Religious emblems programs

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Religious emblems programs are set up by some religious organizations for members of various youth organizations in the United States such as the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, American Heritage Girls and Camp Fire USA.

There are more than thirty different religious emblems, each representing a different faith. A diverse selection of religious groups participate in the program, including not only well-known groups, such as Baptist and Methodist, but also less-known groups, such as the Moravian and Zoroastrian churches. The religious emblems are "created by the various religious groups to encourage youth to grow stronger in their faith. The religious groups, not the youth organizations, have created the emblem programs themselves. Each religious organization develops and administers its own program."

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Many religious groups have separate program for different age levels (e.g., Cubs and Boy Scouts or Cadettes and Brownies) and many though not all also for the different youth organizations. Many also have a program for adult leaders of youth organizations.

The youth organizations do not run the programs and youth organization leaders do not guide the youths through the program (unless they also are the youth's religious leader or mentor). The youth organizations can choose to decide whether the emblems of a particular religious program will be worn on the youth organization's uniforms (see below for the BSA policy on this).

Once a youth has completed the program of their religion, they are usually presented with the emblem at a ceremony organized by their religious institution. The emblem is in the form of a medal and is usually only worn on formal occasions. BSA also authorizes two generic square knots (one for religious emblems earned as a youth and one for emblems earned as an adult) above the left pocket to indicate that a religious emblem has been achieved. The knots do not indicate the religion involved.

No rank within the Boy Scouts of America requires that a religious emblem be earned but earning it is one way of fulfilling the 'duty to God' requirement for either the Bear

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or Webelos

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rank within Cub Scouts in the United States.

List of programs

The Boy Scouts of America have a formal list of approved religious emblems. However the list does not contain the full list of available emblems. Some religious groups tailor their programs to the individual youth organization (e.g., they have a different program for Campfire); some have different programs for girls; and some have not had their program approved by the Boy Scouts of America. For example the Roman Catholic Church has differing programs for girls and boys. The program for girls includes: "Family of God" for those 7-9, "I Live my Faith" for those 9-11, "Mary, the First Disciple" for those 12-15, and "The Spirit Alive" for those in High School.

Boy Scouts of America's religious emblems program

Until 1993, the BSA's main involvement with the religious emblems programs was to allow the emblem to be worn on the uniform and promote them in their handbooks. In 1993, the BSA adopted a policy that required each faith to submit their program to the BSA Relationships Committee for review and approval, before BSA recognized it, permitted the emblem on the uniform, and included information about it in BSA publications.

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Some feel that this is in contradiction to the BSA's Declarations of Religious Principles. Others feel it's a simple and necessary check to prevent extreme religions (as a hypothetical example, a mythical "Church of Adolf Hitler" with a swastika religious medal) from trying to use the BSA religious emblems programs as a mainstream endorsement for their beliefs.

This had led to conflicts with a few religious groups when their proposed program was not recognized.

Unitarian Universalist Association

File:Religioninlife.gif
The Unitarian - Universalist Religious Emblem

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has disagreed with the Boy Scouts of America over their policies on gays and atheists.

Prior to 1998, the BSA recognized two Unitarian-Universalist Religious Emblems, which Unitarian Cubs and Scouts could earn by working with their religious leaders.

In the early 1990s, the BSA's position against openly gay and atheist membership led the Unitarian-Univeralists to revise their emblem program for Boy Scouts/Explorers (but not the separate program for Cubs) to include a discussion of Unitarian opposition to the BSA policies. ("Respect and acceptance of others regardless of their religion or sexual orientation" being a central tenet of the Unitarian-Universalist faith). As a result, the Boy Scouts of America withdrew its recognition of both UUA religious emblems.

In later discussions, the UUA agreed to remove the offending material from the program book and hoped that this would satisfy concerns enough to allow for the BSA to recognize the emblem. However, discussions broke down when members of the BSA learned that the UUA intended to continue (outside of the Emblem program) to teach Unitarian Scouts that the BSA's prohibition of openly atheist and homosexual members was contrary to the Unitarian-Universalist faith.

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Critics argued that, in doing so, the BSA placed itself in the position of telling a religious organization what they can and cannot teach their youth about their faith. Proponents state that the argument was not one of religious precepts but a political one about BSA Policy and that it's disingenuous of the UUA to select only some aspects of the Scouting program for use by its youth members, when a chartered organization electing to use Scouting is required to adopt the program in total. Because of the BSA's view that the teaching of Unitarian-Universalism opposition to BSA policy (regarding homosexuality) specifically to Scouts were incompatible with the tenets of BSA, an impasse was reached between the two.

