Religious principles of Boy Scouts

I heard that the Boy Scouts have changed, and we no longer have to be against scouting. When did this happen?

The Boy Scouts are among the most respected organizations in this country, and the skills, activities, and companionship they offer could benefit any child. Yet for more than 60 years WELS has warned its members that their children should not participate in the program.

Our basic objection to scouting was that the required promise and law contain religious elements which imply that the scout can do his duty to God, regardless of his religion. This contradicts the clear statements of Scripture that no one can perform works pleasing to God without faith in Christ.

Over the years the wording of the scout law and its explanation has become more vague and less offensive, but the religious principles have been maintained. All members of the scouts must accept the scout oath and law, but they may interpret it in their own way. For example, an atheist boy who refused to promise to do his duty to God was denied membership, but when he took the oath with the understanding that "god" was not a personal being,

he was permitted to join. This is certainly an offensive interpretation of the concept of "duty to God." Scouting can acknowledge not only the adherents of non-Trinitarian religions, but even atheists as "doing their duty to god."

Recognition of the religious basis of scouting is not limited to WELS. Advocates of strong separation of church and state have objected to the promotion of scouting in public schools because of its religious requirements.

Because the religious requirements of scouting remain unchanged, our WELS children have a better option in the Lutheran Pioneers. Pioneers provides many of the same benefits as scouting, without the objectionable religious requirements.

Although the religious principles of scouting remain unchanged, there has been one notable development. The increased vagueness of the scouting literature and the fact that some scout troops may make little use of the religious features make it more difficult to convincingly demonstrate, from the scout handbook, the false religious principles which underlie scouting. This makes it more difficult to convince parents that their children should not belong to scouts.

The Girl Scouts are a separate organization, but the same principles and observations apply to that group also.

To study the current situation more thoroughly, see the 1991 study prepared by WELS Committee for Information on Organizations, available from your district president.

For more information about Lutheran Pioneer programs, contact Lutheran Pioneers, Box 66, Burlington WI 53105; 414/763-6238. Lutheran Girl Pioneers, 1611 Caledonia St, La Crosse WI 54603; 608/781-5232.