Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Alternate Activity 2: The UUA and the Boy Scouts of America

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story. Talk with your minister or religious educator about your congregation's relationship, if any, with the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Pre-arrange for two participants to read aloud the correspondence between the Rev. John Buehrens and Lawrence Ray Smith. Give the volunteers the story "The UUA and the Boy Scouts of America" in advance.
  • Review the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding between the UUA and the BSA and Frequently Asked Questions so that you can answer any questions that may arise in the course of the discussion.

Description of Activity

Invite the two volunteers to read aloud the correspondence in the story, "The UUA and the Boy Scouts of America." Then, invite participants to share their experiences and/or reflections related to this controversy.


"Religion in Life" was not sanctioned by the Boy Scouts of America for a number of years, but a new Memorandum of Understanding has re-established relationships between the two organizations after the BSA announced policy changes and demonstrated a willingness to welcome gay and lesbian members and leaders. Throughout the controversy, the UUA has continued to offer the program (PDF) on line and the emblem through the inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop.

During the controversy, individuals and congregations responded differently. Some ignored the stance of the national organization and completed the program as part of their scouting experience, while trying to change the position of the national organization. Some refused to take part in or host Boy Scout troops. Still others joined an independent group called the Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. We have yet to see how UU congregations and individuals will respond to the re-establishment of a relationship between the two organizations.

Engage a discussion, using these questions:

  • What were the religious principles at stake in this controversy?
  • Were there conflicting principles or values?
  • Has your congregation had a discernment process regarding whether or not to host a Boy Scout troop? Have individual members of your congregation had to make decisions about whether or not to participate in Boy Scouts?
  • How might the UUA have responded differently to this controversy?
  • How does this controversy illuminate some of the different approaches to social justice work, including change from within, taking a prophetic stance, and setting up a parallel organization?

Religion in Life Pin

From inSpirit: The UU Book and Gift Shop

Pin awarded upon completion of UUA Scouting Programs. 1.25" or 1" diameter. Please choose either Priority Mail shipping or UPS at checkout, if purchasing this item. We are not able to ship this merchandise via Value shipping. We will change the shipping and charge you accordingly if Value is chosen.

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