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Scouting: To Lie, Or
To Break One's Word?

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From: Art Haykin
To: editor@positiveatheism.org (Positive Atheism Magazine)
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 22:56:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?

It seems to me that if the young man was truly unaware that the BSA discriminated against atheists (and other groups he may be sympathetic with) when he agreed to work for them, he has no dilemma. If he was aware, and disagreed with that policy, he has a dilemma. If he did not know, but would have agreed with it in his "believing" state, it's somewhat understandable that he's confused. The fact that he is agonizing over having given his word says much that is good about him.

Now, in his new found intellectual freedom, he has no reason to be a party to their bigotry. No one can be held to a contract that violates his moral principles. The BSA is a flawed organization, and has much to account for in their careless hiring practices and monitoring of unscrupulous scout masters.

A man's gotta do what he's gotta do. Don't worry about the BSA, they're heavily funded and will survive the financial loss, you may be sure.

As Groucho Marx said "I wouldn't join any organization that didn't want me for a member."

Art

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From: "ma pickle"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 9:38 AM

Interesting quandry. Kind of like my working at Adventist [Hospital]. Once you are hired they have you fill out stuff in HR and one of the questions is what religion are you. You get the choice of Adventist, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Other. I checked other and left no comments. My Manager (who has sincc taken a job with the VA) knew I was a witch when she hired me as so three of my co-workers there who came from HCSW. I do wear pagan jewelry and have a we-moon datebook (feminist spirituality).

As far as the Boy Scouts thing I'd put none in the religious spot.

Ingrid

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From: "Kevin Courcey"
To: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 9:45 AM

As Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, said in a recent NY Times article, lying is considered immoral to an atheist. The problem seems to be that you are caught in the middle of two moral dilemmas: you don't want to lie on the form, and you want to keep your word about your commitment. A catch-22 in some sense.

Yet, it would seem to satisfy both requirements to tell the truth on the form, and do your next year commitment if they still want you to do it. Let them know that if kids ask you if you believe in the "god" of the boy scout motto, you will tell them the truth too. My bet is they won't want you to work there, and everything will end rather acrimoniously. If they still do want your service, so be it. I would let them know you will only do this year, and then will work as an ex-scout to overturn their discriminatory policies.

Good luck with your decision. You are in a great position to make your voice and actions heard by the organization.

Kevin Courcey

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 10:27 AM

Hello,

I'm not sure what you mean about becoming an atheist "a couple of weeks ago." There is no atheist conversion experience where you just suddenly become an atheist. Although we are all born atheists, and then are later brainwashed into being theists by those around us, for adults, atheism should be an intellectual position that is arrived at only after careful consideration of the other options. It should not be a position that one has come to on a whim because then it is just as intellectually dishonest as becoming a Christian simply because some preacher scared you into it. So my first question is why did you become an atheist? Was it for an intellectually honest reason, such as realizing the absurdity of believing in religious fairy tales, or was it simply because you think it frees you from moral restraints?

If it's simply because you don't want to live by a moral code of conduct any longer then your answer is simple. Lie like a rug. Do whatever you want. As Madalyn Murray O'Hair said, "If it feels good do it."

Personally I find such reasoning shallow and contradictory to the intrinsic nature of man. If I was in the same position as you I would not lie. I would be forthright but I would also include a note with the application that referred to my past accomplishments as a Scout and I would point out that the Boy Scout oath demands honesty. The Boy Scouts are a fantastic organization. In my opinion, they should be allowed to discriminate against whomever they want as long as they don't accept government funding. If I were you I would be honest about my beliefs, or lack of them, and continue to be a good scout leader. That's an honest method of handling the situation. If you become ostracized for your honesty then such an organization is doing you no good anyway and it would be unethical for you to support them.

