Boy Scouts of America

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A Boy Scout in 1969

The Boy Scouts of America (or BSA) is one of the largest youth organisations in the US and is part of the worldwide Scout Movement. Founded in 1910 by William D. Boyce, Ernest Thompson Seton, and Daniel Beard, Scouting was a large part of American culture for most of the 20th century, and survives into the 21st. Their logo is a fleur de lis.[note 1]

Aims and purposes[edit]

The BSA has three stated objectives: character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. Generally Scouting is associated with the military, having its roots in field training. Politically, the BSA have taken a conservative, "patriotic" stance, being heavy supporters of war efforts in both World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the War on Terror.


LGBT Boy Scouts in 2017

Due in no small part to the influence of the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches,[1] the BSA has in the past forbid membership to atheists and agnostics, but rarely, and used to forbid membership to gays. Openly gay boys have been allowed since January 1, 2014, and gay and lesbian leaders are allowed to volunteer as of 2015.[2] Unfortunately, the lifting of the blanket ban on homosexual leaders contains a rather large escape hatch which means that "local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organizations will still be permitted to exclude gay adults from volunteering as den leaders, scoutmasters or camp counselors."[3] The Scouts initially didn't have any requirement regarding sexuality, and scoutmaster handbooks used to explicitly tell scoutmasters that this was not their problem; this was most likely because they, like most organizations at the time, elected to bury their heads in the sand on the issue. The time that people began to come to terms with sex coincided with the timing of the Mormon hijacking of BSA for use as their youth development organization, and they provided the push for the aforementioned don't ask, don't tell policy.[4] In contrast, the Girl Scouts of America does not require members to swear an oath with a religious component.

Many boys and adults have been prevented from joining or expelled from the BSA for refusing to swear an oath before God. In one case, the father of 11-year-old Emory Saladin was dismissed as a Cub Scout leader for refusing to sign a religious declaration. Saladin said the officials involved "kind of felt like people who didn't believe in God didn't deserve to live".[5] The BSA's discrimination against gays and atheists has led to the formation of "Scouting for All," a group that advocates a change in the BSA's membership rules.[6][7]

Discrimination against atheist children who do not want to take a religious oath is historically not unknown in other scouting movements, such as the UK's.[8] As of October 2013, the Scout Association in the UK introduced an atheist version of the Scout Promise.[9]

Indian dress-up[edit]

Order of the Arrow

The BSA has traditionally "highlighted" so-called "Indian" activities, especially popular in the 1920-1950s, in its Order of the Arrow,Wikipedia the organization's "honor society". Many tribes have rejected and even protested the stereotypical use of "all things Indian" used by the Boy Scouts without any real respect to the Native American tribes whose rites and rituals were stolen. Much of this pseudo-Indian content came from the influence of Ernest Thompson Seton, who saw "Indian" culture as superior and wrote a few books on the subject (one of them, The Gospel of the Redman, attempting to write a religious text based on their culture which contained little of their actual religious practices and much nature woo and claims of superior physical fitness). Seton had earlier started a youth group called the Woodcraft Indians, which he later merged into the BSA. Lord Baden-Powell, who started Scouting in the UK, was inspired by Seton, but the two later had a falling out between Baden-Powell's more militaristic vision for Scouting versus Seton's pseudo-Indian vision. The BSA wound up incorporating both influences. Seton, Beard, and early BSA leader James West also had a falling out with each other and Seton left Scouting in 1915 to re-establish the Woodcraft Indians.

The Nation is divided into regions, with each region having Lodges and Chapters, each with an Indian name. Despite there not being any secret societies in the BSA, they actually try to make themselves appear secretive. There aren't ranks in in OA, only three levels of "honors" which are somehow different from ranks. On the positive side, you get a cool sash.

Boy Scouts of America sex abuse scandal[edit]

On October 19, 2012, the Boy Scouts of America were forced to release over 20,000 pages of documentation on known child sexual abuse cases within the organization, most of which occurred in the 1980s.[10] According to the documents, the coverup resembles in some ways the tragedy at the Roman Catholic Church. The police often helped cover up abuse "to protect the good name and good works of Scouting, a pillar of 20th-century America."[11] As of 2021, over 82,000 sex abuse cases were filed against the Boy Scouts of America.[12]

Scout leaders were simply asked to leave, no charges were pressed, parents were not told, and in an alarming number of cases, accused scout leaders returned to work with boys in some other troop. Little if anything was done to help the abused boys. Given the organization's historic attitude towards homosexuals, it's painfully ironic that preventing pedophiles from accessing potential victims through Scouting seemed to have had less priority than preventing openly gay men and boys from being in the organisation.[13][14][15]

Eagle Scouts[edit]

The highest rank in Scouting is that of Eagle Scout; there are further, higher awards called the Eagle Palms (which are earned by basically remaining active in one's unit and earning five additional merit badges beyond the required 21 or the last palm), and various other honors, but those are not as well-known.

It is estimated that of all boys who join the BSA, less than five percent obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. The requirements to earn this rank include obtaining a minimum of twenty-one Merit Badges (including thirteen from a selected list, and certain required ones, such as "Citizenship in the Nation"), being in the scouting program for about a year and a half at a minimum (to prevent kids from "speed running" the program and cheapening the achievement), a year and a half of leadership positions (which requires more time than the base amount, as it takes a while before a Scout is going to be selected or elected to leadership), and organizing and carrying out a unique, self-directed community service project, casually referred to as the Eagle Project. Additionally, all requirements must be met before the Scout's 18th birthday.

There have been many famous — as well as infamous — Eagle Scouts.

The Eagle required merit badges[edit]

  • Camping — Requires you to go camping and know the tools of the trade
  • Cooking — be able to "cook" a meal and do some really annoying paperwork
  • Citizenship in the Community — Make sure you understand basic local civics and are willing to take care of your area.
  • Citizenship in the Nation — Make sure you understand how the US government works (and instill a necessary sense of patriotism).
  • Citizenship in the World — Despite the often jingoistic portrayal of Boy Scouts, there is an attempt to inculcate a larger sense of the world and the place that Scouting has within it.
  • Communications — How to do a sales pitch, how to give a speech, etc.
  • Environmental Science or Sustainability — Make sure the kids don't screw the planet up worse than the previous generations already have.
  • Family Life — Explain family values, explains familial roles. Dad is a caring figure and always tries to teach children. Doesn't include a question for moms. Do 5 chores for 90 days. (this part SUCCKKS)
  • First Aid — Moderately advanced first aid, including CPR, etc.
  • Personal Fitness — Taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually is constantly crammed down your throat in the BSA, so this takes care of the physically part.
  • Personal Management — More like personal economics, it's all about balancing checkbooks, etc.
  • Lifesaving or Emergency Preparedness — Saving lives in water (if the person is physically able to swim), or just knowing how to handle any given emergency (including a nuclear attack).
  • Cycling or Hiking or Swimming — These badges go into far more detail than they sound, with the swimming one requiring the Scout to be able to turn clothes into flotation devices, etc.


There is a group within the Boy Scouts called "Venturing" that allows both boys and girls as young as 13, (provided the thirteen year-olds have completed the 8th grade), as well as men and women under the age of 21 to join. The focus is on "High Adventure" trips involving serious hiking/backpacking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and similar activities outside the scope of the normal program.[16] Venturing also has a subgroup known as the "Sea Scouts" that helps youngsters learn safe boating rules and how to operate various nautical craft.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. The same logo is also used by French monarchists who hearken back for the pre-1789 ancién regime, but the two uses are unrelated.