Tuesday, November 05, 2002

An Atheist's Take on the Boy Scout Mess

No, I am not an atheist. But my much-loved friend Joe is. He gave me permission to post his thoughts on the situation.

Not to knock the Boy Scouts, but this article does illustrate the kind of situations atheists can find themselves in. I was in Catholic school when my change came. I was particularly impressed by the comment that an atheist cannot be a good citizen and that the Scout leader could not remember if anyone had ever been shunned for being grumpy. (I remember John Boswell writing that hypocrisy is condemned in the Bible in much stronger terms than homosexuality, yet no one ever suggests hypocrites are unnatural.) Belief in God seems to be the one issue that everyone gets exercised about, but given how subjective talk about God always seems to be, it's the issue with least real meaning. We must declare for God; after that we're on our own.

That final line resonates, doesn't it? (Joe is a very fine writer.)

And an excerpt from the article he sent; his source was The New York Times.

November 3, 2002
Eagle Scout Faces Official Challenge Over His Lack of Faith

SEATTLE, Nov. 2 — The Boy Scout Law states that members must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Darrell Lambert has been in scouting for 10 years. Last year, he attained the highest rank, Eagle. Now a college freshman, he volunteers as an assistant in a troop in Port Orchard, just across the Puget Sound on the Olympic Peninsula, where his mother is the scoutmaster.

But this week Mr. Lambert got an ultimatum from scouting officials in Seattle. Eleven out of 12 was not good enough anymore. Mr. Lambert, who is 19 and has been an atheist since studying evolution in the ninth grade, was told to abide by the vow of reverence by next week or get out.

As Mr. Lambert described it, he was given a week to find God.

"They say that I should think about what I really believe and get back to them," he said. "I have thought about this for years. Can they expect me to change my beliefs in seven days?"

Mark Hunter, the director of marketing and administration for the Chief Seattle Council, said it was enforcing a national policy. The Boy Scouts is a faith-based organization, he said, and the issue of God is not negotiable.

< snip >

Mr. Shields [a spokesman for the organization] said for the Boy Scouts to insist on anything less would be unfair to the five million members. "It would be a disservice to all the other members to allow someone to selectively obey or ignore our rules," he said.

As for the other 11 points of the Scout Law, Mr. Shields could not say whether anyone had been ejected for being untrustworthy, disloyal, unhelpful, unfriendly, discourteous, unkind, disobedient, cheerless, unthrifty, cowardly or sloppy.

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