New Cub Scout and Boy Scout requirements explore duty to God

Doing one’s duty to God is central to Scouting. The Scout Oath begins with duty to God; the Scout Law ends with reverence. As Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell said, “There is no religious ‘side’ of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.”

Duty to GodIn implementing the 2011-2015 National Council Strategic Plan, the BSA incorporated duty-to-God adventures in the revised Cub Scout program and tweaked the Boy Scout requirements to reflect duty to God. These changes will give Scout leaders an avenue to help Scouts better understand and live out duty to God in their lives.

How does the new Cub Scout program reflect duty to God? The new program, which begins with the 2015-16 program year, is built around required and elective adventures. Each rank includes a required duty-to-God adventure.

What activities are involved in these adventures? Depending on rank, boys will participate in worship experiences and service projects, visit religious sites, learn about religious practices and study people in history who have shown great faith in God. You can find the complete requirements at

Are interfaith activities included in the Cub Scout adventures? That’s up to the boy’s family. For example, one of the Tiger requirements has a boy participate in a worship experience or activity with his family. He could meet that requirement at his family’s place of worship or an interfaith service.

What is changing in Boy Scouting? The Scout Spirit requirement for each rank starting with Tenderfoot is expanding to have the Scout describe how he has done his duty to God. (The new requirements will be released at the National Annual Meeting in May.)

When will the new Boy Scout requirements take effect? Jan. 1, 2016. Find more information about the transition plan and requirements at

How can I evaluate a Scout for duty to God, especially if he and I have different beliefs? Consider asking him how his family or faith group defines duty to God and how he is living up to that definition. Remember that the focus is on the Scout’s understanding of duty to God, not the leader’s. Also, keep in mind that duty to God will be only one part of the Scout Spirit requirement.

Do boys have to earn the religious emblem for their faith? No. Not every youth is a member of a faith group, and not all faith groups offer religious emblems. Earning one is not a requirement.

As the BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle states, “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.”


  1. I come from the least church-going part of America, the Pacific Northwest. I believe these changes will turn off parents in my community and continue our membership decline.

    • I am glad to live in the NW. Church attendance is low, but Scouting promotes faith, not a particular religion. I love being around folks of varying faiths and religions. Scouting promotes reverence and helps scouts develop a sense of faith, that helps them build their character. I see units that incorporate duty to God, growing and the Cub Scouts better prepared to move on to Boy Scouts and life in general.

      • So how does a scout explain how he did his duty to god if he belongs to no church? Isn’t this just a backdoor to find atheists in scouting and deny them rank?

    • I find it a little confronting also. While I agree with Steve, some of the achievement very distinctly requires one to have religion. Boy/Cub Scouts has so much to offer for the development of young men and this skews the program against those who choose not to pratice faith. We’ll get around it, but I think it should be an elective. Or, because I too want my son (and indeed other boys) to learn about all faiths and grow their understanding, it should be a discovery about religions of the world. Perhaps just a section on ethics, such as requirement 12 from the Wolves program last year should be the focus. The priority should be about developing young men with a sense of community service, character, and good judgement whatever their faith or whether they have no faith at all.

    • I too am from the Pac NW find it completely wrong that for my child to make rank he is forced to pray or meditate for 30 days plus perform a religious ceremony however we do not belong to a church and have no interest in joining one.

      • Maybe it would be better to join a club that is not “faith based” than to try to complain about how such a club is choosing to embrace a tenant it has somewhat glossed over for the last 20 years. There are plenty of other service organizations out there. If you like scouts, perhaps it is because there is something legitimate worthy of exploration…even if you don’t have faith.

  2. I appreciate the respect the BSA shows to scouts of many different backgrounds and the emphasis they place on involving the family in the program.

  3. In the current Cub Scout program, there are 2 ranks where earning a religious emblem is one of the options to satisfy faith requirements: Bear and Webelos. With the new DTG Adventures, will this still be an option? If so, in which rank(s) will have the opportunity and will this be a partial or complete fulfillment of the adventure?

  4. In the current Cub program, earning Religious Emblems is an alternate requirement for both Bear and Webelos ranks. While earning an emblem is not required, if a Cub does so, will it count towards the DTG adventure requiements? If so, for which ranks?

  5. As a non-christian, the symbology chosen is yet another reason that I am feeling less and less welcome in Scouts. I can look past it but Scouts continues to show a strong bias that continues to make me feel unwelcome at times.

