Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor
From Fox News:
Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.
Scouting for All is a 100% Volunteer 501-(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization. Every dollar donated goes toward our education and advocacy programs, and is tax deductible.
How Your Tax Dollars Support the Boy Scouts of America
It was open house at the Police Department in Whittier, California, and my guide, a polite and intelligent Explorer
Scout, wore a uniform similar in style to that of the Whittier Police. "We're part of the department,"
And he was. According to the official procedure of the Boy Scouts of America which provides the Explorer program
nationwide, each troop or unit is actually owned and operated by the sponsoring or "charter" organization.
In the case of the Whittier Police Explorer Post, that charter organization is the City of Whittier.
Available from the department at its front desk is the pamphlet, _Introduction to the Whittier Police Explorers_,
published by the City of Whittier. It explains that young people who are accepted into the program receive an 18-week
training course on Saturdays at the Sheriff's facility. An application form for membership is included, which provides
a place on page three to indicate "religious preference."
Private or Public?
The Boy Scouts of America has come under increasing fire for its rejection of atheists and gays and is currently
in court defending itself against several discrimination lawsuits. In its legal briefs, it presents itself as a
private group with an essentially religious basis that is exempt from discrimination laws, including California's
Unruh Act. That act provides that:
All persons withing the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their ... religion
... are entitled to the full and equal accomodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or service in all business
establishments of every kind whatsoever.
The Boy Scouts' discriminatory position results from the BSA practice of excluding from membership -- as well
as positions of adult leadership -- all who don't believe in God or who are homosexual.
Young children who, although they may not happen to use words like _atheist_ or _agnostic_, still know they
don't believe in a supreme being, fall under the religous ban. Adult leaders must not merely pledge such belief,
they must sign the Declaration of Religious Principles, which indicates agreement with the BSA policy that no one
can become "the best kind of citizen" without recognizing the "obligation to God." Agreement
is important here. Criticism of this religious policy by BSA leaders has led to dismissal. Also dismissed were
officials who simply testified for the plaintiff in a discrimination trial, including some officials who personally
believe in a god.
Given this, the question naturally arises as to what a private religious group is doing in intimate association
with a city government. Can the Boy Scouts of America so easily get away with having it both ways, being "private"
for purposes of discrimination but "public" when it comes to taxpayer support of local units? And does
the BSA really have the clout to induce the City of Whittier to discriminate against gays and atheists who may
wish to join its Whittier Police Explorer Post?
Clearly it can and does. In fact, _any_ city with a police or fire department having an Explorer program has
effectively agreed to entangle itself with religion and discriminate in these ways. The discrimination goes beyond
simply controlling who may become an Explorer Scout or an adult leader. Since future employers highly value Explorer
service, cities with Explorer programs indirectly foster job discrimination. Another form of job discrimination
faces officers or firefighters who wish to become adult leaders in an Explorer program. Putting "I was in
charge of an Explorer Post" on a resume becomes impossible for an unbeliever because of the (sometimes arbitrary)
veto of Boy Scouts of America officials.
In a free society, a city should not provide a public service for but a portion of its citizens. No city park
greets visitors with a sign that reads, "No dogs, alcoholic beverages, or infidels allowed." Similarly,
Whittier should not seek to prevent young atheistic Buddhists (for example) from providing volunteer service to
the police department and receiving experience and training in return.
Who "Owns and Operates" an Explorer Post?
Decades of official BSA documents reveal that the chartered organization owns and operates the post or troop
and is therefore responsible for the discriminatory policies used in its operation. _The Chartered Organization
Representative_, published by the BSA, declares with emphasis, "The Units Belong to Your Organization . .
. Packs, Troops, Teams, and Posts are Owned, Operated and Administered by _Community-based Organizations_."
The policy -- that the Boy Scouts do not own individual units, but are only there to serve the chartered organization
-- goes back to the early days of Scouting.
In _The District_, another BSA publication, the setup is explained:
Though we own Tiger Cubs, BSA; Boy Scouting; Varsity Scouting; and Exploring, we do not own the units that convey
these phases of the program to youth.
