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Scouting controversy and conflict

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Subject: Religion in Scouting, Boy Scouts of America membership controversies, Scouting and Guiding in the United Kingdom, Extension Scouting, Scout handshake
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Scouting controversy and conflict

Non-aligned Scouting and Scout-like organisations).

This article discusses historical and contemporary Scouting controversies and difficulties, with examples from various countries.

Sectarian and secular conflict

Religion in Scouting and Guiding is an aspect of the Scout method which has been practiced differently and given different interpretations over the years.

In contrast to the faith or religion, yet still held that spirituality and a belief in a higher power were key to the development of young people.

Scouting organizations are free to interpret the method as laid down by the founder. As the modern world has become more secular and as many societies have become more religiously diverse, this has caused misunderstandings and controversies in some of the national member organizations. There are Scouting associations in some countries, such as France and Denmark, that are segregated on the basis of religious belief.

Conflict over atheism

In 1933 some Scout groups broke away from the national Boy Scout organization Scouting Nederland (SN).

The Dutch variant of the Scout Promise is one of the few in the world where the reference to God is optional as it has been granted an exception under WOSM guidelines.

Bans on Scouting by Communists and Nazis

Scouting has been banned in certain nations and remains banned in Pioneer Movement, still existing in some fashion in the People's Republic of China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Tajikistan.

Prior to Balilla; and Romania under King Carol II of Romania had the Străjeria.

Currently, there are no externally recognized Scouting organizations in Cuba, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, and the People's Republic of China (except for the special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau).


In 1914, the first Scout groups in Boy Scouts of America.

Scouting existed in Cuba itself until the 1960s, when Cuban Scouting ceased operations after the José Martí Pioneer Organization. There is a Cubans-in-exile Association.

Cuba is now one of only six of the world's independent countries that do not have Scouting. Cuba was also a former member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, with the Asociación de Guías de Cuba last mentioned in 1969.


In 1908, Baden-Powell's book Scouting for Boys came out in society called Russian Scout, was established. Scouting spread rapidly across Russia and into Siberia.

After the October Revolution of 1917 and during the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1921, most of the Scoutmasters and many Scouts fought in the ranks of the White Army and interventionists against the Red Army. Some Scouts took the Bolsheviks' side, which would lead to the establishment of ideologically-altered Scoutlike organizations, such as ЮК (Юные Коммунисты, or young communists; pronounced as yuk) and others.

Between 1918 and 1920, the second, third, and fourth All-Russian Congresses of the Russian Union of the Communist Youth decided to eradicate the Scout movement and create an organization of the communist type that would take youth under its umbrella. In 1922, the second All-Russian Komsomol Conference decided to create Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union (USSR), which included Russia, was established in 1922 and dissolved in 1991. In 1990, the Russian Congress of People's Deputies with Boris Yeltsin as its chairman declared Russia's sovereignty over its territory.

The Young Pioneer organization was broken up in 1990 and the same year the Eurasian Scout Region controversies).

The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). It is co-educational and has 13,920 members as of 2004.


German Scouting started in 1909. German Scouting later became involved with the Thälmann Pioneers and the Free German Youth (FDJ). Currently, Scouting is present in all parts of the unified Federal Republic of Germany and consists of about 150 different associations and federations with about 260,000 Scouts and Girl Guides.

Exclusion of Scouting associations from international organizations

Most national Scouting associations have created international Scouting organizations to set standards for and to coordinate activities amongst member associations. There are at least six international organizations that serve several hundred national associations around the world. The largest international Scouting organization is the World Organization of the Scout Movement, founded in 1920. Scouting associations have been excluded or expelled from international Scouting organizations for various reasons.


World Organization of the Scout Movement from 1922 to 1940, and again from 1956 to 1999.

After the Baath Party took control in 1968 and especially after Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979, youth groups were retooled to serve the state. One replacement program, Saddam Cubs, offered "summer camps" where 10 to 15 year-old boys had up to 14-hour days filled with hand-to-hand fighting drills.[2] In 1990, during the period when the Iraq Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Council was recognized by WOSM, there were 12,000 Scouts, however by 1999, Iraq had been expelled from the WOSM.

An Iraqi Scouts Initiative committee was formed by Americans in 2004 to formally re-establish a legal, recognized, and fully functioning Scouting program in Iraq. Since then, the movement has been taken over by Iraqis and is now run exclusively by them.

The Scout program is open to boys and girls of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and allows for local nuances to shape various regional program options. Iraqi Scouts are involved in community service such as helping police with traffic control, giving first aid, cultivating cotton, planting trees and helping during natural disasters. A National Iraqi Scouting Headquarters is envisioned for Baghdad and five national Scout camps are also planned.

