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Boy Scouts: You’ve Been Cast Out

by Brian Dunning, Jul 02 2009

The Boy Scouts of America are notorious for acting like a public institution when it’s time to collect Federal money, and for enjoying the freedoms reserved for private institutions when they feel like being bigots. Whenever the mood strikes them, they eject members regardless of their performance and their service record, for anything from being gay to being something other than Christian; and they make no excuse for it, happily citing religious discrimination as the reason. And still they continue to rake in Federal donations.

I received the following email from reader Neil Polzin:

“We have received information that has compelled us to revoke your registration. You must immediately sever any relationship you may have with the Boy Scouts of America.”

Today I received a letter from Marcus Mack at the San Gabriel Valley Council that started this way.  What was my offense that makes me so inappropriate to be around children?  Before your mind fills with thoughts of violence, violations of youth protection or any other deplorable action, it is simply because I am an atheist.

That’s the only reason for the revoking of my membership.  I am being kicked out of the BSA because they feel that I am not a capable role model for children.  Regardless of the 15 years I have spent in the scouts, any achievements or recognitions along the way.

It is not only that I can’t ever go to my home troop growing up and visit.  Along with making it impossible to volunteer for the scouts in any capacity, It also eliminates me from my current paid position as Aquatics Director at Camp Cherry Valley.  I am being kicked out AND fired for being an atheist by my employer.

This has been the policy of the BSA for years, to discriminate against homosexuals and the godless.  It is an easy policy to look past, because most do not know anyone it has affected.  It keeps people in the closet about their personal beliefs or habits, and gives an example of discrimination being ok to the many children in scouts.  It is now directly affecting me, along with the hundreds of cubs I was set to swim, kayak and snorkel with this summer.  Just as it has effected so many others in the past.

There is an appeals process in the scouts, one that I plan on following over the upcoming weeks.  I know that over the years I have had a great effect on my peers and youth in the scouts and in life, as they have had on me.  Any examples of this I would be very grateful for you to write about (scout related or not).  I do not know if it will be enough to have any change in outcome, but I want the executives to see how this policy negatively affects scouters and scouting.   If you feel this is wrong as I do, send your letters to Marcus Mack (Scout Executive/CEO SGVC 3450 East Sierra Madre Blvd Pasadena, CA 91107), and also make a point to express your viewpoint to him if you are at the council offices.  Please also send me a copy (digital or print) so I may include it in my appeal to national.

It is easy to say that without scouts I would not be who I am today.  It has given me so much, and so I have tried to give back over the last 7 years as an adult.  That looks to be no longer possible due to blatant discrimination on the behalf of the BSA.

Neil Polzin
308 La France #D
Alhambra, CA 91801

80 Responses to “Boy Scouts: You’ve Been Cast Out”

  1. MadScientist says:

    Aren’t there people trying to establish similar organizations without the Scout Bigotry Badge?

    I think they need to drop the “America” bit since they obviously do not represent the general populace of the nation – just plain “Boy Scouts” and “Girl Scouts” should do.

  2. I know little about the scouting movement save what I learned from the Goodies (see & & ). It would be interesting to learn what the relevant policies are in other countries, and I hope that commenters will fill us in.

  3. Rico says:

    I was a member of a scouting group here in the Netherlands in my youth, halfway through the eighties. Even then the Scout’s oath was such that it was optional to refer to a god. I gather that is not the case in most countries, as the dutch pages that talk about this say we are one of the few countries in which the scouting organisation allows this.

    • MadScientist says:

      The founder, Robert Baden Powell, was very big on the god thing. One of the primary objectives of the scouts is to serve god – whatever that means. These days when I hear that said I imagine scouts strapping explosives to themselves and blowing themselves up in public markets to earn their jihad badge.

    • Jules says:

      Well, that would be like Holland…

  4. BRobert says:

    To Neil:

    I can’t believe how USA scouting is so distorted from what it should be. As a Scout I can’t help but have that brotherhood feeling, and feel specially sad to read such a thing.

    I’m myself a scout in Spain (not boy scout, we’ve been both boys and girls together for a loong time, so we’re just scouts) and I can only say I can’t even think of something like this happening here.

    Scouting was something ahead of it’s time 100 years ago and it should be ahead of its time today. Society evolves, and scouting should addapt to provide children and young the best education possible today so we have the best citiziens possible tomorrow. People willing to help the other, no matter who they are, and ask nothing in reward. People who are active, healthy, tolerant, respectful, capable of dealing with dificult situations with a smile, confident, who think critically and mature. That’s the education I try to provide to my children in Scouts.

    In Spain there are two main Scout Associations, ASDE and MSC. ASDE is the biggest (about 30.000 people) and it’s non religious (not that you have to be an atheist to be part of it, we just don’t give any religious education in any way, not our topic) and MSC (Catholic, but I know sooo many MSC members that are atheist and just came to have this troop closer to their homes and nobody ever cared about their religious condition).

    ASDE has been in vanguard of non-formal education of youth for 30 years because we’ve never thought “ok, our methods work, we’re fine, lets do it like this forever”. We change our ways of education every year, we move our goals where society needs it. For example, we provide sexual education since the children are really young, and parents are ok with it, doesn’t matter if they are religious or not, because they share with us the common worry that if our children don’t know enough today, they won’t be prepared to act in a sensible way tomorrow.

    Scouting is not organized in the same way as in USA in Spain (we have groups that have 4 sections, from 7 to 10, from 11 to 13, 14 to 17 and 18 to 20). In my group we’re 18 leaders for the four sections. We’re all young and atheists. That’s probably not always the case, but it’s not that uncommon. We have children of 4 different religions (mostly catholics, two lutherans, two jew and one something buddhist). Who cares? Nobody. They get their religious education somewhere else, if they get any.