We charter community organizations to organize and operate _their_ units.
In _Membership/Relationship Committee Guide_, the BSA authorities define terms:
The word "charter" that is used so widely in the Boy Scouts of America is not always well understood.
Informally, the term "franchise" helps to explain what is meant by "chartering" an organization.
"Franchise" implies local ownership while still using the corporation name and resources.
The chartered organization, according to _Post Organization_, must be committed to carry out the charter agreement.
This must be done by the organization's "head." In a police department, this is the chief of police.
The chartered organization is expected to "conduct the Scouting program according to its own policies and
guidelines as well as those of the Boy Scouts of America." Paradoxically, according to _The Council_, the
council of the Boy Scouts of America is pledged to maintain its own policies, and to cooperate "fully"
with governments "within the framework of our Charter and Bylaws." This apparently means that the BSA
can put its own rules above those of government, including discrimination statutes.
The chartered organization agrees, says _Post Organization_, to "recruit competent adult leaders."
The choice of advisors, committee members, and especially the chartered organization representative, is made by
the chartered organization. The Council of the Boy Scouts of America, however, holds a veto over these appointments.
The BSA maintains a list of current "unacceptable" categories, declares the _Membership/Relationship
Committee Guide_. Apparently, these adult leaders are officers or other employees of the department during working
In sum, a city like Whittier is obligated to supply adult leaders certified to be neither gay nor atheistic
to supervise a job training program for prospective recruits of the police department! Furthermore, this program
is conducted on city property and supervised by city employees during working hours. By uniforms, insignia, and
such association with Whittier employees, the Explorer Scouting program will generally be identified by the general
public as under the control of the city their taxes support. Hence, the discrimination required by the BSA becomes
both an act and a statement of the local government.
Obligation Not to Discriminate
The obligation of a public agency not to discriminate on the basis both of religion and sexual orientation is
recognized in many communities throughout the country. Consistent with this, Chief of Police Bob Burgreen of the
San Diego Police Department, to avoid continuing to endorse discrimination against gays, ordered his department's
Explorer Scout charter sent back to the BSA. This ended a program there which had been part of the department for
more than 25 years. Furthermore, the San Diego Human Relations Commission called for the city to end its lease
agreements with the local Scout council because of its discrimination against gay members and troop leaders.
In conservative Orange County, California, the Laguna Beach Police Department has put the BSA on notice. Chief
of Police Neil J. Purcell, Jr., said, "We resent the fact that, through a clearly discriminatory policy, they
are dictating to us who can or cannot be a member or adviser of the Explorer Scout group. I'd like to have it out
in the open and have it known we're not going to discriminate" against gays.
Troop 260 of San Jose, California, decided to cease excluding homosexuals, but nevertheless had its charter
renewed. In Washington, acting on complaints by Patrick Inniss, a humanist activist, the Seattle Fire Department
has terminated its relationship with the Boy Scouts by failing to renew its charter to operate an Explorer Post.
Chief Claude Harris had sent a letter to the Boy Scouts requesting that they certify that the BSA would not discriminate
on the basis of religion or sexual orientation. The Seattle Police Department has now suspended intake of new Scouts
in their Explorer program while the discrimination issue is investigated. In addition, the King County Police Department
there has assigned an attorney to investigate.
The BSA's Federal Charter
The 1916 Congressional charter, which supercedes the previous incorporation of the BSA in 1910, gives a monopoly
to it on the use of the name "Scouts," and on insignia and phrases used in scouting. The House Judiciary
Committee, reporting on the bill to charter the BSA, cited the public services rendered by Scouts, including service
in floods, war-bond collection, and as "an auxiliary force in the maintenance of public order." The committee
The importance and magnitude of its work is such to entitle it to recognition and its work and insignia to protection
by Federal incorporation. If any boy can secure these badges without meeting the required tests, the badges will
soon be meaningless, and one of the leading features of the Scout program will be lost.