You will find that your atheism will cause you many problems. In my case, it ended a marriage and I lost many friends because my Christian wife told many lies about me. Because I had kept my atheism a secret none of these people had any reason to doubt her once my atheism become known. Their reasoning was, "Well we never had any idea he was an atheist and that turned out to be true, so I suppose all this other stuff is true as well." Of course what they fail to realize is that the reason they didn't know I was an atheist is because, unlike them, I never pushed my views onto them. In addition, my moral code was of such a high caliber that no one would suspect I was one of those "evil godless nonbelievers."

As young as you are, I would suggest that you come forth with your atheism and be honest about it. Although it will cause you problems now, you will find that it makes life easier in the long run to be up front about it. I hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Eric

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From: "Bill Garrett"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000 8:37 PM

What a dilemma -- no wiggle room at all. The only way I can see to honor your contract without compromising your integrity is to go to your friend the camp director and explain that you wish to honor your commitment but cannot, in good conscience, conceal from them your atheism. Your lack of hypocrisy and your long-standing friendship will hopefully pave the way for him to either let you out of your contract or let you work without making an issue of your religion. (Maybe there's a "none of the above" box on the application.) I gather that you still want to work with the Scouts, so hopefully you and he can find a way to work this out. In any case, you have my admiration for being true to your beliefs in a difficult situation. Let us know how it turns out.

--Bill G

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From: "Roger S. Schlueter"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000 4:11 AM

First and foremost, I want to express my admiration of you for recognizing the dilemma you face, for being concerned about honoring your commitments, and for standing up for your own values. Oh, if all of us, youth and adult, had such clarity and abided by it.

I start my recommendation to you by emphasizing what a contract is. It is an agreement between two parties for the delivery of, and compensation for services. It is always negotiable until signed.

So I suggest that you negotiate terms of an agreement that encompasses your commitment to the BSA, your own values, and the investment of the BSA in your training. Yes, I think this is doable. This agreement can be a simple amendment to the standard BSA contract that stipulates that you will work for the BSA for the stipulated period while not fully completing the master contract (which means you will not fill out the religion part). You can also agree to not advocate for your own religious perspective if they so desire.

Lets be clear about this approach. You are NOT compromising your values. You are simply agreeing with the BSA that neither party will use this issue as a criterion for employment.

In other words, the Subject of this message was, "To lie, or to break one's word?" I am advocating that you work outside of this black/white dichotomy and find a solution that works for both you and the BSA. After all, you have known the Director for a decade and he knows you are a good man and you respect him. So work with that mutual respect and find a solution.

If the BSA will not compromise at all in any way to meet you half-way, ("all" and "any" are strong words) then I would say to them that they are not living up to their implicit contract (honor diversity) so you do not believe that you are duty-bound to live up to your half-namely to provide the services associated with the training you got.

Good luck. I wish you strength and the best.

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From: "Bob Webster"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Scouting_Lie_Or_Break_One's_Word_9377
Date: Monday, November 20, 2000 6:37 AM

Just wanted to put in my two cents worth -- Seems to me that you should do your best to fulfill your commitment by filling out the form truthfully and applying to work for the Scouts. Let them be the ones to break the commitment. All you can do is the best you can to honestly fulfill your obligations; if changing circumstances make them unable to accept, that's their problem. Personally, I believe when bigotry turns around and bites, the bigot has nothing to whine about. Also, the only way for an atheist to gain respect is to be as straight-forward and honest as possible in all transactions. Good luck!

Thanks,
    Robert Webster
"When I look down, I miss all the good stuff. When I look up I just trip over things." -- Ani DiFranco

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From: "Larry"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 8:40 PM

Looking back on it now I would say that the best thing to do is to tell the truth if asked As a young man you might as well do the right thing the first time around.

K1zw
Larry
Qcwa

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 2:21 PM

Sorry, it's been awhile since I've supplied input to this site, so I wasn't sure whether or not to send this response via e-mail or directly to the site. But my response is as follows:

An obligation of work (i.e., working two summers) is less important (though by no means unimportant) than an obligation to Truth. One must be true to oneself first and foremost. If a previous obligation must be reconsidered because of a new found belief (or realization), it is more important not to compromise one's own belief.