    Yeah, we go to the mountains, we do our weekend and summer camps, we sing around the camp-fire, we teach survival skills, but that’s the method, not the goal. And it’s a cool method, I love it, but it’s just the excuse to teach deeper and more useful things.

    What’s the point of walking three days, with no food, no sleeping bag, no warm clothes, no map, etc, looking for small villages? Yeah, it can make you really tough, but as a leader that’s not what I want them to learn. I want my children to solve difficult and complex situations in a semi-controled scenario. I want them to ask for food in exchange of work, I want them to improve their social skills, their ability to get a place to sleep, to be kind to an old woman that may let them sleep in the floor of her house if they are sweet and look trustworthy. I want them to get tired to get something to eat. I want them to understand how good it is to have dinner after you’ve been really hungry. I want them to learn to give their own solutions to the problems they might encounter. I want them to know that you can still be friends with someone even when your not having fun, and that actually that’s the beauty of it. I want them to support who’s having a bad time, and to be supported when they are the ones that can’t cope. I want them to trust themselves, to be confident, to know their limitations, and how to push them.

    Of course, part of the education I give to my children is critical thinking.

    And I’m done with the how-spanish-scouting-it-so-cool. I’m a cubscout leader myself this year, and we’re having our 2 week summer camp in a few days. I’d be SOO sad to miss it, and not to be able to see my children again I’m nearly crying only of thinking about it. So take it as good as you can. Here is my scout support.

    I’d advice you to create your own scouting group. I’m sure you’ve got friends and known people who think in the same way you do.

    Good hunting and be prepared

  5. I want to share the Scouts Canada nondiscrimination policy with you, you’ll see why it is relevant when you read it. (Of course Neil Polzin is not a Canadian but is from the US.) As mentioned above (by others) Baden Powell was Big on belief in God but other scouting communities have adapted to a multicultural community nicely.

    The Canadian Policy States:
    “7001.6 – Discrimination:
    Scouting is a worldwide, multicultural movement. We welcome people to membership regardless of gender, race, culture, religious belief, sexual orientation or economic circumstances. Youth members are strongly influenced by the behaviour of adults. We need to be sensitive to the traditions and beliefs of all people and to avoid words or actions which “put down” anybody.”

    (Jeff’s Note: As you can see from this policy religious belief is included and is protected in Canada. It is quite safe to assume an atheist would be safe as a scout here in Canada. (and they are) The main point expressed elsewhere in the policy is that no scout leader should assert any personal religious beliefs to the children, ever. Scouting is not primarily a religious exercise in Canada. It appears to be about Scouting, building character, sharing common values, etc.)

    The American “official” policy states:”Personal equality. The uniform represents a democratic idea of equality; bringing people of different racial, economic, religious, national, ethnic, political, and geographical backgrounds together in the Scouting tradition.”

    “Personal commitment. The uniform is a constant reminder to all Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venturers, and adults of their commitment to the ideals and purpose of the Boy Scouts of America. The uniform encourages them to take Scouting seriously because of the investment in uniforms by parents of youths and by adults. The uniform is a way of making visible members’ commitment to a belief in God, loyalty to country, and helping others at all times.”

    (As you can see the American Version of the same policy includes a mandatory belief in God. Until this is rewritten, the fundamentalist mentality will prevail within the BSA. Good luck getting these words changed, you’ll have a fight on your hands trying)

    • Scott says:

      I was in scouts in Canada, and this is bang on. I am, and always have been an atheist, and I can’t remember ever hearing any reference to god.

      Also my dad is gay and was a scout leader for a number of years. I don’t think he really talked about it then, but I can’t imagine him being kicked out for this.

      Bigotry in children’s groups is on of the worst ways to breed hatefull people, scouts should aim to have the most diverse group possible in order to raise enlightened children.

  6. Jules says:

    It would probably be much easier to get them to have their funding revoked than change their policies. Then we’d just have the KKK, except dressed in blue.

  7. Rob says:

    If they are going to be receiving Federal funding, they ought to be obeying discrimination laws, period. Does the fact that Neil was a paid employee change the game at all? I have a hard time imagining that it would be easy for any employer to be able to fire an employee on the stated grounds that they disagree with the employee’s belief system (or lack thereof), and as such would at the very least like to think that Neil could have a case. Is anybody here a little bit more versed in employment/discrimination law to clarify?

  8. Mike K says:

    Brian your opening paragraph captures perfectly the overarching problem with the BSA. Well said.

  9. Aren’t there people trying to establish similar organizations without the Scout Bigotry Badge?

    There’s several that’s been around for awhile. I kinda like Campfire USA (Formerly the Campfire Girls). They’re co-ed and all-inclusive now.

    The Girl Scouts of The USA are not actually affiliated with BSA. They are also all-inclusive, but not co-ed.

  10. Becca Stareyes says:

    I did some googling. I can’t vouch for the sources, but there’s some reports that the Girl Scouts USA have enough sense to not insist on policies on homosexuality and atheism publicly*, they don’t restrict local organizations from doing so, and the Girl Scout Promise does include a reference to God, though there is a note about allowing substitutions. So a Girl Scout troop in insert-stereotypical-coastal-city/college-town-here might be a lot more inclusive than one in rural-insert-stereotypical-flyover-state-here.

    * Because, let’s face it, when you go to court to defend your right to exclude people you don’t like for philosophical grounds, you kind of come off as an ass. If you’re a private organization, you can discriminate all you want — it doesn’t free you from scrutiny, but you can’t be sued about it. As I said, you just drive away people who think that you are being an ass about it**. If you’re taking public funds, you better be open to all the public (or at least the subset you serve — I can see the Boy Scouts noting that all scouts must be in the age range).

