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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF offers freethinking badge for Boy Scouts

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has produced a badge to reward freethinking youths and to challenge the Boy Scouts of America’s discriminatory policy against the nonreligious. 

The Boy Scouts of America formally discriminates against nonreligious boys and their families, officially excluding atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers. Currently, BSA maintains “that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God.”

FFRF maintains that no one can grow into the best kind of citizen who discriminates against the nonreligious, and that it’s what you do — not what you believe — that makes you a good person.

At the urging of its late member Richard Kirschman, it has produced a badge similar to the Boy Scouts’ merit badges, which are typically sewn on uniforms or sashes. The badge, featuring a red “A” based on a symbol of atheism and agnosticism popularized by distinguished scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins, is being issued in collaboration with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.

At Dawkins’ suggestion, the Scout or youth seeking a badge need only send FFRF a short essay addressing the Boy Scouts of America’s claim that nonbelievers can’t be good citizens. FFRF will not charge Scouts money for the badge.

The badge is intended to reward Boy Scouts who have persevered in an organization that basically has instituted a “Don’t ask, don’t tell’” policy about atheist and agnostic participants, but has regularly expelled open nonbelievers.

“If any young person fulfills the requirements, we’d be delighted to reward them with this badge,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Many nonreligious students who might otherwise wish to join the Boy Scouts Association, knowing of its bigoted policy, don’t try. This is also their chance to be rewarded for critical thinking and to earn a keepsake at the same time. We hope someday very soon that Boy Scouts of America itself will change policy and adopt its own official merit badge rewarding critical thinking.”

The requirements, paralleling typical merit badge requirements, ask scouts to learn about secularism and the rich history of dissent from religion. The full requirements can be found at FFRF’s website:

Edwin Parise earned one of FFRF’s Freethought badges.
‘I am a good person’

I believe that people who aren’t religious can be good people. My ballet teacher isn’t religious and she is teaching an art and the arts are important. My friend Lucy is a good friend and she is not religious. Lucy’s mom is a school counselor and helps kids in school get help and clothes and food. My mom works for the county and helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are in need. My dad works for the county and helps people who are aging, veterans or physically disabled get what they need. People who are religious can also do bad things; religion doesn’t stop them. I am a good person, I don’t hurt people or animals. I am a good student, a good scout and a good son and I didn’t need a book or religion to tell me to do that.

— Edwin Parise, age 9