I was dismayed to read in the Press Herald of March 10 that “a Department of Defense initiative … is leading to new facilities at Boy Scout camps in Maine. … National Guard units will build and refurbish the facilities” at camps in Raymond, North Belgrade, Sabattus and Acton (“Maine Boy Scouts to benefit as National Guard troops work to be prepared”).
This initiative constitutes a subsidy by taxpayers of the Boy Scouts of America. Our government is, in effect, donating our money to an organization that by its actions teaches bigotry to young boys.
The BSA refuses to comply with either Maine or federal anti-discrimination laws. Court decisions have ruled that, as a private organization, it need not do so. However, most Mainers share the values that anti-discrimination laws express.
BSA by-laws state: “The Boy Scouts of America maintain that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.” This statement does not rule out respecting those who disagree, but BSA policy excludes from membership all those who do not believe in God.
At age 9, I became a Cub Scout and later, a Boy Scout. As a teenager, I questioned my religious beliefs and rejected faith as a source of truth. If I had revealed that fact, the BSA would have disqualified me for membership. It has done exactly that to many other boys.
Shunning nonbelievers sends a message to boys that reinforces the prejudice that many already have against atheists and other nonbelievers.
The Girl Scouts of the USA voted overwhelmingly in 1993 to allow members to substitute another word 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.” Why doesn’t the Boy Scouts of America do the same?
Meredith N. Springer