    • Dave, I’m confused by your comment. I have looked back at the symbols that are proposed and fail to recognize any that would be classified as Christian. The only symbol that I consider to be truly Christian is a Crucifix that depicts Jesus crucified on a cross. All too often the use of a cross is equated as a Christian symbol, i.e. grave marker, etc. This is faulty logic. The use of a cross as a symbol of ultimate sacrifice predates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Crucifixion was an all too common form of severe punishment used during and prior to Roman rule of areas around the Mediterranean and particularly throughout the Middle East.
      I am sorry that you feel unwelcome in Scouting at times. I hope that you can see that Scouting is inclusive and the foremost youth character development program worldwide.

      • Let’s not play games here. Even the Pope wears multiple crosses for obviously religious reasons. You know as well as the rest of the us that the cross is used as THE SYMBOL of Christianity. Yes, Scouting is becoming increasing hijacked by religious groups and yes, this needs to change.

      • Only a Christian would look at those symbols and claim they are not religious. You can’t see it because your blinded by your own biases and worldview. Those are clearly code symbols for Christianity, as no other faiths use those symbols or the narratives behind them.

        First one: man as central and dominant in the family, consistent with God as head of the church, and man as he head of the family. Not all religions teach that.

        Second symbol: pretty bland, doesn’t really express anything.

        Third symbol: walking and footsteps are a central theme in contemporary Christianity. Footsteps poem, Paul walking and converted, Christians constantly talk about their “Christian walk” “walking in faith,” etc.

        Fourth symbol: dove is the traditional symbol of the Holy Spirit, has no counterpart in other religions.

        You see these symbols do much they are meaningless to you, but consider how someone not you might.

    • Where are you seeing the symbols? I see only four symbols and to me they represent family, integration/acceptance/unity, nature, and peace.

    • Don’t forget Dave, that Scouting covers all religions, not just Christianity, we have Jewish, Muslin, Hindu scouts in the USA and a variety of smaller religions. It is duty to God, any God or even just duty to a higher power.

      Scouting has always been faith based.

      • Joe asked about Buddhists. Buddhists have been members and sponsors of scout troops for the past 70 years. So if Buddhists who do not believe in God nor in the supernatural can be scouts, then everyone can be scouts. Just don’t say your an atheist.

    • I thought the chosen symbols were refreshingly unitarian: home and family, friendship and brotherhood, walking the walk, and the dove of peace. True, the dove is also the symbol for the Holy Spirit, but I’m a non-Trinitarian, so my first thought was the dove from the ark with the olive branch

  6. What about those who are of other faiths such as pagan who may not believe in the Christian God. Are we now going to turn those scouts and parents away? I know several in my district.

    • That’s a good question I would like see answered. I was also wondering about the American Indian faiths/beliefs, how come there is no symbol for that? Personally that is what I follow and teach my son. And I find it funny that a program that includes “stories” and many “native things” in their requirements and traditions, do not recognize the beliefs in “duty to god” etc.

      • I’m lost on the symbols that you are referring to. In the PDF:

        For Duty to God:
        Tigers use 3 people under a shelter.
        Wolves use footprints.
        Bears use a dark skin and light skin handshake in front of home.
        Webelos uses a bird.
        Arrow of light uses an earth held by two hands (I think).

        If you are referring to the religious emblems provided by the various organizations, those are designed by those organizations. One would obviously expect to reflect elements of that organizations faith. As for pagans or other groups, they can supply their own emblems.

        Perhaps I have missed what you are referring to.

      • The bird on the Webelos is seen on Christian church logos. I assume it comes from the story of Noah, making it Judeo-Christian? But I’ve never seen the white dove used on a synagogue’s signage. My neighborhood Lutheran church uses a white bird combined with a cross for its logo.

      • A dove is symbol for peace in political and religious contexts. You can see further uses on wikipedia. It is not exclusive to one belief system.

    • I was told tonight since I am pagan my son could not be in boy scouts…I wanna know who I can talk to about this…

      • Talk to your District Executive, Scout Executive, and another Troop. There is no religion requirement for being a Scout, but some Troops set their own membership policies (against BSA rules) like you have to be a member of their church to be in their troop. You do have to agree with the Declaration of Religious Principle–as stated in the BSA application–but it is “absolutely nonsectarian”.

  7. Any tips for an atheist den leader with two cubs of her own? My cousin, an Eagle scout, had to dance around this himself and now for his son.

