Atheists and Other Non-theists in Scouting

The Boy Scouts of America requires its members to believe in God and to recite an oath to God at every troop meeting. They do not permit membership to anyone whose convictions do not allow them to recite this oath and they terminate membership of anyone who is discovered to be an atheist or agnostic, even if it is discovered inadvertently. Consequently, over 20 million Americans are excluded from the Boy Scouts due to their religious beliefs. This includes not only people who identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, but also includes other non-theists such as secular Jews, non-theistic Buddhists, some Unitarians and animists (animists believe in spirits but do not believe in God). The exclusion applies to both children and adults.

The Girl Scouts of America also have an oath to God that they recite at every troop meeting, however, they do not prohibit membership to those who do not profess belief in God. They allow non-theistic members to substitute the word "God" for a word of their choosing. In this way, the Girl Scouts have maintained their oath and duty to God while accommodating non-theists at the same time. To allow all American citizens the opportunity to be in the Boy Scouts, BSA leadership should make the same kind of accommodation for non-theists.

Why are non-theists excluded from the Boy Scouts?

Non-theists are excluded from the Boy Scouts on moral grounds. On every application form and in the Boy Scout handbook you will find the words "you can't be the best kind of citizen without the obligation to God." This is another way of saying that you can't be moral without belief in God. While this is a commonly held belief, it is in fact a myth. Those who do not profess belief in God do not have any higher a propensity towards acts of immorality than anyone else. While about 10% of the U.S. population does not profess belief in God, less than 1% of the prison population does not profess belief in God. You would think that a group of such immoral people would have an unusually high percentage of its members behind bars!

Although the BSA now tries to mislead the public by identifying itself as a religious organization, it is, for all practical purposes, a secular organization. The BSA 1916 Charter says that the BSA is a nonsectarian organization. It is not to be driven by any particular religion or religious group. Currently the BSA is being run by the dictates of religious fundamentalists, who are dictating current policy. There are no prayers or religious teachings in the Boy Scouts and church attendance is not required, even on outings. There are no duties that a non-theist could not perform. Consequently, there are no good reasons to exclude members on the basis of
religious beliefs. An organization that is secular should determine membership according to criteria that is secular.

The BSA is ignoring the fact that there are many non-theists who are law abiding, contributing members of society who have much to contribute to the Boy Scouts. They want to be in the Boy Scouts just like everyone else. The BSA is a great American institution and it should be available to every American citizen regardless of their religious beliefs.

Most Scouting Associations throughout the world don't exclude atheists or other non-theists from scouting. It isn't even an issue in most countries. Lord Baden Powell , who founded scouting in 1907 in England never siad in his writings on regligion that non-theists should be excluded from the world scouting movement. In fact in England where Scouting began atheists,girls,and persons who are gay are all members and participate in scouting.

Click Here to Download Scouting for All's Literature: Athiests, Other Non-Theists and the Boy Scouts of America - A two sided pamphlet providing information regarding Athiests and other Non-Theists and the BSA Policies. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Asking Religious and Atheist Leaders to Sign Father Correll's Letter

Religious and Atheist/Non-theist Leaders Ask the Boy Scouts of America to END Its Discriminatory Policy Against Gay and Atheist Youth and Adults

Contact our
National Religious and Atheist Outreach Coordinator


  • The Alliance of Secular Humanist Societies - Is a network created for mutual support among local and regional societies of secular humanists.
    American Humanist Association
    NOSHA is dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of freethought, secularism, skepticism, non-theism and humanism. We support the efforts of Scouting for All to work for social justice within the Boy Scouts of America and society at large. We must stand against all forms of discrimination. The BSA discriminates against gay and non-theist youth and adults. The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association
  • American Atheists - American Atheists welcome you to the online version of our quarterly magazine of Atheist News and Thought
  • American Humanist Association - Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

    The American Humanist Association is also a member of the Secular Coalition for America whose mission is to increase the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints within the larger culture and to protect and strengthen secular government as the best guarantee of freedom
    for all.
  • Atheist Magazine - "Positive Atheists discussing the history, ethics and philosophy of atheism promotes liberty, responsibility"
  • ATHEIST STATION is Central Pennsylvania's only official meeting site for atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.
  • Atheists for Human Rights
  • www.AtheistWorld.Com - Athesit / Nontheist educational and discussion web site
  • Camp Quest - is the first secular summer camp in US history for the children of humanists, freethinkers, agnostics and atheists. Since 1996, Camp Quest has provided a unique week-long event free of supernatural appeals, an exploration of the natural world, and as much outdoor fun as we can pack into those few days. Camp Quest's acceptance of campers and staff regardless of belief or orientation is well known. This successful program is being copied to several new locations this summer, in Ontario, Minnesota, and Michigan, fully endorsed by Edwin Kagin and Camp Quest (Classic).
    Len Zanger (director)
    Camp Quest of Michigan, Inc.
    P. O. Box 656
    Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303
    fax 248-334-7499
    office 248-368-2186
  • Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists (CASH) of the University of Minnesota - statement: We support Scouting for All in its efforts to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts of America against gay and atheist youth and adults. The Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists (CASH) is a non-profit educational and social group run by students of the University of Minnesota. In our 13th year, we continue to strive to create a community for atheist, humanist, and freethinking individuals. We represent rational thought on campus, advocate freedom of speech and freedom of religion, separation of church and state, and consider ourselves and other secular student groups to be the voice of reason and skepticism in a sea of supernaturalist dogma on college campuses around the United States.
  • Freedom From Religion Foundation - Since 1978, the nonprofit Freedom From Religion Foundation has been
    working to keep state and church separate and to educate the public about the views of nontheists. Members include
    freethinkers from all 50 states, Canada, and other countries. The Foundation monitors abuses of the separation of state and church, taking lawsuits and officially complaining about such abuses.
  • American Atheists - American Atheists is a nationwide movement which defends the civil rights of nonbelievers, works for the separation of church and state, and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists, Inc. - P.O. Box 5733 - Parsippany, NJ (908)276-7300
  • For The Bible Tells Me So - In the spring of 2003, executive producers Robin Voss and Keith Lewis
    attended a seminar entitled "Beyond the Bible and Homosexuality, A Journey into the Heart of God" at St. Mark, a progressive Presbyterian church in Orange County, California. The presenter was a straight minister named Steven Kindle, the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Clergy United.

    During the presentation, Rev. Kindle provided a very different interpretation of the scriptural passages regarding homosexuality--passages that traditionally have been used by Judeo/Christian religious institutions to condemn homosexuality. Voss and Lewis were so moved by that initial seminar, that they agreed a film should be made addressing this issue.
  • Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia - Our principle activity is to promote the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and to educate the public on matters related to a nontheist life stance.
  • - East Bay Atheists is comprised of two groups. One in Berkeley and one in
    San Leandro. They are informal groups of Bay Area residents who each meet once a month to discuss atheism and religiously topical events in the area and around the world. Our collective mission includes local activism where the rights of freethinkers to be free from religion are threatened, or when the separation of church and state is blurred.
  • New Jersey Humanist Network
    P.O. Box 8212
    Somerville, NJ 08876
    (609) 371-1357
  • Secular Humanism Web Links
  • - Atheist Alliance International


Darrell Lambert's Appeal Letter:

Darrell Lambert, Atheist, Eagle Scout, of the Chief Seattle Council.
Kicked out of scouting by the Boy Scouts of America for being an Atheist, November 2002

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