Since 1916, the BSA has used this federal monopoly to crush potential rivals. In 1917 it sued the United States
Boy Scouts, previously known as American Boy Scouts, and that organization disappeared. Several other versions
of scouting were absorbed on a friendly basis. The BSA is definitely a business that protects its monopoly in court.
As recently as 1989, it threatened the Wilderness Scouts of Blairsville, Georgia. Thus, the congressional Charter
of 1916 has effectively been made into a decree: outside of the Girl Scouts, which received a similar congressional
charter in 1954, only one form of scouting can exist in the United States, and that form is the discriminatory
At the outbreak of World War I, the BSA had been the largest uniformed service, dwarfing in numbers the Army,
Navy, and Marines. Duly constituted as a federal patriotic organization, Scouts were enlisted in service in natural
disasters and in the massive Liberty Loan drive, with prizes given by President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of
the Treasury William G.McAdoo. A poster for U.S.A. Bonds shows a Boy Scout handing a sword, emblazoned with "Be
Prepared," to a flag-draped, shield-wielding goddess Liberty.
The federal government has taken the Charter seriously. A mammoth Charter Day dinner in 1962 was attended by
1,000 representatives of government. The Boy Scouts have been heralded by two commemorative stamps -- one in 1950
and the other in 1960.
Although Congress prescribes the powers of the BSA, nowhere is any mention made in its charter of God or religion.
The charter entitles the organization to "make and adopt by-laws, rules, and regulations not inconsistent
with the laws of the United States of America, or any State thereof." This should mean that the BSA is obligated
to follow local, state, and federal anti-discrimination laws. In the same 1916 public law, the Boy Scouts of America
is required to file a report with the United States Congress each year by April 1 on its expenditures and activities.
These reports are public record and are available as House documents, filed by the number of the Congress in session.
Congress, in providing a charter to the BSA, retained the right to "appeal, alter, or amend this Act at
any time." Therefore, Congress has the power to abolish the BSA. It certainly has the right to require it
to cease its discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
Duty to God
In accordance with the principles of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, Scouting
was supposed to overcome religious and class differences. He wrote, "The religion of a man is not the creed
he professes but his life -- what he acts upon, and knows of life, and his duty in it. A bad man who believes in
a creed is no more religious than the good man who does not."
The "Duty to God" slogan was regarded liberally, and Scouting movements in several countries dispensed
with it, notably Denmark in 1910. However, the Boy Scouts of America, fresh from the achievement of its federal
monopoly, adopted a constitution in 1916 whose article III specified, "The Boy Scouts of America maintains
that no boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God." The scout laws
-- simple slogans memorized by the boys -- are different in each country. In the United States, a twelfth Scout
Law was added, "A Scout Is Reverent." There is no such law in British scouting, organized according to
the wishes of Baden-Powell.
All American Scout leaders are required to subscribe to a Declaration of Religious Principles -- agreeing to
the religious test of the constitution. I have found no evidence that this test was actually applied in the early
BSA to exclude individual atheist Scouts, but the BSA claimed in 1935 (perhaps as a boast to religious authorities)
that it had excluded "several hundred" adult leaders who failed to acknowledge God.
Though no level of government directly funds the operating budget of the BSA, member and unit sponsors paid
fees that amounted in 1993 to $56.8 million out of a total budget of $115 million. In addition, supply operations
garnered $18.4 million, and magazine publications another $3.7 million. Income from these sources would likely
be greatly reduced if the BSA were not a federally protected monopoly. You can even be arrested for selling your
own "scout souvenirs" without authorization.
The 355 local councils of the Boy Scouts have separate budgets which are more directly dependent on community
and corporate donations. Approximately one third of the 1993 aggregate total for local councils came from local
United Way organizations. Recently, however, United Way support has been reduced or cut off completely in some
areas. The United Way cut funding to the Los Angeles Council of the BSA by 52 percent in 1993.