    • If you directly address the issue, especially with very religious people, things will likely get worse. Probably emphasizing morality and values such as facts, logic, and reality in a vague manner as things to live by would be a good substitute when others talk about the supernatural. General focus on the outdoors aspect of scouting rather than the dubious stances on nationalism, religion, etc. In my personal scouting experiences religion played very little role. Of course, being a theist at the time may have made be blind to any overtly religious components.

    • Duty to God has been a part of scouting since the founding. It is the first Duty mentioned in the Scout Oath. This isn’t some hidden facet of scouting, it is a part of the core. This isn’t something you just “dance around”.

      If Duty to God is not something you are comfortable with, the den can’t just skip it. However, you can ask another adult to take the lead on this requirement. This is just like asking another adult to handle first aid, physical fitness, or some other requirement.

      If there is no adult in your den that will step, I would ask your committee for help. “For personal reasons, I’m honestly not comfortable leading my den in the Duty to God requirement. Do you know of someone who can help?”

    • Not meaning to be ugly, but my best advice would be to reconsider if Boy Scouts (or Cub Scouts) is for you.

      The Oath has you and your child promising to do “do my duty to God…”. Then in the Law you are agreeing to Reverent which has ALWAYS been defined in terms of faith. The BSA is still of the position that you must have a belief in God.

      Your cousin had to lie to become Eagle. I don’t mean to be ugly, And I don’t want to attack your position. But seriously consider what you teach a child when you have them swear something they don’t believe. Kind of kills off the “Trustworthy” aspect of the Law.

      • Kirk, so you’d rather kick children out of scouts and deny them the experiences of being a scout that would help and shape them because they (or their parents) don’t believe in a god? That sounds VERY Christian of you. Recently, BSA have become more accepting of gay rights. I would think that BSA would put aside this whole silly religious requirement and focus on basic human morals and the socialization / bonding that most of us think of when you hear “Boy Scouts”.

      • Rather then look at children or atheists are being “kicked” out of scouting for not beleiving in God . . . look at it why are you “joining”. Duty to God is the core belief of the scouting program.

        I have a problem with people joining a program that has existed for 100 years, then turn around and be offended by it’s core beliefs. You knew what you were signing up for. That’s like joining a football team . . .then try to change they way you acquire a first down, or extra point. No one is kicking anyone out. These are the requirements. End of story. Don’t participate if you don’t like it. This is not a mandatory group to belong too. It’s a great program . . . . however a program founded on belief in God.

    • Why would an atheist want to be a member of a group that requires an oath to do a duty to God and then complain about it. I think the answer is clear that they should seek membership elsewhere.

    • I’m sorry that people have left you such “ugly” comments. My assistant den leader and myself are also struggling with the new duty to god requirements. Neither of our families practice organized religion. Our plan of action is to organize non-denominational services for this requirement. We will be focusing more on the earth, community and basic values/morals of scouting for the requirements (someone else has also mentioned nature in this thread).
      I feel as if you were attacked on here and you shouldn’t have been. Even though scouts was founded on duty to god that doesn’t mean we should turn people away because they are non-believers in “a god”. This would go against most of the other values in the scout law. Times change and people need to learn to become more accepting of others, it is what we should teach our boys.
      I hope I’ve helped you a little bit and wish you the best of luck.

      • Hi Diane – thank you for your comment. However, I am not sure the BSA would back you up. I am not a believer in God but I consider myself a spiritual person. I also feel I am raising my children to have great character and morals and do not believe religion is necessary to do so. My spirituality is my connection to nature. I do not identify with any particular group to justify my spirituality. I am reconsidering having my son join the Boy Scouts because of this “Duty to God” requirement. I do not want him being required to say something he doesn’t understand and have to justify his family’s belief system in order to be a scout. I have found nothing in the Boy Scouts Bylaws allowing for anything other than “The recognition
        of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the
        grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary
        to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the
        education of the growing members.” While it does acknowledge it is “non sectarian in its attitude toward the religious training,” I have not found anything allowing spirituality in connection with nature as allowed to advance as a scout. I appreciate your den focusing more on nature, the earth, community and basic values/morals but I wonder if the BSA will allow these kids to advance without lying about their “duty to God?” Any further clarification or information you can provide will be beneficial.

      • Diane, the Scouting movement has excluded Jehovah’s Witnesses because they will not say the Pledge to the US Flag. This isn’t a question of not being “fair” or “turning away people who would benefit”. It’s about upholding the requirements for membership in a voluntary organization. Kindness and helpfulness do not extend to situations in which you have to compromise your fundamental principles. I won’t help you steal – does that make me unhelpful? It is the immutable belief in a being that is higher than ourselves that grounds the moral and other values of Scouting.

