Silent Prayer

Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts and Agnostics

Amy sent in this question:

How do you complete the Wolf faith requirement if a family does not have a faith, and does not talk about God in their family? This family was hesitant to join Scouts because of the faith component.

And John asked a similar question:

I am a den leader and I have a scout who is being raised agnostic. What can I do to assist the scout in completing the “Duty to God” achievement?

In the new Cub Scout program, there are required faith adventures for every badge. While the requirements are broad and do not require adherence to any specific religion, they do require a Cub Scout to think about faith and discuss it.

You might find the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle from the Charter and Bylaws helpful when discussing this with parents:

Section 1. Declaration of Religious Principle, clause 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. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore,recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

If you discuss the declaration of religious principle with them and you are still not sure what to do, I recommend you call your local council and seek advice from them. Your local Scouting professionals are there to help you sort through difficult questions like these. They are a valuable resource when you don’t know where else to turn.

25 Responses to Faith Requirements for Cub Scouts and Agnostics

  1. Jenny February 25, 2014 at 5:23 PM #

    I had my wolf den do this requirement at home. Some families attend church, some are believers but don’t attend, and some are agnostic. We have some problems with arguing about little things (we’re working on it) and I know 2 of our boys have had words over religion before.

    • Jason February 27, 2015 at 1:15 PM #

      All,
      I just wanted to encourage leaders to be sensitive to the agnostic perspective but be bold in the position of the organization. Clearly, we are faith-based (not religious based.) There is one Creator God that we are to acknowledge, give thanks to and understand our accountability to. Anyone who is part of the organization that does not support and promote this cornerstone principal is not leading BSA. Its ok to allow for requirements at home – but not talking about this topic at meetings does not help anyone. I would argue that it hurts the next generation of Scouts who need leadership examples of mature faith. I wish you all the best in striking this balance; respecting different faiths yet boldly teaching the position and honoring the culture of Boy Scouts of America.
      Respectfully,
      Jason

      • 3rd Generation Scouter June 24, 2015 at 3:19 PM #

        I remember when BSA did not allow black scouts and I also remember when units did not allow jewish scouts. Times change. Religion is for church and home not the Scouting unit. It is a family issue. BSA recognizes many religions through the Religious emblem program that have contradicting beliefs. Do some ready on the other religions and what their beliefs are and you will have some real shock.

        For Example: Jain or Jainism is recognized religion and part of the BSA religious emblem program is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of nonviolence towards all living beings. They specificly reject the idea of a creator or destroyer god and postulates that the universe is eternal. Jainism believes every soul has the potential for salvation and to become god. So no one God but rather potentially many gods.

        BSA also recognizes Hindu, another religion with a belief in gods rather than God.

        For Scouting to servive we need to move away from the Duty to God and move to duty to god or mankind etc. A Scout should do the right thing not because of religion but because he is a Scout.

        Religion and God or god is 300 pound gorilla that BSA should politly show to the door.

  2. Amy March 20, 2014 at 2:26 PM #

    We have a pack whose members are from many different faiths, including many agnostic families who are in leadership roles. We ask everyone to complete the faith elements of each rank at home and we have several Scouts Own Service programs which are patriotic, Native American, multi-faith or nature-oriented. For our agnostic families, they are all active in service to our community and combine service projects with their children as part of their faith discussions.

  3. Liz H March 21, 2014 at 9:38 AM #

    I am a Wolf leader. I had the boys complete at home and took the parents at their word. I know that the boys come from different religious backgrounds and some that believe that God exists but don’t believe in an organized religion. That is between them and their God. A large portion of that requirement is to discuss with their family so that is where I left it. Part d is the only one that one not apply and I will not keep a child from advancing based on their family’s religious beliefs. Our leader is a deacon and he agreed.

  4. Marie May 3, 2014 at 2:27 PM #

    We ask our families to do this at home, but most do not or don’t know how. I have done the discussion in den meeting. I have the boys turn and talk to their parent (most have one who stays). They discuss it then and there. We then let each share. I share also and give several examples of different beliefs. Then I let the boys choose 2 things that they can do to demonstrate their faith and tell them to report back to me the following week.

