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UK Scouts Welcome Gays! (Atheists and Agnostics Still Not Cool)

I try to be a glass half full kind of lady, so I think it’s great that the UK scouts are trying to be more inclusive for gays, regardless of what their organization traditionally stood for in the past.  More inclusive is a good step, but it doesn’t mean the scouts are any more inclusive in regard to atheist and agnostic kids, and that is still a pretty big disappointment.

The U.K. Scout Association is looking to increase its ranks of gay members and leaders as a way to fight a reputation of being homophobic.

Critics are blasting the 500,000-member organization, saying that it is a blatant move away from “Christian values,” according to Pink News.The organization does have religious ties, as it does not permit agnostic or atheist members.

“There was an assumption that being gay meant you couldn’t be part of the movement,” said spokesman Simon Carter. “That was never the case and we are keen to make it clear that we accept people of any particular orientation. We have had youth members and adults attend Pride events and plan to do so again this year. It shows that we are not just taking about it but are demonstrating our support publicly.”

…and that’s all well and good.  But when your organization chooses to still prohibit some people, does the inclusion of others really mean that much?

The UK certainly is doing better than their American counterparts seem to be doing in regard to homosexuality and scout policy, but the exclusion of atheists and agnostics still makes the UK scouts and the BSA both completely unacceptable organizations to me as a parent.  Are we really trying to teach kids that some exclusion is ok, just not too much?

That’s kind of what it seems like when you consider widely spread comments like this one from the article in response to a comment about how it was still unfair to exclude some children based on ideology:

Well, there is the little fact that MANY gays just happen to be Christians. It looks like THESE Scouts (and we are talking about the BRITISH organization–or “organisation” per UK spelling–not the US faction) are willing to acknowledge that their “religious tradition” is much broader than some religious “leaders” want to admit. (It’s worth noting that the critics’ whole “Christian values” thing is a load of bull. It is true that the Scouts aren’t as open to agnostics and athiests but virtually ALL religious traditions, from Judaism and Islam to Buddhism to Baha’i to Wicca, are accepted. Lord Baden-Powell started the Scouting movement with the idea that spirituality and a belief in a higher power were necessary but not that any single faith or religion was the sole means to that end.)

So there you have it.  We should feel good about the scouts, because maybe they exclude atheists and agnostics, but look at how tolerant they are of everyone else!

And maybe it would be easier to accept that answer if, in America, the boy scouts weren’t generally seen as such an unquestionably good and wholesomely American activity for young boys to be involved in.  Maybe in the UK it is far more religiously marketed, and so the exclusion of atheists and agnostics isn’t as big of a deal as it is here, but as a parent of a 7 year old boy in America – I gotta say those exclusionary rules are lame.  Just as lame as the American fear that if we let teh gays tie knots and go camping, suddenly the scouts is going to be all canteen boy, no merit and honor.  I mean seriously, what the hell?

I am happy that the UK scouts are making this stand.  But I wish they would take it that step further and say that ALL kids are welcome.  That the things scouts is supposed to represent and help create is something which is open to everyone, no matter what you think about dinosaurs, the big bang, death, heaven or hell.  It seems like humans will always need something to marginalize, and (like in the comment above) will even point to that marginalization as if it’s a kind of success.


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Jami Ortiz

In the USA there is an excellent alternative to BSA, which is all inclusive, regardless of religion, gender, orientation, or heritage. SpiralScouts International accepts all children ages 3 to 18, be they Atheist, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or anything else. We celebrate our diversities, cherishing that it is what makes us different an unique that bring us all together as humans, rather than driving us apart.

John Cook

A good friend of mine is a scout leader and an out Atheist. It seems when no one wants to be a scout leader, they lessen their standards.


@Cook: Lessen their standards, or improve them?

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