      • I don’t think the scout movement has excluded Jehovah Witness’s. Jehovah Witnesses believe certain things that would be problematic if they joined scouts. For example, firearms were a problem for many. So the issue isn’t really about the pledge or not. Plus, a thoughtful scoutmaster can see how a scout could get through the rank requirements with someone who won’t pledge allegiance to a flag because of their religious beliefs

    • An atheist cannot be a member of the Scouting movement. Your question, therefore, makes no sense. An Eagle Scout has to profess a duty to God in order even to comply with the rules – the fact that your relative “danced around it” is an indication that he knew he was in the wrong.

  8. Seth: in the new requirements, Cubs may earn the religious award for their faith to fulfill the Duty to God adventure for Bear, Webelos or Arrow of Light. Yes, earning their religious award completely satisfies the adventure requirement for any one of those. If they have already earned it towards one of those ranks, they then must complete the alternative requirements for the next rank(s) to fulfill its requirement, unless your faith offers a different religion award for Bears and Webelos (I am not aware of any that do). Would earning your faith’s religion award early fulfill the Duty to God requirement for Tiger or Wolf, even though earning it is not an alternative option for those ranks? I really can’t say with any certainty, but if the requirements for your religious award align with those mandated by the Duty to God adventure for that rank such that they would satisfy it I don’t see why not. That would be a call for your Cubmaster, but if they used it to meet rank for Tiger or Wolf then they couldn’t use it again towards Bear or Webelos where it is an option. You can read all the new Cub Scout adventure requirements here:

  9. Why does the BSA obsess over religion like this?

    I’m an Eagle Scout, but religion does not affect my day-to-day life at all. What’s the point in forcing religion on Scouts and pushing atheists and gays out? Is the BSA *trying* to become socially obsolete? Because if the BSA’s leadership continues along this path, Scouting will become irrelevant.

    Bizarre decisions like this, for instance, only weaken the reputation of the Eagle rank. That frustrates me. I want my Eagle rank to be a symbol of my knowledge and ability — not a religious brownie point.

    • When asked where religion came into Scouting and Guiding, Baden-Powell replied, “It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is a fundamental factor underlying Scouting.”

      If the Boy Scouts of America abandons “Duty to God”, then it is no longer the Boy Scouts of America. If the BSA abandons its principles, then it will become irrelevant.

      • First, Baden-Powell may have been a great man, and the founder of the World Scouting movement, but like many great men of his day, was culturally and religiously unsophisticated. We have learned a few things in the last 100 years about multiculturalism, and the the benefits of inclusive diversity.

        Most of the principles of Scouting are completely secular. The only part of the Scout Law that could be construed to be religious is Reverant. But the dictionary definition of that is: “feeling or showing deep and solemn respect.” Belief in the Christian God, or any god for that matter, is not required for this.

        I can do my duty to my country,obey the scout law, stay physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight, without a god. And “duty to God” means so many things, to so many people of different religions, often contradicting one another, that is becomes a meaningless term. So what is the point?

      • You open your post by insulting Baden-Powell and then you twist and squirm to try redefine the values of the BSA. What’s your point?

      • So many of the quotes attributed to Baden Powell are misquoted and out of context and from a very different time. BSA needs to stay relivant and current or it will slowly fade away. I have been to many many “inter faith” services and NONE of them were truly interfaith. Scouts need to be Reverant i.e. respectful of religion and belief in God or gods but the BSA should leave religion and lessons on God.gods to the family and churches.

      • If you don’t agree with the following, then you are not a Scout. I’m not sure why this is so difficult.

        A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

        On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

      • Don’t forget though, when you are at a parade and stand as the US flag passes by, or you recite the Pledge of Allegiance, you acknowledge One Nation Under God. Scouts recite the Pledge at every meeting as well as the Scout Promise which affirms that pledge to ones Country and Duty to a God.

