It shames me to be linked to the Boy Scouts of America in any way, but I am linked (or was). My dad was an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow. I was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout as a youth. As an adult, I was a Cub Scout den and pack leader. Scouting was in my blood. I stopped my association with the BSA as a young parent because of the overt religiosity. I could not reconcile the outdoor-oriented male bonding and development component of the scouting experience with the need to indoctrinate children into whatever religious order ran the pack (or troop). In my case, it was a local Baptist church. It’s pastor and deacons were all pack leaders and insisted on emphasizing religious development in our children, even though many of the children were secular or held another faith. It was too much for me, so I walked away.
Flash forward 25 years and the BSA is still focused on promoting religion and faith, but it has also morphed into something else, an organization the holds a public position excluding atheists and gays. The BSA reemphasized their antigay position in July.
…group’s national spokesman Deron Smith said an 11-member special committee unanimously “came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.” The organization said that members of the confidential committee represented a “diversity of perspectives and opinions” from professional scout executives to volunteers.
The BSA’s anti-gay position is mind blowing and a huge missed opportunity, but both positions are untenable and both demand action. We can do something tangible. We can boycott the BSA’s annual Christmas Tree sale. It’s an easy step to take, and one that sends a clear message. Buy your Christmas tree (or holiday tee) at a tree lot that is not affiliated with with the BSA. There are thousands of other choices. Take one.
For more information, the BSA watchdog organization BSA-Discrimination.org, documents the BSA’s exclusionary practices.
I am annoyed at the BSA’s emphasis on demanding a “Duty to God” which by extension excludes atheists, but I am horrified at their outright exclusion of gays. In this age of changing attitudes and acceptance, both positions are archaic and untenable.
I still have the Boy Scout Oath memorized.
On my honor
I will do my best
To do my duty to God
and my country
And to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
and morally straight.
These words meant a lot to me as a child. I practiced this oath and eventually stood before my friends and family to proudly recite it as I became a Boy Scout. I did not know any better as a child. As an adult I cannot say these words aloud without a shudder. God and morality = exclusion.
I walked away from the Scouts as a young teen. I had had enough of group think, macho games and bullying. I was not a joiner. I never have been. As an adult I wanted my child to share the same wonderful outdoor experiences I had experienced. It was not to be. Even back in the 80s the emphasis on religion was too much too take.
My position today is much stronger. I believe the BSA should change its exclusionary practices and emphasis on faith, or go out of business. Further, I believe the BSA’s Federal charter and Title 36 status should be revoked. Perpetuating hatred and intolerance in not in the best interest of our country and the bad mojo far outweighs the good.
There are tree lots open all across America. Show your support for change by supporting a different charity. The Boys and Girls Club of America needs love too, and they support everyone.
Here is a list of atheist bloggers who are also supporting this boycott. Please pay them a visit for a different perspective.
A note on Christmas and Christmas trees: I am an atheist. My wife is not. My children are what they are. We do and don’t celebrate a Christian Christmas. Our celebration focuses on family instead. We don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious event unless we do. It might be a religious celebration for some members of my family, and I’m ok with that. I may go to mass, or listen to a holiday choir, or I may not. I may buy a Christmas tree, or a holiday tree, or I may simply put holiday cards on a tree-shaped card holder and call it done. My point is… well, I just don’t care about what Christmas is to other people or America. Instead, I want to love and enjoy my family in peace. I manage to do so every year. I hope you do too.