This is Maine FFRF member Meredith “Dick” Springer’s letter in September to the Boy Scouts of America:
In 1943 I proudly received my Eagle Scout badge from the Boy Scouts of America. At that time I was a sincere religious believer.
As I later critically examined my beliefs I realized that I no longer could honestly believe in God. I fail to understand how reaching this conclusion made me unfit to belong to your organization. Now my self-respect as a nonbeliever as well as my conscience compel me to join hundreds of others in reluctantly returning my badge to the BSA to express my disgust with your discriminatory policies.
The Boy Scouts of America accepts for membership all boys except those in two groups that are unpopular in much of America, gays and nonbelievers in God. Stigmatizing these groups clearly sends a message to your members that only reinforces prejudices many already have. The BSA also denies a religion badge to boys who are Unitarians because their church passed a resolution in 1992 opposing your discriminatory practices.
Many scouting associations around the world do not require their members to have specific religious beliefs. In the United States, the Girl Scouts of the USA voted overwhelmingly in 1993 to allow its members to substitute another word or phrase for God in its oath, saying that the change was “a very strong statement that Girl Scouts . . . have strength in diversity and that we are an inclusive organization.” The Girl Scouts also permits lesbian girls to participate.
The BSA has never established a relationship with the Girl Scouts, but it has partnered with American Heritage Girls, a new organization formed by intolerant opponents of the nondiscriminatory policies of the Girl Scouts, with a “memorandum of mutual support [that] recognizes the common values and goals of both organizations.”
As a private organization the BSA can do anything it wants, but as an American icon comparable to apple pie, it has a special moral obligation to teach the best American values. These values include religious tolerance and recognizing the worth of all of us.
Meredith N. Springer
The Feb. 10 Maine Sunday Telegram also published Springer’s thoughts on the issue (which he’d sent as a letter to the editor) as an op-ed. As of Feb. 9, 222 Eagle Scouts had shared their photos and letters renouncing their Eagle awards on the website Eagle Scouts Returning Our Badges.