From: user on
On Sat, 27 Oct 2007 14:52:39 +0100, Sarah Vaughan <nannyogg(a)samael.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> user wrote:
>
>> As I mentioned in another post, my son ( age 6 ) and I just had to
>> leave the BSA because of the religious issue. My recollection from
>> 30 years ago was that religion wasn't an issue at all. Now, the scout and
>> parent ( for Tigers, at least ) have to sign a statement agreeing that
>> only people with religious beliefs and who formally practice them
>> are allowed to participate - their "Declaration of Religious Principals".
>
> I'm curious - what did the leaders say when you tried discussing this
> clause with them? I mean, were they not even willing to give you the
> option of crossing that bit out and signing the rest (which is what I'd
> have asked for in that situation), or what?
>

The quick-and-dirty background is that they were asking me to be a Tiger
leader, so I did some checking on requirements, and discovered the religious
requirements, as well as background on their discriminatory policies. After
that, it wasn't a case of "Hey, let's try to work around this by modifying
the application to suit our beliefs", since we ended up finding the national
organizations policies distateful. Make no mistake - they were very friendly
and understanding about the whole thing, with no discernable acrimony on
anybody's side. But they had their rules to follow, and we had our principles
to uphold, and there wasn't a common ground in between.

- Rich

--
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
From: user on
On Sat, 27 Oct 2007 15:14:11 +0100, Sarah Vaughan <nannyogg(a)samael.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> user wrote:
>
>> Probably the most succinct position statement you'll find about the
>> official policy is the BSA board statement from June 12, 1991, found here:
>>
>> http://usscouts.org/aboutbsa/rpa1991.asp
>>
>> The statement:
>>
>> "While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy
>> Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of duty to God."
>>
>> is probably the clearest one you'll find that they intend the
>> requirements to include personal belief.
>
> If that's as clear as it gets, I can definitely live with that. ;-) I
> don't see anything in there about making individual belief a requirement
> for membership. Of course, clearly some troops have interpreted it that
> way, given the boys who've been kicked out for their atheism, and that
> concerns me. (I wouldn't actually stop my son from joining just on
> those grounds, though - I'm betting there are a lot of other troops
> letting atheists stay and not kicking up a fuss about it, who aren't
> hitting the headlines. I wouldn't stop my son from joining an
> organisation he'd enjoy just on the basis that they *might* make his
> life difficult or let him down further along the line.)
>

Actually, the potential for problems down the line is one of the
things that was making me a little wishy-washy over the whole affair.
There are clear benefits to scouts, for a lot of people. One of the
things I was trying to decide was whether I would just invoke the
"Mother Earth covers the requirement" fall-back, have a few good
years in the program, and then potentially have an indiscreet comment
get DS kicked out after making a large emotional investment in it.
Eventually I decided that I wasn't going to just throw aside my
personal principals for a program that, in the end, was just not all
that important to us.

>
> [...]
>> If nothing else, the personal religious component comes straight to
>> the forefront with the requirements for the Bear badge, one of the
>> first he'll receive. From http://www.boyscouttrail.com/cub-scouts/bear-scouts.asp :
>>
>> ------------
>> BEAR SCOUT ACHIEVEMENTS
>> GOD (Do ONE of the following)
>>
>>
>> 1. WAYS WE WORSHIP
>> Complete both requirements.
>> 1. Complete the Character Connection for Faith
>> * Know. Name some people in history who have shown great faith. Discuss with an adult how faith has been important at a particular point in his or her life.
>> * Commit. Discuss with an adult how having faith and hope will help you in your life, and also discuss some ways that you can strengthen your faith.
>
> I'd be OK with both of those. Neither of them specifies that it's
> *religious* faith that has to be discussed, and, while I know it's clear
> from the context that that's what they meant, they haven't specified it
> (and, yes, I'm a pedant ;-) ). I do think my son ought to grow up
> having faith in something, whether it's faith in human nature or even
> just faith in himself and the people he knows - without some kind of
> faith in something or someone, he'd be set for a very empty and
> suspicious life. If nothing else, this requirement could lead to a
> useful discussion about just what faith is and its many possible
> meanings/manifestations, which is a good concept to be learning more about.
>

I'd certainly agree with the idea that faith is not necessarily limited to the
religious sense. On the contrary, I consider faith in their fellow humans to be
one of the most important things we can teach our kids. I'm uncomfortable with the
pedantic distinctions, though - you're far from the first to make them, but it
seems to me to be just a way of getting around the intent of the requirements. My
attitude is more along the lines of "It's their ball, and they get to make the
rules, so I'm not going to drag out Webster's to show them why I should be allowed
to play, too."


