February 10, 2013

Another View: Boy Scouts discriminate against more than gay leaders

Religious nonbelievers are also excluded by policies that don't exist in other organizations.

By MEREDITH N. SPRINGER

Your editorial of Feb. 2 appropriately praised the Boy Scouts of America for considering the end of its ban on gay membership ("Boy Scouts should end ban on gay leaders"). The editorial, however, failed to note or criticize continuing religious discrimination by the BSA.

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."

Such a statement does not necessarily rule out respecting those who disagree, but BSA policy is to exclude nonbelievers in God from the organization. Stigmatizing and shunning nonbelievers sends a clear message to Scouting's young members that reinforces the prejudice that many already have against atheists and other nonbelievers.

In 1943, I proudly received my Eagle Scout badge from the Boy Scouts of America. Then, at age 13, I had not questioned the religious beliefs taught to me by my parents.

As I later questioned those beliefs, I realized the inadequacy of faith as a source of truth about the world and a basis for morality. The BSA viewed doing so as making me morally unfit for membership.

Last summer, I joined many others in returning my Eagle badge in protest of BSA policies; I had long since disqualified myself for membership.

Many Scouting associations around the world do not require their members to have specific religious beliefs. In the United States, the Girl Scouts of the USA voted overwhelmingly in 1993 to allow its members to substitute another word or phrase 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."

The Boy Scouts should do likewise and recognize the importance of giving respect to the deeply and honestly held beliefs of all. BSA should no longer stand for "Bigoted Scouts of America."

Meredith N. Springer is a resident of Scarborough.

 

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