    ** And not necessarily gay folks and atheists.

  11. I coach Odyssey of the Mind at our local elementary. We have a night at the beginning of every school year where all of the people involved in extracurricular activities hock their wares. My son is involved and has been on my team for 2 years, we usually pick the balsa engineering projects.
    This year, the person sitting next to me at the tables to get people to sign up for our various activities, was a boy scout leader and his son. He remembered me from last year because we had a discussion about my son joining the scouts (we are atheist and I let him know that). The BSA are allowed to come to schools in Texas and solicit membership. This kinda pisses me off, since they are so obviously god driven. I was able to get the school district to disallow school time visits from the BSA.

    no real pearls of wisdom here, just wanted to relay my (ungodly)experience.

  12. Rob says:

    “The BSA are allowed to come to schools in Texas and solicit membership. This kinda pisses me off, since they are so obviously god driven.”

    Yeah, it makes me laugh when people say that there is a separation of church and state in America — religion has dug its talons so far into the fabric of our society that it is impossible to escape it. Even more disheartening is that such a large percentage of our fellow citizens are so brainwashed that they either don’t see it or don’t see that it is a problem. I have long thought the same thing about court-mandated* AA for drunk drivers, as the WHOLE THING is based around religion.

    *Yes, I know that in most cases there is a choice between AA and jail, but this seems even worse to me, either you need to have the same imaginary friend as us or we will put you in jail.

    • MadScientist says:

      I don’t think AA require you to have the same invisible friend, but it must be creepy hearing them talk about their invisible friends all the time. Then again their ‘steps’ mention the invisible friend a few times – I guess some people can have a pretend invisible friend which is just like the non-pretend invisible friend. Personally I don’t understand why so many courts insist on AA when it has been demonstrated numerous times that AA is no better than trying to quit on your own.

  13. Patti says:

    There is a group called Spiral Scouts, that’s basically pagan, but that does not discriminate against diverse and sundry peoples.

    There’s also Camp Fire, . Their About Us says:

    “We are inclusive, open to every person in the communities we serve, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity. Camp Fire USA’s programs are designed and implemented to reduce sex-role, racial and cultural stereotypes and to foster positive intercultural relationships.”

  14. tiffany says:

    Unless something changed in the 20 years or so since I was a Girl Scout, part of the GSA promise is to “serve God.” I don’t know that they’d kick a troop leader out for being an atheist as the Boy Scouts have, but I do know that God is mentioned.

  15. Tracy says:

    A lesbian friend is a Girl Scout leader in our very conservative community and as far as I know she hasn’t had any problems.

  16. baron_army says:

    First, I am an Eagle Scout — as is my father and my brothers.

    Second, I used to be a District Executive with Greater New York Councils, BSA.

    Third, I am an Agnostic.

    Fourth, I was the second generation Boy Scout professional in my family. My father worked for them for 20+ years as a Scout Executive.

    Having said that, I can say with certainty that Neil will not get re-hired. First, he signed a legal statement at his hiring which states he believes in a god or adheres to a religion. I’m not saying that is right but it is a part of the BSA hiring practice. In all honesty, I lied when I signed that paper. For that reason alone, he can be fired for misrepresentation — hence the reason it’s there. Plus, the BSA will dig its heels in for a fight.

    I would also like to point out (if no one else has yet) that Penn & Teller: Bullshit! did an excellent episode on the Boy Scouts. It is on the mark — especially the Mormon influence that developed in the late 80’s – early 90’s. The Mormons literally bankroll the BSA on many levels.

    The BSA does have some other questionable practices in addition to their anti-gay anti-nonreligious positions. My father was illegally fired after devoting his life to their organization — all resulting from an injury he sustained due to their negligence. He won his suit against them through a settlement because, if it went to court, the BSA would have been demolished.

    Neither my father nor I will have anything to do with the BSA any longer. If my daughter (or future son) wanted to enroll in something like the BSA or GSA I will make sure it does not discriminate against gays, the nonreligious, or those different from “us”.

    Incidentally, if it hasn’t already been noted, the BSA is actually chartered by Congress in 1916. It’s an act of law.

    More info:

  17. andrew says:

    As an Eagle scout, I think its important to segregate the administration of the BSA and the principles of being a Boy Scout.

    Clearly the administration is acting in a ridiculous and bigoted manner by discriminating against gays and godless. However, after going through the Tiger Cub, the Cub Scout, and Boy Scout program, I can’t say that “reverence” (the 12th and last point in the Scout Law) was ever emphasized. I did grow up in a fairly progressive area, so that probably had something to do with it. But really, the focus, in my experience, was on developing knowledge and appreciation for country, civic duty, and the environment while developing outdoorsman skills.

    Based on my interactions with other scouts across troops and states throughout my service, I would guess that such bigoted behavior is fairly limited, though that isn’t an excuse for the administration. My point is that for the most part, the scouting program is a positive societal influence in developing civic minded young men.

    • Joe Garavito says:

      I’m a Scout from Mexico, we only have 10 articles in the Scout Law, why do you have 12? LOL

      The program and rules require a “spiritual” component, but does not mandate a specific belief. However, I have never seen or heard of any incident in 20 years that involved rejecting someone because of their belief or orientation.

      I find it sad that the BSA is doing this, and I’m not an atheist. I think the Mormon factor is the problem here.

      • Bob Grier says:

        Our troop had 12 and it was the same situation as Reverent being the final one. Our troop told us that as long as we were Reverent to something we would be following that law. A belief in something higher than yourself. We had Buddhists, Jewish, Christian and Muslim all in our troop.

        I am an Eagle and proud to be one. I am not proud to represent a group that discriminates gays and nonbelievers though. I am proud of what the scouts did for me and made me into.

        That said, if my child wanted to join the scouts I would let them.

