Prejudice of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

Our Sunday mornings began with the smell of a big breakfast. Our traditional Sunday “worship” took place in our kitchen. We worshiped each other and thanked the adult income-makers for providing us all with good food, a roof over our heads, and all the comforts we never took for granted. Sunday breakfast was a time for planning the upcoming week (we all brought our calendars to the table), discussing the events of the past week, distributing allowances, enjoying good food, and a lot of joy in being a family.

Before I knew it, my son was 12, and I was picking him up outside the public school where his Boy Scouts of America (BSA) meeting was held. But something was horribly wrong. The minute he saw me, he burst into tears. I immediately hugged him and asked what had happened to upset him so much.

Choking back the tears, he said, “We have to find a religion, Mom, and we have to pick one before the next troop meeting.”

We had moved to Bloomington, Illinois, from Sussex, New Jersey, a few months earlier, and the first thing we did was locate another Boy Scout troop for our son. The New Jersey troop had been so nice, so accepting of me as an Atheist, and so willing to accommodate our belief system. We naïvely anticipated the same open-arms welcome from an Illinois BSA troop. How wrong we were!

Apparently, the new Illinois troop leader looked through my son’s BSA handbook the evening of Matt’s first meeting. He noticed a page where the word God had been crossed off and replaced with the word “good.”

Many other pages that had been approved by the New Jersey troop leader were now considered invalid. How dare we replace the word “God” with “science,” “humanity,” and “nature”!

“What are you,” the troop leader demanded of my son, “some kind of Atheist?!

My son had never heard that word before and honestly answered that he didn’t think we were. On further questioning, the troop leader discovered that we did not go to church and did not read the Bible in our home. He demanded that Matt tell us that if he did not have a religion in two weeks, he was not welcome to return.

The traumatic event led to much discussion in our household. We talked about the importance of honesty and dignity. We discussed other religious beliefs my son knew about from his friends and even looked up a few unfamiliar religions that BSA troop leader said were “acceptable.” After all the discussions and research, we turned to our son and asked him, “Well, Matt—do you want to pick a religion now, or do you want wait until you are older?”

He said that he did not believe in any God, and he was thinking that maybe BSA troop just made a mistake. “The New Jersey people loved us, right?”

Yes, I assured him, the New Jersey troop loved us, and I, too, thought that perhaps the Illinois troop was simply misguided. I called the troop leader a few days before the date of the next scheduled meeting to discuss the matter. His first question was, “Well—have you selected a religion?” There was no discussion, no attempt at compromise, no kindness, and no respect for our family’s chosen life stance. When I answered that we would not be forced into selecting a religion just to fit in, he hung up on me.


Story of a child being subject to heartbreaking discrimination for being an atheist.

Folksonomies: atheism discrimination

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/education/school (0.350499)
/business and industrial/business software (0.325671)

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BSA:Organization (0.849177 (negative:-0.615042)), New Jersey troop:Organization (0.837396 (positive:0.514418)), Illinois BSA troop:Organization (0.756428 (positive:0.350967)), New Jersey:StateOrCounty (0.620052 (positive:0.676261)), Illinois:StateOrCounty (0.532880 (negative:-0.537969)), Matt:Person (0.473195 (negative:-0.321676)), Bloomington:City (0.343271 (neutral:0.000000)), Sussex:StateOrCounty (0.248272 (neutral:0.000000)), two weeks:Quantity (0.248272 (neutral:0.000000))

Religion (0.970952): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
God (0.701404): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Boy Scouts of America (0.695223): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Scouting (0.674558): dbpedia | freebase
Faith (0.587514): dbpedia | freebase
Native Americans in the United States (0.529154): dbpedia | freebase | yago
New York City (0.523083): geo | website | dbpedia | freebase | yago | geonames
Troop (0.506783): dbpedia | freebase

 Teaching Children to Stand On Principle--Even When the Going Gets Tough
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Downey, Margaret (2007), Teaching Children to Stand On Principle--Even When the Going Gets Tough, Retrieved on 2012-03-28
Folksonomies: parenting atheism