Friday, February 1, 2008
The Scouts clarify: atheists are not welcome
Just been listening to a debate on Radio 5 live between Derek Twine (Scouts) and Keith Porteus Wood (Nat. Secular Soc.).
The Scouts require all members swear an oath to God. The NSS wants this oath optional, as atheist children are thereby excluded (or else must lie).
Derek Twine pointed out that those of other faiths are welcome - Sikhs, Hindus, etc. But he made clear that those of none are not. Scouts welcome everyone - except atheists.
Should the Scouts be free to discriminate in this way, or not?
Is this like e.g. a political club discriminating against those of other political persuasions (ok, surely), or more like a golf club discriminating against women/black people (not ok, I think)?
POST SCRIPT at 14.57pm.
One thought I have had about this is, whether or not the discrimination is morally permitted (I don't think it is - but I'll explain why later), there's something slightly distasteful about it . As there would be if secularists started up a similar organization that excluded religious kids (by making them swear an oath). I mean, why would they do that? Why go out of your way to exclude perfectly nice, decent kids in that way?
I sense that lurking back there somewhere is the view that while kids of other faiths are acceptable, there's something rather objectionable about atheists and their kids. There's a sort of implicit "fuck you" being directed at them (as there surely would be if the Scouts accepted kids of all faiths - except Jews).
Which is especially unpleasant when you're dealing with kids. Kids who may even be close friends and school mates of Scout troup members. Frankly, how petty and pathetic to insist, "Atheist? Nope, you're not coming in."