        During my Eagle boards this was brought up. We had to say that they were private and it was ok because they were. I sort of hid my true feelings, but I felt that the experience was stronger then those beliefs.

        Sorry you got fired.

        They shouldn’t receive federal funds without changing this though.

  18. The BSA doesn’t get any government funding. The local units are usually chartered to churches, synagogues or civic groups that share their ideals. The BSA has an extensive religious award program for any group that wants to participate, not just Christian.

    “On my honor I will do my duty to God and my country….” is how the Oath begins. This man would have recited the Oath countless times in his 15 years. Why is he surprised to find that he is being held to an oath he made on his honor?

    If he doesn’t support the core beliefs of the organization, I would think he wouldn’t want to be a part of it. As to his employment, there are plenty of places looking for certified aquatic personnel in Southern California. He can take the skills that the Boy Scouts taught him and make a nice bit of extra income or even full time. He’d be working about 10 weeks a year at the job he lost.

    The people who associate with the BSA have a certain belief system. They want their boys to share in that belief system. They have a right to those beliefs and should not be forced to include some one who does not.

    Freedom of association also means freedom from association.

    • baron_army says:

      The freedom of association you speak of would be appropriate if it was for a truly private organization.

      The problem with your position is that the Boy Scouts are chartered by Congress. If Congress was to remove the charter, a lot of this problem would go away and the BSA would be more readily recognized as a private organization and not as a government pet.

      Of course, that would also mean they’d loose their special standing and would have to do things like actually PAY to rent Fort A.P. Hill for the Jamboree (they only pay $1 to rent an entire military base)…

  19. Dr. T says:

    I don’t know why so many commenters are annoyed. The Boy Scouts of America always has required heterosexuality and belief in God for members or participants. BSA also requires male gender (except for Explorers), honesty, helpfulness, patriotism, and other characteristics.

    Anyone who does not meet the criteria should not join or participate. I left scouting at age 16 after I had moved away from religion. This was in 1971, when I also grew annoyed with the patriotic jingoism. (My former patrol leader had just been killed in Vietnam.)

    I have no pity for Mr. Polzin. He knew the rules going in, and he has no valid reason for whining now. An honest atheist would not have worked for BSA.

    • Mike K says:

      I don’t know why so many commenters are annoyed.

      I think Brian captured the essence in his opening paragraph. They solicit federal funds when it suits them all the while enjoying private privilege. I don’t contribute to the BSA as a private charity nor do I wish to do so vicariously through taxation.

    • BillDarryl says:

      Honestly, you don’t get what’s going on here? If the BSA is government chartered and goverment funded, they simply cannot discriminate based on religious beliefs. Bill of Rights, item numero uno.

      It’s not a question of “he knew the rules!” Just because there’s a “rule” on the books that you must believe in God to participate doesn’t make the discrimination legal. Imagine if the DMV had a “No Jews” rule for employment. “I have no sympathy that you got fired, Jacob, because you knew the rules!” C’mon. Ridiculous.

      Religious discrimination from a government entity is not allowed. That’s the beef.

  20. Jeff says:

    I grew up as a Boy Scout and mormon in Utah, and I always considered them basically the same thing. The activities and planning were done during church meetings and part of the church fellowshipping of non-members was to invite them to scouting activities. In the 10 years since I rejected the mythology of religion and studied the first amendment in law school, I feel confident that the Boy Scouts are getting the same treatment that baseball got from antitrust laws back in the day

  21. tudza says:

    I got the impression that the founders of scouting were trying to train boys because they felt their parents weren’t doing a good job of it. What can you expect from an organization that starts with the premise “We know best!”

    • Joe Garavito says:


      Scouting was a series of articles written by Baden-Powell as council for young boys to teach themselves. Groups of young boys spontaneously started forming Scout groups and eventually called for a larger coordination.
      The main concept is to be critical and learn things for yourself, building on the knowledge of the past. It’s not a dogma based system, quite the contrary.

      • baron_army says:

        I would also like to point out the book — Scouting for Boys.

        Also, correct, the professional organization did not exist at the beginning.

      • Joe Garavito says:

        However, Scouting can become religious to many. I’ve seen this happen. It’s history is similar to Christianity and is based on Anglican values. Scouting also suffers the same problems the Christianity faces.

        First, the loose and spontaneous association
        The formation of a World Office.
        The need for change and those that have a different view.
        Splintering off of rebel associations (conservatives and homosexuals)

        Reform has occurred in Scouting worldwide, but the BSA (as just about everything in the USA) doesn’t subscribe to those international reforms, and this I think has lead to a monolithic institution in the US.

        Check out for a more global view of Scouting.

    • MadScientist says:

      R. Baden Powell wrote about scouting and scouting skills – genuine military scouts that is. It was all very popular and he decided to write a book for kids believing that it would be good for kids to have such skills and that it would keep them busy and keep them away from the devil. And so the boy scouts developed. Folks did learn useful stuff back then. I wonder what kids learn these days – how many still have the opportunity to fell trees and build bridges and play forts and how many know survival skills like hunting and trapping.

  22. Jim Howard says:

    “being something other than Christian”.


    Get your facts straight before you attack someone.

    • tmac57 says:

      Uh… Jim, wouldn’t being an atheist qualify as “something other than Christian” ? That IS a FACT. Got it?

      • Joe Garavito says:

        What Jim meant was that you can be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, believe in Gaia, etc… so long as you have a belief in a superior being. The debacle here is with atheism. Brian got it wrong in that you do not have to be Christian to be a Boy Scout… however, from what I gather it is highly frowned upon in most American communities if you are not Christian, but that’s a cultural thing, not an institutional thing.

      • tmac57 says:

        Joe- I was well aware of what Jim meant, but it had a sort of self-righteous quality, inferring that because the BSA was so open minded as to not discriminate against other beliefs in God, that they were above being “attacked” for being narrow minded enough to discriminate against non-believers.