Exclusion of individuals from Scouting membership

Controversies have arisen from the exclusion of certain people, including atheists, agnostics, and/or LGBT people, from membership of some Scouting organisations; these are detailed below:

Atheists and agnostics

"Duty to God" is a secularist or religiously neutral (such as Eclaireuses et Eclaireurs de France, Corpo Nazionale Giovani Esploratori ed Esploratrici Italiani and the Baden-Powell Service Association in the United States[8]).

Homosexual people

In the United States, "avowed homosexuals" are not allowed to be adult leaders; the national administration of the Boy Scouts of America, the country's only WOSM member, believes that Scouting should reflect traditional family values.[9] The Girl Scouts of the USA, by contrast, maintain a more neutral "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Homosexual people are not restricted from membership or leadership positions in Scouts Canada, the Baden-Powell Service Association in the United States, Scouts Australia, and most European associations, including The Scout Association of the United Kingdom, Ring deutscher Pfadfinderverbände of Germany (German Scout Federation), and the Swedish Guide and Scout Association.[10]

Publicist James Dale was expelled from his position as assistant scoutmaster shortly after coming out.[11]

Lee Walzer argues that the BSA policy is unfair. Although he does not challenge the BSA rights regarding "a prospective leader presents himself as a role model inconsistent with Boy Scouting's understanding of the Scout Oath and Law", he rejects the notion that being openly gay makes a man a bad role model for Boy Scouts.[12]

United States

The United States, has policies which prohibit atheists, agnostics, and known or "avowed homosexuals" from membership in its Scouting program; both youths and adults have had their memberships revoked as a result. The BSA contends that these policies are essential in its mission to instill in young people the values of the Scout Oath and Law.[5][13] The BSA also prohibits girls from participating in Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting. These policies are controversial and are considered by some to be discriminatory.[14][15]

The organization's legal right to have these policies has been upheld repeatedly by both [16]

World Organization of the Scout Movement

The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) has a membership of 155 National Scout Organizations with more than 28 million individuals. [1] [2] Only one national Scouting organization per country is recognized by WOSM. In some countries the National Scout Organization is a federation composed of more than one Scout association. The groups represented by a federation are sometimes divided on the basis of religion (e.g., Denmark and France), ethnicity (e.g., Bosnia and Israel), or native language (e.g., Belgium).[17]

WOSM requires member National Scout Organizations to reference "duty to God" in their Scout Promises (see WOSM Scout Promise requirements). This requirement causes difficulties for atheists and agnostics seeking Scouting membership.

Eurasian Scout Region

There is some controversy because several members of the Asia-Pacific, or Arab Scout Regions, along cultural lines and national preference, to provide Scouts fresh perspective. As the Baltic states-Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia-have joined the European Region, there is precedence for this solution. In addition, there is no corresponding Eurasian Region for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, the republics are divided geographically between WAGGGS' Europe Region and Asia Pacific Region. Besides their shared tsarist and Soviet past, the 12 members of the Eurasian Region have little in common. Some, like Armenia and Azerbaijan, have waged war on each other, some like Georgia and Ukraine, allow open opposition, while others, like Belarus and Turkmenistan, have turned to authoritarianism reminiscent of Soviet times. Further, as none of the republics have had their Scout movements returned for much more than a decade, it is viewed that they would benefit from the expertise of the neighboring Scout associations in those Regions.

Other Scouting organization conflict

Scouting organizations have been involved in other types of conflict and controversy both internally and externally.


Canada is the only country with more than one Scouting organization separately recognized by WOSM, Scouts Canada and Association des Scouts du Canada, which are divided by language.

Some members of Scouts Canada are upset with Scouts Canada's restructuring, including a loss of voting rights at the local level. In response, [18]

In 1998, the [20] despite the fact that there are two WOSM recognised associations in Canada, and that Baden-Powell originally intended for Scouts Patrols to operate in a range of organisations.[21]

The B-PSAC no longer use the title Scout, and have reformed as the Baden-Powell Service Association Federation of Canada. Scouts Canada continue to monitor the B-PSA, and will not allow their members to share resources, equipment or personnel with them.[22]

Militarism in early Scouting movement

Before the start of Scouting there was criticism about a possible military goal of Scouting. It culminated in a schism where [23] Baden-Powell always strongly denied this.[24][25]

