AHA News |  

President-Elect Obama Asked to Turn Down Boy Scouts of America

For Immediate Release - Contact Roy Speckhardt at (202) 238-9088
rspeckhardt@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., January 13, 2009) The American Humanist Association, in conjunction with eighteen other nontheistic (atheist and agnostic) organizations, sent a letter today to President-Elect Barack Obama urging him to decline the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. BSA policy is to deny the participation of nontheistic members and employees and expel those already involved. Thus the letter asks Obama to break with tradition because taking on the title of honorary president would send a message that discrimination against atheists and agnostics is acceptable.

"President-elect Obama was himself raised by a mother whom he described as a secular humanist, a remarkable woman who was very much a religious skeptic," said AHA President David Niose. "As such, he surely realizes that, if he were to accept the current Boy Scout standard, he would be endorsing discrimination against the same value system under which he was raised."

The full text of the letter appears below:

January 13, 2009

Dear President-Elect Barack Obama:

In light of your campaign promise to bring the nation together in a spirit of change we need, we, the undersigned nontheist organizations, urge you to take this opportunity to signify that discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nontheists will not be condoned.

Thus we write to urge you to decline the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA has acted vigorously in recent years to expel atheist and agnostic members and employees. This policy expresses the Declaration of Religious Principle, Bylaws of Boy Scouts of America, art. IX, § 1, cl. 1:

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law." The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.

The BSA has elected to set itself apart as a private organization that may discriminate in ways contrary to the laws and practices required of local, state, and federal authorities. Accepting the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America would thus send the message that institutional discrimination against people who don’t happen to believe in a god is acceptable.

Many presidents of the United States have taken on the title of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America. However, this tradition was established when discrimination against nontheists was, unfortunately, socially acceptable. Given that nontheists now make up a sizeable minority of the American population-—having more numbers than Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews combined-—the BSA is clearly out of touch with the spirit of pluralism, tolerance, and inclusiveness that compose today’s American values. By contrast, in 1993 the Girl Scouts of the United States of America adopted more inclusive policies.

Therefore, please decline the title and role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America until such time as the organization reforms its bylaws and practices to be non-discriminatory.

Yours in unity,

American Atheists
American Ethical Union
American Humanist Association
Atheist Alliance International
Atheist Nexus
Camp Quest
Center for Atheism
Center for Inquiry
Center for Naturalism
Council for Secular Humanism
Freedom From Religion Foundation
FreeThoughtAction
HUUmanists
Institute for Humanist Studies
International Federation for Secular & Humanistic Judaism
Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Student Alliance
Society for Humanistic Judaism

# # #

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

American Humanist Association

Jason Heap reviews the new British comedy, Pride! Have you seen this film? Tell...

20 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Gore Vidal’s former assistant, Fabian Bouthillette, has written Part I of his me...

24 hours ago

American Humanist Association

The Nov/Dec issue of The Humanist is out now, featuring some great interviews wi...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Amy Poehler is creating a show about an agnostic woman who inherits a church. An...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Please welcome the newest addition to the American Humanist Association staff, P...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Woo Hoo! 32 states down, plus DC!

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Lots of great early feedback for Fighting Back the Right, the forthcoming new bo...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday! Weekends Rock! http://www.jesusandmo.net/2014/10/15/iron2/

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

How do you explain death to a child, or anyone, without religious influence?

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Birthday to Mae Jemison! In 1992, Jemison became the first African America...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Yesterday was Bring Your Bible to School Day. Tell us how you feel about this.

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Throwback Thursday! Can you name this past AHA Humanist of the Year?

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

During our 2014 annual conference, Clay Farris Naff had the pleasure of sitting...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde!

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Is the Catholic Church becoming more accepting of homosexuality and same-sex mar...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

When kids opt out of the Pledge, the AHA backs them up!

7 days ago