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September 30, 1998: Letter from Rev. John Buehrens to Dr. Lawrence Ray Smith Concerning the Religion in Life Award

Lawrence Ray Smith, Ph.D.
Chair, Religious Relationship Committee
Boy Scouts of America
522 East Lane
Kerrville, TX 78028

Dear Dr. Smith:

Yesterday we had a very good meeting with Tom Deimler, Director of the Relationship Division of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), and with Mike Healy, an active Unitarian Universalist who also serves as area president for the BSA in the Northeast region. We agreed on two steps that taken together would allow the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the BSA to resume an appropriate relationship.

For our part, the UUA will publish a new, revised edition of the Religion in Life manual. While continuing to assert as a matter of religious principle our belief in the worth and dignity of every person—regardless of race or creed, gender or sexual orientation, ability or disability—the revised manual will be written so as not to offend the BSA in any way.

Authors of the new edition will be the Rev. Keith Kron of our Faith in Action Department and the Rev. Cynthia Breen, UUA Director of Religious Education, both of whom were present at the meeting. Where we feel it necessary to help Scouts working on the award or Scout leaders acting as advisors to more fully explore Unitarian Universalist under-standings of ‘duty to God’ or current BSA policies, the new edition will simply reference other helpful publications available from our Youth Office. This will avoid including in a manual for a BSA award material which the BSA finds inappropriate.

In return, I ask that the Religious Relationships Committee invite a Unitarian Universalist representative to join the Committee. We think it appropriate, given our willingness to resolve this dispute over the Religion in Life manual, to be invited “inside the tent,” as it were. There we hope to join other religious groups in a spirit of inter-faith cooperation, helping the BSA to meet constructively the varied challenges of diversity.

Since I would like to convey word of both these steps to the UUA Board of Trustees when they meet in Boston on October 24, it would be helpful if you could respond to me promptly following the meeting of your committee on October 13. Obviously, we would also like to see the Religion in Life award re-instated to official BSA recognition, and to convey to concerned Scouts and others news of this agreement in a timely fashion.

As we discussed with Mr. Deimler and Mr. Healy, there have been some regrettable mis-understandings in the past both about some BSA terms and procedures and about the UUA’s intentions. We do, however, desire to have a constructive relationship in which each organization can be true to its own sense of mission.

I trust that you and the Committee will accept this letter as it is intended—in a spirit of reconciliation and in the hope for relational renewal. Please recognize that we need in return a communication from you that will both welcome us to the Committee table and hold out hope for official reinstatement of the award once the new manual is published.

It would be good to have a letter from you that can be released soon along with mine.

Yours in hope,
John A. Buehrens

cc. Tom Deimler
Mike Healy

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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