Scouts & God
The New York Times reported on November 3, 2002, that a Seattle-area Eagle Scout named Darrell was asked to reconsider his outspoken atheism or leave the Boy Scouts. That this local story received national coverage doubtless reflects the determination of the elite press to take any opportunity to embarrass the Scouts for having excluded homosexual scoutmasters in an attempt to avoid the kind of catastrophe that has engulfed the Catholic Church. Darrell joined the Scouts at age nine and dropped his belief in God five years later, after studying evolution in ninth grade. Thereafter, when reciting the Boy Scout Oath, he either mumbled or omitted the words by which the scout swears to do his duty “to God.”
No one took notice, and Darrell achieved the top scout rank of Eagle in high school despite making no effort to hide his atheism. Seattle-area scouting officials decided to make an issue of his unbelief only after Darrell, now a 19-year-old college freshman and a volunteer leader in a troop headed by his own mother, disputed the statement of a scouting official at a training session for adult leaders that an atheist could advance in scouting only by lying about his beliefs. Scouting officials have so far held firm to their position that, however worthy he may be in other respects, a Boy Scout cannot fulfill his obligation to be “reverent,” or take in good faith the Boy Scout Oath, if he denies that God exists.
It is not likely that the courts will intervene, since the Supreme Court held in the “gay scoutmasters” case that the Scouts have a right to set their own membership standards. So this ruling will stand unless the officials are swayed by petitions on behalf of Darrell from local Scouts and their parents, or similar letters in the newspapers.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor