The Boy Scouts of America has finally agreed to allow gay youth to participate in its organization. Now we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief and hold up the BSA as an organization that has taken a stand against discrimination.
Well, not quite. Did you know that atheist, humanist and nontheist youth are still strictly forbidden from joining the Boy Scouts? And that BSA leaders who have spoken against this policy have been dismissed, and even Eagle Scouts have been expelled for their nonbelief?
Many BSA troops are sponsored by religious groups. Scouts and leaders must sign a Declaration of Religious Principles maintaining that “No boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.” The BSA oath states “duty to God” as one of its core principles and Scout law states that a Scout is “reverent.”
The BSA is currently in court defending itself against several discrimination lawsuits because of this stance. In its legal briefs, the BSA suddenly claims to be a “private group” with an essentially religious basis and, therefore, exempt from anti-discrimination laws. But the BSA bylaws declare the organization to be “nonsectarian,” and its bylaws and charter do not permit the exclusion of any boy — gay, atheist or otherwise.