react to a question that, I agree with Neil and Hunt, is a rude question about what may (for that boy) be a complicated subject, especially when there is some ambiguity in how the boy is feeling about his place in the Universe at that given moment.

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Rooster, I rather suspect that your grandmother is probably Christian, so of course she wouldn't find the question offensive.

 

But what of the 13 year old Buddhist? By even asking the question, do you think you would be "respecting the convictions and beliefs of others in matters of custom and religion"?

 

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Judging by some of these posts, I get the feeling that we should never challenge a Scout to rise above the lowest known threshold that a previous Scout might have exhibited. Or put another way, if one Scout loses his composure when given a particular question, we should take that as a clue that weve pushed him beyond his intellectual and emotional limits. Ask a Scout about his beliefs in God? What fiends we are, for being such insensitive cads! What next! Ask the boy if hes willing to defend his country? Ask him if he respects and obeys his elders? How dare we?

 

I see the public school system at work here. Relative questions are not important. Its not even necessary for the ones answer to be well thought out. What does matter? Apparently, right or wrong, ones effort is paramount. And then, we should be careful to judge ones level of effort, because that may be merely a matter of perception. If we keep this up, Eagle will be a meaningless achievement in a few more years. Not unlike some high school diplomas which are being dispensed in various parts of the country.

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Trevorum,

 

If being Buddhist means its followers do not necessarily have to believe in God, then I think the BSA needs to reassess their membership requirements. Clearly, the Scout Oath requires a Scout to carry out his duty to God. If a Scout does not believe in God, then he cannot be faithful to this part of the Scout Oath.

 

My grandmothers are not alive today. But tagging this question as "offensive" belies logic.

 

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Well, I think the question asked directly as some are suggesting could be taken as being offensive. I think if asked in that way, it would be appropriate for an astute Scout to repond with something to the effect of, "My Scout application and speaking of the Scout oath each week would seem to answer that question. If you have to ask that question, then I have to assume that you think I'm lying. Why do you think that?"

 

If you want the answer to that question, you should just go look at their application.

 

There are other, better ways to cover that topic that would probably get a more meaningful response, as others have suggested.

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If you want the answer to that question, you should just go look at their application.

 

And how many Scouts do you think really read the application they signed? And how many younger Scouts (below 1st Class) do you think just say the Oath & Law without really understanding what they are saying? Next BOR or SM Conference for a Scout below 1st Class, ask him what thrifty means? I'll bet you get the "deer in the headlights" look.

 

 

Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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I really hope I am just misinterpreting what Rooster said - it sure seemed that he implied that Buddhists were not qualified to be members of the BSA. I'll let Kahuna or another Buddhist member of our forum answer that charge.

 

It seems to me as if Rooster disagrees with the BSA position statement that says "BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God", prefering to use his own, rather narrow definition.

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One of the methods of scouting is Adult Association, this is where the scout interacts with adults, not of his family and learns how to act and react around them. Many scouts have told me their college interview was a snap because of the Board of Review experience. Now, I don't see a Board of Review as a grilling of the boys personal philosophy, but I dont think any question, pertaining to scouting should be avoided. I have been in a few Boards of Review where I heard the same question asked a couple different ways. Watching the scout respond gives insight to the scout and its an oppportunity for the scout to grow. As far as offensive questions go, I would rather error on the possibility the scout will think the quesiotn slightly offensive rather than lob cream puffs up. At some point, the scout will learn not all adults are "nice" and they have to be able to deal with those people. I do expect adults to be able not to embarass the scout, but asking tough questions should not be discouraged

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Someone asked a question some posts back that I don't think has been answered yet - and I'm really curious to know the answer.

 

What would happen if a boy is asked "Do you believe in God?" and he answered no? Kick him out? Not kick him out but never advance him again? What is the purpose of asking this question, in this blunt way, if not to weed out the "undesirables"? Under the current national policies of the BSA, wouldn't you be required to kick a boy out of the scouts that told you he didn't believe in God (or some other higher power)? And if you didn't kick him out, wouldn't you then be violating the policies of the BSA and therefore not living up to the Scout Law and Oath yourself?

 

I'm curious, do you also ask the boy in his BOR "Are you Gay?" as the second question?

 

CalicoPenn

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If a scout told me he did not believe in God. My next question would be. Do you believe in a higher power?

I would also explain to the scout that to be a Boy Scout he must believe in god to be a Boy Scout.

I do not have the power to kick a boy out of scouts, but I would report to the council and try and get an atheist removed from the BSA.

 

I do not believe that being an atheists makes someone gay.

(This message has been edited by dan)

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