MADISON– A national atheist lobbyist group has launched a newspaper advertisement campaign to pressure the Boy Scouts of America into welcoming secular students to its ranks.
As previously reported, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) controversially decided this year to allow openly homosexual young men to join the Scouting program. This was an unprecedented reversal of policy for the century-old BSA organization, which has historically been committed to its pledge to be “morally straight.” Now, however, atheists are saying the move did not “go far enough.”
On Sunday, the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) published a prominent advertisement in the New York Times. The quarter-page ad urged BSA remove a reference to God in its membership form, opining it “defames freethinkers.” Additionally, the ad blasted the organization for including “duty to God” in its Scout Oath.
“Why is it socially acceptable to discriminate against atheists?” the ad reads. “We congratulate the Boy Scouts of America for lifting its longstanding, hurtful ban against gay membership. But why hasn’t BSA stopped excluding nonreligious boys, too?”
“It’s what you do—not what you believe—that makes you a good person and a good citizen,” the ad claims. “BSA’s vaunted ‘duty to God’ has led it to cruelly place dogma over its duty to children.”
The ad, which was featured in the Times’ “Sunday Review” section, features a cartoon of a Boy Scout looking at his uniform badges and stating, “This one’s for swimming, this one’s for woodcraft, this one’s for religious bigotry…”
In addition to the campaign in the New York Times, FFRF has purchased space in several other newspapers across the country to spread its message. The ad will run in Alabama’s Huntsville Times later this week, and in approximately a dozen other newspapers next month.
The campaign comes after FFRF mailed a letter to the White House in February, condemning BSA’s “exclusion of two minorities in our nation: gays and nonbelievers.”
“BSA has deserved a badge of dishonor for its discriminatory practices,” the letter stated. “It is encouraging that BSA is taking its first steps toward more egalitarian practices, but it is equally important to point out that BSA’s proposals do not go far enough.”
Rob Schwarzwalder, vice president of Family Research Council, told reporters that BSA’s decision to admit homosexual members effectively cleared the path for further compromise and policy renunciation. Thus, Shwarzwalder believes that FFRF is right in questioning BSA’s religious policy.
“The bottom line is, Scouting has now removed any logical or legal basis for protecting against the inclusion of openly gay scout masters,” he said, “so in a sense [FFRF] is perfectly correct.”
The general public has weighed in on the issue as well. One commenter suggested that atheists shouldn’t meddle with BSA in the first place.
“As for the Boy Scouts, leave them alone,” they wrote. “You don’t like, don’t participate. Start your own atheist boys’ organization and make it whatever you want it to be. Or would you rather just destroy the organization that is there and leave nothing for the kids?”
Another stated, “Compromise your principles and this is exactly what happens.”