  • The base of Scouting, the book "Scouting for boys ", was not a rewrite of the popular "Aids to Scouting", a small instruction book Baden-Powell wrote about military Scouting. Baden-Powell transferred only the techniques to non-military heroes: backwoodsman, explorers, sailors and airmen.[26] "Scouting for Boys" has no military content.
  • Some refer to a military hierarchy, but in contrary Scouting has an anti-authoritarian streak.[25] The Patrol leader is a leader, but should originally be elected by members of the patrol. About the Scoutmaster Baden-Powell "stipulated that the position of Scoutmaster was to be neither that of a schoolmaster nor of a commander Officer, but rather that of an elder brother among his boys, not detached or above them individually".[26] These are no military hierarchy.
  • Baden-Powell did support the learning of rifle use, which even resulted in a few pages of instruction in "Scouting for Boys". This had however no military aim, but would be useful if boys really became frontiersmen by settling in the colonies, which Baden-Powell advertised.[27]
  • The uniform was and still is the strongest suggestion of a military Scouting. Baden-Powell gave three reasons for the uniform: the boys like it, it gives a group feeling and it covers differences in wealth. The first reason he explains as giving the boys a direct connection to their heroes, so as part of the theatrical side of the Scouting game.[26] However in reality, most of those heroes did not wear uniforms.

Despite the above, Baden-Powell announced in the Headquarters Gazette in November 1914 that he was forming the Scout Defence Corps. Although he stated that this was non-militaristic, the Corps was intended to provide boys able to do "whatever was necessary" in the event of a German invasion, with Scouts being mostly trained as general infantry. Officers of the Scout Training Corps were encouraged to have links with officers in the regular army, and were urged to use the War Office's 1914 'Infantry Training Manual' alongside Baden-Powell's 'Aids to Scouting'.[28] The standards for the award of the Red Feather were laid out in a publication Marksmanship for Boys, written by Baden-Powell. The booklet included instruction in marksmanship and military drill, and concluded with a statement about changes in uniform that would take place should the Corps be accepted by the War Office,[29] although this recognition was denied in March 1915.

The absence of many military aspects does not mean that Baden-Powell was anti-military. His efforts for peace became stronger in time, making him anti-war, but he disapproved of anti-militarism. He even did not see any harm in training in a military way.[24][30] One reason for not using military items can been seen from his reaction on the Boys Brigade. It was the intention of Baden-Powell to make an attractive boys game and he thought that the military was not attractive enough.[25] The second reason was that some parents would object military training, which would limit the reach of Scouting.[31] There was probably another reason. The centre of his Scout method was individuality (opposite to the group), making own decisions (opposite to following the commander), doing good turns, self-learning (opposite to instruction by drill)[31] and a game based on theatre and "make believe". These would never survive in a military scheme. Baden-Powell did use some parts of his profession which he found useful, like the uniform and some names, but these are always externals, rarely the essential fighting intention of military or specific military techniques.

See also


  1. ^ Parsons, Timothy. "Race, Resistance, and the Boy Scout Movement in British Colonial Africa". Ohio University Press and Swallow Press. Retrieved 2006-12-25. 
  2. ^ [3]
  3. ^ "What was Baden-Powell's position on God and Religion in Scouting?". Faqs. 1998. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  4. ^ Baden-Powell, Robert (1912). "Baden-Powell on Religion". Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  5. ^ a b "Duty to God". BSA Legal Issues. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  6. ^ "BSA and Religious Belief". BSA Retrieved 2006-10-16. 
  7. ^ "Scouts Canada FAQ". Scouts Canada. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  8. ^ BPSA-US Policy & Guidelines
  9. ^ "World Scouting Movement". BSA Discrimination. Retrieved 2006-07-14. 
  10. ^ Scout UK Equal Opportunity Policy for young people and for adults.
  11. ^ The Advocate - Apr 14, 1998
  12. ^ Gay Rights on Trial: A Reference Handbook
  13. ^ "Core Values". BSA Legal. Retrieved 2006-10-02. 
  14. ^ "Boy Scouts & Public Funding: Defending Bigotry as a Public Good". Retrieved 2006-11-14. 
  15. ^ "Discrimination in the BSA". BSA Discrimination. Retrieved 2006-09-04. 
  16. ^ "Supreme Court Won't Review Berkeley Sea Scouts' Case". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2006-10-25. Retrieved 2006-10-17. 
  17. ^ List of World Organization of the Scout Movement members#Table of World Organization of the Scout Movement members
  18. ^ Scout Eh!
  19. ^ Scouts Canada strays from tradition
  20. ^ Scouts organization ordered to change name
  21. ^ "Scouting Milestones: Brother Organisations - The Boys' Brigade, the YMCA and the Church Lads' Brigade". Archived from the original on 2012-09-13. 
  22. ^ Scouts Canada letter regarding B-PSA, September 10 2004 (pdf)
  23. ^  
  24. ^ a b  
  25. ^ a b c
  26. ^ a b c  
  27. ^
  28. ^ "The Scouts Defence Corps and the Red Feather". Archived from the original on 2012-09-09. 
  29. ^ Marksmanship for Boys
  30. ^  
  31. ^ a b  
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