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: 8 Feb 2002
The BSA owns two organizations: Learning for Life/Exploring and the BSA
traditional Scouting programs. Learning for Life/Exploring holds
all of the vocational training programs within the BSA effective
August 1, 1998 (e.g., Law Explorer Posts) as well as its program
for school aged youth. There are no youth requirements in
Learning for Life/Exploring (LFL) pertaining to God and religion.
Leadership criteria in LFL/Exploring is set by the chartering
Learning for Life/Exploring participants are
not required to adhere to BSA membership requirements.
For more information on Exploring, see:
The following policy is for members of the BSA, that is
the participants of programs within the BSA Scouting organization:
Cubs, Scouts, Sea Scouts, Varsity & Venturing.
A Press Release in Feb of 2002 the BSA Executive Board stated:
"In affirming its existing standards of leadership, the board
also agreed that duty to God is not a mere ideal for those choosing
to associate with the Boy Scouts of America; it is an obligation,
which has defined good character throughout the BSA's 92-year
history." -BSA Board Affirms Traditional Leadership Standards
Note that the BSA does not define what constitutes belief in God,
but does define what Duty to God is.
From the Bedrock of Scouting Values Speech "The bedrock of Scouting's
values is literally and figuratively ... duty to God .... "On my
honor, I will do my duty to God and my country ..." To Scouting, the
question is NOT: Can a person be honorable without a belief in God?
Rather, our commitment is that no child can develop to his/her fullest
potential without a spiritual element.
The Boy Scouts of America is not a religion ... it is an organization
with strong religious tenets. It is a movement that is committed to
developing the entire child ... spirituality is very important in that
total development. That is why we hold to duty to God. Whether it is
the Judeo-Christian ethic; or a Buddhist, Protestant, Mormon,
Catholic, or Native American ethic; or that of any of the other great
religions of our world, the Boy Scouts of America is committed to the
proposition that no child can develop to his/her fullest potential
without a spiritual element in his/her life.
In looking ahead to their adult years, Scouting is in accord =
with the teachings of the world's great religions and is
committed to the concept that sexual intimacy is the providence
of a man and a woman within the bonds of marriage.
Also, consistent with the world's great religions, the Boy =
Scouts of America is committed to respecting the dignity of
individuals or values with which we disagree. In four places in
the Scout Oath and Law .... when you read the descriptive
terms ... you will find comments related to respect. But,
respect doesn't mean abdication of one's values. Nor does it
mean the forced inclusion of others' values in your life. What
it does mean is the recognition of the right of people to have
opinions, values, and lifestyles other than yours and for all
to be tolerant of each other's differences. When the Boy Scouts
won the United States Supreme Court case, you didn't see us
"celebrating in the street." The issue was not to vanquish a
young man who is an inappropriate leader within Scouting. The
issue was the maintenance of our constitutional right and our
commitment to providing those faith-based values to our
constituency in a respectful manner.
Scouting has never sought to impose its values on anyone. We =
welcome all who share them, and we respect the right of others
to walk a different path. We don't expect everybody to agree
with our standards and values ... but we do think it's fair to
expect others to respect them."
From the BSA National Executive Board, June 12, 1991:
Reaffirmation of the Position of the Boy Scouts of America on Duty to
Be it resolved that the following reaffirmation of the position of =
Boy Scouts of America relating to the duty to God be, and hereby is,
enacted that the bylaws, rules and regulations, and literature of =
Corporation reflect this reaffirmation accordingly.
In 1985, America celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Boy
Scouts of America. Since 1910, eighty million Americans have
subscribed to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which have stood the
test of time.
The National Executive Board of the BSA proudly states, through its
mission statement, that the values which the organization strives to
instill in young people are those based upon the Scout Oath and
the Scout Law. A Scout pledges: "On my honor I will do my
best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout
The first Boy Scouts of America *Handbook for Boys*, published
in August 1911, declares that "..no boy can grow into the
best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation
to God." (page 215)
The latest edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, published
in 1990, reads: "A scout is reverent toward God. He
is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs
of others." (page 561)
While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God,
the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout
Oath and its declaration of duty to God.
The following statements are additional information
on the BSA position:
The Boy Scouts of America has always been committed to
the moral, ethical, and spiritual development of our youth.
Scouting is not a religion, but duty to God is a basic tenet
of the Scout Oath and Law.
Scouting does not seek to impose its beliefs upon others
who do not share them. Virtually every religion is represented
in Scouting, and the BSA does not define or interpret God.
That is the role of the Scout's family and religious advisors.
Scouting respects those who do not share its beliefs and it would
not ask others to alter their faith in any fashion in order to
become Scouts. They too are free to follow their own beliefs.
Rather, the BSA membership believes that the principles set forth
in the Scout Oath and Law are central to the BSA goal of teaching
the values of self-reliance, courage, integrity, and
consideration to others. Scouting may not be for everyone, but
for eight decades, Scouting has provided meaningful programs
and adventure to more than eighty million young people
in the United States.
[end of letter]
For more information on BSA organization's leadership requirements see:
The Cub Scout Leader Book and The Troop Committee Guidebook
The BSA organization teaches Scouts that the First Amendment religious
principles are our national "ground rules" for living with our
deepest differences. Scouts are taught the "3Rs" of religious liberty
-- rights, responsibilities, and respect. What it means to recognize
that everyone has the inalienable right of religious liberty. Why is it
important that citizens take responsibility for guarding that right for
all others, even those with whom they disagree. And how we can
learn to debate our differences with civility and respect.
The BSA organization is a member of the World Organization of the
Scouting Movement (WOSM). The BSA holds to the fundamental principles
of the movement. Duty to God is a Fundamental Principle of the WOSM
(see below for more on the WOSM). The WOSM has testified at = court
cases in the United States in support of the BSA (see Walsh vs. BSA).
The Learning for Life/Exploring subsidiary does not have any
restriction in this area for youth, or adult leaders. Leadership
criteria in = LFL/Exploring is set by the chartering organization.
Youth are considered participants and not members.
A history of the BSA on this point can be found at:
Recent press releases from the BSA on this subject can be found here:
There are a number of organizations who take issue with the BSA
policy. Some information on their positions can be found at:
There are a number of organizations who agree with the
BSA policy. Some information on their positions can be
The Claremont Institute
The War on the Boy Scouts
Concerned Women for America