      • The one nation under god bit was added in because the country was afraid of the communists – not because of the founding fathers ! America was created on the principles of freedom of religion. Not freedom from all other religions except christianity. God was never in the constitution or the original pledge of allegiance. Also if you think that God should be in there – just substitute Allah or Vishnu or Ganesh for God and see how comfortable you sit with it then…. probably not. Now onto Religion. In our den – Religion has NOTHING to do with our DEN OR PACK MEETINGS. We do not discuss it – only to say that you can do that bit at home with your family. End of. No one needs to know, No one cares about what they believe. The fact that they want to become cub scouts means that they want to further themselves in many ways, health – physical & mental, to enjoy the outdoors and nature etc….. to serve their communities and be a good person. You do not need religion to be a good person or an Eagle Scout. This is 2015 – the 21st century. BSA needs to move with the times and welcome DIVERSITY….. It’s only the religious unitys that kick up a fuss as they think their cruel mind games if not adhered to will lose them membership in their communities. The rest of us – take it as the BSA just hasn’t caught up yet.

      • What about physically strong? I think we should throw out all the scouts and scouters who are medically obese.

  10. When I was a kid in scouts 40 years ago – there were no requirements that forced us to discuss religion. Religion was a private matter. A personal matter. At summer camp, services were offered for those who wished to attend, but were not required nor were there incentives such as “honor camper” for those who attended. I remember attending the Catholic service, and at a summer camp that had 800 scouts in camp during the week, there were maybe a dozen of us at the church service on Sunday.

    • When I was a scout 40 years ago and expected to go to church on Sunday with the troop I asked what if I wasn’t Christian. To which he replied that I could spend that time in religious observance that met my faith. But if I was of my word I had a belief in God and a duty to spend some time on it.

      Lately the BSA has put more emphasis on the matter. I suspect because the amount of dancing being done by so many units. But the BSA position has always been that a sponsor has every right to expect the troop to observe their Duty to God in a manner consistent with their practice.

  11. My understanding is the Duty to God adventures of the Cub Scout program are to be done at home. So a leader shouldn’t have to address that.

  12. Believe it or not, many of the Troops, Packs, and Crews in the BSA, are composed of a diverse array of religious backgrounds. Many of us are chartered by groups that have non-discrimination policies that prohibit us from denying athiest and agnostic members, as well as gay ones. Many councils have also adopted similar non-discrimination policies, and simply ignore the National Council bigotry. Since the National Council can’t afford to lose 40,000 scouts, they tend to not object too much.

    I choose to adopt a paraphrasing of the words of Martin Luther King and judge people not by their religious professions or sexual orientation, but by the content of their character. Our country is a secular republic. It was founded by people of diverse backgrounds from Christian to Athiest. There is nothing of a religious nature needed to be a citizen of this country, and no religious test is allowed to hold governmental office. This is expressly stated in the Constitution, and was commented on extensively by Thomas Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptists.

    The whole “duty to God” thing is an anachronistic holdover from the McCarthy era. Like the “under God” in our pledge. Many of us just ignore it as a historical grammatical eccentricity of a past unenlightened age. We accept pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, and many Native American faiths, that don’t believe in “God”. The diversity of faith, even within a religion, is such that duty to God is pretty much a meaningless term, which roughly equates to follow your own moral code whatever it is. The dictionary definition of reverent is: “feeling or showing deep and solemn respect.” One can be reverent and hold things sacred, even without professing a belief in any gods.

    So, I don’t care what religions my scouts are part of.
    They can do their “duty to God” as their conscience dictates. We inform them of available religious services, and let their God lead them to pray or not. We have had 100 Eagle Scouts in my troop in the last 20 years. Some were gay, some were devout Christians, some were vaguely spiritual, some were atheists, BUT ALL were exemplary human beings, who it was my honor to know.

    • Groups that oppose the values of scouting, should not Charter a scouting unit. Trustworthy is the first word in the Scout Law.

      You have misquoted MLK and I have no idea how you tie Senator McCarthy to the 1910 founding of scouts.

      As for the founders of this nation, the vast majority of those that signed the Declaration of Independence were Christians. A few like Franklin and Jefferson confessed a belief in God, admired the teachings of Jesus Christ, but questioned Christ’s divinity.

      The Declaration makes it clear that the founders believed that their rights came from God and not from a secular institution. And their appeals were made to God for aid and protection, not some secular organization.

  13. Having been a Cub Master, Boy Scout Committee Chair, Unit Commissioner, and Wood Badger I have thought about this a lot. My family and I do practice our religion. But we know other fine people and families in Scouting (BSA) who are atheists or who believe in other religions not based on “God”. Part of the problem is that there are communities that believe that “God” can only mean the “one true God” of the Judaeo/Christian/Muslim belief system. I prefer to believe that the “God”, as referred to by Baden Powell and the basis for Scouting, is a more expansive concept that only requires that one believes that there is something larger than self. Even just believing in nature (or Gaia if you will) qualifies. This is how I have advised scouts and scouters who found conflict with the seemingly restrictive nature of the use of “God” in the requirements. I have been proud to sit on the Eagle Board of Review of a few scouts who accepted this concept and who found no conflict in swearing “Duty to God” on that basis.

