‘Scouting America’ — except atheists and other nonbelievers?

The national Boy Scouts of America organization just announced this week that, in an effort to be more inclusive, it’s changing its name after 114 years to “Scouting America” Whatever the group is called, however, it apparently will still exclude nonreligious children and their families.

The fraternal order began accepting some gay boys, after years of exclusion, in 2013. It ended its blanket ban on gay adult leaders in 2015, began allowing trans children who identified as boys in 2017, accepted girls as Cub Scouts in 2018 and in its flagship program by 2019. But so far there has been no public announcement that nonreligious children and leaders will be welcome in the newly named outfit.

“We’re sorry to see that the media have largely failed to point out the continuing discrimination against children from nonbelieving homes,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “Why does it continue to be acceptable to discriminate against the nonreligious? We hope this name change will signal that Scouting America will soon inaugurate reforms that will make it truly live up to its name.”

The group has had an exclusionary history. Boy Scouts of America in the 1970s adopted the “Declaration of Religious Principles,” which states: “The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation maintains that no one can grow to be the best kind of citizen when told it’s a duty to discriminate on the basis of religion — or lack thereof. Religion should not play a role in an organization in which the U.S. president serves as the honorary president, which has a congressional charter as a civic — not a religious — group and which has been the recipient of countless public benefits.

Many children, teenagers and leaders through the years have been refused membership, discouraged from joining or even expelled, often after being recruited by flyers distributed through public schools falsely advertising “Any boy may join.”

When almost half of Generation Z has no religious affiliation,  it is incumbent on Scouting America to support freedom of conscience and finally end decades of discrimination against nonreligious children.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members and several chapters all over the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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