Boy Scouts Stand For Bigotry by Annie Laurie Gaylor (June/July 1994)

How dismaying to see the California Attorney General’s Office aligning itself with the discriminatory practices of Boy Scouts of America, which demands a religious litmus test of young boys and their families. The Attorney General’s Office recently filed a brief asking the California Supreme Court to overturn a district court ruling readmitting William and Michael Randall to their troop, arguing that Scouts are exempt from state civil rights legislation.

With breathtaking bigotry, the brief filed by Special Assistant Attorney General Tracey S. Buck-Walsh said that permitting nonreligious boys to participate in Boy Scouts “would directly interfere with Scouting’s mission. It would be no different than forcing full inclusion of white supremacists into the NAACP.”

What an insult and slur to the already victimized Randall twins! There can be no comparison between the NAACP, which works to end segregation and bigotry, and the Boy Scouts, which, of late, is aggressively promoting segregation and intolerance based on creed. Although the Randall twins were expelled from their Orange County troop several years ago simply for not reciting the portion of the Scouting oath which pertains to belief in God, the national group is now routinely demanding that parents of Boy Scouts sign a “Declaration of Religious Principles,” which reads:

“The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.”

What balderdash! Doesn’t Boy Scouts of America realize our country was founded as a secular republic, our very Constitution as “godless” as the Randall twins? In fact, our Constitution, in Art. VI, guarantees “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” If our U.S. Constitution eschews religious tests for public office, rejecting professions of piety as a requirement for good citizenship, how can the Boy Scouts demand otherwise?

The question must be asked why Boy Scouts thinks it is socially acceptable, even praiseworthy, to discriminate against nonreligious kids? As Thomas Jefferson noted: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

It isn’t what a person professes that counts, it’s what that person does that matters. We all know unscrupulous people who cloak themselves in piety. Hypocrisy abounds in churches and our jails and prisons are full of “born agains” raised in religious homes. What prejudice to say that if someone rejects a particular superstition, he or she must be immoral. Religion is irrelevant to morality. Many of us believe it is even corrupting and counterproductive to ethics, which is based on kindness and reason, not ultimatums backed up by threats of hellfire.

If Boy Scouts insist on standing for bigotry and religious divisiveness, they should stand alone–without the support of our public schools and parks, United Way, and certainly without the support of the California Attorney General.

Annie Laurie Gaylor is editor of Freethought Today. This was submitted as an op-ed piece to several California daily newspapers.

Freedom From Religion Foundation