    Some individuals would like to restrict “God” to their own practice of formal religion. I was once told, by a Baptist, that Catholics were not Christians. In my belief system “God” is unknowable, wonderful, and definitely includes Gaia. He/She/It is much greater than myself.

    • Amen brother – oooops. well you get the idea. I wear many hats in the scouting world but not the one supporting the new emphasis on duty to god.

      We need to teach all the good character, loyolty, honesty outdoor skills etc etc. leave the religion and god to the churches and parents.

      I had a woodbadge advisor suggest that as one of my tickets we make a ten commandments display for the schools cafeteria. When I explained that we were chartered by a public school and we couuld not have any religious symbols, his responses was we should find a different chartering org.

      BSA needs to move forward and modernize or it will die out.

  14. So glad to hear so many diverse opinions, including from atheists, agnostics, and those still searching. I’m an agnostic at best and have been troubled by the duty to God requirements – glad to hear I’m not alone!

    As a former den leader and now cub master, and an Australian I have more problems to contend with, eg the pledge. Now I don’t expect much sympathy here, but that’s an extra challenge for me. Even more oroblematic is a reference to being an American in the outdoor ethics pledge – I would have thought just as a scout it would be important to respect our outdoors regardless of nationality – but I digress.

    I don’t see why atheists or agnostics should be any less able to be moral and ethical people or follow the true meaning of the principles of scouting (this is ultimately the central argument against non believers here). In fact, many have argued non-beleivers have a higher moral position as they have to arrive at thier morality through introspection and observation of the world around them and knowing what is right, rather than following a teaching that many have followed without question from birth. For my part, I am happy for my kids to believe whatever religion (or not) they like – but that is a decision they will have to make in the future. For now, scouts offers too many great opportunities for personal development and to promote civic mindedness and morally good young men to be stifled by anachronistic thought. And along those lines, we also have to be respectful of the beliefs (or not) of others – a little like someone else from two thousand years ago – otherwise we are no better than hypocrites, and that’s not a behaviour I wish to teach my children.

    In the past I have told parents it’s none of my business what they believe, nor anyone else’S, and that is a requirement they should complete at home. I tell my son (and daughter) that duty to God is just about a way of living the life of the good, not literally a duty to any particular God (athough it can be that also). You just need to be creative with how you approach this requirement. And also know you are not alone if your houghts align with these. Moreover, there’s no corruption if the program if this is your approach; the important thing is our intention to make responsible and upright men out of our sons.

  15. I think BSA and the pro-Duty-to-a-God-language league are missing an important point. Most teens go through a crucible regarding religion and spiritual development and MANY of them decide they are atheists. (Oh for pete’s sake… If Thomas had a board of review while he doubted, he would have been kicked out of scouting.) Later in life, some of these doubters/atheists rejoin the church of their childhood or a different one of their own choosing that supports their adult beliefs and commitments. It’s true that some of these boys won’t ever rejoin a formal religious organization. Is it truly BSA’s intention to kick a boy out of scouting in the midst of what may be a natural awakening of the self, a young adult’s consideration of what he believes now that he is no longer a boy? Especially when that boy may very well rethink things once they get a bit of adult-hood under their belts? Does this make sense? What is the ultimate mission of BSA? Is it religious awakening to Judeo-Christian values? Is it responsibility to community, stewardship & conservation?

    For myself, I am dismayed at the effort to box God in and define that creative energy by the liturgy of a specific group of people. I don’t even see this requirement to be religious as a question of “believing in God”, you may as well say you don’t believe in nature or the laws of the universe or the responsibility we bear for one another and our fragile earth. For ***my vote***, I don’t think we should try to define or teach this responsibility as “God”-driven or “God”-connected because to do so limits us to frankly Judeo-Christian values. How is a Buddhist kid supposed to respond to this question? They don’t have a central “God” at all.

