The Boy Scouts, as most of us know from some time ago, won their court case which upheld their discriminatory behavior against gays, atheists and whoever else did not fit into their Christian traditionalist mold. And I agree, they are a private organization and they can be bigoted as they want. From a free market perspective we knew what would happen–The Boy Scouts were destined to lose business. New scouting groups emerged that embraced everyone and we’re better for it. One of those new groups is Navigators USA who embraces gays, agnostics and atheists along with believers. UUWorld.org (The Unitarians) is featuring the scouting organization which they sponsor through All Souls ( they don’t seem to make it clear in the article, but All Souls is simply a Unitarian affiliated church from what I’ve read).
All Souls had already terminated it’s association with The Boy Scouts organization after they were adamant about excluding certain boys. In New York, Robin Bossert had led one such Boy Scouts Troop but then decided to found an all inclusive scouting organization, The Navigators. The unique thing about Navigators USA is that it is coed and allows girls to join (it must be good to be a teenage boy these days). This completely makes sense as we are not just integrated with other religions or lack thereof, but women! Scouting has to do with learning survival skills in the wild to build character. It also involves conservation and science. All of it should be viewed as preparation for the real world and in the real world we have to cooperate with gay people, women and anyone else who doesn’t fit into the Protestant ideal.
After finishing a Navigators USA guidebook, Bossert is hoping other troop leaders will emerge and start their own chapters. The book features The Moral Compass which says: “As a Navigator I promise to do my best to help create a world free of prejudice and ignorance, to treat people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability with dignity and respect, to strengthen my body and improve my mind to reach my full potential, to protect our planet and preserve our freedom.”
With that kind of creed I can certainly recommend Navigators USA to freethinking parents. The Unitarian Church is not always ideal for atheists and agnostics but it is a reasonable compromise in that there is no such thing as a universal atheist church (there are some regional ones emerging). Church has to do with community more than God, in my opinion, and is something I feel is necessary. Atheists can’t live in a vacuum and we need to learn to be respectful while politely disagreeing with our fellow citizens in a personal setting. While I’m always criticizing some of the bullying and strange doctrines that come out of church bodies I want to make it clear that I think “church” is a good thing. Scouting is a good thing too and Navigators USA sounds promising.
BTW: Have atheists ever started an organization where we demand you be an atheist to join? There’s mission statements with every organization but would an atheist or agnostic group kick a Christian or even a Christian kid out for their beliefs? I can’t think of any but feel free to list one in the comments. Especially when it comes to kids, why do Boy Scouts care if a kid believes or not? They’re too young, maybe they haven’t made up their minds yet? And if they’re gay, does that mean they’re actually having gay sex? It doesn’t have to be dirty and in your face. Maybe they just hold hands with their boyfriend or kiss once in awhile. Hopefully all of these new scouting groups will never make the mistake of pointless exclusion and most importantly when you earn a badge in science it includes an understanding of evolution.