  5. Ned September 12, 2014 at 8:20 PM #

    I think the answer summed up as “These kids are out of luck, but if they start to believe in a deity, they’ll be more than welcome.”

  6. Mama Grizzly October 19, 2014 at 8:51 PM #

    We need to get free from the compulsion to try to be all things to all people. Scouting has at its core faith in God and honoring and living true to that faith, as stated above in the basic Scout Charter, and as the boys repeat regularly in the Scout oath. Plain and simple. If someone has a problem with that, with God, they don’t belong in Scouts, and can find another outlet for their boys. If we continually apologize for our faith, and try to soft sell, backpedal and minimize it out of fear of offending people not of faith, we might as well pack up and go home.

    • Poppie December 2, 2014 at 7:48 AM #

      What she said…………

  7. Terry January 12, 2015 at 11:51 PM #

    I am not offended by others beliefs but the idea that to participate in scouts we have to believe in “God” saddens me. It seems rather narrow. Does it include Buddhists? Those who worship Allah? Or only a Christian/Catholic version of God? 95% of scouting has very little to do with religion, so to chase off those of us who aren’t believers but otherwise participate in a positive way. Perhaps that explains why the rolls are shrinking in our parts. I hope my family can continue to participate but I feel I am being backed into a corner by some of these requirements. I was just doing “don’t ask, don’t tell” but I won’t lie.

    • J March 9, 2015 at 12:34 PM #

      Terry, I believe the requirement is to believe and have faith in A God, not necessarily the Chrisian God only. I have been to Scout troops with Muslims. No big deal.

    • Katherin April 30, 2015 at 11:47 AM #

      Terry, take a look at the link
      http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/ReligiousAwards/chart.aspx

      It is from the scouting web page about the religious awards offered through scouting. The emblems are for Hindu, Islam, Baptist, Orthodox, LDS, Jewish, Quakers, The Salvation Army and more. To say that scouting is limited only to Christian/Catholic versions of God is not what scouting believe or make available to their boys.

  8. Ralph Griggs April 29, 2015 at 3:25 PM #

    Well folks, our country and the Boy Scout organization were both founded on the very clear principals of the God of the Bible. Not Allah, or Buddha, and certainly not atheists and/or agnostics (there is absolutely no wiggle room here)

    It is all over the writings of our founding fathers, our monuments in Washington, DC, and plastered on the very doors and building of our Supreme Court.

    If you agree with these principals, then join the Boy Scouts.
    If not, then join the 4H club or some other civic organization

    So now, I suppose I am to be considered intolerant, but I am not.

    Quite the opposite, intolerance is refusing to accept the precepts that the Boy Scouts promote and feeling you, somehow, need to impose your view point on them and require that they conform to your position.

    If we were able to pose the question to Robert Baden Powel and/or Daniel Carter Beard, they would be crystal clear in their response.

    You know, in the world of tolerance, it is just “OK” if an organization is founded, recruits members, and conducts business or activities and other people or organizations do not agree with what they believe. It’s just OK, really !!!

    • Scouter Mom April 29, 2015 at 5:01 PM #

      The BSA is nonsectarian. Its members and chartered organizations include those who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and members of other faith communities. See http://www.scouting.org/About/FactSheets/operating_orgs.aspx

      • Ralph Griggs April 29, 2015 at 9:43 PM #

        Read the fact sheet above. How very unfortunate.

        How do the civic organizations, agnostics, atheist groups justify a requirement for faith in God?

        Wonder what the Muslims teach our kids about God and Jesus??

        Do you suppose they teach them that all non Muslims are infidels?

        How about Jihad?

        10 years in scouting growing up. The organization clearly reflected Christian Moral Code, readings from the Bible (not the Koran), and the prayers were ended with “in Jesus name” Every one.

        Well, Scouter Mom, we all know what the Christian values are.

        Are there any constraints, at all, on what they teach our children about God, country, liberty, and the law?

        Merely asking because I don’t know.

  9. Terry April 29, 2015 at 10:10 PM #

    Mr. Griggs,

    My little Pagans aren’t talking about religion at all. And no one else is talking to them about religion. Never heard anyone mention infidels or jihads. We are just trying to get them to get their minds off Minecraft for a little while and out into nature and doing something as a family and as a community. Why does that have to turn I to something politically divisive? Thankfully I live in Northern CA, so it hasn’t. If I lived elsewhere I am sure we would not be welcome. I guess that’s why I am born, bred, raised, never leaving California. We celebrate and accept differences in our communities instead of alienating those who are different. We were able to come to an understanding and my son received his Webelos badge without lying and being an Atheist.

