Religion needed for Eagle Scout?

I am an atheist. My wife is a non-practicing Lutheran. My kids don’t go to church, but from what I can gather, they both kind of believe in God, but since we don’t go to church, they don’t really know too much about any religion.

My oldest son recently started in Boy Scouts and says he wants to make it to Eagle. We bought him his Scout Handbook, and I looked through it and was surprised to not see anything about religion in the requirements for Eagle.

I’ve always heard that a boy could not make Eagle without religion. Did I miss something? Or is there some unwritten rule that I will find out about later?

Nominally they don’t accept atheists, but in practice as long as you find the right troop, it’s possible.

Edit: It used to be in their FAQ, but now it’s not, and “atheist” doesn’t show up in their search. It sure does on Google, though. Except, your kids haven’t professed atheism so it’s likely less of a problem.

My experience dates back to 1988, so things may be different now.

When you file the application for the Eagle award, you (the Eagle candidate) need to include a letter of reference from your “religious official.” For Christians, this would be their priest/reverend/minister, for Jews this would be their rabbi, and so on.

I was not a church-goer, so when I applied, I was permitted to write a declaration of my beliefs on my own behalf.

BSA’s position on atheists and agnostics.

I’ve got an atheist friend who’s an Eagle Scout. I’ll have to ask him what he did about that requirement. I suspect that it’s just quietly ignored.

I’m a Unitarian Universalist. Many atheist families have “used” our church to fulfill religious requirements for scouting.

In my experience, many years ago, it was pretty much up to the scoutmaster and other troop leaders. There were probably some ultra-religious ones who would push out of the troop any kids who weren’t sufficiently enthusiastic about the right kind of Christianity and probably some more-or-less athiests who would give the least possible nominal lip service to the religious part of Boy Scouts (and might push away super religious kids one or their parents), but most didn’t care too much. I think for the majority, as long as a kid is respectful, and can give some kind of lip service to spirituality, they’re fine. If a kid was determined to be a big enough jerk to get kicked out of Boy Scouts, aggressive atheism certainly could be one possible route, but the real point would be the jerkish part, not the atheistic part.

At any rate, IMO, issues of excessive religious mismatch between a scout and the troop leadership would be obvious well before the final step of becoming an Eagle Scout. And, hopefully, could be solved by finding a different troop with a better match.

Belief in God (a Judeo-Christian one, apparently) is part of the Boy Scout package…

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

But like everyone has been saying, it comes down to how the troop runs their show. In my youth, my troop was organized out of the Catholic elementary school that I went to and our meeting room was in the church basement next door. But we never prayed at our meetings nor did anything really overtly “churchy”, which was fine with all of us. I just liked the camping part so I washed out as a First Class scout, around the time when we were supposed to go out and do merit badge stuff on our own and I just didn’t have the drive…

I think if you were an in-your-face, active atheist joining picket lines to have “under God” removed from The Pledge, you’d have a tough time. Your kids seem not to fall in that category. Yet. Just don’t let them spend much time on this MB, though! :wink:

I didn’t become an eagle scout. But my troop was mostly a camping club. We all worked on merit badges did general community service. There was no mention of religion except for the oath which nobody took seriously.

Religion hasn’t been a required merit badge for at least ten years now. As far as I know you can still get one for most major sects but it isn’t a requirement for Eagle. As long as he’s not anti-religious and is comfortable with stating the Oath and following the ‘duty to god’ part even extremely loosely he should be fine.

I was in a Mormon boy scout troop their requirements in that category I’d suspect are still more then your average troop.

Each troop can still effectively enforce rank advancement however they choose. They can hold boys back from advancing even if they meet the badge requirements. If you run into such a situation due to religious reasons you could simply transfer to a less religious troop and move on.

Just an observation (since I realize the other comments relate specifically to Boy Scouts of America), Scouts Canada requires a spiritual belief but it doesn’t need to be in a specific religion, and allows homosexuality.

I don’t think there have ever been religious merit badges. There are religious awards, but they basically amount to your pastor/minister/rabbi/imam/whatever writing a note that says you go to church, and that’s it. And they don’t count towards anything beyond giving you one more piece of bling to put on your uniform. Merit badges are something completely different: They all require significant demonstration of some knowledge or skill, and count towards requirements for the higher ranks (some specifically required, and then at least some number of other ones).

Sort of like selling indulgences? :wink:

This is the case for awarding lower ranks, for which the board of review is conducted entirely within the troop. But for Eagle Scout, the board of review (see previous link) involves scouting officials outside of the troop; no matter which troop you go to, as long as you’re within the same coucil (and you probably will be, unless your new troop is a few hundred miles away), when you submit your application package for Eagle Scout, the board of review will be done by the same people.

One question for the religious people here.

I’d describe myself now as an agnostic - (in the “it’s complicated” sense), although when I was a kid I just basically tried no to think much about the issue.

I’d be very reluctant to make the kind of pledge above now, primarily because I consider it incredibly disrespectful of other peoples beliefs to pretend to share them to get what I want.

Would people really prefer the atheists around them pay “lip service” to what they consider sacred? It seems like a weird thing to ask.

I also find the willingness to reject atheists but accept other religious beliefs (including none theistic ones) rather bewildering.

During my eagle scout board of review, one of my scoutmasters suddenly got very solemn and said something along the lines of, “I have to ask this because it’s part of the requirements. <pause> Do you believe in <a> god?” I was pretty quiet about my atheism back then, so I’m not sure if it was standard operating procedure or if they were trying to flush me out. In any case, I smiled and said “Yes sir!” and that was that.

It probably helped that I was still active in my parents’ catholic church at that point. However, I’m guessing if I had been truthful I wouldn’t have been awarded the rank. They’re stuck with me now, although according to Machine Elf’s link upthread they’d still consider me unfit to be an adult leader. Bummer.

I believe the general answer to your question is “Some would; some wouldn’t.” If you want people to give their own, specific answers, or if you want discussion on these issues, you might want to open a separate thread in IMHO or GD.

I joined the Cub Scouts in 1st grade, then moved to Boy Scouts. At 28, I am still with my troop. Going by what I have seen, no one knows (unless your the kind to go yelling at people about your being an agnostic), or cares what you believe. The scout oath is required to be said. You actually can’t even get to the basic rank if you don;t know it.
And as far as the requirement for Eagle, I’m not sure it matters. I am Catholic, but from the time I was around 15 I only went to church for Christmas and Easter because of working on weekends. I never handed in letter of reference from my priest. It wasn’t a problem.

Or violate the weekly oath that you aren’t? This is the bizarre bit for me, that you somehow aren’t considered a moral enough individual to be involved in scouting, unless you are willing to bear false witness on a regular basis.

You are correct that religious medals do not count towards advancement, I would disagree that you just need a note that says you go to church.

Overview of religious medals (which are really sponsored by the individual faiths, not the BSA)

Example of the requirements for one of the religious medals.