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Religious Recognition Awards for Unitarian Universalist Scouts
Both Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) and Boy Scouts of America (BSA) encourage their members to earn a religious recognition. Religious recognitions are developed by the religious organization.
Religion in Life for Girl Scouts, our newly revised online resource, includes a program for younger girls and a program for older girls. Girl Scouts and Faith on the GSUSA website explains how religious recognition programs connect to Girl Scouting. While many faith groups have chosen to offer programs developed and administered by Programs of Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y.), the Unitarian Universalist Religion in Life for Girl Scouts program was developed and published by our own faith development staff.
UUA and Boy Scouts of America
The Unitarian Universalist Association has had disagreements with BSA. Our faith calls us to include people of many theological perspectives, including humanism and atheism, as well as people of different affectional orientations and family configurations. A series of letters details the conflict. In 1998, BSA refused to approve the Religion in Life for Boy Scouts program and the Love and Help program for Cub Scouts. Duty to God on the BSA website explains religious recognition programs, but Unitarian Universalist programs are no longer listed among the approved religious recognition awards that may be worn on a uniform.
In May 2013, the BSA agreed to admit openly gay scouts, and the UUA president responded with a statement reacting to that decision, saying, in part:
…it remains wrong to continue to discriminate against scout leaders, Eagle Scouts, and parents. I fear the continued discrimination against gay adults sends the wrong message to gay youth. These youth will not feel fully accepted into the scouting family.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation does not belong in scouting and is inconsistent with the BSA’s own values of respect and kindness.
Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that one day soon the BSA will change its remaining policies of discrimination and prejudice to ones of inclusion and respect for all who wish to participate in scouting at every level.
In July 2015, the BSA amended its adult leadership standards to include gay scout leaders. In response, UUA President Rev. Peter Morales issued a statement, saying, in part:
Given the BSA’s recent policy change, I look forward to initiating a dialogue between our two organizations in order to re-establish right relations. Together, we can create a welcoming community for all UU boys and young men who want to participate in scouting.
The UUA has reached out to the BSA to initiate a dialogue about re-establishing a relationship for the benefit of Unitarian Universalist boys and families who wish to take part in Boy Scouting.
Many families and congregations are conflicted about what to do as we await a BSA response to the UUA outreach. Some people opt to work within their local BSA organizations to encourage and support full theological inclusion, as well as inclusion of GLBT people as scout leaders. Others decide not to participate in Boy Scouting and/or not to offer space in their congregational buildings for Boy Scouts activities. The UUA, for its part, has recently updated Religion in Life for Boy Scouts.
Before deciding whether or not your family or your congregation will participate in Boy Scouting, set aside time to reflect:
- What is valuable about Boy Scouting? What parts of Boy Scouting promote healthy spiritual, emotional, and physical development?
- What parts of Boy Scouting are at odds with Unitarian Universalist values and faith commitments?
- If we decide not to be part of Boy Scouting, what are we giving up? How can we assure that Scouting values we embrace are supported in other ways?
- If we decide to engage with Boy Scouting and work to change it from within, what will that work look like? What ethical, spiritual, and practical commitments are we ready to make to work on change from within?