This is the speech I gave at Scouting for All's Protest Press Conference at the Boy Scouts of America's National
Conference May 19, 2004:
Good morning, my name is Ben Hyink. I earned the Eagle Scout rank in 1999. My service project was a food drive
on behalf of a shelter for battered women and children.
By the summer of 2000, I had come to realize that I no longer believed in any being or substance
that could properly be called God. This came after six years of independent study of comparative religions, philosophies
and the nature of belief.
Contrary to what I had previously assumed, I discovered that life without a belief in God need
not be bleak, amoral, or meaningless. Rather, some of the most profound and humane perspectives on record have
come from atheists, and positive life-philosophies continue to be nurtured in non-theistic communities such as
Secular Humanist movement.
The term "reverent" in the Scout Law need not specify belief in the concept of a monotheistic
god; a philosophic sensitivity and healthy humility can be cultivated without any supernatural reference. Indeed,
the BSA has
awarded medals to scouts highly active in religious traditions that are inclusive of both atheists and the LGBT
community, such as Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism, though the U.U. Church has just been de-recognized
because of its inclusiveness. By excluding atheists on the grounds of mere prejudice, the BSA disrespects the beliefs
of others and thereby contradicts its own law.
The fact that employing a pantheistic notion of "god as nature" in empty rhetoric would
have allowed Darrell Lambert to attain the rank he earned in 2002 gives us evidence of the hypocrisy engendered
by discrimination against atheists.
Likewise, it is a dubious claim that the BSA is "morally straight" in excluding out-of-the-closet
members of the LGBT community, as matters of sexual orientation and personal identity have no bearing on one's
ethical relations to others.
By the excluding of openly atheist or openly gay youths and adult leaders the BSA's policy shuts
out many people with a high degree of personal integrity, who refuse to deny the thoughts and feelings that make
them who they are.
In order to live up to the principles of its creeds, the BSA must open its doors to people who
hold supreme values under other names than "God," whose natural orientations are other than heterosexual,
and whose sentiments and self-conceptions pose no threat to others but provide scouts with a realistic experience
of human diversity. A good turn is due on a large scale, and I appeal to all scout leaders and youth, at all levels,
to be accountable to your fellow citizens and through your own actions work to end the unjust discrimination of
the BSA. Prove you follow the scout law by bravely standing up to bigotry within the ranks; bring scouting back
to its founding principles, and into the twenty-first century.