  10. John May 1, 2015 at 4:08 PM #

    As a person who does not believe in gods, it is quite easy for me to answer the Duty to God question the same as my Duty to the Easter Bunny- well, no duty at all, I suppose.
    The issue is that the religious folks have trouble seeing outside of their limited worldview (see Mr. Griggs above) and assume that the nonbelievers must be out killing and stealing at every opportunity. Not true, and I try to support my family, my community, my country and charity to the best of my ability. Not because of a god, but because it is how I choose to live my life.
    Of course, this makes me ineligible to be “the best kind of citizen” per the Declaration of Religious Principles above. Meanwhile the jails are filled with the fervently religious, who are apparently the best kind of citizens. ; )
    Bigotry is bigotry, and the scouts should drop this as they were forced to drop their exclusion of African Americans and later, gay kids.

  11. Ralph Griggs May 1, 2015 at 9:03 PM #

    This has nothing to do with politics
    This is about faith
    So if your kids are pagans, how do you deal with the faith in God requirement of the BSA?
    Terry, don’t get ticked off, I simply wonder how you reconcile
    3 comments
    None are duplications

    • 20 year Scouter May 8, 2015 at 3:49 PM #

      We don’t. Believe it or not, many of the Troops, Packs, and Crews in the BSA, are composed of a diverse array of religious backgrounds. Many of us are chartered by groups that have non-discrimination policies that prohibit us from denying athiest and agnostic members, as well as gay ones. Many councils have also adopted similar non-discrimination policies, and simply ignore the National Council bigotry. Since the National Council can’t afford to lose 40,000 scouts, they tend to not object to much.

      I choose to adopt a paraphrasing of the words of Martin Luther King and judge people not by their religious professions or sexual orientation, but by the content of their character. Our country is a secular republic. It was founded by people of diverse backgrounds from Christian to Athiest. There is nothing of a religious nature needed to be a citizen of this country, and no religious test is allowed to hold governmental office. This is expressly stated in the Constitution, and was commented on extensively by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.

      So, I don’t care what religions my scouts are part of. They can do their “duty to God” as their conscience dictates. We inform them of available religious services, and let their God lead them to pray or not. We have had 100 Eagle Scouts in my troop in the last 20 years. Some were gay, some were devout Christians, some were atheist, BUT ALL were exemplary human beings, who it was my honor to know.

  12. Rick May 2, 2015 at 8:17 AM #

    I would hope that any “religion” has at its very core the aim to do good things for humanity.
    I’ll explain faith as a feeling or trust one has when they dial 911. They have faith that help is coming soon. Apply the same thought to a man/woman down…when that person’s partner says to them “I’m getting you out of here…help is coming” there could be a feeling of faith , trust , and relief for the injured.
    I’ll stay away from theological history or who is right or wrong that isn’t a scouting principle to my knowledge.
    Let the kids have fun and try and create good citizens!

    • 20 year Scouter May 13, 2015 at 9:26 AM #

      The problem with the word faith is that it has many meanings to many people. “I have faith the sun will rise tomorrow,” or “I have faith the EMT will come if I call 911,” is not the kind of faith most people are referring to when they profess religious belief. To quote Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In short, this kind of faith is fervent belief in that which you have no evidence for, but wish were true. The Titanic is sinking in freezing water, but I have “faith” that I will be fine (even though I know that the odds against it are astronomical).

      So I agree, lets go about teaching kids to be good citizens, leaders, and clear thinkers, and leave faith in church where it belongs.

  13. 20 year Scouter May 8, 2015 at 4:30 PM #

    It is also interesting to note that the BSA recognises Buddhist, Hindu, and Native American faiths as part of its organization. But none of these would fall under the “duty to God” umbrella. Buddhism is not a religion that worships a god, but seeks to follow the example of a man who, through meditation and self-reflection, achieved divinity. It is more of a philosophy than a religion. Hindus worship many gods, so duty to god depends on which god they are praying to that day. And Native American religions range from worship of the “great spirit” to ancestor worship, and animistic shamanism. So obviously “duty to God” can be construed very broadly even within the organization.

