Scouting has a plethora of opportunities for youth to learn and grow into strong adults. Youth can learn about different career paths, experience the outdoors, learn good financial practices and much more. Another character building aspect Scouting has historically focused on is Duty to God. It has been a long-standing aspect of Scouting, but is Duty to God really necessary? There are so many other opportunities and activities youth can experience through Scouting, is there even room for God in the BSA anymore?
The simple answer to this question is yes! Not only does the BSA still ask its members to affirm a belief in God, the Boy Scouts is pushing Duty to God more than ever.
Duty to God has been a part of Scouting since the beginning. The first BSA Handbook for Boys, published in 1911, says “no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God.”
When repeating the Scout Law, Scouts declare that a Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion. This tradition of reverence towards God is one of the most important building blocks of Scouting. R. Chip Turner, Chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force states that “a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building.”
When leaders sign their membership application, they acknowledged the Declaration of Religious Principle which “affirms a belief in God, calls for an appreciation for the faith of others and acknowledges the importance of faith in citizenship development,” Turner reminds us. This same declaration is now included in the application form for youth, which is signed by parents. Turner explains that its policy promotes a strong and definite attention to religious life within the home and organization of the member.
“Duty to God” has always been a cornerstone of Scouting, and it still continues to be. The BSA affirms the importance a belief in God in many ways. Here are just a few: faith adventures in the
Duty to God for Cub Scouts: Cub Scout programs are clearly designed to be carried out in the family with the assistance of their faith group leaders. Cub Scouts can find out what “Duty to God” means to them and their family and begin to learn how Scouts are reverent.
Religious Emblems Programs: This program exists to encourage members to grow stronger in their faith. The Boy Scouts of America approved these programs and allows the emblems to be worn on the official uniform. The programs are administered by the various religious programs and allow Scouts to earn emblems while increasing their knowledge about their faith.
Chaplain Aide: The Chaplain Aide is an important leadership role that supports the growth of “Duty to God,” as the Scout can help provide appropriate worship opportunities and devotionals at Scouting events, include grace with meals, provide information on the religious emblems programs, or teach respect for the religious beliefs of others.
Rank Advancements: Rank advancement requirements ask Scouts to reflect on their own belief. Here, Scouts tell leaders how they have done with their personal “Duty to God.” The Scout leader is there to listen to Scouts without judgment, not to proselytize or to evaluate whether the Scout’s duty to God meets the Scout leader’s personal standard.
Adventures of Faith: When a Venturer has achieved the Summit Award, he or she will have completed a “structured personal reflection” related to “Adventures of Faith.” This is a personal reflection that is not required to be shared with advisors or members of a board of review but is meant to inspire a young person to reflect on the growth of his own faith. In other words, Scouting strongly affirms fulfillment of “Duty to God” and looks to the Venturer’s family and religious leaders to provide faith-specific guidance.
These examples are great ways youth can remain connected with their faith. Scouting provides these opportunities to ensure that faith and “Duty to God” remains the foundation of all Scouting. While Scouts have many other activities and requirements that require their attention, “Duty to God” remains present through it all. Practicing Scouting with the belief in a higher power gives Scouts a bigger perspective with every activity they do.
Although faith can be a tricky subject, it is essential to Scouting. Lord Robert Baden-Powell affirmed this on numerous occasions. He once answered a question about faith, and said this – “Where does religion come in? Well, my reply is … it does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.”
Still, there are bound to be many questions. You can refer to this helpful FAQs document the BSA released for further explanations.
What do you think about religion and Scouting? Is there still room for God in today’s BSA? Share your thoughts below!