NOT a lot of people know this, but in 1937 Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts movement, got
all cosy with senior Nazis in an attempt to form closer ties with
the Hitler Youth movement. He was even invited to meet his hero, Adolf
This will come as no surprise to anyone who has looked into the nature of Baden-Powell. A while back we carried a feature
about the man, which revealed that he was an imperialist, a war-monger –
and a devoutly religious bigot who was quite unable to accept that any
decent person could be an atheist – atheism being highlighted as one of
the “rocks” to avoid when “paddling your canoe” through life – the
others being “horses” (gambling), “wine”, “women” (sexual relations
outside marriage) and “cuckoos and humbugs” (that is, socialists and
I was reminded this morning of B-P’s dodgy credentials when I read that the Philadelphia Boy Scouts have taken grave exception to their
organisation being likened to Hitler’s Brown Shirts by prominent Chester
County atheist, Margaret
Downey, founder of the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia, has been gunning for the Boy Scouts for almost 20 years – ever since the
organisation ousted her 12-year-old son because his family did not
believe in God.
This week Downey launched another attack on the Scouts, calling the movement’s discriminatory policies “despicable and dangerous”.
From the moment her son was expelled, Downey has made it her mission “to expose” the Boy Scouts of America for discriminating against “atheists and gays.”
And she won’t back down.
She has convinced film director Steven Spielberg to disassociate himself from Scouting. It took eight years, but Spielberg finally took himself of the Boy Scouts advisory board.
Downey frequently refers to those involved in Scouting as the “Brown Shirts”, likening them to those who followed the policies of Hitler. It
is by her own admission a volatile characterisation but she defends
I think if it helps embarrass the Boy Scout organization to accept atheists and gays, then comparing them to Brown Shirts isn’t bad.
David E Hasel, council executive for the Bucks County Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, hit
back, said it wasn’t a new situation, but an unfortunate one as the
Scouts are busy celebrating their 100th anniversary.
This is an old issue, we have been through this in the past and have gone to US Supreme Court. We are a private membership organization that has our own standards of membership.
Hasel thought it was unfortunate Downey’s advocacy has received so much press, adding her comments were self-serving and amounted to nothing positive.
The Boy Scouts of America believes that no one can reach their full potential without a belief in a higher power and almost every type of religious faith is associated with the Boy Scouts. But we
don’t attempt to teach religion, we just think spirituality plays an
important part in a young person’s development.
Addressing comments that the Scouts were akin to Hitler’s Brown Shirts, Hasel snorted:
To compare the Scouts to Hitler and his followers when they crushed religion is disgusting.
Hasel clearly needs to brush up his education. Here is an extract from a ceremony created for new Nazi Youth recruits which has a strong religious element:
The life before you is not a matter of good or bad behavior, or parental punishment, or cowardly behavior to avoid parental punishment, but rather it is a matter of proving
yourself as a man or a woman. You will not have this strength
if you do not have a living faith in God during your entire
life. But it must be a faith that leads you to serve God through
deeds, not words. It must be a faith that makes you
consider yourself God’s tool, called through your work, your
struggle, your creation of new life, to serve the eternal
maintenance of order, justice, and life itself in this world.
You must never feel yourself a servant or slave of God, but rather
a fighter for God. One gives a comrade the greatest joy when one
gives him a weapon in the certainty that he will never use it
against us, but rather use it to defend that which is holy to
One does not give a weapon to a fool! God gave us weapons. The creative strength in our hands with which we work, the creative strength in our minds, with which we learn and
seek and research, the strength in our hearts and souls, with which
we believe, the strengths with which we create new life, these are
the weapons God has given humanity. We would be fools if we did
not use these weapons to work, fight, create order, and
maintain life, but rather served life ill because we were lazy,
cowardly, disloyal, immoral. We would then be truly pitiable
creatures before God!
According to declassified MI5 Security Service files, Lord Baden-Powell, who started the Scouts in 1907, held talks with
German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop and Hitler Youth Chief of Staff
Hartmann Lauterbacher on November 19, 1937.
Lauterbacher, then 28, was in Britain to foster closer relations with the Boy Scout movement and von Ribbentrop invited Baden-Powell to tea
with the Hitler Youth leader. A letter from Lord Baden-Powell to von
Ribbentrop the day after the meeting showed how he felt about the talks.
I am grateful for the kind conversation you accorded me which opened my eyes to the feeling of your country towards Britain, which I may say reciprocates exactly the feeling which I have for
I sincerely hope that we shall be able, in the near future, to give expression to it through the youth on both sides, and I will at once consult my headquarters officers and see what suggestions
they can put forward.
In a report on the meeting, Baden-Powell described von Ribbentrop as “earnest” and “charming”.
I had a long talk with the ambassador, who was very insistent that the true peace between the two nations will depend on the youth being brought up on friendly terms together in forgetfulness of
Baden-Powell never got to meet Hitler.