The BSA maintains statistical data on membership and unit (pack, troop and, post) growth. For years, detailed
breakdowns of unit sponsorship were printed in the annual reports filed with Congress. I have combined some information
from the latest, 1993, report with data supplied directly by BSA spokesperson Richard Walker:
Government organization Total Units Explorer Units
Dept. of Defense, all installations:
Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines 1,014 300
Fire Departments 3,127 1,475
Law Enforcement Agencies 2,809 2,545
Public Schools 9,971 1,734
Economic Opportunity Agencies 200 53
Learning for Life
(presumed to be public schools) 5,621 1,887
TOTAL Public agencies 22,742 7,694
Total, All Sponsors 129,610 23,056
In addition, in the 1975 report, "Government Bodies" had an additional 340 Explorer posts and 612
total units; the U.S. Coast Guard had 47 Explorer posts and 63 total units; and Housing Projects had 1,003 units
of which 60 were Explorer posts. Thousands more units were sponsored by labor unions, farm bureaus, professional
and scientific societies, playgrounds, park and recreational centers, and Parent Teacher Associations, which have
public connections. (Religious bodies over the years have sponsored about half of all units.)
Patrick S. Inniss has found Explorer Posts in the Seattle area at the King County Department of Public Safety,
King County Fire District 24, the Washington State Patrol, the United States Customs Office, and the Federal Bureau
of Investigation. Public-school-sponsored units alone have 353,464 youth members. Learning for Life groups have
737,799, thus involving at least a million students on school grounds. The total youth membership of the Boy Scouts
of America is 4,165,173, and there are 1,190,228 adults.
BSA documents reveal decades of close cooperation with the federal government. The United States Air Force supports
scouting from the Air Force Office of Youth Relations at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas. Army, Navy, Coast Guard,
and National Guard cooperation is detailed in various manuals and regulations, making it clear that it is public
policy to sponsor units and support the activities of the Scouts.
Other federal agencies supporting BSA units include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the
U.S. Department of Agriculture and various state agricultural extension services. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
Council Conservation Award, started in 1959 by then Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, has been given to
one BSA council in each region annually. Local, State and Federal parks and forest personnel, as well as Armed
Forces service personnel, have aided large numbers of touring Scouts. And many of these organizations have published
regulations pertaining to support for the BSA:
- U. S. Army, Army Reg. 28-1
- U. S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Public Affairs Manual, ch. 2
- U. S. Navy, SECNAV Instruction 5720.44 and OPNAV instruction 5760.5
- National Guard: Army Regulation 360-61; Air Force Reg. 190-1; National Guard Reg. 735-12; and National Guard
Bureau pamphlet 360-5
- U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development pamphlets 7-424 and 3036.
In 1951, the Department of Defense declared the Boy Scouts of America to be an educational activity "of
special interest to the Armed Forces." Since then, local councils of the BSA have been privileged to receive
outright donations of surplus military goods and property. Such donations included not only equipment for Boy Scouts
and Explorer Scouts, but also development and maintenance of camps and even council offices.
U.S. Public Law 87-459 authorized the Secretary of Defense to lend tents, blankets, and other equipment and
services to the National Council of the BSA for the use of Scouts and Scouters (adult leaders) attending the World
Jamboree in Greece in August, 1963. The equipment was supposed to be returned without expense to the government.
Fort A. P. Hill in New Jersey is apparently being maintained by the U.S. government for the sole purpose of hosting
It is traditional that the President of the United States (who is the ceremonial head of the Boy Scouts of America),
or the President's representative, give a speech to the assembled Scouts and Scouters every four years. In August
of 1993, this tradition was broken by President Clinton.
One Year of Federal Aid to the BSA: 1962
Many of the BSA's Annual Reports to Congress detail the extent of the government's cooperation during the previous
year. The report for 1962 -- covering the time I was a member of Boy Scout Troop 106 at Grand Avenue School of
Phoenix, Arizona -- is particularly useful because it was issued during the high point of American scouting when
the BSA wanted to boast of its government entanglements rather than play them down.
In that year, 14 officers of the United States Air Force were assigned to provide liaison between the service
and the Scouting movement. Besides direct sponsorship of 864 units, the U.S. Air Force provided help with specialists
in aerospace subjects; use of facilities for encampments, meetings, and visits; orientation flights; help with
national rifle matches; stopovers to and from Philmont Scout Ranch; and "other assistance." Also 8,508
Explorers were flown on local orientation flights. A total of 10,110 events were conducted at Air Force installations
during 1962 with a cumulative attendance of 151,609 Explorers.
