Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BSA Declaration of Religious Principle

There have been a couple of stories about 'freethinking camps' recently. It's not actually very interesting news unless you're a freethinker, but I was a little puzzled by this passage from one of the articles:

The idea for the alternative summer camp originated with Edwin Kagin in 1995. Kagin had been an Eagle Scout, and was upset about the anti-freethought and pro-theist policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

In Boy Scouts, a person must agree to sign a 'Declaration of Religious Belief,' in which he must agree that "only a person who acknowledges his duty to God can be the best kind of citizen".

I was a little puzzled by that for a while, since I hadn't heard of it (I knew there were special requirements for leadership positions but didn't know precise details) but I couldn't find any information on it because the reporter got the name wrong and misquotes it (enough to make it difficult to find). The actual name is "Declaration of Religious Principle" and it is as follows (Bylaws, article IX, section 1, clause 1):

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, 'On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.' The recognition of 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 and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

Clause 4 of the same section makes it a requirement for certificate of leadership in Scouting programs. I put it here in case anyone else had difficulty finding the actual source. You can find out the details at the Boy Scout National Council Legal Issues website.

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