There was an older link about scouting, but I'm not finding it. Here is where I'm stuck.
I have a 6 year old boy who is also an only child. He loves, even craves, more time with other children and; I feel that peer interaction and self identification, away from parents, is very good for him. However, because the Boy Scouts (Girl Scouts have made other choices that are more inclusive, from my understanding) continues to be a Christian Organization I do not wish to allow them that much access to my child. I also do not wish to fund them, more than my taxes do already.
The other complication comes from the source of my son's interest. He found out about it by a flyer at school.
My instinct is to set up a meeting to respectfully discuss with the principal why I feel that allowing a religious organization to contact our children in a public school when parents are not present is inappropriate and unreasonable without multiple alternatives. (Muslim scouts? Druid camping?) This is not the first item, there is also an after-school group that meets with children, but there is not clear outline as to why children are set up with them, and it is a church, but done through the school. He is also growing increasingly upset about the pledge issue. I would go to the teacher, but it is a school issue, not one classroom. I'm very involved in the school and have already been in direct contact with the teacher.
How would any of you approach this and does anyone know of a good nature program in central IL?

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The fact they are are bigoted against gays would be yet another reason for me not to give them a cent. I have very strong feelings about that particular subject. My experience has been that, while they may be considered religious in general the ones I've known (friends) have been Christian leaning specifically. Moreover, I would find it hard to tell my child to be honest and that he has a right to believe or not believe what he wishes, except at Scouts, keep it down about it should you be atheist when your older.
What about 4H? Here's the link for the Illinois extension If you explore their site they have a lot of science based programs. I was a member as a kid, have great memories although back then there was an emphasis on home making for the girls, eeks!

My husband, a former scout, and I have decided that the boys won't be joining even if they want to. But I'm somewhat torn about school's involvement. I posted last year about them sending out flyers and cub scouts meeting in the school and questioning whether that was right. In end I decided that receiving one flyer (among many that come home) wasn't an issue I wanted to make a stink about. I'm much more concerned about what's going on inside the classroom so will save my battles for classroom issues if they come up. I know not everyone feels this way but that's my approach for now.

As for the pledge...While it may be a school issue, I can't imagine that approaching it that way is going to get you any leverage. Your son has the right not to say it but this might not be an approach that a 6 yo wants to take. What does your son think he should do about his discomfort? My approach would be to work out with him what he wants to do, if anything and then together approach his teacher to inform her/him of your son's decision if necessary. At this age I would probably advise him to remain silent or say "under law" rather than "under god" in which case nothing really needs to be said.
How I forgot about 4H I don't know. My little sister was a member. I'll look into it. That is a great idea. No matter how hard Bloomington thinks of itself as 'urban' it is still surrounded by corn/bean fields, not suburbs. There should be plenty for him to do in 4 H.

For the pledge, to be honest, I've tried every thing with my son. It is hard to get a full story from a 6 year old, but he gets very upset about the whole thing and apprehensive about school mornings. The hope is to prevent something rather small from causing too much upset this early in his school life.

I'm hoping to have it handled quietly so that he does not have to feel directly involved. My husband set up a meeting with both of us for Friday. Apparently I look mean but everyone likes him. (we all need a good cop sometimes)

We will also go with some ideas for how to help if allowed. I can offer to discuss the history of the pledge or differing world views with other parents who have other perspectives to the student body. We are pretty open at this point.

I'm also in the PTO fundraising committee, hopefully that will help too.
Last time I researched it, 4H was okay (all inclusive, not religious based).

Our son is only three, but my husband and I have already discussed what to do about Boy Scouts. He definitely is not going to be joining. Already he is learning that it is a "bad" group. We have a number of boys in the neighborhood who are scouts and when they come to the door selling candy bars and my son wants one, I always politely tell the scout "no thank you", and then after he leaves, I explain to my son that we can't buy their candy because they are a group that wouldn't allow us (and certain others) to join them, and that's not nice. I'm hoping that by the time he's old enough to join the scouts that he'll understand why we don't support groups that discriminate and want nothing to do with them.
@ Larry Carter Center
I (sorry sports fans) hate watching baseball, so I'm hoping for more martial arts or track, even football rugby or cricket, just not baseball. This is a good out for me.
We're having the same issues in our house. My son is 7 and an only child. And we homeschool. My husband was an Eagle Scout in the BSA and has incredible memories of his many great years of scouting. BUT, we both agree that our son will not join for the exact reasons others have mentioned. My husband's troop was not religion-based and this was before all the stuff came out about them hating the gays.

I was really afraid my husband might want to overlook all that so our son could have the same scouting experiences he did, but he's right behind me all the way. Their are several troops in our area, even two specific homeschool troops, but they're all Christian-based.

My biggest problem with the BSA is their attitude towards gay scouts and leaders. To equate gay leaders with pedophiles is horrendous. And to tell gay kids that they're not worthy by excluding them only adds to the pain they already feel. The suicide rate among gay teens is already much higher than the rate for straight kids.

Whenever they come selling their popcorn, I tell them exactly why I won't be giving them my money. I won't support a group that excludes people based on their faith (or lack of) and sexual preference.

We've just joined a local Roots & Shoots group. We're also looking into Earth Scouts. Our son is also into sports and Tae Kwon Do, so he gets lots of social time.

