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Statement by
Ellen Johnson

American Atheists is a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn OHair that defends the civil rights of Atheists; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.

We are happy to join today with these other organizations present in calling upon the Boy Scouts of America to welcome all American boys into their program, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or Atheism.

Im not only the president of American Atheists -- I am also the mother of a 14-year-old son. In elementary school, at the beginning of every school year, he would come home with a flyer promoting the Boy Scouts. I know from personal experience the pain and difficulty in trying to explain to a boy why he cannot join a group that his friends belong to.

Do the Boy Scouts have a right to discriminate on the basis of sexual preference or religious belief?

The BSA is one of several dozen entities officially chartered by the U.S. Congress. It has long received direct and indirect public grants and other forms of assistance from state and federal agencies. The President of the United States serves as the honorary head of this organization. All of this should demonstrate that the Scouts is a public entity that is prohibited by Title II of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 from discriminating. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise -- and legally, the Boy Scouts have the right to practice bigotry and discrimination.

But that legal question begs the real issue. This discrimination is wrong! It marginalizes youth across the country simply because they are Atheists or homosexuals. What does any of this have to do with character development, being a good citizen, performing community service and building leadership qualities?

Atheism is an empowering philosophy giving us a strong regard for life, the here and now, and our fellow human beings. We strive to improve life because it is the only life we will ever have. Atheists are everywhere. We are your neighbors, your family members, your friends. We are white and blue collar workers. We are teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, nurses and doctors. We defend this country by serving in the military.

We call upon the Boy Scouts of America to change its discriminatory policies. This kind of exclusionary practice and discrimination is wrong! It is wrong for our youth and it is wrong for America. We join with the other groups and individuals here today in calling upon the Boy Scouts of America to end the practice of discriminating against Atheist and gay youth!


Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.