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Religious Tolerance logo

Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Groups opposed to the BSA's policies
of discrimination against gays & bisexuals

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Our main menu on the Boy Scouts is elsewhere

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For many decades. the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) discriminated on the basis of:

  • Religious belief (no Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and other non-theists allowed) and

  • Sexual orientation (no gays and bisexuals allowed).

We describe these policies elsewhere. In early 2013, they modified their exclusionary policies slightly to allow gay youth into Scouting. Adult gays and non-theists of all ages remain excluded.

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Early opposition to BSA discrimination policies against gays:

  • 1991: William Boyce Mueller, grandson of BSA founder William Dickson Boyce, joined with a group of other gays called "The Forgotten Scouts." Their goal is to disprove the BSA's "claim that homosexuals do not exist among its ranks." The group hopes to prove that "gays have always been an important part of scouting in America." They hope "to destroy the myth that gay men are bad role models for young boys."

  • 1992: Troup 260 of San Jose CA adopted a policy: "We do not agree that sexual orientation is immoral. Sexual preference is a private issue. We don't believe it to be relevant in the selection of adult leaders or in the awarding of Eagle Scout rank."

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Scouting for All:

  • 1993: "Scouting for All" (S4A) was founded by Mike Cahn, Ken McPherson, Don Henry, Dave Rice and others. They promote making the scouting movement open to persons of all sexual orientations and religious beliefs. 1

  • 1997: By this time, Scouting for All was inactive. 12 year old Steve Cozza wrote a letter to the editor which received "wide media attention and public support." This breathed new life into the organization. 1

  • S4A is committed to "Scouting open to diversity." Its mission is "to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its policy of discrimination against gay youth and adults." S4A feels that "the future of Scouting depends upon the Boy Scouts of America being respected by all parts of American Society."

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SpiralScouts International™:

2001: SpiralScouts™. International began as a program of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC), "partly in reaction to Boy Scouts policies prohibiting gays." 2,3 It spread widely and is now available worldwide. According to the SpiralScouts web site:

"Each group is led by both a male and a female adult, to achieve and teach the balance that is so central to Earth-centered beliefs. While SpiralScouts was developed on Pagan beliefs and practices, it is designed to be adaptable by other minority faiths as well. In addition to traditional woodland lore, camping and the outdoor living skills, the program includes teaching the many mythologies of the ancient world. Uniquely, it includes a component new to youth group programming - life strategies and skills for teens, to help them learn early how to have good relationships with their peers and adults, and interpersonal skills that will serve them throughout their adult lives. " 4

The smallest groups, consisting of a single-family group or groups containing up to two unrelated children are called a Hearth and are led by one or two parents, called Hearth Keepers.

Larger group are called a Circle. Within each circle there may be a number of Hearths. Often they are organized by age:

bullet FireFlies (preschoolers through age 8)

bullet SpiralScouts (ages 8 through 14)

bullet PathFinders (ages 14 and up).

A Clan is a larger council group made up of two or more Circles. A Tribe is a group made up of local Clans and are normally country, state or province-wide. 5

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This is an organization based in New York City wwith programs for boys and girls aged 7 to 18. It appears to be an inclusive group with many of the same goals as the BSA.

The oath taken by their youth members is called the "Navigator Moral Compass:"

"As a Navigator I promise to do my best To help create a world free of prejudice and ignorance.
To treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle, and ability with dignity and respect.
To strengthen my body and Improve my mind to reach my full potential.
To protect our planet and preserve our freedom."

Their Cardinal Points are:

"A Navigator is Truthful, Respectful, Inclusive, Generous, Patient, Dependable, Resourceful, and Honest." 6

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Scouts for Equality (SFE):

As their name implies, they favor allowing youth members and adult leaders with a gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation to join the BSA.

The United Church of Christ has endorsed Scouts for Equality. In their joint statement they wrote, in part:

"God’s table is open to everyone. We embrace the God-given worth and dignity of all people and are committed to the value of extravagant welcome where everyone has a place at the table. We cannot support a policy that limits the diversity of BSA membership any more than we can deny the interconnected web of faith that unites us all in the eyes of God. Adopting an inclusive membership policy and supporting all youth is the right thing to do.

The BSA has welcomed many people from many backgrounds, and we look forward to the day that our gay and bisexual brothers and sisters are welcome as scouts and as leaders. We stand with Scouts for Equality and ask the BSA to end its policy of exclusion.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has also endorsed Scouts for Equality. The UUA is perhaps the most liberal and progressive organized faith group in the U.S. In their joint statement they wrote, in part:

"... the UUA stands with Scouts for Equality in asking the BSA to accept gay youth and parents regardless of sexual orientation. We welcome the UUA’s support of equality and inclusiveness in the BSA.

During 2013-APR, the BSA executive issued a proposed change to the rules of exclusion that would allow gay youths to join and remain in Scouting until their 18th birthday. Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and the founder of Scouts for Equality issued a statement about the proposed change:

"Scouts for Equality supports the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to end its ban on gay youth nationwide as it is a crucial step and we will work to encourage members of the National Council to vote to approve it. But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA’s ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children. But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward." 7

SFE played a major role in promoting the proposed change to allow gay youth into Scouting. The BSA National Council ratified the change at its meeting on 2013-MAY-23.

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Related essays on this site:

bullet Main menu: Boy Scouts of America
bullet Menu: Homosexuality and bisexuality
bullet Different religions, different beliefs
bullet BSA opposition to Atheists, Agnostics and other non-Theists

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  1. Scouting for All has a web site at:
  2. Matthew Brown, "Flourishing, pagan groups get organized," at:
  3. SpiralScouts have a web site at:
  4. "General Info," SpiralScouts, at:
  5. "Structure," SpiralScouts, at:
  6. Navigators have a web site at:
  7. "Statement from Scouts for Equality Regarding the BSA’s Resolution," Scouts for Equality, 2013-APR-19, at:
  8. Brian Shane & Mike Chalmers, "Boy Scouts Rule On Atheists Unchanged As BSA Reconsiders Ban On Gays," Huffington Post, 2013-JAN-29, at:
  9. "Girl Scout Promise and Law," Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 2013, at:
  10. "Girl Scouts Blue Book of Basic Documents" Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 2012, at:‎ This is a PDF file.
  11. "Girl Scouts and Faith: My Promise; My Faith Pin," Girl Scouts of the United States of America, 2013, at:

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Copyright © 1999 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 
Originally published on 1999-AUG-9 
Latest updated: 2013-MAY-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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