    What if my “duty to God” requires me to love and respect my fellow scouts for the amazing, culturally diverse, spiritually varied, sexually spectrumed, unique individuals that they are, and not make biased, uninformed, bigoted, and unfounded preemptive judgements about them?

  14. Switters May 29, 2015 at 11:26 PM #

    So…
    I was very briefly in scouting… My son has now joined.
    On faith, service to God, country, and how it applies to Boy Scouts in the real.

    In the beginning from the dust, God created humans in Their own image. Trinity, stay with me people…. And we went forth and multiplied… In multiplication we compounded our confusion and decided to build a tower in our stupidity to reach Them in the heavens. They laughed and slapped Their hypothetical knees and added another variable to our confusion. Language. As the sands in the sea, a babel rose, and the sound of laughter… We spread, to the far reaches of the earth telling stories as we walked. Legends born and we Taught our children round fires light to fear, to love, to respect wence we came. Confusion still, the old trying to remember things they forgot. The young trying to Create things that they wish. And the confusion lives on.
    “There is nothing new under the sun, merely chasing the wind.”
    One did come. And They taught round fires light, to love, to have faith, to hope in wence we came… History is written by winners of war… Confusion compounded, rebounding, within our minds confounding.

    This IS what I know.

    Fast forward, rewind, we are all in twined. This breath a gift, not a rift between two faiths or the faith in Ones image, as We were created. Agnostic confusion, indifference, no difference. Does not change what was, what is, and will always be.

    Confusion.

    This country, the United States of America, was built upon altruistic ideals.
    All were created equal, we all can speak our mind, we all have the right to believe, we all have the choice to defend, we all have the choice to be free.
    We all have the duty to fight, to defend, and to extend, these ABSOLUTE rights to ALL CITIZENS of this once great, and can be again, country! This is what We The People are all about! This is what the One taught us.

    LOVE one another as we love our self, prepare a table for the ones we, are different from, we don’t ” like”, the ones we hate, our enemy.
    To all the Pharisies and the Sagusies, I say, come in from your street corner prayer, come down from your vain temples, and prepare the table. Let not your pomp and circumstance be your teacher, but your humility and servitude.
    This is what it means to be human, to be real, to be alive. As scouts, as parents, as children of this world. These are our obligations to our God, to our Country, to Ourselves, to what ever you do or don’t believe.
    This is how it applies.

  15. Howarthe July 27, 2015 at 10:52 AM #

    I think our founder believed that boys could not grow up to be the best kind of citizens without acknowledging their duty to God because everyone should believe fervently in something greater than oneself. I don’t really understand agnostics or anther hurts but the Unitarians helped me broaden my understanding of what the word God could mean to different people. If an atheist patent could acknowledge some duty greater than his duty to his family it his community or his country then I believe that would qualify as a duty to God. The men of the enlightenment were such people. Thomas Jefferson did not believe in miracles but he believed in something. He believed in liberty and justice. There are people who will give up their families, their friends, and even defy the law in order to stay true their duty to liberty and justice. These are the best kinds of citizens.

  16. Nanette August 17, 2015 at 10:10 AM #

    I came across this list of all organizations that have developed a sound approach to earning their religious emblem:
    http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/religious.asp#Unitarian.

    I was actually raised as a Unitarian, so it was easy for me to click on this option…but many agnostic/atheist families have no knowledge of Unitarians. It’s very much like Hindu (as in its more like a philosophy than a religion), but basically, “the Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide…”
    1st Principle: Each person is important
    2nd Principle: Be kind in all that you do
    3rd Principle: We’re free to learn together
    4th Principle: Search for what is true
    5th Principle: All people need a voice
    6th Principle: Build a fair and peaceful world
    7th Principle: We care for the earth

    So, for those scouting families that want to properly/honestly earn this requirement, and want their children to question question question, while learning about all religions, Unitarian is a great option….especially if they do not want to enjoin themselves to a traditional religious organization.

    The guidebook to earn the emblem is here: http://www.uuscouters.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/UUSO-ReligionAndMeGuidebook_2010-05.pdf

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