The United States Coast Guard made shore installations and "floating units" available for visits,
encampments, and voyages. Coast Guard aircraft were occasionally made available for observer flights. Some inspections
of Explorer vessels were made free of charge.
During the same year, the U.S. Army's program of cooperation took the form of 1,147 on-post encampments; 1,385
guided tours, 1,326 marksmanship sessions; 2,771 other instructional sessions; 638 overnight stops; and 34 off-post
The Department of the Army assisted the Boy Scouts in the following activities:
- Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, New York, held a 3-day camporee in conjunction with Order of the Arrow elections
- Fort Meade, Maryland, hosted its annual camporee with 1,031 Scouts in attendance
- Scouts in groups attending the Seattle World's Fair were housed at Fort Lawton, Washington for periods of up
to 3 days
- medical personnel from Valley Forge General Hospital in Pennsylvania furnished medical aid for a local Scout
- Umatilla Army Depot in Oregon held an Adult Leaders' course
- A Flagstaff, Arizona, troop worked at the Navajo Army Depot for their Wildlife merit badge
- The annual Scout swim meet was again held at the Granite City, Illinois, Army Depot
- 1,200 Scouts assembled at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey for their annual camporee
- A winter camp and survival camp were held at the Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, Forestburg Camp in upstate New
The Department of the Navy was not slacking in its support for the BSA in 1962:
- More than 142,000 Scouts and leaders toured Naval shore establishments or ships
- 9,000 Explorers embarked on Naval ships for short training cruises
- 8,000 were flown on orientation flights at Naval air stations
- 95,500 Scouts utilized Naval training and educational facilities
- Over 23,000 participated in encampments or utilized berthing facilities at various naval stations.
Meanwhile, the Navy presented $967,796 worth of donable surplus equipment to the BSA during the year.
As one former Scout commented to America On-Line and the Internet:
As an army brat, all of my scouting activities from Cubs thru Explorers were sponsored by various military operations
including: 3rd Army, 118th and 82nd Airborn Division, MASH Units, and best of all the 7th Special Forces Training
Center at Ft. Bragg NC. Talk about great times showing up at national conferences in military trucks and stuff.
The latest in camping equipment, instructors of every description. Camporee support facilities (food, kitchens,
tents, security, transportation, medical and demonstrations) were ALL provided by army units.
BSA spokesperson Richard Walker expressed surprise at learning of the extensive assistance rendered by the military
to the BSA during the 1950's and 60's. But, as an example of other government aid to private activities, he cited
the extensive cooperation of the U.S. military with the film industry. (Of course, the film industry isn't free
to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, or sexual orientation.)
The extensive use of military facilities by Scouting continues today. The community relations office of Camp
Pendleton in California confirmed that Scouts from the Orange County Council of the BSA camp on Marine Base grounds.
By way of comparison, other groups assisted included the Young Marines and the Devil Pups. Corporal Michael Morris
said that Scouts could camp, hike, or bike on government property, and that it was general policy that the Marines
"do whatever we can for the Boy Scouts."
In the Public Schools
Particularly alarming is the new Boy Scout program for public schools: Learning for Life. Its activities are
conducted on the school grounds, during class time, using school personnel. As of Dec. 31, 1993, the 5,621 groups
nationwide enrolled 737,799 students. There are 18,000 public school officials signed up and the cost is $200 per
year per classroom. For a school to operate these programs, it must agree -- for each "unit" -- to provide
one administrator and one teacher. These school employees (plus any additional volunteers) must each meet the leadership
"standards" of the Boy Scouts of America -- no atheists, no agnostics, no gays. Ignored is the fact that
it is illegal in some states for any public school administrator to even ask about religious affiliation or sexual
orientation. It is a misdemeanor, punishable as a crime. It is even such for anyone to "indirectly" do
Learning for Life was hailed by some as a program in which girls, homosexuals, and atheists could participate.
