April 12, 2016
Dear John, David, Kaaren and Amanda,
Thank you for the conversation last week. You are leaders in our movement, and I value your input and feedback.
Let me assure you that the new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Boy Scouts is in no way a “betrayal” (as one blog post characterized it) of humanist Unitarian Universalists. As a humanist myself, I would not have signed any document that did that. The MOU explicitly refers to “Humanist teachings” as one of Unitarian Universalism’s sources of wisdom. Our faith affirms the worth of every person and affirms many ways to live a good and moral life. We cherish and respect the humanists, agnostics, and atheists among us. They are our ministers, our Sunday school teachers, our parishioners, leaders within the UUA and wider movement—and we look forward to their being scouts and scout troop leaders.
Our efforts to restore a relationship with the BSA were guided by the Action of Immediate Witness passed by the 1999 General Assembly. The year before, the BSA had effectively expelled the UUA by de-authorizing our scouting curriculum and emblem. The GA resolution called upon the Association to seek reinstatement of the curriculum and emblem and to encourage UUs to join scouting to work for change within that organization. Restoring a relationship with the BSA is in accordance with this resolution.
Over the past years, the BSA has taken significant steps to becoming more inclusive. We are pleased that scouting now welcomes gay scouts and scout leaders. That said, we are acutely aware that further progress is needed, especially around the issues of religious inclusion and gender identity. We feel that these are issues that UUs are well-suited to addressing, and we are committed to engaging in an ongoing conversation with the BSA about them.
With this MOU, the UUA will have a representative on the BSA’s Religious Relations Committee. At this table, and working with allies like the United Church of Christ, the UUA is committed to voicing our values for radical inclusion. Most importantly, the MOU clearly states that neither the BSA nor the UUA supersedes “the authority of the leadership of the congregation in any phase of the program affecting the spiritual welfare of those who participate.” Just as our congregations provide community for theists and humanists, Christians and Jews, pagans and Buddhists, we hope that congregations will sponsor troops that are diverse and welcoming and thus be models of inclusiveness.
Throughout the time that the UUA and the BSA were not in relationship, we continued to acknowledge the many benefits that scouting offered boys and young men. The best thing about our restored relationship is that young UUs who wish to participate in scouting will be able to do so under the auspices of their own faith community.
Again, thank you for sharing your insights and expertise with me. I look forward to ongoing conversations. Please feel free to share this communication as you see fit.