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What is the position of the BSA as related to God and religion?

Date: 7 Oct 1998

The BSA owns two organizations: Learning for Life/Exploring and the BSA traditional Scouting programs. Learning for Life/Exploring holds all of the vocational training programs within the BSA effective August 1, 1998 (e.g., Law Explorer Posts) as well as its program for school aged youth. There are no youth requirements in Learning for Life/Exploring (LFL) pertaining to God and religion. Leadership criteria in LFL/Exploring is set by the chartering organization. Learning for Life/Exploring participants are not required to adhere to BSA membership requirements. For more information on Exploring, see:

The following policy is for members of the BSA, that is the participants of programs within the BSA Scouting organization: Cubs, Scouts, Sea Scouts, Varsity & Venturing. From the BSA National Executive Board, June 12, 1991:

Reaffirmation of the Position of the Boy Scouts of America on Duty to God.

    Be it resolved that the following reaffirmation of the position of the Boy Scouts of America relating to the duty to God be, and hereby is, enacted that the bylaws, rules and regulations, and literature of the Corporation reflect this reaffirmation accordingly.

    In 1985, America celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1910, eighty million Americans have subscribed to the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which have stood the test of time.

    The National Executive Board of the BSA proudly states, through its mission statement, that the values which the organization strives to instill in young people are those based upon the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. A Scout pledges: "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law...."

    The first Boy Scouts of America *Handbook for Boys*, published in August 1911, declares that " boy can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God." (page 215)

    The latest edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, published in 1990, reads: "A scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others." (page 561)

    While not intending to define what constitutes belief in God, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to reaffirm the Scout Oath and its declaration of duty to God.

    The following statements are additional information on the BSA position:

    The Boy Scouts of America has always been committed to the moral, ethical, and spiritual development of our youth. Scouting is not a religion, but duty to God is a basic tenet of the Scout Oath and Law.

    Scouting does not seek to impose its beliefs upon others who do not share them. Virtually every religion is represented in Scouting, and the BSA does not define or interpret God. That is the role of the Scout's family and religious advisors.

    Scouting respects those who do not share its beliefs and it would not ask others to alter their faith in any fashion in order to become Scouts. They too are free to follow their own beliefs. Rather, the BSA membership believes that the principles set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to the BSA goal of teaching the values of self-reliance, courage, integrity, and consideration to others. Scouting may not be for everyone, but for eight decades, Scouting has provided meaningful programs and adventure to more than eighty million young people in the United States.

    [end of letter]

For more information on BSA organization's leadership requirements see: The Cub Scout Leader Book and The Troop Committee Guidebook

The BSA organization teaches Scouts that the First Amendment religious liberty principles are our national "ground rules" for living with our deepest differences. Scouts are taught the "3Rs" of religious liberty -- rights, responsibilities, and respect. What it means to recognize that everyone has the inalienable right of religious liberty. Why is it important that citizens take responsibility for guarding that right for all others, even those with whom they disagree. And how we can learn to debate our differences with civility and respect.

The BSA organization is a member of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM). The BSA holds to the fundamental principles of the movement. Duty to God is a Fundamental Principle of the WOSM (see below for more on the WOSM). The WOSM has testified at court cases in the United States in support of the BSA (see Walsh vs. BSA).

The Learning for Life/Exploring subsidiary does not have any restriction in this area for youth, or adult leaders. Leadership criteria in LFL/Exploring is set by the chartering organization. Youth are considered participants and not members.

A history of the BSA on this point can be found at:

There are a number of organizations who take issue with the BSA policy. Some information on their positions can be found at:

There are a number of organizations who agree with the BSA policy. Some information on their positions can be found at:

The Claremont Institute

The War on the Boy Scouts

Concerned Women for America

National Review

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