Boy Scouts Still Turns Away Atheists, Agnostics

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Boy Scouts of America still maintains that atheists and agnostics cannot receive membershipBoy Scouts of America still maintains that atheists and agnostics cannot receive membership

While Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on having openly gay leaders and employees in 2015, the organization still forbids atheists and agnostics from gaining membership.

The rule is based on the organization's so called "Duty to God," according to World Religion News. The Boy Scouts handbook states a scout must be "reverent toward God," "faithful in his religious duties" and "respect[ful] [of] the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion," according to Boy Scouts of America.

However, an atheist could still apply for membership through a Unitarian Church, defined as one that follows Christian beliefs, but asserts that God exists in one person, not three, according to World Religion News. The Church also asserts that God accepts all people equally. Very few atheists, however, associate themselves with the Unitarian Church.

In protest of the BSA's ban on gays and atheists, the Unitarian Church disaffiliated itself from the BSA in 1998, according to World Religion News. After the ban on gay members was lifted in 2015, the church re-affiliated itself with the BSA, despite the fact that the policy on atheist members did not change.

Herb Silverman, founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America, says his group worries about the BSA's insistence on equating morality with religion, according to an opinion piece Silverman wrote for The Huffington Post.

Scouts and leaders must sign a document when joining the BSA that contains the phrase “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”

Silverman asserts that this phrase is prejudiced against atheists, as it claims a person cannot be good if he does not believe in a god. Not only that, but it supposedly teaches young boys that certain people are more moral than others depending on their beliefs and lifestyles.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, one of the nation's largest secular organizations, claimed in a July 2015 statement that this rule is based in bigotry.

"No one can be the best kind of citizen when they're told it's their duty to discriminate on the basis of religion," the statement read.

Sources: World Religion News, Boy Scouts of AmericaThe Huffington Post, Freedom From Religion Foundation / Photo Credit: Nate Pesce/Flickr

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