Anti-Discrimination Support Network Questions the BSA's Affiliation with the Public School System
GREATER PHILADELPHIA STORY-September 1996
As the new public school year begins, the Anti-Discrimination Support Network (a committee of the Freethought Society
of Greater Philadelphia) sent the following letter to Chester and Delaware County public schools:
Letter to Principal and School Board
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On behalf of the freethought community I am writing to voice our concern with the Boy Scouts of America's
(BSA) recruiting program. The freethought community is requesting your assistance in protecting freethinking families
from becoming victims of religious discrimination at the hands of the BSA. The freethought community is comprised
of Agnostics, Atheists, and Secular Humanists. We choose to follow the example set by Thomas Paine who said, "My
country is the world and my religion is to do good."
The BSA will soon be using your public school to distribute BSA membership information. The BSA commonly
request that teachers distribute its literature inside the classroom. The literature seems innocent enough in
that the flyer (see enclosed) advertises that "You can be a Cub Scout." In truth, only the religious
can be Cub Scouts. A religious test will be given to interested children that attend the open house listed on
The Boy Scouts of America is unyielding with the required oath to God and compliance to their Declaration
of Religious Principles (DRP). The DRP (see enclosed) describes God as "...the ruling and leading power in
the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship..."
The DRP further states that, "...this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept ..." The
implication is that a nonbeliever is not a good citizen. The nonbelieving community is highly insulted by this
The DRP also claims that the BSA is "nonsectarian." If this were true then a religious test
would not be necessary. The BSA has determined that there are certain acceptable religious beliefs. Life stances
that do not include a belief in a deity are unacceptable. The BSA may be multi-sectarian; they are hardly nonsectarian.
The BSA religious test is teaching believers to dislike, separate from and mistreat nonbelievers. Identification
in order to separate children from each other based on a philosophical question is highly unethical and must be
A public school teacher would surely agree that children should not be taught prejudice. After all, America
is a melting pot of all cultures. When teachers promote, endorse, and solicit on behalf of the BSA they become
party to religious intolerance. They become involved in a witch hunt that will injure an innocent child and his
family. The BSA's message is that you must embrace a religious belief or suffer the consequence of being a social
outcast. Teachers and If teachers were asked to hand out information and recruitment materials of an organization
that does not admit people of color, an ethical teacher would be appalled. Exclusion because of religious difference
is equally unfair segregation.
It is said that the public school system looks upon the BSA membership drive the same way that it views
the YMCA membership drive. Calls to local YMCAs disclosed that they do not require a declaration of religious
principles to obtain membership. Unlike the BSA, everyone applying to the YMCA is welcome to join without a religious
test. The YMCA is deserving of public school sponsorship, the BSA is not. Selective membership based on a religious
test oath is undemocratic. Bigotry, in any form, is a sign of bad citizenship.
By declaring that their organization requires a signed religious affirmation, the BSA has become a religious
organization. Because not all boys can join, they also become a private religious organization. If the public
school allows the BSA to solicit for members in the classroom and on school grounds, the school is endorsing, condoning
and promoting a religious organization. To maintain the Jeffersonian wall of church-state separation, state-funded
schools are obligated to separate themselves from any religious affiliation.
Further proof that the BSA is involved in unlawful religious testing can be found in its own Congressional
Charter. In 1916, Congress chartered the BSA as a "patriotic organization" (see enclosed). This charter
places an obligation on the BSA to abide by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By not accepting nonbelievers, the BSA
defiantly violates anti-discrimination laws. There is nothing patriotic about such invidious discrimination.
May we hear from you at your earliest convenience to confirm that our concerns will be seriously discussed
at the next school board meeting? A representative of the Anti-Discrimination Support Network is available to
speak and to meet with you personally about this issue should you need additional information.
Margaret Downey, Founder and Director