Vol. 21 No. 5 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
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Discriminatory Policy of Boy Scouts of America Doesn't Produce "the Best Kind of Citizen," Foundation Points Out
This press release by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was read by Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor of Freethought Today, at a news conference called by Scouting for All on May 19, 2004. The conference was held in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Chicago, site of the national council conference of Boy Scouts of America.
Other speakers included Scott Cozza, president of Scouting for All, representatives of feminist, humanist and gay rights groups, and scouts and their parents.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an association of atheists and agnostics, has been protesting the discriminatory policies of Boy Scouts of America since the late 1970s.
In the past ten years, BSA has become increasingly rigid, right-wing and doctrinaire--even taking its campaign to rid its ranks of so-called "undesirables" all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Boy Scouts advertises that any boy may join, then imposes a religious litmus test as a condition of membership.
The BSA passed its first resolution in 1970, calling belief in God "necessary to the best type of citizenship." It reaffirmed this resolution in 1991, and again in 2002:
"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God." This "Declaration of Religious Principles" must be signed by a boy's parents and returned with membership fees.
We think no one can grow into the best kind of citizen believing that it is right and good to ostracize, shun and penalize some boys--those who come from nonreligious homes or who are gay or have gay and lesbian families.
Wethink no one can grow into the best kind of citizen who is taught Boy Scouts' morally bankrupt philosophy. BSA teaches that it's what you believe that automatically makes you a good person, instead of what you do. They teach that it's not being loving that makes you a good person, but loving the "right" gender.
No one can grow into the best kind of citizen who is taught never to question authority, taught not to think for themselves, taught not to use their reasoning powers in examining supernatural claims.
No one can grow into the best kind of citizen if they proudly belong to a group which kicked out exemplary Eagle Scout Darrell Lambert. Darrell, a model Boy Scout and volunteer, was expelled by his Washington State Boy Scout troop in 2002 simply because he used his own mind to evaluate religion and is an atheist.
How can someone learn to be the "best citizen" if they belong to a club that claims "any boy can join," then turns away a six-year-old because his father isn't religious? That's what happened in suburban Chicago in 1990, when Mark Welsh left a sign-up meeting for Tiger Cubs in near tears, told he was an undesirable because his family was agnostic. BSA officials testified in the ensuing litigation that permitting nonreligious boys to join would undermine Scouting!
Boy Scouts cannot grow the best kind of citizens when it expels future good citizens, such as the Randall twins, who were kicked out of the Orange County Cub Scout pack in 1991 simply because their family is not religious. In 1994, a California appeals court judge hearing their lawsuit rebuked Boy Scouts, saying "such discrimination would appear to contradict a variety of the principles of the congressionally chartered Boy Scouts of America."
Imagine if the Red Cross, which also has a Congressional charter, demanded to know whether victims of a natural disaster believed in God or were heterosexual before being willing to help them!
If Boy Scouts of America insists on standing for bigotry, then it should stand alone--without the support of our public institutions. As the Washington Post once put it, Boy Scouts of America deserves a merit badge for hypocrisy. Discrimination is not reverent, good, kind, patriotic--or socially acceptable anymore.
Foundation public relations director Dan Barker opened the news conference with a rendition of a song, "Why BSA?" (to the tune of "YMCA"), composed by Dan and Steve Benson:
Young man, do you trust in the Lord?
If not, young man, you'll be tossed overboard.
They might tell you that all boys are allowed,
But the out crowd's not the in crowd.
"Why BSA?" is recorded by Dan Barker on the Foundation's new CD, "Beware of Dogma," featuring 15 timely songs and the bonus of a reading by "freethought laureate" Philip and Marjorie Appleman of Phil's memorable poem, "Noah," from Let There Be Light. Order for $15 postpaid from FFRF, Attn: Sales, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701. For more information, see here.
Madison Cuts Off Scouts
The city of Madison, Wis., is requiring a nonprofit group that puts on an annual July 4 celebration to stop donating proceeds to the local Boy Scouts.
The City Council unanimously approved the requirement on June 1, saying that the nonprofit organizers may not donate to any group that discriminates "based on gender, identity or sexual orientation or any other City of Madison protected classes."
The city gives $11,750 a year to the sponsors of Rhythm and Booms, plus at least $50,000 in donated police overtime. The fireworks attract 250,000 people. Any extra profits from donations collected at the event are given to local youth-oriented charities.
June/July 2004 Excerpts