Atheist Scout Booted from Scouting

After extending the deadline to conform to Scout's oath, the Eagle scout is kicked out.

BY: Beliefnet News Services

 
Port Orchard, Wash., Nov. 4--Given a week to find a god he can believe in, time has run out on Darrell Lambert. The Eagle Scout says he has been thrown out of the Boy Scouts because his atheist views don't agree with Boy Scout requirements for reverence. Officials at the Chief Seattle Council informed Lambert by phone today that he was no longer welcome.

Late last month, Lambert was given seven to ten days to change his beliefs, and family members said the deadline was extended over the weekend. But Lambert said he had been told his registration was being returned. "Then I'll get a letter saying I am being kicked out," he told Beliefnet.

He plans to appeal. "I'll go to the regional office, and the national after that if I have to," he said. Though he has spoken to lawyers who have handled similar cases, he wasn't sure if he is prepared to go to court to be reinstated.

The Boy Scouts of America require belief in a supreme being to qualify for membership. "You need to have a recognition of a supreme being," Brad Farmer, the Scout executive of the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts, told the Seattle Times in October. "We as the Boy Scouts do not define what that is, but you need to have a recognition."

As a private organization, the Boy Scouts are permitted to exclude certain people from membership. The organization bans gays and atheists.

Lambert, who has been a Scout since he was 9, said he won't profess a belief he doesn't feel, saying it amounts to a lie. "I wouldn't be a good Scout then, would I?" Lambert says he has known he is an atheist since he was 14 or 15.

The issue arose about three weeks ago when Lambert got into an argument with a Scout leader at a Boy Scout leadership training seminar over whether atheists should be expelled from the organization. Farmer's office soon contacted him to talk about his nonbelief.

Lambert disclosed his atheism to Scout leaders overseeing his Eagle Scout application last year, but still received the award.

Lambert told Beliefnet he doesn't think religion should have anything to do with the Boy Scouts, and that religion is never discussed in scout meetings. "We talk about camping and leadership," he said.

"Religion is something to be done in private. You learn it in your home and in your church," he said, not from the Boy Scouts.

Lambert told the Associated Press that parents of the scouts he works with have been supportive, and many have written letters to the Council requesting that he be allowed to stay in the troop. Lambert has also received support from Scouting for All, based in California, and the New England Coalition for Inclusive Scouting, two groups that promote the inclusion of gays and atheists in the Boy Scouts.

"Discrimination has no place in scouting, " said Robert Raketty, northwest regional director of Scouring for All. It "overshadows the good work that the Boy Scouts do."

The issue of including atheists in the Boy Scouts has surfaced before. In 1998, 16-year-old twins Michael and William Randall, who refused to take an oath to God, were awarded Eagle badges after a seven-year legal fight with the Orange County, Calif., council.

In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts' right to exclude gays from being troop leaders. The case involved James Dale, an Eagle Scout who was expelled from the Boy Scouts for being gay. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 that forcing the Scouts to accept gay troop leaders would violate the organization's rights of free expression and free association under the Constitution's First Amendment.

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