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About the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Part 2: BSA's tolerance & discrimination policies.
Changes in the U.S. culture, & the BSA's response.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay

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The BSA and tolerance:

There are many admirable instances in the BSA literature of pro-active teaching about faith groups within Christianity and some other religions. They not only teach tolerance; they advocate respect towards other theistic religions and towards the latter's followers. However they teach intolerance of non-theistic religions by denying members of such religions membership in the BSA. They also promote the human rights of all heterosexual cisgendered persons. However, they simultaneously denigrate lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons, and transsexuals by denying them membership:

bullet The BSA bylaws state that "activities of the members of the Boy Scouts of America shall be carried on under conditions which show respect to the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion..."


The BSA's Advancement Guidelines state that:

"Throughout life, Scouts are associated with people of different faiths. Scouts believe in religious freedom, respecting others whose religion may differ from theirs. Scouting believes in the right of all to worship God in their own way."


The Scout Handbook explains:

"Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and love God and the ways in which God can be served. As a Scout, you do your duty to God by following the wisdom of those teaching in your daily life, and by respecting the rights of others to have their own religious beliefs."


The Handbook for Boys, 2nd edition discusses a Scout's duty to his country:

"...he will stand for the equal opportunity and justice which the Declaration of Independence and the constitution guarantee."

bullet The Scout Handbook discusses:
bullet  The "morally straight" clause in the Scout Oath. It implies that the Scout should:

"Respect and defend the rights of all people. Your relationships with others should be honest and open. Be clean in your speech and actions, and faithful in your religious beliefs."


The fourth point in the Scout Law "A Scout is friendly" means that:

"He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs that are different from his own...Every person is an individual with his or her own ideas and ways of doing things. To be a real friend you must accept other people as they are, show interest in them, and respect their differences."


The sixth point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is kind," means that Scouts:

"take time to listen to the thoughts of other people," to "imagine what it would be like if you were in someone else's place," to be "kind to people you don't know or don't understand, and to people with whom you disagree," and that "compassion for all people is a good antidote to the poisons of hatred and violence."


The seventh point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is obedient," requires the Scout to:

"obey the laws of his community."

In many cities and counties of the U.S. this would include human rights bylaws that prohibit discrimination against sexual and religious minorities.


The final point of the Scout Law, "A Scout is reverent," mentions that:

"All your life you will encounter people who hold different religious beliefs or even none at all. It is your duty to respect and defend the rights of others whose beliefs may differ from yours."


The Explorer Code requires that each youth pledge that:

"I will recognize the dignity and worth of all humanity and will use fair play and goodwill in my daily life."


The Learning for Life program promotes "moral and character development," with sections on

"race, religion and culture," "respecting differences," and "respecting my peers."

The program's intent is:

"to instill in youth the importance of respecting the rights of all people."


The Scoutmaster Handbook, 7th edition, lists as some symptoms of a Scout's moral fitness:

"Courage about what he believes...Respecting the rights of others. Compassion for other's feelings and needs. Acting as if rights of others matter to him. Accepting others as equal in worth and dignity."

These are commendable thoughts and programs which promote tolerance towards minorities, supporting the rights of others, displaying empathy towards people different from themselves. These are principles that are sadly missing from some other youth programs.

Unfortunately, the BSA organization's tolerance is extended only towards some belief systems. They refuse to allow Agnostics, Atheists, and other non-theists to join' they expel any that they find in the group.

They also extend tolerance towards persons of only one sexual orientation: heterosexuality.

Thus, their noble thoughts and programs are violated daily by their own policies.

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The U.S. culture changes, and the BSA culture follows:

During early 2011, a few commentators predicted that a tipping point had been reached in the U.S. about acceptance of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) community. It was triggered by the Obama administration's decision that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was clearly unconstitutional as evidenced by a number of ruling by federal courts. DOMA prevents the federal government from providing 1,138 benefits and protections to legally married same-sex couples -- these same benefits and protections routinely supplied to legally married opposite-sex couples. The Department of Justice decided that it would no longer defend constitutional attacks on DOMA in federal courts. However, because the law had been passed by Congress, and signed into law by the president, the administration is still committed to enforcing it. The constitutionality of the DOMA law is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since that tipping point was reached, there has been an accelerating series of developments showing a rapid rise in the acceptability of the LGBT community by the general public. Among the most obvious changes have been:

  • A rapidly increasing majority of adults now support the rewriting of marriage laws in various states to allow loving, committed same-sex couples to marry.

  • A petition was created on on behalf of Jennifer Tyrell. She was a volunteer Tiger Cub den leader with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Her membership was terminated by the BSA because she is a lesbian. As of 2013-APR-21, 344,454 people have signed a petition to ask the BSA reinstate her. 4 Their goal was to obtain 500,000 signatures.

  • After many months of research, the executive committee of the BSA determined in 2013-APR that it is in the best interest of their group to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual youth to join and to remain in the BSA. This decision was ratified by a wide margin of about 1,400 delegates at their National Annual Meeting during 2013-MAY-22 to 24. The vote was 61% in favor and 38% opposed. However, the decision:
    • Maintains the exclusion of adult scouts with a homosexual or bisexual orientation,

    • Continues to exclude members of all ages whose religious beliefs do not include a belief in God.

    • Results in the expelling any known gay or lesbian youths on their 18th birthday.

But it is a step towards tolerance of, and equal rights for, the LGBT community.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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Related essays on this site:

bullet Main menu: Boy Scouts of America
bullet Organized opposition to the BSA's discriminatory policies
bullet Menu: Homosexuality and bisexuality
bullet Different religions, different beliefs

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  1. "Findings of Fact..., R.D. Pool & M.S. Geller vs. Boy Scouts of America..." Commission on Human Rights, Government of the District of Columbia, 1998-MAY-1, at
  2. Candi Cushman, "Who's Selling Out the Scouts?," Citizen, at:
  3. "Boy Scouts of America sustained by United States Supreme Court,", 2000-JUN-28, at:
  4. "Boy Scouts of America: Reinstate Cub Scout leader who was removed for being gay,", at:

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Copyright © 1999 to 2013, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2013-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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