Since that time, the UUA continues to make available its Religious Awards programs to UU Scouts. Those Scouts interested in working on, and earning the emblem, are able to do so through their local church (this is standard procedure for all religious emblem programs). While Boy Scouts could not wear the Religious Emblem Square Knot on their uniform, many wore their UU Religious Emblem as a "temporary badge," in contravention with the BSA's Insignia Guide, which requires all temporary insignia to be approved by BSA National Headquarters or a local council.

In March 2005, the Program of Religious Activities with Youth (P.R.A.Y.), an independent organization that sells some of the religious emblem materials, announced that a new Unitarian Universalist emblem and program had been created by the "Unitarian-Universalist Scouters Organization" (UUSO) and recognized by the Boy Scouts of America.

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The Unitarian Universalist Association has disavowed any connection to the UUSO religious emblem program and to the Unitarian-Universalist Scouters Organization.

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As of 2006, Boy Scouts of America has not expressed any plans to reinstate the UUA-approved Religious Emblems, and it expressly forbids its members from wearing it on their uniforms (like any other non-recognized emblem). So there are currently three Unitarian-Universalist religious programs:

  • Unitarian-Universalist Association - "Religion in Life" for those 12-18 and "Love and Help" for those 7-11. UUA program description.
  • Unitarian-Universalist Scouters Organization - "Living your Religion" for Boy Scouts and Venturers aged 11-17. This has been recognized by the Boy Scouts of America according to several reports but rejected by the Unitarian-Universalist Association. UUSO program description

Wicca and other small religions

In the early 1990s the Covenant of the Goddess, an umbrella group for Wiccans and neopagans, created its own religious emblem program for followers of nature-oriented religions. The programs are "Over the Moon" for ages 8-11, "Hart and Crescent" for ages 12-18, and the Distinguished Youth Service Award for adults working in youth organizationsCoG program description

In 1993 after the Covenant of the Goddess and some small Christian religious groups asked for recognition for their programs, the Boy Scouts of America adopted a policy requiring that a religious group must first charter at least 25 BSA units before its religious award application will be considered. This has not stopped the Covenant of the Goddess from offering alternative programs for youth in their religious tradition.

Other nations

Canada also offers religious emblems.

See also

Footnotes

  1. "Religious Emblems Programs FAQ". Boy Scouts of America. 2003. http://www.scouting.org/awards/religious/faq.html. Retrieved 29 March. 
  2. "Bear Rank God Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 2003. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/bear.html#GOD. Retrieved 29 March. 
  3. Michael F. Bowman and James Bryant (2003). "Webelos Rank Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. http://usscouts.org/advance/cubscout/webelos.html. Retrieved 29 March. 
  4. "What if my Religious Org. Doesn't Have a Religious Emblem Program?". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 1998. http://usscouts.org/scoutduty/sd2gc16.html. Retrieved 28 May. 
  5. "rec.scouting.issues Commonly asked questions (FAQ 2)". Faqs.com. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/scouting/rec.scouting.issues/. Retrieved March 10. 
  6. "UUA/BSA Compromise Crumbles". PlanetOut.com. http://www.planetout.com/news/article-print.html?1999/05/19/4. Retrieved March 2. 
  7. "Unitarian Universalist Association/Boy Scouts of America Correspondence & Documentation". Unitarian Universalist Association. http://www.uua.org/news/scouts/background.html. Retrieved March 2. 
  8. "P.R.A.Y. Boy Scout Bulletin first quarter 2005". P.R.A.Y.– Programs of Religious Activities with Youth. http://www.praypub.org/Publications/BSQ1_05.htm. Retrieved March 2. 
  9. "Statement from the Unitarian Universalist Association". Unitarian Universalist Association. http://www.uua.org/news/scouts/050316_statement.html. Retrieved March 10. 
  10. "Religious Emblems Programs available to Members of the Boy Scouts of America". Boy Scouts of America– National Council. http://www.scouting.org/awards/religious/awards/index.html. Retrieved March 10. 
  11. ""Religious Emblem approved for Unitarian Universalist youth"". Scouter Forum. http://www.scouter.com/forums/viewThread.asp?threadID=88667. 

Further Information