  23. Darrin says:

    One of the things I’ve done is talk to the children who sell stuff to support their scout troops. For some reason, our local super market will let anyone with a pulse set up a begging station- uh I mean information table – by the front entrance. Usually it’s girl scouts/boy scouts selling something to support their troops, or some charity for the local women’s shelter. When the boy scouts ask if I want to buy popcorn, I tell them that I don’t like how their organization discriminates against people, so I won’t support it. Most of them have no idea what I’m talking about, so I explain it to them. Sometimes all it does is anger their parents, but sometimes it makes them think.

    • An Eagle Scout says:

      Way to go, Darrin. Your holding children accountable for the politics of 50 year old corporate executives that they know nothing about? The children aren’t discriminating. Maybe you should give them a break and send letters to the people in charge.

      We frequently do fundraising in front of grocery stores. I’ve only ever had one parent try this. I got in between him and our children pretty fast and backed him off.

      Pick on someone your own size. Otherwise the Scouts will just dig in even harder.

      The meaner you act, the meaner they get in response.

      • tmac57 says:

        So it’s OK for a young person to know all of the positive things about an organization they belong to, but it’s off limits to tell them about some of the more questionable practices? Give me a break! Darrin said nothing about being “mean” to little children.

      • Darrin Cardani says:

        Wow, if politely telling children that I can’t support an organization who wouldn’t allow me to be a member is mean in your world, then you have a lot of growing up to do. Did it ever occur to you that maybe some of those children will grow up to be future leaders of the scouts, and that maybe what I’m saying to them today will help them improve their organization tomorrow and make it less bigoted?

        And I’m not holding anyone accountable for anything. I’m stating facts that they can easily verify for themselves by asking within their organization whether it’s true or not.

      • Andrea says:

        My son is a cub scout. We were helping with the parking for an event at the fairgrounds–cost $2/car to park. The scouts got to keep $0.10 per car. One driver said he wouldn’t support the scouts because they don’t allow gay men to volunteer. I let him through and paid for the parking out of my own pocket.

        I support our local pack and den (volunteer time + financial support) because what we are doing at a local level works. We have atheist parents in our pack, and some of them are leaders (great leaders!). Our charter org is OK with it and so are we. We haven’t gone as far as some packs have [see Cub Scout Pack 88, Rhode Island, who wrote a letter to national].

        I do not, however, support Friends of Scouting, because our family doesn’t agree with what is going on with scouting at the national level and a good deal of FoS funds goes up the chain. If the idea is to make better citizens, why would you NOT want everyone to be eligible?

        So, yes. Some of us involved in scouting think the national council is wrong.

  24. Gwilym says:

    Apropos of nothing in particular, but is “you’ve been cast out” a direct quote from something? I once used it as a recurring line (a hook, really) in a song, so it was a strange surprise seeing it written down like this. While there’s almost zero chance of Brian having heard my song, the odds of us both having lifted the line from the same place are good.

    Given the context, I suppose the logical place would be The Jungle Book, but I don’t remember it. Googling just leads me to this article.

    Slightly more on-topic, I was in the Cub Scouts as a child, but my strongest lasting memory is that it was the first time I was ever struck by an adult. It is of course logically fallacious to bring this up, since it’s not relevant to the actual subject – but hey, at least it reflects kind of badly on the organisation.

    • MadScientist says:

      I thought that was weird too. Maybe it’s something from “reality TV” (i.e. TV without scriptwriters). I don’t know – hardly anything on TV interests me these days.

  25. Has anyone thought of letting the BSA know we’ve moved into a new millennium? Maybe they’re simply unaware.

    On a lighter note, I do believe one of the admission tests to become a scout requires you to be thrown down a well and float in water. Can’t have any witches infiltrate such a noble organisation now can we?

  26. Anna says:

    I’m a scouter and I was wondering why you haven’t followed this up with the BSA headquarters? It sounds as though you are being fired by your Council, not the BSA itself? The BSA is made up of many different people, with different beliefs (there is no regulation that says you HAVE to be in a religious denomination. It is unfair and a little myopic to blanket the “BSA” as being discriminatory, when in fact, it is probably only one person not worthy of their high position in the BSA (if they are discriminating they have no business being in the BSA), or one Council and its Executives (ditto on my previous comment) who is in fact to blame.

    • baron_army says:

      Wow. You are not in the grasp of the facts.

      Not only are the councils requiring religious belief, the Regional AND National organizations MANDATE it!

      Do not try to tell me otherwise. I have been to Fort Worth and completed the mandatory professional training. To not see the discrimination is to be blind to the facts. The anti-homosexual position taken by the BSA is a top-down directive. It originates at National and is inspired by the Mormon influence. If you doubt me, you ought to go to the next All Hands Conference and listen to some of the speakers (yes, I’ve been to All Hands Conferences and, at night, they adequately illustrate just how hypocritical the BSA is).

    • baron_army says:

      I would also like to add that he is being fired by his council. Regional and National have nothing to do with the running of summer camps.

      Oh yeah. I used to work at summer camps as well.

      I know the Boy Scout organization fairly well.

  27. Bevans says:

    Anna: Unfortunately, there IS a regulation that says you have to believe in a god.

    I wrote about this on my own blog about a year ago (, and from their own rulebooks I found this:

    “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.”

  28. Bas says:

    I find it slightly disappointing to see such a typical example of a lack of skepticism displayed on a “skeptic” blog.

    I only have this Neil Polzin’s word for it that he got kicked out “for being an atheïst”. Sure, that may be true and stranger things have happened.

    But I find it strange that Neil Polzin does not explain at all WHY he thinks that he got kicked out and fired for being an atheïst. Your eagerness to accept this interpretation as true on blind faith, without any kind of explanation, shows to me a rather surprising lack of skepticism.

