Something to strive for: an atheist badge of honour
America’s Freedom From Religion Foundation has unveiling a freethought scouting badge, inset above, to reward young non-believers and challenge the Boy Scouts of America’s discrimination against the non-religious.
According to this report, the badge, symbolising atheism and agnosticism, is being issued in collaboration with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.
Scouts who wish to earn this badge are asked to help disprove the the Boy Scouts of America’s misguided claim that non-believers cannot be good citizens. The requirements, paralleling typical merit badge requirements, ask scouts to learn about secularism and the rich history of dissent from religion.
Robyn E Blumner, President and CEO of both the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Center for Inquiry which recently merged said:
By excluding boys from non-religious families, the Boy Scouts of America is practicing the same kind of baseless prejudice it exhibited for so long against gay Scouts.
There is no doubt that a young man can be honorable, diligent, wholesome and represent the best that America has to offer while not subscribing to a religious faith. For the association to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate ugly stereotypes and open millions of boys up to exclusion and bullying.
The Boy Scouts of America has a policy of discriminating against non-religious boys and their families, officially excluding atheists, agnostics and non-believers. Currently, the organisation maintains that:
No member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognising his obligation to God.
Said FFRF co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is co-President of FFRF with her husband Dan Barker:
The Freedom From Religion Foundation maintains instead that no one who discriminates against the non-religious can grow into the best kind of citizen.
Barker, a former evangelical minister who is also co-founder of The Clergy Project, a support group for ministers who lose their faith, added:
It’s what you do – not what you believe – that makes you a good person.
Boy Scouts of America recently ended its ban against gays, but the two groups note that it should also be socially unacceptable to exclude non-religious boys and their families from an organisation that claims “Any boy may join” and receives substantial public school and governmental support.
Because this unauthorized badge is intended to protest the Boy Scouts’ policy, it’s expected that Scouts won’t be able to work with a typical merit badge counselor to demonstrate the completion of requirements.
So FFRF will ask a parent, guardian, sibling over the age of 18, teacher or another adult to attest that scouts have qualified. At Richard Dawkins’ suggestion, thescout is also required to send FFRF a short essay addressing the Boy Scouts of America’s claim that non-believers can’t be good citizens. FFRF will not charge acouts money for the badge.
If any young person fulfills the requirements, we’d be delighted to reward them with this badge. Many non-religious students who might otherwise wish to join the Boy Scouts Association, knowing of its bigoted policy, don’t try.
This is their chance to be rewarded for critical thinking and to earn a keepsake at the same time. We hope someday very soon that Boy Scouts of America itself will change policy and adopt its own official merit badge rewarding critical thinking.
Details of how the badge can be earned are published here.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes