Category Archives: Civil Rights

Should the Boy Scouts be allowed to recruit in public schools?

It’s always interesting to me when I run into a situation that I have to reconsider for the first time since becoming an atheist.

A mother in King, North Carolina recently wrote a letter to the editor in the Winston-Salem Journal:

On the second day of school, a representative from the Boy Scouts of America came to my son’s school to recruit new members. My son came home so excited, and cried when I had to tell him no. I feel he is too young to understand BSA’s homophobic and discriminatory policies, so I told him we already had too much on our plate. The BSA is prejudicial (it doesn’t accept atheists or agnostics) and homophobic (no gays allowed). My son will never be a Boy Scout and I wish that I had been notified that valuable learning time was going to be spent promoting a homophobic hate group.

Recently President Obama made a 15-minute speech to children about working hard and staying in school. I got a verbal message from the teacher, a note and two calls letting me know about the speech.

Is the president’s message that scary? Why does a positive message from the president require so much parental warning, while a discriminatory organization gets free rein to recruit during the school day with zero parental notification?

From now on, I expect notifications of future speakers at my son’s school and the topic of discussion. I expect a verbal message from his teacher, a letter from the principal and two auto calls. I would also like the opportunity to send in a signed note to excuse him from said speaker.

The BSA, in case you didn’t know, has official anti-LGBT and anti-nontheist policies, which have led to Eagle scouts being stripped of their awards and scout leaders being removed from their positions.

I’m an Eagle scout. I received my award from a scout troop where religion and sexuality were never discussed. Maybe there was an undercurrent of religion in some of the things we said (like the Scout Oath, which mentions doing duty to god and my country), but apart from the routine recitations it was never really raised as an issue. (Come to think of it, that’s kind of surprising, considering that I grew up in a pretty conservative area of Michigan…)

But I know that troops do exist where just believing in the wrong god (e.g. being a Hindu) is enough to keep you out. And I’ve seen dozens of cases of scouts and scoutmasters having their awards and positions stripped away after publicly coming out of the closet.

So it’s clearly not enough for me to apply my own personal experiences to this issue. If I say that it’s okay to allow some scout troops into schools since not every scout troop discriminates on the basis of sexuality or religion, it would be equivalent to saying that since not all Christians are like Fred Phelps we should allow the more accepting groups to recruit in schools.

I can see the mother coming at this question with two different approaches:

  1. She doesn’t want her kids to be potentially indoctrinated into anti-LGBT, anti-nontheist beliefs.
  2. She doesn’t want to support an organization that discriminates the way the BSA does.

From the first viewpoint, it would seem a bit hasty to prejudge the practices of a local troop based on the policies of the national troop. The second viewpoint recognizes that things like membership dues and subscriptions to the Boy’s Life magazine would be giving financial backing to a group with an official policy of hate, and I absolutely agree that such discriminatory groups shouldn’t be given the platform of the classroom to seek new sources of income and new members.

Now I’m torn between turning in my Eagle badge to officially renounce the BSA and keeping it to pad my résumé…

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The Friendly Atheist Under Attack

Hemant Mehta, one of the most tolerant, genial, and patient atheists I’ve ever seen, is currently under attack from a thinly-veiled far-right Christian hate group calling itself the Illinois Family Institute, which has a history of saying some pretty nutty stuff. And I’m not just calling them a hate group, either; for a while, the Southern Poverty Law Center had them listed as one, specifically for their strident anti-gay stance, comments, and leadership. Continue reading

Hating Gays for Jesus (also, they’re icky)

The following is from a letter to the editor in my local newspaper:

Bible clear in opposition to homosexuality

Re May 7 letter, “Don’t use Bible to oppose gay marriage”: Mr. Hunt’s ideology is exactly what is wrong with our country today.

First and foremost, our country was built on Christian values. Second, Mr. Hunt mentions how we should keep the Bible out of our lawmaking. This is where our country has been misguided in the worst way. Without God in our lives, there are no laws, morals or family values. What we would then have is a type of society in which there are no consequences.

Whether or not Mr. Hunt or Bill Maher want to accept it, there is a God, and there are rules he wants us to follow. One may interpret some things differently, but without any reasonable doubt, in no way is gay marriage an acceptable lifestyle. It is not normal or acceptable behavior for two of the same sex to be engaged in a sexual relationship. To be honest, it is flat-out disgusting.

This does not make me a bigot, hatemonger or bad person.

The opposition for gay marriage is a force to be reckoned with. I, for one, strongly support a normal marriage, which is between a man and a woman.

Sean Dufresne

Amsterdam

Mr. Dufresne is, of course, entirely wrong. Let me explain how.

Continue reading