    No offense intended, I just thought it was worth noting.

  29. An Eagle Scout says:

    I’m an Eagle Scout in the rural South.

    The Boy Scouts receive $0.00 annually from any government in the United States. The cited federal funding from this article above links to a GSA site that talks about being eligible for surplus Dept. of Defense property. In order to be eligible, your group must be somehow in line with the Armed Forces. The Scouts are one qualifying organization. They are not funded – they are simply eligible to receive a few acres of land from a closing military base upon which to camp, and for which they will pay local property taxes.

    BSA is a totally PRIVATE organization. The Supreme Court upheld this finding after it being reviewed in multiple court cases. That issue is closed.

    The national organization does support local leadership when they toss out members who are found to violate the oath. “On my honor, I will do my duty to God and my country…”

    You can’t do your duty to God if you are an atheist. If you are an atheist or agnostic, you don’t believe you have a duty to God, and that makes the Oath a lie. That makes those who recite the oath UNTRUSTWORTHY.

    All of that being said, in my 30+ years of Scouting, I have never been asked if I believe in God, I have as a leader enforced behavior in units I have led to prevent boys or adults from being confronted about sexuality or religion in Scout meetings.

    Sexuality is never an appropriate subject at Scout meetings, nor is speculating about someone’s private conduct. Faith in general is a fair topic, but discussing specific faiths is to be done with the religious leader and family.

    The Scouts will leave you alone unless you get in their faces. But if you do come out of the closet and confront them and insist on equal treatment, they will treat any member the same way the Catholic Church will treat a priest who declares himself gay or atheist. They will excommunicate you.

    Don’t be surprised or have hurt feelings when it happens. It’s stupid to ask a church to accept people who don’t believe as they do, and it’s equally stupid to ask the Scouts to accept people who don’t believe as they do despite thousands of repetitions of an oath to the contrary.

    I do hope that one day the BSA drops the policy and moves on. I don’t think excluding gays is working (there are many gay members who are not open) and how can the youth and leaders who need guiding principles of Scouting most (those without faith) ever learn it unless they are allowed to be with us?

    • BillDarryl says:

      But if you do come out of the closet and confront them and insist on equal treatment, they will treat any member the same way the Catholic Church will treat a priest who declares himself gay or atheist. They will excommunicate you.

      Good Lord. So scouting teaches kids to not be 100% themselves under fear of recrimination from authority? That’s a horrible lesson, wouldn’t you agree?

  30. tmac57 says:

    Eagle Scout -“how can the youth and leaders who need guiding principles of Scouting most (those without faith) ever learn it unless they are allowed to be with us?” How very patronizing of you to say so.

    • An Eagle Scout says:

      Apparently with all of the complaining about how Scouting should open its doors to gays and atheists, apparently we forgot that Scouting is a program of physical, mental, and moral development intended to build men of character. It’s a kind of generic faith-based program built around a belief in a higher power – “God” in whatever form you believe that power takes.

      If BSA open their doors to atheists, it won’t be to have a secular program any more than it would be in a church that allows atheists to attend their services. The purpose would be “conversion” and “recruitment” to the Scouting principles.

      That is why Scouters who are against the policy feel that way. We don’t need you to adopt Christianity – but we do not allow those who worship themselves as the most important thing in the Universe to guide our youth or serve as an example to others.

      This is not specific to the BSA. The entire World Scouting Movement, of which BSA is a part, works this way:

      It’s not that the BSA kicks people out for wondering if there is a God or not. The BSA boots people out who are leaders of boys or boys who aspire to the highest award (Eagle Scout) who openly and firmly declare that they believe there is no God (atheist) or that spirituality is irrelevant in their lives (agnostic). You can doubt all you want as long as you do your best to seek spirituality in your life and believe that spiritual principles are important for living. Buddhists do not necessarily foresee the existence of a personal God like Christians, but there is a Scouting award for studying Buddhism as well as Unitarian/Universalism.

      It is the worship of self and the belief in a Machiavellian self-interest as the ultimate life principle that the Scouts will not tolerate. I say good for them. Atheism is the worst of all religions. The firm conviction that there is no meaning to life is the work of an arrogant mind unimpressed with the world around it.

      There is no Scouting award for nihilism.

      • Max says:

        Gotcha, atheism = nihilism = self-worship.
        Is there a Scouting award for religious bigotry?

      • An Eagle Scout says:

        Many act as though there is a skeptic’s award for it.

      • jdac says:

        As an atheist and Eagle Scout, I’d like to assure any non-Scout readers that not all of us have such a blinkered view on the subject of religious belief.

        “An Eagle Scout,” you seem to be having a problem with the “mentally awake” part of the Scout Oath. Atheists don’t believe in a supreme being; they worship no-one. This does not equate to worshiping themselves. Also, painting skeptics and atheists with a broad brush wins you points with anyone here.

        Feel free to skip the rest of my rant, by the way.

        The BSA isn’t perfect but it has plenty to offer to youth. There’s entrenched and arbitrary bigotry in the administration, but that has little to do with what actual Scouts do today. The BSA I experienced was a religious organization in name only.

        I wasn’t indoctrinated into anything, and no-one I Scouted with came out with fervent religious beliefs. I’m not be sure (insert dont-ask-dont-tell joke here) but I think at least one of my friends actually became an atheist before achieving Eagle Scout rank.

        My scouting intersected with religion in three ways; official/ceremonial references to “God,” infrequent Sunday and holiday services on outings, and Scout Sunday, where we would attend services for various religions.

        The first was of little consequence. I and the boys around me blithely mouthed the required words and kept our objections to ourselves.

