Tags: boy | scouts | atheists

Boy Scouts Remain Adamant About 'Duty To God'

Saturday, 01 Jun 2013 09:42 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Boy Scouts of America will likely continue banning atheists and other non-believers from their troops, even though it now accepts openly gay members among its ranks.

"I don't see that happening, at least not in the immediate future," said Neil Polzin, an Eagle Scout fired from his job in 2009 as a Boy Scout camp aquatics director, after he admitted he is an atheist.

"The focus has always been on the Scouts' discrimination against gays and it seems atheists were always on a back burner or not discussed at all," Polzin told The Christian Century.

Urgent: Should the Boy Scouts Ban Gays?

Since May 23, when the Scouts voted to allow gay members – but not troop leaders – among their ranks, major organizations for nonbelievers have condemned their continuing exclusion from the organization.

Part of the Scouting oath is to "do my duty to God and my country," which many atheists prefer be changed to "good and my country," a request the BSA has refused.

In addition, some atheist children have been asked to leave troops after it was revealed they did not believe in God. There have been lawsuits filed, but the Supreme Court has ruled that the Boy Scouts is a private organization that can make its own membership rules.

Religion was not a sticking point when the Scouts were founded in 1910, said Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University and author of a book critical of the Supreme Court’s decision. That part of the oath was added during the Cold War years, at about the same time "under God" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

But R. Chip Turner, national chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force, said Scouting officials are committed to the "duty to God" language, as "a core principle."

Koppelman said society itself will have to change before the Boy Scouts do.

“Gays have changed from cultural pariahs to a group whose civil rights are taken seriously,” he said. “Atheists have been trying to do the same thing to some extent, but they have not been as successful as the gays. They would have to work hard to change the culture.”

Urgent: Should the Boy Scouts Ban Gays?

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