As for the pledge, I remember in school being very uncomfortable saying it with the "god" in there. At first I refused to say the "god" line. Then I refused to stand at all. I told the teacher that I wouldn't support the pledge until they put it back to the original one - without god. It wasn't written with that line. It wasn't added until around the 1950's, I believe. They didn't know what to do with me, so they just let me sit there. Now, I'd probably be expelled. :-)
We had an excellent meeting with our principle. We had a good sign from the beginning, it read "don't make me get my flying monkeys" and it hung on her door.

1. Children can not be forced to say the pledge at all, this fact was re-asserted by the principal directly to my child. He's happy, the teacher is happy, we are happy.

2. We discussed scouting and thanks to the wonderful parents help here I was able to present alternatives like ensuring that other groups, like 4 H for example, are presented at the same time to prevent BSA from having so much sway. We discussed the religious and homosexual exclusion issues as reasons for not wishing to have him involved, and for it being inappropriate in school, during school time to get invitations from them.

We then discussed other things, but it was very nice. I'm glad we did speak up, it makes things easier and proved my friends 95% rule, in this case, schools are helpful 95% of the time (we have personally hit 100% so far when talking to them).

He attends a school that is 50% ethnic or racial minorities which I feel helps them be more understanding of a varied student body or maybe we are just very lucky.

Thank you all again for your support and ideas.
I'm so glad to hear you had such a good response from the principle!

Thanks for updating us, sometimes it seems like all we hear is the negative reactions. It's very nice to hear about a positive outcome for a change.
One more reply: BSA is very much a Christian institution, they do not just ask that you pledge to god, but make it very clear that they allign themselves with the teachings of Jesus. There are two very large lawsuits they participated in in which they legally defended their rights as a private institution to segregate both homosexuals and atheists out of their membership. There was a case in Washington State where a young man (17 years old at the time) who had gained Eagle Scout status was thrown out of his troop/BSA because he openly admitted that he did not believe in god. His own troop leader and members of his troop advocated for him indicating to BSA (the corporation) that he was of exemplary charachter, and that he epitomized everything that BSA held in high esteem, but he was thrown out of BSA for being atheist.

My understanding is that BSA is not allowed into the Public Schools to recruit membership since they do not conform with government established non-discrimination policy, however, I recently found a BSA flyer in my 7 yo son's school folder, and took it to the school office to let them know that I did not approve of their recruiting with flyers in public schools, and discovered that they had a BSA Troop leader in the class room recruiting.all the children in person. I let them know that if ANY other religious organizations come to the class room to recruit that my son is to be removed from the class room immediatly. Unfortunate for my son to be singled out like that, but preferable to him learning all about discrimination at such a young age. The ladies in the office were clueless about BSA being discriminatory (or maybe they just didn't know/care), so I had to follow up with the principal. Errgh!
When I was in grade school, I was a cub scout. I remeber having to cite my pledge: I promise to do my best for God and my country. I do not know what the pledge is like these days, but as far as I know "god" is still in it. I have just this year called myself Atheist, and as such, will have to renounce my membership as a Free Mason, as they have the basis of believing in a deity as a premise to be a member.

When growing up, my father was a white water rafting guide in Moab, Utah. I did more true scouting outdoor activities in one summer than my entire cub scout troop did that year. From what I have heard from my friends and their stories of the kids now days in scouting, it has become more a how can you become an urban follower of the systems being implemented by the governments today.

I have never had any dealing with Girlscouts or 4H, so I have no information to help there. I would recommend looking on Meetup in your area that does some sort of outdoor activity, if that is what you are seeking.

As for spening time with other children. Our activities include racing BMX, dance, gymnastics, and soccer.
If you want to start a troop yourself you can do Earth Scouts or Spiral Scouts, both are inclusive.
Living in SC we have come across many of these same issues. In fact before we were pretty sure we were atheists we did allow our son to go to scouts for one year. It was the only extra-curricular activity available to boys his age beyond soccer (he did not want to play soccer). We were aware of all the controversy surrounding the Boy Scouts and their exclusion of gays, but we did not explain this to our six year old, too complicated. Well, as it turned out we had to explain later because a parent of another scout approached our son at one of the meetings and said: "Take your hands off your hips the others will think you like boys and not girls". I was not there and lucky for this guy, but my husband was and he was too shocked to respond. He just took our son out of harms way and later explained to him what the guy meant. We are not prudes about sex or sexuality. We are tolerant of the sexual preferences of others and this provided an opportunity to discuss this with our son, however if this man were to say this to any other child, that child would walk away confused and may ask his parents to explain and I suspect he would only become more confused when his parents would start spouting about gays and the bible and god.

In short, if I were you I would steer away from this particular group. Perhaps 4H or something. It is somewhat more ambiguous about religion and it would provide your son with some very helpful life skills as well as exposure to both sexes. Also, I don't know if you know this but recently the Boy Scouts of America have been in the news again, it seems that they too have been guilty of their own cover ups with regard to sexual abuse and young boys.

With regard to the school allowing religious organizations access to the kids, this is rampant in the south. One thing you can be sure of your child will follow your beliefs much more closely than you think. Our own children have expressed a belief in god and we have not suppresed it, we have encouraged them to explore it, but to question the validity of the claim. We have been trying to help them develop their critical thinking skills and this has helped them to come to similar conclusions with regard to the existence of god. So I would not worry about this too much with your son, but I would certainly let your principal know that you are not happy with the practice of allowing religious organizations access to the kids. It will not make you a very popular person around the school but I suspect you can handle that. Being an atheist thick skin is a must. If your principal objects then you should suggest that he/she allow other groups (Muslim, Jewish...atheists) and see how he or she responds to this. It might be quite comical.

It is an up mountain battle but we must keep it up.




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