  16. This is pulled directly from the BSA website (the capital letters were copied):
    – THE BSA SERVES . . . Community-based organizations.
    – THOSE WHO BENEFIT ARE . . . Children, youth, adults, families, and communities.
    – THE BSA OFFERS . . . An educational resource program based on ‘‘Duty to God and Country.’’
    “Duty to God and Country” is the foundation of the BSA. If you are not building your scouting program from this foundation, then you are offering a counterfeit scouting program. You are violating the first point of the Scout Law: Trustworthy.

    • At the same time, BSA states it is “absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training”. There *are* formal religions that have no central God, no creationary God, no personal God, no Savior and no prophets. If BSA can be trusted in their claim to being truly nonsectarian, then kids from these religions should be welcomed as well — even though they have no God to believe in and no God to do duty by. I am troubled by a BSA that is limited by Judeo-Christian-centered values and CONCEPTS when they claim they are not.

  17. If God and religion is so important, it should be left to the scout, his conscious, and his parents, period. Anything else is fascist. A scout is also required to be physically strong, yet many scouts and even more adult leaders are overweight or obese. I think we should do BMI checks for advancement.

  18. We were finally able to celebrate BSA for seeing the light and opening the Scouting program to gay Scouts and leaders (who were in the program anyway). Now National has come up with this bonehead move to push religion on everyone regardless of what the Scout’s family believes. Very disappointing, BSA! Hopefully we won’t have to wait forever before you see the error of this ridiculous new program change.

    • Duty to God is not new. Where did you get that idea?

      Here is the SCOUT OATH to help remind you that duty to God is part of the BSA’s core:
      On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

  19. I am also from the Pacific Northwest. My Cub Scout pack includes Protestants, Independent Christians, Catholics, Mormons and a Buddhist. I image there are also several non-religious families in the pack; although, they have not identified themselves to me. I hope they do not feel compelled to lie about their son’s duty to God. I hope they can find within the duty to God adventure the opportunity to discuss with their son some very BIG ideas.

    In my opinion, BSA’s “absolutely nonsectarian” position leaves the door open to non-religious families to define God in any way they choose; for example, they might teach their Cub Scout that he has a duty to some Great Principle such as Liberty, Equality, Peace, Love or Justice. I think Justice is very appealing to children of scouting age.

    There might be lots of ways for a young man to fulfill his duty to such principles. He might read about great heroes who exemplified such principles. He might meditate on them. He might write about them. He might stand up in defense of them.

    Young men are hungry to belong to Something Big, do Something Great, and I think that is what the duty to God requirements are trying to tap into.

  20. The Scouts were founded on these beliefs. I am an active Den leader, with no religious affiliation, and sorry, but every group/club/ssociation does not have to “conform”. There is no one size fits all. If you don’t like Duty to God,the pledge, all of the basic fundamentals that form the foundations of traditional Scouting, then please go establish your own organization without the tenets. Obviously Scouting has been around for a long time with these principles and NOTHING has replaced it in spite of your “problems with Scouting”. When are you going to stop complaining about Scouting’s principles, foundations, beliefs, and rules and go do something about it? NEVER, because you would have to evaluate what is important to you and COMPROMISE on some of your own beliefs to gain membership without the criticism Scouting receives. Again, NOTHING similar to Scouting exists because it works.

  21. Help. My granddaughter showed me the requirements that must be done by end of January re :Arrow of Light Adventure: Duty to God in Action. She doesn’t know what to make of it. Her husband is an atheist. She doesn’t know what she is. They do not discuss God; nor pray in the home. All my great grandson’s stepfather wants is for him to be perfect, to behave. He says ADHD is no excuse for anything. My great grandson does not listen; when he tries to explain anything, he is told to shut up, to stop arguing. So I can not see this requirement being done. Does this mean he can not crossover, whatever that entails.

    • The Religous Emblems I am familiar with require at least a month to complete. And the other option also requires at least month: 2c. For at least a month, pray or reverently meditate each day as taught by your family or faith community. Therefore your great-grandson would not be able to earn his Arrow of Light by the end of January. I don’t know how your pack operates, but our pack allowed our scout until the start of the next school year (August) to complete their work toward any rank.

      That said, there is NO BSA rank requirement (including Arrow of Light) for crossing over into the Boy Scouts. Therefore your great-grandson should be able to crossover without any issues.

      Your great-grandson’s den leader, cubmaster or future scoutmaster should be able to confirm this.

      Finally, is there anyone in your family that could work on this requirement with your great-grandson outside of his parents, but with his parents’ approval?

      • I could and would love to work with him but they are a couple of hours away from me and I can only drive local streets. Thank you.