>> 2. EMBLEMS OF FAITH
>> Complete the requirement.
>> Earn the Religious Emblem of your faith.
>
> Do they specify elsewhere what they mean by this? I've never heard of a
> faith having a way to 'earn' their religious emblem, so I'm guessing
> this is a requirement set up by the Scouts themselves. Without knowing
> what 'the requirement' is, I can't really comment on whether or not we
> can do it.
>

Right - this is strictly a BSA thing. IIRC, the emblems are created and
advocated by the various religions, and then approved by the BSA. I'm not sure
if the BSA or the sponsoring organization is the one that sets the
requirements to earn the badge.


>> So if don't personally practice the religious requirement, you can't get
>> one of the badges required for further advancement.
>
> Only if the leader happens to be a real jobsworth. ;-) I suspect there
> are probably a lot more out there who are OK with interpreting it in the
> more ambiguous ways that I have (in fact, at least one person - I think
> it was Banty - did post in this thread with personal experience of this
> being done).
>

That's my understanding, as well - that a lot of the national policies are
effectively ignored by the packs, and some local leaders turn a blind eye
when it comes to a strict interpretation of the requirements. And that's
laudible - but also throws in the element of unpredictability. If you assume
that the kids will *always* have leaders like that, as the old ones move on
and are replaced by new ones, then if you're in one of the categories
prohibited membership, then you should be fine. You also have to assume that
when the scouts go to the regional camps, gatherings, and possibly even
the Jamboree, they won't say something that will get them into trouble with
a non-local leader who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

- Rich

--
Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
From: Sarah Vaughan on
user wrote:
> On Sat, 27 Oct 2007 14:52:39 +0100, Sarah Vaughan <nannyogg(a)samael.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>> I'm curious - what did the leaders say when you tried discussing this
>> clause with them? I mean, were they not even willing to give you the
>> option of crossing that bit out and signing the rest (which is what I'd
>> have asked for in that situation), or what?
>>
>
> The quick-and-dirty background is that they were asking me to be a Tiger
> leader, so I did some checking on requirements, and discovered the religious
> requirements, as well as background on their discriminatory policies. After
> that, it wasn't a case of "Hey, let's try to work around this by modifying
> the application to suit our beliefs", since we ended up finding the national
> organizations policies distateful. Make no mistake - they were very friendly
> and understanding about the whole thing, with no discernable acrimony on
> anybody's side. But they had their rules to follow, and we had our principles
> to uphold, and there wasn't a common ground in between.

Hmmm.... I don't know if this is just me getting the wrong end of the
stick here, but the slant of this story does seem to be changing quite
significantly.

Initially, you told the OP that if she or her son were a professed
atheist, then she would be 'kicked out' of Scouts (not that this was
something that *might* happen, but that it was something that *would*
happen), and told her that this was what had happened to you. A
subsequent post mentioned the difficulty of explaining to your son that
the group he loved so much considered him 'immoral and unfit to
associate with them' because of his beliefs or lack thereof � oh, the
wringing of the heartstrings as we pictured the poor child's plight on
being rejected by those eeeevil Scouts!

What you're now saying � in this post and in several others in this
thread � is that *you* made the decision to leave because *you* weren't
happy with some of the organisation's principles on a national level.
Which is pretty much the reverse of what you were saying before � in
this version, it's you who considers the group to be unfit for you and
your son to associate with, not the reverse. Oh, and the group that
your son 'loved so much' in your previous post is now getting described
as 'just not all that important to us'.

As far as I'm concerned, if you feel that you can't square sending your
son to Scouts with your own principles, then that's totally your
prerogative and your call. What I don't understand is why you seemed to
be taking such pains initially to make us, and � from what you said �
your son, think that this was their call, not yours, to the extent of
misleading somebody who really seems to need this organisation about
what she could likely expect from them, and to trying to paint us the
picture of your son as a poor unfortunate victim of the Scouts' overly
harsh policies. I'm left feeling that you really want to spin this
story in a way that makes you a martyr for your atheist beliefs despite
that not really being the way things happened.


