The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently reneged on its ban of openly homosexual members and leaders. But the religiously-rooted organization still promotes bigotry of another kind, according to a prominent atheist.
Herb Silverman, founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America, accused BSA of promoting “religious bigotry” against atheists and agnostics in a blog published by The Huffington Post on May 31. Silverman expressed “disappointment” that BSA liberalized on sexuality for supposedly the wrong reasons – allegedly to avoid damaging lawsuits. But he reserved his sharpest critique for “the BSA policy of banning atheist scouts and troop leaders.”
In his concluding paragraph, Silverman wrote:
“A number of courageous and honest atheists have been kicked out of the Boy Scouts for rejecting God beliefs. Apparently, the BSA does not consider honesty a core value in becoming the best kind of citizen, and would rather that boys pretend to believe. This certainly would teach boys a lesson on how best to prepare for political careers, since open atheists currently have little chance of being elected to just about any public office. This situation is particularly sad because it teaches boys who are deemed moral enough to be admitted as Scouts that prejudice is OK.”
He also went on the offensive against the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), because the religious group renewed its old alliance with the BSA earlier this year. The two groups started working together again after the BSA moved to fully accept gay leaders and scouts into it ranks last year. They had parted ways in 1998 after years of strife over the exclusion of gays, atheists, and agnostics. (Read more about that move here.)
Although professing atheists, Silverman and his wife are ironically members of a UUA congregation. “When we learned the dismaying news that the national UUA has re-affiliated with the Boy Scouts,” Silverman said, “we told our local minister that we wouldn’t be making our annual financial contribution while the situation continues.”
Silverman said he confronted UUA President Peter Morales about reconnecting with BSA while they still allegedly discriminated against atheists and agnostics. Silverman said Morales avoided specifics, but reportedly argued that “the best way to change BSA policy is from the inside rather than from the outside.” Morales furthermore observed “that only a small portion of atheists are associated with the Unitarian Church.”
Indeed, membership in the UUA has always been small to begin with. It claims fewer than 200,000 members, and has never matched or exceeded its peak membership in the 1960s. Meanwhile the BSA’s membership losses have numbered in the hundreds of thousands in recent years, particularly after it has increasingly liberalized.Google+