This article is from the Scouting FAQ, by Bill Nelson firstname.lastname@example.org, Soaring Golden Eagle email@example.com and Alan Houser firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
Date: 31 Oct 2002
The BSA owns two organizations: Learning for Life/Exploring and the
traditional BSA Scouting programs. The following policy pertains only
to leaders in the BSA Scouting programs (not Learning for
Life/Exploring), that is the leaders within the BSA Scouting
organization: Cubs, Scouts, Sea Scouts, Varsity & Venturing.
The Declaration of Religious Principles (DRP) is a term used
to describe the BSA policies and definitions surrounding
religion. It is a definite position on religious principles.
The DRP was first published in the original Boy Scout
Handbook in 1911 and written by John Alexander (see
the chapter on Chivalry).
The following excerpt of the DRP is taken from the Adult
The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow
into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation
to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element
in the training of the member, but is absolutely
nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.
The Boy Scouts of America's policy is that home and the
organization or group with which the member is connected
shall give definite attention to religious life.
Only persons willing to subscribe to this Declaration
of Religious Principles and to the Bylaws of the Boy
Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of
When an adult leader signs the adult leader application
they declare that they subscribe to the DRP. The DRP is printed
prominently on the top of the instruction page in the adult leader
application and is also on the youth applications.
The full DRP can be found in the
BSA Advancement Policies and Procedures Committee Guide and the
Cub Scout Leader Book. The DRP
section of the bylaws date back to the founding days of the BSA
and was printed in the 1911 Boy Scout Handbook.
Youth members of the organization are not asked to
understand or subscribe to the DRP. Parents are advised on the
Youth application that the leadership is restricted to qualified
adults who subscribe to the Declaration of Religious Principle,
the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. The BSA recognizes the
importance of religious faith and duty: it leaves religious
instruction to the member's religious leaders and
family. Members who do not belong to a unit's religious
chartered organization shall not be required to participate
in its religious activities.
Note the following while reading the DRP:
The DRP does not require nor forbid a belief in a Supreme Being.
The DRP does not talk about being a 1st class or 2nd class
citizen, it talks about the quality of citizenship a member can obtain.
The BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God or the
practice of religion.*
The BSA does not require membership in a religious organization
or association for enrollment in the movement but does prefer,
and strongly encourages, membership and participation in the
religious programs and activities of a church, synagogue, or
other religious association.*
The BSA respects the convictions of those who exercise their
constitutional freedom to practice religion as individuals without
formal membership in organized religious organizations. Scouting
believes in the right of all to worship God in their own
Throughout life Scouts are associated with people of different
faiths. Scouts believe in religious freedom, respecting others
whose religion may differ from theirs.*
(* indicates this is taken from further notes on the DRP in the BSA
Advancement Policies and Procedures Committee = Guide)