My oldest son just started Kindergarten 2 weeks ago. Before school started, I was at a back to school night and there was a table specially for the Boy Scouts of America with a scoutmaster and applications.  I am completely aware of the Mormon and other religious influences, and especially the exclusion and predjudice of atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals.  I was annoyed with the display at back to school night, but today my son comes home with an flyer inviting boys to join the Scouts, and the location is at his elementary school. It is a full page (front and back) flyer, but does not include the words 'god' or 'faith'.

I sent an e-mail to the principal saying I thought it was inappropriate, and cited the BSA's stances on non-theists and homosexuals. I intend to contact the cub master listed on the flyer as well.  This isn't something I am enraged about, but I'm pretty annoyed. Is this something I should be louder about or have I done the best thing by voicing my opposition to the right people?

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Wait what? You're mad because the flyers don't have the words god or faith?

I think it’s more that he feels they are being disingenuous by not disclosing their religions policies and bias up front.

No, I was just saying that the flyer does not contain those words. Like it was appearing to be secular when I sure as hell know the BSA is not.

You should talk to the scout leader first, and explain that you want to know, IN WRITING, what their policies are, and if that troop actively enforces their exclusions of gay relatives from contributing towards the group.  Ask them if, as an atheist, your child is welcome to join with the WRITTEN contractual obligation that no religious views or oaths would be taken by him.

This is great way to corner the scout leader into expressing his groups view on the record. From that point on, you can approach the school with an active record of their discrimination, should they take that course.

Stephanie, you pose a good question.  As a small child, my father (nominally Jewish) was the leader of a boy scout troop, my brother was in it, and I was a (female) wannabe.  That was back in the 1950s, when evangelizing meant letting someone spontaneously ask a question, welcoming it and the person, and then explaining.


Nowadays, evangelizing tries to look so benign when, in truth, it is subversively, unethically, and brazenly practicing "bait and switch."  If your local scout troop prays together and does other religious things together, then it should be sponsored by and in a church, not a government owned, taxpayer funded property.  Same for advertising, like the table you saw set up on Back to School Night.  I recall the scout troops in my youth were all attached to churches, synagogues, and the like.  They were separate from and outside public school.  (You might want to ask the troop leader what church sponsors him, or better yet, approach the Boy Scouts of America headquarters, perhaps online, to see what troops are in your region and where they're based and sponsored.)


I'm no lawyer, but when a religious institution promotes itself by first appearing secular, and offering activities anyone might wish to enjoy, only to surprise its volunteer audience with un-expected religious doctrine, practice, and evangelizing, that's a form of bait and switch.  One might also call it illegal advertising, based on the same principle.


These days, when Dominionist Christians do it, they're more brazen, so if you can recognize the code words, you know before you get into the situation, like the Rock The Fort situation (you can google).  Moderate Christians are less brazen, and therefore more subversive, offering, for example, a free dinner for the community or free clothing or food for the poor.


Pardon the tangent, but this is why reBiblicans want to shrink government:  Remove public safety nets from government, and the needy will have to run desperately to churches, where they can be better coerced into accepting Jesus.  I live in Texas, and there's a tax supported program for addicts that does nothing more than turn chemical addicts into religious addicts who "jones" to evangelize, so they can get their next fix of acceptance, food and housing.

Thanks Jeremy and Doc, those are great suggestions :)
My son has been in scouts for 11 years now and is just about to get Eagle.  As an theist, I was concerned, but have found that religion is a very, very minor part of scouting (at least in my son's pack and troop).  There is alot of "don't ask, don't tell" going on.  My son's first den leader was a lesbian.  Later, I took over as den leader in Cub Scouts and then became an assistant scoutmaster when he went into Boy Scouts.  Nobody ever tried to push religion down our throats.  On the rare times we were asked, we just said that we were not very religious and left it at that.  There are so many great things about scouts that I did not want to keep my son out for such a minor part of it.  It has been an incredible experience for him.  It is too bad that he had to be "in the closet" about being an atheist, but overall it was well worth it.  I wish that scouts were a completely secular organization, but we had to take what we could get.
Greg, I hear what you're saying, but I am very uncomfortable with my son proclaiming to do his 'duty to god' on a regular basis.

What if he replaced the word "god"?  He could say "Mom".  After all, growing up self reliant and strong could be considered as much his duty to you and it is your duty to him to give him the opportunities.  

"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty for Mom and my country, and to obey the scout laws...."  

The vowel sound matches, and the consonants aren't so far off his peers will be likely to notice.

I'd suggest that what you want to do depends on how much fuss you're willing to stir up (and live with, as a family), and where you live.  There's a huge difference in scouting between Northern California and small-town Texas.  Before you stir up too much opposition, decide how important this is to you and your family.

This isn't something I want to make a big deal about..even though I live in a conservative state (CO), I also live in a liberal city (Denver). I'll save my activism for church flyers and keeping evolution in biology class :)

Margaret Downey, who has been an activist in this area for years, has written on this  -

September/October 2010 FS Newsletter (pdf)


Articles:  "Don’t let BSA recruit in your local public school!" and "Questions and Prep for School District Calls" (page 2)


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