        The second was more an annoyance. The services weren’t led by a priest of any kind, and were watered down to a homeopathic extent for inclusiveness’ sake. They were even less meaningful than most routine religious rituals I’ve attended.

        The third kind was sometimes enlightening, though attendance was voluntary and most of us tried to beg our way out of them. I wasn’t really moved by any of it, but I got a smattering of the iconography and ideology of some different religions. Some of it was useful fodder for my budding critical thinking skills as well.

        Also, we were sometimes granted special access; I’ll never forget our tour through the Cult of Scientology’s Hollywood installation; I got to see their workings and hear their insanity from the inside, all of it without having to give them my address or take a personality test.

        Also, sexuality didn’t come up at all, except for some truly uncomfortable sessions watching a “youth protection” training video called “A Time to Tell.”

        Being an MST3k fan helps with that.

        Simultaneously, I found much of value in my experience in the BSA. I made new friends, bonded with friends that went in with me, and reconnected with friends I thought I’d lost. I learned some wilderness skills, got started on my knife collection, learned to fire a shotgun, shoot a bow and arrow, crack a bull-whip, throw tomahawks, and played some killer games of hide-and-seek… lots of fun things boys generally aren’t allowed to do. I had a blast doing it.

        I went to and camped in lots of beautiful places, with people whose company I enjoyed (as opposed to, say, my family). Also, the equipment was paid for by the troop, so lots more kids got to enjoy natural wonders like Yosemite than might have otherwise.

        I guess I experienced a great deal of spirituality in the Boy Scouts — but more in the vein of John Muir than Joseph Smith.

        The page Brian linked seems mainly to indicate that the military has an interest in being nice to groups that they regularly recruit from.

        Maybe it’s an illusion — I have many more Scouting buddies than friends in the 18-25 age bracket — but about every (man) I know who’s in the military today was in my Scout troop with me.

        I went to Fort A.P. Hill for National Jamboree in 2001, but I didn’t know how little the BSA was paying for the privilege. Perhaps that’s another facet of the military pandering to a recruitment demographic.

        Now, the BSA renting public buildings at absurd rates, on the other hand, is more damning.

        Who knows. Maybe this was all cognitive dissonance speaking; I’ve certainly invested a lot of time in the BSA and the kids in my little corner of it. I wrote this mainly in the hope that I can paint a more accurate picture of what the BSA is actually like.


      • tmac57 says:

        Religious belief does not equal morality. Non-belief in God does not equal immorality. Just take a look around you. many of the most horrendous acts of man have been done in the name of faith. I am fully behind the BSA for many of it’s values and how it promotes self reliance and integrity. I think that their intolerance for non-believers and homosexuals is unfortunate.

      • Mal Adapted says:

        That’s the strongest, least ambiguous statement of theistic arrogance I’ve seen on this blog. I’m glad I declined to join BSA when I was of age. If I’d met you then, there would have been a shouting match.

  31. Jim Mears says:

    You say ” And still they continue to rake in Federal donations” and give reference to a site listing organizations eligible to receive donations of surplus property. It seems the BSA is eligible to receive surplus Department of Defense property. I would hardly call that “raking in donations” A bit misleading and poor scholarship in my opinion. Do you have a source for the value of surplus property that has been donated? I agree completely with your view, BSA = BULL SHIT of AMERICA. It’s a conservative religious organization and should be recognized and treated as such or change it’s ways.

    • sonic says:

      I don’t think the BSA tries to hide the fact they are an organization for people who believe in god and are not homosexual (hetrosexual or asexual OK)
      It is their desire to be treated as such. They are not trying to change anyone’s beliefs or activities. (If you have different beliefs or engage in activities inappropriate you are asked to leave- not to change)
      It is other people who want to change them.

    • baron_army says:

      For the surplus question:

      You’ll have to ask on a local level because that’s where most of it goes. I believe you could ask through a FOIL request if they were to refuse.

      Of particular interest would be summer camps because most of the donations go there AND most summer camps are the profit engines for the local councils. A lot of the bunks campers sleep on are/were provided by the government — as are many of the tents. I’ve personally ridden in military surplus vehical which, if purchased directly, would have cost around $10,000 each. The money is there — if you look.

      If one is so inclined, they could examine the amount of government surplus food the councils receive (for free) to help run their camps which, by extension, help make the camps profitable. Often those profits offset losses elsewhere in the council program BUT sometimes they don’t and the council makes money for the year. To maintain their non-profit status, they spend the money on things like real estate or facilities management/maintenance (build a new nature lodge or buy a tract of land for “conservation”).

      If the monetary value of the food was to be tallied, I would not be surprised if it was in the millions — each year — for the entire BSA. However, that would depend upon someone taking the time to calculate how much the food would be worth if they purchased it from a company like SYSCO.

      I would also like to add that, at the end of the year, the unused portion of gov’t surplus food that is not used is supposed to be destroyed. Most camps send it home with their staff or stash it away for the next year or winter camping.

  32. Shahar Lubin says:

    The BSA in philadelphia has been headquartered for decades at a city owned building paying one dollar a a year in rent. This being a building estimated at a 200,000$ yearly rent at the open market, how is this not “raking donations”. Yeah not federal(I’m not saying they do or do not receive federal donations, just I don’t know) but governmental non the less.

    By the way. Because of their stance on homosexuality, the city had been working on evicting them. This is national policy issue, because the local chapter claim they are unable to change policies themselves.

    Of course they are allowed to discriminate as a private group, but I’m not willing to pay taxes to maintain an organization that would not except me as a member. Text book hypocrisy.

  33. Max says:

    “Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More”

    Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.
    “Our end goal is to create more agents,” said April McKee, a senior Border Patrol agent and mentor at the session here.
    Membership in the Explorers has been overseen since 1998 by an affiliate of the Boy Scouts called Learning for Life, which offers 12 career-related programs, including those focused on aviation, medicine and the sciences.

