To become a Boy Scout, a boy must register. The following statement, from the Declaration of Religious Principle, is made within the required registration paperwork: “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 it is absolutely nonsectarian”.

What does this mean? While many Scouts assume the God they worship is the only God in Scouting, nonsectarian is defined as “not confined to any specific religion”.

Any boy who believes in an almighty being or some sort of spiritual presence, a great creator who looks over him, helping him to know the difference between right and wrong can be a Scout. This being provides a moral compass and shows him the proper path to follow. These beliefs can be taught by family/guardian or a religious group.

A younger Scout may not fully understand all the concepts of a supreme being. As a Scout ages, he becomes more aware of his duty to God, no matter the being he believes in. He’s lead  to understand the full meaning of that part of the Boy Scout Oath, according to his personal religious beliefs.

Lord Baden-Powell felt that a boy could not rise to his fullest without believing in God. That is now interpreted as belief in a higher power. The only boys turned away from Scouting are those who claim to have no such belief, as they cannot fulfill that part of the scouting oath.

Lord Baden-Powell once responded to a Duty to God question about religion in Scouting by saying “where does religion come in, my reply is it does not come in at all. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding”. In other words, duty to God has always been the cornerstone of Scouting.

In recent years, Boy Scouts who participate in a review for rank advancement are asked how they have done their duty to God since achievement of their current rank. Chip Turner, chairman of BSA’s religious relationships task force,  has explained this, and I quote “It does not put the Scouter in the role of a religious leader, nor does it empower this leader to accept answers”. The Scout will be asked what Duty to God means to him and how he demonstrates that duty.
I know now that this God of scouts lies anywhere there is a boy who believes. It does not matter what your religion is. Boys from any walk of life can be Scouts, as long as they feel a duty to God.

Do you know some boys who might be of a different religious faith? Ask them to join you at a scout function.  Do you think you could build a more diverse troop this way? It will help you to build respect for the faith of others.

Joyce Olesen
is a grandmother, mother, and daughter of Scouters. She love kids, camping, country music and sport cars. Her Dad was a Scout leader in Chicago in the early 1920’s and having only daughters did not bolster his Scouting hopes. As his "Scout" she was tying regulation knots by the time she was 7.

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