      • The specific requirement for joining a Boy Scout Troop is on the application: “Your son can be a Scout if he has completed the fifth grade and is at least 10 years old or is age 11 or has earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old, but has not reached age 18.

        Depending on age a grade level he may not be able to formally join until he is 11 or has finished the fifth grade.

        That said, if the troop allows, they may permit him to participate as a Webelos but can not earn rank credit until joining.

  22. I see no Native American spirituality emblem for my son to earn. Certainly Native Americans are among the most spiritual people on Earth. This lack of an emblem for us should be remedied. Nature is our church, we do pray to the Creator.

  23. I find that it’s always the adults that mess things up for the kids. The idea of not “allowing” a youth to not get the rank he had worked hard for over the year is preposterous. Scouts is about having fun and building character. It takes a different type of character to to tell a child you worked hard all year but you can’t earn your rank because you didn’t do this one activity.

    What do you do if a boy breaks a leg and can’t go on a required hike or if a boy is otherwise unable to do an activity. We as adults make accommodations.

    Let the boys have fun learning to tie knows, build fires, and use a knife.

  24. It is sad that the BSA still excludes children for their beliefs. My children, like my whole family are atheists. When you exclude my children you are saying they are not wanted and have less value. It’s because of this that I am writing a letter to their Principal to let them know I am opposed to advertising the local cub scout troop at their public school which was happening at the beginning of the school year. I do respect the rights of the BSA to exclude those that do not share their beliefs but I do not believe they should not have any relationships with our public institutions because of their discrimination. Their discrimination includes their membership and also their leadership with regard to the exclusion of gay leaders.

  25. I believe that there is no need to “dance” around the issue of duty to god. The word god appears to be the hang up simply because everyone seems to want to put that word in a certain box that only refers to a being (mythical or otherwise) but I believe the word means more than that. It is a word that sums up your belief structure, it is the core of your values. Whether you profess yourself to be of the Monotheistic, polytheistic, atheistic, or any other “theistic” you have a belief. You have your principles, you have your values. If your belief is rooted in science, then science is your god. If your belief is in nature then nature is your god. No one is dictating who or what your god is, only that you recognize your god and serve your god. Stand for your belief, share your belief with your children, raise them in your ways. Our Pack recommends that each family fulfills the Duty to God requirements in their own homes in their own ways. Once the parents/guardians are satisfied the requirements are fulfilled they sign them off. Words are nothing more than symbols for actions. What is the difference between someone who studies and someone who meditates? Both are seeking truths. Unfortunately I feel we too often shackle our gods, putting on them our requirements, placing them in our handmade boxes, forgetting that there is so much we don’t know, so much we don’t understand and most of that knowledge that we don’t know is where our gods are. Who are we to say what they are, what they can be, or what they can do. Every day our scientific community finds new ways to explain things we didn’t know, sometimes we’re wrong, sometimes we’re right but we’re no where close to knowing all. Don’t get hung up on semantics, teach the children your ways, if you don’t like the Pack or Troop you’re with, then start your own. I’m sure there are others that will share your point of views, your beliefs. Scouting should be about discovery, adventure, the pursuit of knowledge and the use of wisdom. Teach them how to serve their god whatever that may be and for your god’s sake, Scout on!

  26. All that are so offended that the duty to god is a requirement is missing the point of scouting. It was founded on these principals but you no not have to believe in God or be an active member in a church to understand the concept of Duty To God. Talk to your scouts about being kind and treating people with kindness. Showing respect and helping others. Not judging people like these comments are doing. This is what true duty to God means whether you believe in a Deity or not. Just teach your children to be a good human which is really the concept behind the requirement.

    • I’m not sure I am able to interpret the Duty to God and especially the new Declaration of Religious Principle as flexibly as you do. The wording seems pretty clear.

      Many years ago I was a proud Boy Scout, a religious Unitarian Universalist, and an atheist. The atheism caused some complications and interesting debate in my Eagle Board of Review but for whatever reason I was ultimately approved. (And of course I had to skip a couple words in the Scout Oath but then again I already had to skip a couple words in the modern Pledge of Allegiance anyway so that didn’t seem particularly unusual to me.)

      Unfortunately now the Duty to God is significantly more prominent and a guardian must sign off explicitly on the Declaration of Religious Principle. Scouting was a big part of my life and had such a positive effect on my development as a citizen and a man. I have been wrestling with this for days now and it breaks my heart to deprive my son of those experiences because I can’t sign a form.

      I honestly do not know what to do.

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