Boy Scouts Oust Maryland Teen (November 1995)

Thirteen-year-old Clifford “Buzz” Grambo was ejected from Troop 427 of Solomons, Southern Maryland, on September 25, because he is an atheist, after six years in scouting.

Washington Post reporter Todd Shields (Oct. 15, 1995) noted in his article: “Nobody in the Boy Scouts said Buzz Grambo was not trustworthy, loyal, helpful, or friendly. Nor did they question whether he was courteous, kind, obedient and cheerful. Being thrifty and brave and clean posed no problem.

“Being reverent did.

“Because he confessed to being an atheist, Grambo, 13, was judged to be violating the 12th point of Boy Scout law.”

The teen told the Post: “I felt let down by the troop. I had such a good time there.” The troop expelled him without even giving him his last two merit badges, for canoeing and wilderness survival.

His mother Nancy Grambo, also an atheist, said her son’s atheism was known but had never been an issue.

“Nobody ever told us you had to be religious,” she said. She had served as den leader when her son was a Cub Scout.

Following a routine conference with his Scoutmaster, his mother recalls, Buzz came home crying and distraught. The Scoutmaster, James Yoe, had started questioning him about his atheism, and told him he would not be allowed to advance in rank when Buzz confirmed that he is an atheist and that “I respect the beliefs of others.”

Two days later the family received a formal letter denying Buzz membership.

“I thought better of them,” Buzz told the Post. “It seems they lied to me, in a way. They always said it wasn’t a problem, and now it’s become a big issue.”

Richard W. Walker, a national spokesperson for Boy Scouts, told the Post that the group stresses “traditional, bedrock American family values, and a very big part of that is religion.”

In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a decision by a federal court permitting Boy Scouts to exclude 7 year old Mark Welsh from Tiger Cubs because his family is not religious. Mark was given an invitation through his public schools saying “any boy may join.” His father Elliott Welsh, an honorary officer of the Foundation, challenged the action under federal law banning discrimination by places of accommodation. The court ruled Scouting was not a “place of accommodation.”

Attorney James Grafton won a court case after his nonreligious twin sons were evicted from an Orange County, California troop. A court ordered the troop to readmit them. However, the Scouts have appealed that decision to the California Supreme Court.

Freedom From Religion Foundation