There are, of course, situations in which a compromise can be reached, if one's own beliefs are not negated in the compromise. However, where the Boy Scouts are concerned, not only are they intolerant of other's beliefs, but other's lifestyles as well. Someone recently sent me an on-line petition to sign that would keep homosexuals out of the Boy Scouts, because to them it is an abomination to their God. Needless to say, I wrote a letter back in full explanation why I couldn't support such bigotry. Therefore, my suggestion is to be honest with yourself and the Boy Scouts and release yourself from the verbal contract.

One should live by one's convictions, or cease to live at all.
-- Cyberiad

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From: "Bruce Gowens"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 12:06 PM

If the person is willing to be public with his religious beliefs, then by all means put "atheist" on the form. At that point it is up to the boy scouts as to what they want to do. If they cancel the employment understanding, it is their (im)moral position and the person is ethically clean.

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From: "Christian Ambrose"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2000 1:31 PM

This is quite a dilemma. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. I would talk to the camp director about it. If you two are such good friends then he/she should be understanding. If your friendship is broken, then that director was never truly your friend. I would also put non-religious on the form. I am attending college at a Catholic campus and am an open atheist. Most of the time I don't have too much of a problem. On the application, where it asks about religious preference, I put none. I also have a friend that's involved with the Boy's Scouts. She knows I'm an atheist and I'll be spending thanksgiving with her. Just admit what you are and see what that does. If you're still asked to help, then do or don't help at your discretion. If you are sent away, you didn't need to be associated with such bigots anyway. I personally think that Boy's Scouts can be a great institution but they certainly need to change some of their attitudes if they are to survive as a group. That's all I can think of to say off the top of my head. I wish you best of luck in your dilemma and hope that I was somewhat helpful.

=====
Yours in reason,

Christian L. Ambrose

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From: "Brandon Turner"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: FORUM_Scouting_Lie_Or_Break_One's_Word_9377
Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2000 12:06 AM

HI all

I'm 18 and have been an atheist for several years now.

I was a boy scout for about three years, but honestly I can say my contact therein with religion was minimal. A prayer before some group meals was about as involved as we got. In this sense and this environment, it is clear an atheist can exist spiritually and still perform his main function (and the function I believe the scouts were founded on in the first place), to teach and guide young men to a life of integrity, resourcefulness, and awareness (all of which are values I hold strongly as part of my atheist morality).

That said, I feel our friend here should tell very plainly whoever is in charge that he supports the values and enjoys the work he finds in scout mastering, but that he feels the Christian base does not need to apply. Chances are, the scouts will quietly dismiss him, therefore solving his moral dilemma but taking away the benefits he finds in employment there. Situation reluctantly solved.

I am not completely aware of all the facts surrounding the boy scouts' actions as an organization -- however, I support the scouts as an ideal, though perhaps currently a flawed one.

Hope your situation works out buddy.

bturner

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From:
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: FORUM: Scouting: To lie, or to break one's word?
Date: Saturday, December 16, 2000 12:01 PM

I'm not sure of exactly what the Boy Scouts of America are asking you to do or say that would force you to lie about your beliefs,

From what I have understood about the organization and the values that they represent, it would be highly unlikely that a truly committed atheist or agnostic would not gravitate to that type of organization in the first place.

In my book, integrity to one's own true values and beliefs is everything! I would never compromise that, that is, if you are truly committed.

There are enough organizations and groups on this planet that you can get involved with where you don't have to compromise you values.

As far as your previous commitment to them is concerned; I would not hesitate to be "honest" with them and tell them how you feel. Isn't honesty one of the big principles of the Boy Scouts? Let them make the decision about whether or not they want to bring you back for another summer-based on the truth!

Sioux

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