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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