  34. Paul Petersen says:

    I don’t understand why you don’t just go in and make up a lie about “seeing the light” and now you are a believer. What’s the difference in pretending that you have a similar imaginary friend to theirs and other common workplace lies, like sneaking an extra five minutes onto a break, or leaving fifteen minutes early on a long weekend Friday…….

    • Max says:

      Maybe he didn’t want to be a lying hypocrite. Can you understand that? Or maybe he did lie, but they found out the truth from his Facebook profile, or someone ratted him out.

  35. Jeshua says:

    I agree with the other commenter who labeled Eagle Scout as a condescending a**hole. What in the world makes you think that just because someone doesn’t belief in your magic fairy prince they “worship themselves as the most important thing in the universe?” Most of my friends are atheists and agnostics, but to my knowledge none of them worship themselves. The stars, the sea, a beautiful human form, nature in general are all worthy of great awe and wonder, but worshiping an imaginary, totally ineffective and intangible friend is not something i would want anyone teaching my children!!

    On the other i hand, i’ll admit did have a positive experience as a Boy Scout and later an Eagle Scout, but i was too young and naive at the time to understand the ignorant and malicious side of the BSA.

  36. Carlos Rodriguez says:

    To be an Scout you have to believe in God, period. This is not a Boy Scouts of America invent or rule: it was set was the founder of Scouting by himself: Baden-Powell.

  37. Coaltrain says:

    What you people are doing here is no better than what you claim the BSA is doing. You openly bash religon, and an organisation that is not given money by the US Government and supports it self in order to teach boys to become capable men.

  38. Donna Gore says:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY. It’s fine if they want to discriminate/restrict membership, as long as they do NOT accept taxpayer dollars. If they take federal monies – which come from ALL TAXPAYERS – and then use those resources to discriminate against some of those very same taxpayers…….that is WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG. They need to STOP using the taxpayers money !!!!

  39. Wendy says:

    I was a Girl Scout leader for a few years, and my training was very explicit that GSA doesn’t exclude anyone over religion or sexual orientation. They kind of made a big deal about it, which I thought was pretty cool.

  40. Frank Rapp, Scoutmaster says:

    Honestly, Neil, are you surprised? The national office will uphold the decisions of the local council every time. They always have and always will. Just so you’re not surprised again. Mr. Dunning, come on, do you actually think scouts are raking in federal money? If so, why are so many councils laying off personnel to the point of almost closing? Do you think that the Boy Scouts are the only Constitutionally Chartered Organization that is “enjoying the freedoms reserved for private institutions”? Do you really want to take the freedom of an organization that has been instrumental in keeping at bay or eliminating those that want to squash freedom even when it was unpopular to do so? Yes, they were backing the soldiers of Vietnam, while the free thinking generation was calling them “Baby Killers”. You all are bashing your biggest supporters of the freedoms you enjoy. You might think this is hypocritical, but wouldn’t it be more hypocritical to dismiss values and beliefs that you have personally held close for so long, because the vocal minority wants them to? The last time I checked we are a country where the majority rules. If that ever changes, be prepared to loose all of your freedoms not just your website. When we say “Duty to My Country”, we are not picking and choosing which freedoms are right and wrong. We teach the youth to respect individual freedoms, so why do you want to infringe upon theirs? So what if every four years the country says “Thank you for your countless hours of service to our community and our country” by letting them rent a portion of a military base that is not costing the American tax payer any more money than it did the day before.
    To the Eagle Scouts that received their Eagle Rank with out accepting the Scout Oath and Law and lied about it, you have tarnished and devalued what so many before you have worked so hard to achieve. You should never consider yourself or tell anyone you are an Eagle Scout. You should not put it on an application or resume, so you can get that little bit of an edge over your peers. You are no different than the kid that joins the Army to get the discounts and military rates, but runs from battle to leave his comrades in arms to fight for him.
    The funny thing is, almost everyone in this discussion is or has been a scout. Which means everyone has had an opportunity to become a better person, to make decisions for themselves and to determine right from wrong. Whether we agree or not is irrelevant.

    By the way, why do kids that are not in scouts think that scouting is gay, when we appear to be the only organization that does not allow gay membership? I wish the homosexual community start a campaign to educate them. I know if I was so against an organization I wouldn’t want people associating it with me.

  41. Jamie says:

    Did you never read the Scout oath in all this time volunteering?
    I, promise to do my best
    To do my duty to GOD and my country
    To help other people
    And to obey the Law of the Pack.

    Seems there was something about God in there.

  42. Brad says:

    I know this has been dead for some time, but was dumbfounded by the glaring one sidedness and ignorance in this. As being a non-christian Scouter, I will elaborate:

    Mistake 1: BSA takes NO public monies. This is why they have the right to discriminate. This is an important part of the freedom’s we all take for granted.

    Mistake 2: While God is mentioned in the oath, there is also an Outlander’s Oath, written by BP himself for those who could not swear an oath to any god.

    Mistake 3: If your not a Christian you’re out. That is simply not true. The Buddhist’s have been a welcomed part of BSA since the 1930’s, What BSA does expect is a sense of spirituality. Aetheism porports no sense of spirtuality. Reverence is an important part of the Scout Law.

    While I may not agree with all their policies, I would defend to my death, their right to them up until they take public (government) monies. This is the same reason why private schools can insist all students pray each day. If you don’t like it, you can choose not to be a part of it.

    And as for Religious bigotry, what does that have to do with Scouting? The point of every different religion is to say we are better than you. Scouting never had anything to do with that, nor does it single any religion. It just ask you have a religion. If your unsure, look up the defintion of religion:

    religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    I think the last part explains it all. That is what BSA ask for it’s youth and leaders.