That is, though it is restrictive as to who can _lead_ activities, every student in a given public school classroom
is included (being part of a captive audience).
Critics of the program, however, have said that the BSA has used it to dodge the issue of fully allowing gay
youths, atheists, and girls into the larger organization. "The fact that they have created a second program
that's school-based that have the Scout emblems attached to it and is open to girls or agnostics or atheists is
nothing," said Roberta Achtenberg, a San Francisco supervisor and a board member of the United Way. "This
is clearly a second-class program. It doesn't capture the essence of scouting."
Los Angeles BSA council spokesperson Tom Kolin confirmed that the Learning for Life membership is separated
from membership in the rest of the BSA. Nonetheless, because of this program, the the Mt. Diablo Council of the
BSA was allowed to reapply for a United Way grant in the San Francisco area for which they had previously been
rejected because of discrimination.
Aside from Learning for Life, and even for units not owned and operated by government bodies, Boy Scout councils
and units, trading on the BSA's reputation as a public, patriotic organization, have enjoyed free use of public
facilities nationwide. Historically, 75 percent of units meeting at public schools pay no rent.
The California State Education Code lists the Boy Scouts among public groups entitled to use school facilities
after hours. (This privilege of use without fees, under the Civic Center Act, is specifically denied to religious
groups, which must reimburse costs.) This is why, when the San Diego Unified School District (which, with 120,000
students, is the second largest school district in California and the eighth largest in the nation) voted to bar
BSA programs from its classrooms because of discrimination against gays, the Scouts were still able to use school
buildings for troop meetings and other events.
In other areas in which the schools themselves are not the chartered organization, it is common practice for
schools to allow recruiting on school grounds and in classrooms. My child reported that the "man in charge
of Boy Scouts" came to the first-grade classes of Longfellow Elementary of Whittier, California, and distributed
leaflets. (The only BSA program available to first graders is Tiger Cubs.) This was not perceived by school officials
as an endorsement, and the recruitment was regarded as customary and in accordance with policy set at the district
Use of Local Public Facilities
Correspondents in Illinois, Orange County, California, and in Pennsylvania have documented preferential -- even
exclusive -- use of public facilities by Scout organizations. On the public land of the Cook County Forest Preserve
District, in arrangements dating back many decades, the BSA enjoyed extensive privileges at several campsites.
Boy Scouts built a lodge, but in general, used tents. Other groups enjoying similar privileges include the Girl
Scouts and the Isaac Walton League. The Boy Scouts performed certain maintenance duties at the sites.
The Orange County Council, BSA, leases the Sea Base in Newport Beach, California, from the county for negligible
fees. This site is primarily dedicated to Scouting programs. However, a number of nonscouting groups, including
city and public-school children, can purchase activities. These other groups are admitted partly as community service
in exchange for the favorable lease, and to help offset operating expenses.
In Lacon, Illinois, there is a small building known as the "Scout Building," which sits in a large
public park. It is reserved for Scout use only.
The citizens of Westtown, Pennsylvania, recently defeated a proposal for a building that had no purpose other
than for the local Boy Scouts to meet. The troop had hoped that the Army Reserve Command would donate labor to
build the building, which otherwise would have cost $50,000. The Boy Scouts had met at the Westtown Township Building
free of charge for the previous 25 years.
Eagle Scouts and Explorers: Promotions and Bonuses
The BSA rank of Eagle, and participation in Explorer Scouting, is rewarded by public and private employers through
promotions or preferencial hiring. Completing an Eagle, with its numerous (albeit superficial) achievements, is
I called the army recruiting office in Whittier, California, and spoke to Sergeant First Class Gregory Moorer,
the Station Commander. According to him, a recruit will be admitted to the army at pay grade E3 if he has been
an Eagle Scout for three years. This means a rank of Private First Class, at a pay of $832 per month -- as opposed
to $762 for an ordinary recruit. This is an immediate advancement of two pay grades.