All the best,

Sarah

--
http://www.goodenoughmummy.typepad.com

"That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be" - P. C. Hodgell

From: Ericka Kammerer on
Banty wrote:

> This stuff simply doesn't come up. The clauses you point to, once you look
> further, refer to a Scout's ability to define whay *he* means by God, and are
> backed by a rather broad acceptance of even non-theistic established religions.

To be fair, whether or not "this stuff" comes up really is
dependent upon the location/troop/leaders/etc. I think it's a valid
point that when you're relying on local leadership not to put too
fine a point on national policy, there *is* the possibility that a
change in current leadership could result in a significant change
in what an individual scout might experience. There certainly exist
groups where the religious aspect is pushed harder than others.
If one wants a reasonable guarantee that the issue of religion won't
be pressed, it's perhaps not such a good idea to be involved with an
organization whose principles espouse religion as at least a technical
criteria for membership. It may not be the case in your neighborhood,
but I am certainly aware of groups where it's a bigger deal and
where someone would find religion more intrusive in the experience.
Will some people choose to value the other positive aspects
over the risk of potentially encountering an uncomfortable position
with religion? Sure, and that's also a valid choice. I just don't
think it's unreasonable to recognize the possibility of it happening
either.

Best wishes,
Ericka
From: Banty on
In article <6IKdnbDF3KgQTLjanZ2dnUVZ_j-dnZ2d(a)comcast.com>, Ericka Kammerer
says...
>
>Banty wrote:
>
>> This stuff simply doesn't come up. The clauses you point to, once you look
>> further, refer to a Scout's ability to define whay *he* means by God, and are
>>backed by a rather broad acceptance of even non-theistic established religions.
>
> To be fair, whether or not "this stuff" comes up really is
>dependent upon the location/troop/leaders/etc. I think it's a valid
>point that when you're relying on local leadership not to put too
>fine a point on national policy, there *is* the possibility that a
>change in current leadership could result in a significant change
>in what an individual scout might experience. There certainly exist
>groups where the religious aspect is pushed harder than others.
>If one wants a reasonable guarantee that the issue of religion won't
>be pressed, it's perhaps not such a good idea to be involved with an
>organization whose principles espouse religion as at least a technical
>criteria for membership. It may not be the case in your neighborhood,
>but I am certainly aware of groups where it's a bigger deal and
>where someone would find religion more intrusive in the experience.
> Will some people choose to value the other positive aspects
>over the risk of potentially encountering an uncomfortable position
>with religion? Sure, and that's also a valid choice. I just don't
>think it's unreasonable to recognize the possibility of it happening
>either.

Everything is a "possibility". A rotten soccer coach can mess up a beloved
activity, too! And like with the rotten soccer coach, the solution is to seek
*another* Cub pack. There are no residency requirements, you know.

Rich and his son weren't "kicked out". He searched out the policy and statemtns
and found them not fitting his professed atheism, and decided they can't join.
He had other options. If he were uncomfortable with the requirements of a Tiger
leader, he can *not* be a den leader. He went TO THEM and stated his position,
putting them in a spot where they pretty much had to do what they did.

Nothing wrong with a parent making a decision that certain groups are
unappropriate for his family, however he may view it. My *point* about this is
that, like Beth has noticed here, and I've noticed elsewhere, there's a problem
with how this gets depicted, and it's in a direction to discourage Scout
participation in general. Scout meetings and groups are being depicted as keen
on ferreting out those godless heathens so we non-religious people had better
not join.

If there are groups that *would* ferret out non-believers, I wouldn't be
surprised. But frankly, I'm suspicious of those accounts, because this isnt'
the first time, given more details after the first report, it's gotten down to
someone actually going forward to test the policy, rather than any actual
ferreting out of atheists.

It's kinda parallel to the religious right's complaints about people "not being
allowed to pray", but as it turns out people can pray all they want, they just
can't take over public venues to lead *others* in prayer. But one has to get
past the headline (informed by past similar incidents) to get to the facts.

Banty