Tonawanda News


February 8, 2013



Tonawanda News — Personally, I can accept Scouting without gay Scouts — it’s their organization, to be run by their rules, and if they choose to fade into irrelevance, so be it. I prefer their acceptance of the world in which they reside and working to improve it, and that means including the young and gay, and leaders who are gay. 

It is my understanding, though, that troops will choose their own policy, deciding whether to remain exclusionary or to offer the advantages of Scouting to all, something like the wrenching decisions affecting many of those churches with which they align themselves.

So, some will stay the course, others will determine their policies according to external and local factors. A noble, if small and grossly overdue, step. 

There is no talk, though, of opening up the joys and advantages of Scouting to the irreligious. Scouts pledge to uphold their “duty to God,” and proclaim pursuit of 12 virtues in their oath (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, friendly, courteous ...”), the last being “reverent.” The non-reverent, meaning atheist or agnostic or otherwise not dead solid strong in their relationship with God, are as unwelcome as the gay.

“The Boy Scouts of America does not define what constitutes belief in God or the practice of religion. Membership in a religious organization is not required.” That’s straight off the Scouting website. It nonetheless demands a thoughtful connection between the prospective Scout, or Scout leader, and God.

And if that connection does not exist? Find another organization, kid.

Among the honored groups in America that do not require evidence of an applicant’s bond with God are the United States Army, nearly every sports organization and the voting registries. The non-believer is welcome there, but not at the Boy Scouts of America. 

We live in changing times, fortunately, and ours has seen a diminishing relationship between faith and morality. Prevailing issues of trust, capability and honor are linked less and less to religion, the way race and perceived disability count less than other characteristics of a person’s character. We can go a lifetime not caring of, or even knowing, a neighbor’s religious preference, but we know if he or she is a good neighbor.

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