In the Boy Scouts of America, everyone makes a commitment to live the Scout Oath. The very first line of the Scout Oath reads “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.” This first duty emphasized in the Oath is to God. One of the many ways that a Scout can fulfill their duty to God is by earning religious emblems.  

Creation of Religious Emblems

Religious Emblems were created 92 years ago, and have since served as a way to help Boy Scouts fulfill their Duty to God. The creation of these emblems began in 1926 when Reverend James E. Dolan introduced the Ad Altare Dei program. You can read more about their creation here

But these emblems are not exclusive to Catholicism. Since their inception, they have spread to a variety of faiths including Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and 39 others. For a full list of the churches that offer religious emblem programs click the image below. 

Earning Religious Emblems

Since these emblems are from different churches, there are different requirements to earn each one. Scouts can talk with their religious organization to learn more about its program and requirements. 

However, the method for obtaining these emblems is the same. These four steps will help a Scout to get started with and complete the various programs. 

Step 1: Scout obtains the booklet associated with the faith’s religious emblem.

Step 2: Have parents of the Scout review the requirements. 

Step 3: Family of the Scout meets with the religious leader and shows them their booklet prior to starting the program.

Step 4: Scout completes the requirements, orders the emblem, and receives the emblem.

Religious Emblems for Adults

Just like youth can receive religious emblems, so can adults. However, the process is different. Instead of fulfilling certain concrete requirements, adults are nominated to receive their faith’s award. 

Adults are nominated for the excellent service that they have provided to their religious organization and the national youth agency that they are a part of.

According to P.R.A.Y. (a religious emblem program committed to bringing children, youth, and families closer to Christ), “An outside party must nominate an adult to receive an award by submitting the required applications, letter of recommendation, and resume of activities. Self and spouse nominations will not be accepted. Nominations cannot be made posthumously.” 

Wearing Religious Emblems

Cloth, silver knot on purple (The youth version)

After earning their awards, Scouts and Adult Scouts may wear the knot above their left pocket. Adults who have earned both the youth and adult versions can wear both if they meet the criteria. 

Scouts should not wear the emblem and knot at the same time.


Religious Emblem Knot - Adult
Cloth, purple on silver (Adult version)

To learn more about religious emblems, visit BSA’s Religious Emblems Program page. This page contains additional resources and links that you can check out including a how to get started page and a frequently asked questions section. Also, be sure to check out Scouting Magazine’s article. 

One comment

  1. Avatar
    Ronald Murphy says:

    Great article, but you got one thing wrong.
    The LDS Church was the first church to have a Religious Award.
    On June 8, 1916 at the General M.I.A. Conference, Brother Oscar Kirkham introduced the “Church Merit Badge”. The requirements were very similar to later LDS Scouting Awards (Deseret Recognition Award, Duty to God, and today’s On My Honor).
    You can find a photo of the minutes of that meeting with the requirements listed on page 40 of the book “Century of Honor, 100 years of Scouting in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”.
    It’s too bad you did not have this information before you wrote this article.
    It would have been great to have the “Bragging Rights” to having the “First Boy Scout Religious Award”!
    Any chance you could do a “Correction”?
    Thanks for your time!
    Ron Murphy
    LDS Scouter
    Vancouver, WA

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