Sixth place (tie) – The best kind of citizen: By Elizabeth Robbins

FFRF awarded Elizabeth $400.

Dear Sir or Madam,

It has come to my attention that despite your recent successes in ending discrimination within your organization, there is still a large population of potential Boy Scouts that you are barring from membership.

You refuse to allow nonreligious boys to participate in your organization, citing that “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.” I feel the need to dissuade you from this misguided policy. Although they say no prayers and attend no services, atheist and agnostic boys can still develop into outstanding citizens, and programs such as yours should help them in that endeavor, not exclude them based on their beliefs.

I, personally, have no religion. When I look at all the horrors of the world, I cannot bring myself to believe that all is as a god wills it. I cannot devote myself to someone who would let these things happen just to test us. For my own part, I must reject that belief system. That doesn’t mean I reject your values; it just means I’ve had to define my own.

Like your organization, I care for others and work to help those in need. I value selflessness, charity and integrity, even though no religion told me to do so. Please understand, I am not against your religion or your beliefs. I admire your faith, just as I would admire any of your qualities. It is simply not a quality we share. And you must recognize that it is a quality you do not share with millions of young boys who would greatly benefit from your organization if given the chance.
I may admire your faith, but I do not admire your using it to exclude these boys. Several years ago you set a precedent for yourselves. By allowing openly gay men and boys to become members and leaders in your organization, you sparked a wave of equality, and for that I thank you.

However, you are trying to stop the wave. You agreed just a few years ago to accept those boys, even though they had different beliefs than you. Now, I ask you to extend that same acceptance and understanding to atheist and agnostic boys across the country. They are no different. They may not believe in a god, but they are still wonderful, caring people that want the best for their community. My best friend, an atheist, hugs his rivals after competitions and congratulates them. My grandparents, both agnostics, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity on a regular basis. I, an agnostic, keep notes of the beautiful things I see in people to remind me to forgive them when they test my patience.

Even without religion, we can all be the best kind of citizens that you strive to cultivate. And if you give us a chance, we can prove it to you.

Please let our boys prove it to you.

Elizabeth Robbins

Elizabeth Robbins, 17, was born in Richland Center, Wis., and graduated from James Madison Memorial High School in Madison, Wis. She was a member of her high school forensics team, math team, specialty choir and is also an avid piano player and writer. She will attend Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she hopes to earn a degree in acting.

Freedom From Religion Foundation