Boy Scouts & Atheism

This editorial appeared in the Mobile Register in Mobile, Alabama on November 17 2002 on Page 1D in the Insight Section.

Leader of atheist group supports Boy Scout ban
Special to the Register
Blair Scott is president of The Mobile Atheists.

I’m going to walk away from the crowd and stand on my own. (As an atheist I stand on my own a lot, anyway, but now I’m going to stand against my fellow atheists.)

There is a person in Washington who is being expelled from the Boy Scouts of America because of his atheism. The Scout, Darrell Lambert, has vowed to fight the decision to expel him.

Naturally, this news story has exploded in every Internet forum and web page designed for atheists, who are claiming “discrimination.”

They’re right; the Boy Scouts of America does discriminate against atheists (and homosexuals, too). But what’s new? The Boy Scouts have always discriminated and will more than likely continue to do so in the future.

So how am I standing alone against the other atheists in the country? I’m supporting the Boy Scouts in their decision and their right to hold members to their own requirements and standards.

In fact, I’m opposed to the gay scout fighting the decision of the Boy Scouts to expel gays.

Boy Scouts of America is a club – a large club, but a club nonetheless. And clubs, by their nature, are exclusionary.

Please see Supreme Court Page 4D >

Supreme Court Upheld Scout Decision
Continued from Page 1D

To be a member of a club you must meet its membership requirements. We may not personally agree with those requirements, just as I don’t agree with the Boy Scout’s policy, but it is the right of the club to set those requirements.

If you become a member without meeting those requirements, and it is discovered that you do not meet them, why would you be shocked at being expelled?

Boy Scouts of America logo

The Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of the BSA in July of 2000 in the case styled Boy Scouts of America and Mammoth Council v. James Dale. The court ruled that the BSA was a private organization that had the right to set standards and requirements for its members.

James Dale was a homosexual, and was expelled from the Boy Scouts when the organization discovered his homosexuality.

While I think the BSA is wrong for discriminating, I fully support its right as a private organization to do so, and so does the Supreme Court.

The court stated that, “We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts’ teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization’s expression does not justify the State’s effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message.”

Take note, fellow atheists: The state cannot force clubs to accept members who go against a club’s membership standards and requirements. Replace the word homosexual with atheist in the court’s statement and it still holds true.

So what’s next? Will the black community sue in order to become members of the KKK? Will Italians sue to become members of the Filipino-American Club? Will Caucasians sue to become members of the Future Black Leaders of America?

Fighting to force private organizations and clubs to be non-exclusionary is a waste of time, money and resources and, in my view, a violation of the club’s rights.

Efforts to fight the Boy Scouts of America are misplaced. Where the focus of the fight should be is on ensuring that federal and state funding of discriminatory organizations is not occurring, and that public school recruiting is not taking place.

The Boy Scouts should be excluded from public schools because of their discriminatory practices. The only private organizations that should be allowed to recruit in schools are those that will accept any student as a member, regardless of religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

The BSA should be excluded from all government funding lists because of its discriminatory practices. (Of course, private organizations should be getting their money from the private sector, anyway, discriminatory or not.)

Don’t fight the Boy Scouts of America; fight the government’s use of your tax dollars to support them. The government should not be endorsing any group that discriminates.

Can you imagine the outrage if the government gave money to the KKK or if the KKK were allowed to recruit in public schools? Well, what’s the difference between discrimination against blacks by the KKK and discrimination against atheists by the BSA?

There is no difference; discrimination is discrimination. Government funding of discrimination should cease. Let the private organizations discriminate – that is their right – but don’t fund it with my tax dollars.

My recommendation to Darrell Lambert, the atheist scout, and others like him who have been kicked out of private organizations is: Don’t fight the organization; fight the government sponsorship of the discriminatory practices that got you expelled.

Don’t join a club or organization where you don’t meet the standards and requirements for membership. If you can’t find a club that fits you, then do like I did a few years ago and form your own.

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