Thus we have the paradox of the United States Army endorsing certain members of a "private" discriminatory
club by an immediate rise in rank upon entering. It should be clear that no benefits would accrue from membership
in a racially discriminatory club or graduation from a "white academy"; yet if the club happens to be
the Boys Scouts of America and the discrimination is based on religion, gender, or sexual orientation, the Army
will provide the honored member with an extra $70 per month.
Job seekers commonly list the Eagle scout rank on their resumes. However, the Eagle is not available to equally
diligent nontheists, females, or gays. As long as the BSA pursues current policies, businesses who use the Eagle
are practicing indirect religious discrimination, and an atheist-free workplace can potentially be created without
ever asking an applicant's religious preference.
Many Explorer posts give valuable job training, being sponsored by businesses and governmental units for this
purpose. Patrick S. Inniss has been fighting Boy Scout discrimination since 1988 when his daughter was informed
that unless she signed the Explorer Code and subscribed to its religious content, she would not be permitted to
attend a course to learn computer aided design.
What You Can Do
Clearly, we are not dealing with a question so basic as whether the BSA has a right to discriminate if it wants
to. Defined as a religious organization (or, to some extent, even as a private club or business), the BSA can pretty
much exclude who it pleases. But the BSA is _not_ a mere private entity. It is entangled with government at every
level -- local, state, and federal -- receiving endorsements, preferential treatment, goods, and services. Taxpayer
dollars thus support it to a significant degree, creating a blatant violation of church-state separation that could
never have escaped notice if the religious entity in question had been Campus Crusade for Christ or the Church
of Scientology. Ironically, it is only the BSA's latter-day assertion of religious privilige -- cooked up as a
response to charges of discrimination -- that suddenly render its government enganglements such a serious constitutional
They can't have it both ways: if the BSA is religious, it must sever all government ties; if it is secular,
all discrimination must cease. The choice is the BSA's to make, but the pressure is yours to apply. So what can
_you_ do to turn up the heat on the BSA? What can you do to force the organization to decide who it is -- a religious
entity or a public accomodation? Here are some ideas:
- Discover and identify government agencies -- including public schools, armed forces branches, and local police
and fire departments -- that practice discrimination according to BSA policies. Report your findings to the American
Humanist Association's coordinator for BSA concerns, Margaret Downey, P.O. Box 242, Pocopson, PA 19366; e-mail
- Demand that such units be operated without illegal discrimination, and demand that each agency notify the BSA
that, because it is a government agency, it has legal and moral responsibilities to all its citizens.
- If such demands are not heeded, oppose the discrimination through letters to public officials, to newspaper
editors, and through local activism. Shine the light of publicity on every abuse.
- Commend the courage of public officials who choose to terminate a unit rather than continue illegal discrimination.
Remember: The the Campfire Girls and Boys and the Girl Scouts have recognized the importance of nondiscriminatory
policies; so have Boy Scout organizations throughout most of Europe. The BSA, therefore, is one of the last holdouts,
an institution still clinging to the doctrine that "no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship"
without a backpack full of religious bigotry, sexism, and homophobia.
Many who are familiar with the scouts may be surprised to learn that it claims to be a religious organization.
In case no. 92C-140, Riley County District Court, Bradford W. Seabourn (plaintiff) vs. Coronado Area Council, Boy
Scouts of America (defendent), 16 Dec., 1992, the BSA itself filed a "Separate Answer" with the following
as its "Sixth Affirmative Defense:"
"Boy Scouts of America is a religious organization, association or society, or nonprofit institution or
organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjuction with religious organizations, associations
or societies within the meaning of the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, expressly permitted by the Act to limit
the occupancy of its real property, which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose, to persons who
believe in God or to give preference to persons who believe in God."
