Dispatches from the Creation Wars

My friend Chris Rodda has an article about a Congressional authorization that would give $3.5 million to the Boy Scouts.

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5872, an act “To require the Secretary of the Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America, and for other purposes.” The other purposes? The sale of the coins by the Secretary of the Treasury, with a surcharge on each coin sold to “be paid to the National Boy Scouts of America Foundation.” In other words, this is a congressionally mandated fundraiser for the Boy Scouts.

With the act allowing for up to 350,000 of these coin to be issued and fixing the surcharge at $10 per coin, the Boy Scouts could receive as much as $3.5 million from their sale. Never before, in the long history of U.S. government issued commemorative coins, has this benefit been granted to an organization that promotes religion or discriminates based on religion.


The problem is that the Boy Scouts exist in this gray area. They were established by Congressional charter but are privately operated. And when it comes to anti-discrimination legislation, they say “Hey, we’re a private group, those laws don’t apply.” But they can’t have it both ways. If they are a private group exercising their religious freedom then they have no claim on government money. Rodda goes on to spell out exactly why the Boy Scouts are an officially religious organization:

While much has been written about the disputes and court cases resulting from establishment clause issues raised by government support of the Boy Scouts, the organization’s actual statements and policies are usually only vaguely described or briefly quoted. To leave no doubt as to why Congress, without question, should be prohibited from passing legislation to raise money for this organization, here are some of the statements and policies from official Boy Scout publications and websites.

First, there’s the “Declaration of Religious Principle,” found in the organization’s bylaws. This declaration must be subscribed to by every member of the Boy Scouts, from the youngest Scout to the adult leaders, volunteers, and employees.

Declaration of Religious Principle:

“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.”

Then there are the policies governing volunteers and employees.

Youth and Adult Volunteers:

“Boy Scouts of America believes that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. Accordingly, youth members and adult volunteer leaders of Boy Scouts of America obligate themselves to do their duty to God and be reverent as embodied in the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. Leaders also must subscribe to the Declaration of Religious Principle. Because of its views concerning the duty to God, Boy Scouts of America believes that an atheist or agnostic is not an appropriate role model of the Scout Oath and Law for adolescent boys. Because of Scouting’s methods and beliefs, Scouting does not accept atheists and agnostics as members or adult volunteer leaders.”

Employment:

“With respect to positions limited to professional Scouters or, because of their close relationship to the mission of Scouting, positions limited to registered members of the Boy Scouts of America, acceptance of the Declaration of Religious Principle, the Scout Oath, and the Scout Law is required. Accordingly, in the exercise of their constitutional right to bring the values of Scouting to youth members, the Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals, or others as professional Scouters or in other capacities in which such employment would tend to interfere with the mission of reinforcing the values of the Scout Oath and the Scout Law in young people.”

And, according to BSALegal.org, a website “created on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America to inform the public about the legal issues that confront Scouting,” religious beliefs and activities are required for every level of advancement from Cub Scouts through Eagle Scouts.

I’m all for allowing the Boy Scouts to be a private group that can discriminate as they see fit. But if they’re going to be one, all government funding must end immediately.