Portland Woman and Son
Take on Schools, Scouts
by Jerry Billings

August, 1997

CRT member Nancy Powell has created a uproar by her demand to the Portland Public School Board that it follow its own rules. Local newspapers, talk radio and television news have covered this story but often with a spin that changes the focus of Ms. Powell's challenge. Willamette Week and KOIN-TV have been outstanding with their unbiased coverage.

What is it that has Portland talking? Simply this, the public schools are cooperating in the recruitment of students of all ages to join a religious organization. The name of this organization is Boy Scouts of America. An informal survey by this writer shows that not a single person questioned had any idea that BSA is religion based. Everyone questioned was surprised to learn that BSA's official policy is,"The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God . . .". 100% of the participants in our survey said that the BSA statement is biased and wrong. Even a spokesman for BSA confessed to a reporter that the BSA requirement of a God belief fits the dictionary definition of "Discrimination".

Ms. Powell has made it abundantly clear that she is not anti-Boy Scout. She has gone on record as stating that BSA, as a private organization, has the right to be as bigoted and narrow minded as it chooses. Her point is that BSA has no right to solicit membership with the connivance of the public school system.

Remy Powell, first grader, was invited to bring his parents and come to his Harvey Scott grade school where he could join the Tiger Cubs. He had been told by school personnel that, "Scouting is fun and you can earn lots of badges." Upon their arrival at school it was disclosed to them that joining Tiger Cubs requires a God pledge, "I promise to love God, my family and my country, and to learn about the world." This oath cannot be modified. Ms. Powell had to explain to her sobbing 6 year old that their kind is not wanted.

Since this story first broke in the news, Ms. Powell has received numerous phone calls from parents who have had the same experience. She has asked each one to contact the School Board and the State Superintendant of Education to voice their objection to this government sponsored discrimination.

School Board policies include a blanket prohibition on recruitment of children or the use of school facilities by any group that limits admission on the basis of religion. Ms. Powell has demanded that the School Board enforce its own regulations and policies.

The State Superintendant of Schools has, this week, become involved in this case and has demanded that the PPSB try to justify its participation in soliciting prospects for a religion based organization. It is interesting to note that the Girl Scouts dropped its references to God when the matter of discrimination was first brought to its attention. BSA continues to obfuscate and raise irrelevant issues. BSA claims that the material sent home does not mention religion as if that were a justification of rejecting applicants solely upon the basis of belief. They do not mention that when a child from an Atheist home first learns about the need for a God belief is when he signs up. BSA states that it is open to all religions, not just Christians. That claim is irrelevant to the issue of requiring a God belief.

The Boy Scouts themselves admit that they are a religious organization. In a recent Kansas case the Boy Scouts publically alleged that they are a religious organization. Seabourn vs. Coronado Area Council, Boy Scouts of America & Boy Scouts of America, Riley County Kansas District Court No. 92C-140.

  • The ACLU has just announced that they will be involved in this matter.