Also see _Randall v. Orange County Council_, Calif. 4th Appellate Distr. Div. 3, decision by Judges Crosby and
Sonenshine, Feb. 28, 1994; and _The Washington Post_, editorial, "Scouting as a Religion," July 25, 1985,
Dismissed scout leaders: David C. Wise, Tustin, CA, _New York Times_, Sept. 3, 1991, p. A14. Mr. Wise is a Unitarian,
which church recently incurred the wrath of the BSA, previously having sponsored a religious merit badge available
to atheists in the Unitarian fellowship. Brad Seabourn of Kansas, personal communication. Boyd R. Critz III, though
still serving his local Council as its Vice President for Finance and though still a member on its Executive Board,
he was once dismissed as a leader with respect to two specific functions of his local Council and Area due to his
testimony in the _Welsh_ case. At no time, however, was he actually threatened with dismissal or actually dismissed
from his service with the BSA.
Quotations from BSA documents:
_The Chartered Organization Representative_, BSA #33117, pp. 3, 11, 12. Includes the BSA's veto over unit leadership
_Training the Chartered Organization Representative_, BSA #34527.
_The District_, BSA #33079, pp.2-3.
_Membership/Relationship Committee Guide_, BSA #33080, p.3. Existence of list of "unacceptables,"
_Post Organization_, BSA #34623, p. 5.
_The Council_, BSA #33078, p. 11.
San Diego police dept.: _Los Angeles Times_,Oct. 21, 1992, p. A16.
San Diego Human Resources Commission: _Los Angeles Times_, Oct. 22, 1992, p. A35.
Laguna Beach, Calif., PD: _Los Angeles Times_, Sept. 18, 1993, p. A25; also Sept. 30, 1993, p. A27.
San Jose, Calif. troop 260: _New York Times_, Feb. 23, 1992.
US law constituting BSA as a patriotic society: 36 USCS sect. 21ff. The "charter."
The charter was vigorously pursued by the BSA in 1913 and later, to the point of hiring a lobbyist to secure
passage: William D. Murray, _The History of the Boy Scouts of America_, New York: Boy Scouts of America, 1937.
BSA threatening the Wilderness Scouts of Blairsville, Georgia: _Sports Illustrated_, v.70 n.5, Feb. 6, 1989.
Arrest for selling "scout souvenirs:" _New York Times_, Aug. 13, 1993, p. A10.
Baden-Powell quote on religion: Lord Baden-Powell, "The aim of the Scout and Guide Movement," typed
script, c. 1921, R7 BSA, as quoted in _Baden-Powell_, by Tim Jeal, Hutchinson pub., London, 1989. BP is himself
52 percent reduction in United Way support: (BSA) _Los Angeles Council Chairmen's Report_, 1993, p.4.
Membership and unit sponsorship statistics: Boy Scouts of America, _Annual Report_, 1993; Telephone interview,
Richard Walker, BSA (Edelman PR), Oct. 26, 1994.
The list of armed forces and government regulations is taken from _Organizations that Use Scouting_, BSA #3041C,
BSA Annual Report, 1962: 88th Congress, House Document No. 85. This contains the figures used for the military
and other involvement with the BSA in 1962, as well as a description of the massive Charter Day festivities.
Fact sheet, _What is Learning for Life?_, BSA #2-973. Additional information from Boyd R. Critz III.
Roberta Achtenberg and Learning for Life, _New York Times_, Aug. 14, 1991, p. A8.
The figure of 75 percent of scout units not paying rent, plus other useful information, is taken from David
I. Macleod, _Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 1870--1920_,
Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1983, p. 199. For a discussion of the BSA professional elite which protects itself as
a class, see MacLeod, op.cit., p.305.
San Diego school district banning BSA: _Los Angeles Times_, Jan. 13, 1993, p. A3.
Defeat of measure to build scout building: _Daily Local News_, West Chester, Pa., Tues., Sept. 8, 1992.
Larry A. Taylor holds a master's degree in history and is completing work in the computer-science department
at the University of California at Los Angeles on a doctoral degree in artifical intelligence. He wishes to acknowledge
Margaret Downey, Patrick Inniss, Boyd R. Critz III, Elliot Welsh, David C. Wise, Valerie and James Grafton Randall,
and Brad Seabourn for their assistance in the preparation of this article.
This article appeared in The Humanist, vol. 55., no. 5, Sept.-Oct., 1995, pp. 6-13. Copyright ©
1995 by Larry A. Taylor.
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