Scouting teaches duty to and reverence for God
The Scout Oath begins. “On my honor, I will do my duty to God…” and the 12th point of the Scout Law reads, “A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.”
As you can see, the Scout Oath opens with “duty to God,” and the Scout Law finishes with reverence. Duty to God has been a major tenet of Scouting’s philosophy from the founding days of Lord Baden Powell when he said:
“No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scourt should have a religions.”Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys, 1908
He also stated,” There is no religious side to the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God… Religion is essential to happiness. … This is not a mere matter of going to church, knowing Bible history, or understanding theology. … Religion very briefly stated means: Firstly— recognizing who and what is God. Secondly— making the best of the life that He has given one and doing what He wants of us. This is mainly doing something for other people.”
“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God …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.”—BSA CHARTER AND BYLAWS, ARTICLE IX, SECTION 1
In it’s Charter and Bylaws, BSA maintains “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.” This invites the question, “What is a Scout’s duty to God? And how can we do that duty when our youth may have different religious beliefs?”
In meetings, while camping and on the trail, every pack, troop, and crew (unit) can take the chance to explore the faith traditions represented in your unit and community. When members of your unit serve other people in God’s name, Scout’s learn what it means to do your duty to God. As youth hear about others beliefs and serve their fellowman they will strengthen their own faith, while learning their duty to God.
Teaching a Scout to respect others’ beliefs is an important part of helping youth understand their own duty to God. Nearly seventy percent of all Scouting units are chartered to religious organizations. Clearly, Scouting has a real contribution to make to these institutions. Here are a few ways listed in Program Features:
- “Scouting supports the spiritual view of life that underlies the teaching of all denominations and faiths. Any youth or leader who would be a member of the Boy Scouts of America must profess a belief in God and promise to do his or her best to fulfill the spiritual ideals of Scouting.
- “Scouting encourages all members, according to their own convictions, to participate in the program of their religion at their church, temple, synagogue, mosque, or other places of worship.
- “Scouts are expected to fulfill their personal religious obligations and respect the beliefs of others.
- “Scouting helps all individuals put into practice some of the basic truths they are taught by their parents and religious leaders. They learn by experience to give of themselves, to share, to help others, to assume responsibility, and to understand the value of personal integrity.
- “Scouting gives all youth an opportunity (within the confines of a safe venue) to explore their interests and God-given talents.
- “Scouting helps all youth find their place in life and become happy, well-adjusted, useful members of the community.
- Each unit can develop its own diversity policy (see sample below):
Sample Unit Diversity Policy
Scouting is truly a melting pot. Scouts come from all walks of life and all types of family structures, faiths, and racial and ethnic groups. The BSA respects the rights of all people and groups, and allows youth to live and learn and enjoy Scouting without immersing them in the politics of the day.
Our unit seeks to include a diverse community of Scouts and Scout families. Of course, we remain governed by the guidelines set by our chartered organization, council, and the Boy Scouts of America. We seek to provide an open, clearly structured environment where a diverse group of Scouts can grow collectively and individually toward self-reliance without harming one another.
Conduct, not status, governs our unit. Our unit is committed to this goal, and our leaders all subscribe to making it happen on a constant basis. Our unit remains firmly rooted in the core values of Scouting. We understand that diversity does not threaten these values, but only strengthens our character and common worth.
A unit that is chartered to a religious group provides Scouts the opportunity to recognize and fulfill their duty. But Scouts are found in congregations nearly everywhere which means involvement in their faith is essential to being a good Scout. Because every Scout has a duty to God, they are expected to recognize that duty; the religious principles they learn enables them to live by the Scout Law.
Religions worldwide use Scouting to provide meaningful activities for youth. Many have special recognitions like the religious emblems program Scouting has to recognize youth who are working to fulfill their duty to God.
Scouts can check with their religious leaders to find out the requirements for receiving the emblem affiliated with their religion. Religious emblems are not required for advancement but are honorable to wear on the uniform to demonstrate a Scout’s dedication to their religion and to Scouting as they work to learn and do their duty to God.
For other articles in this series see: