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AAI Calls for Obama to Turn Down BSA Presidency

AAI Press Release, January 15, 2009

Atheist Alliance International has joined other national atheist, humanist, freethought and secular organization leaders to call on President-Elect Barack Obama to decline the role of honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America because of its discriminatory policies of excluding atheist and gay youths and adults from participating in its organization.

The Boy Scouts of America traditionally ask sitting US presidents to serve as honorarypresident of their organization, even though the position is strictly ceremonial. The BSA also regularly receives Congressional funding, even though the organization claims a religious mission and has a longstanding policy to exclude atheists and gays from their organization.

AAI feels that Obama's acceptance of such a position would send the wrong message to Americans, especially those whom the BSA has excluded. "The Boy Scouts of America have practiced, with near immunity, systematic discrimination against nontheists since its inception in 1910," said Stuart Bechman, president of Atheist Alliance International. "With the BSA's 99th anniversary coming this next February 8th, only a few weeks after President-Elect Barack Obama is inaugurated, his declining of the honorary president position of the BSA would send a strong message to end this discrimination, hopefully before the 100th anniversary of the BSA."

While a number of countries have several separate Scouting organizations, divided by religion or language, with different uniforms, advancement, and national hierarchies, the United States has a single national male Scouting organization, the Boy Scouts of America, which was founded by William Boyce, a Chicago publisher, on February 8, 1910, but which was granted a US Congressional charter for its national importance and has received regular taxpayer funding ever since.

"The Boy Scouts get it both ways," Bechman said. "They claim the right to discriminate based on being a private religious organization, yet they receive special privilege by the US President and Congress with impunity.
"The Girl Scouts of America have been inclusive of nontheists and gays since 1993. The Boy Scouts of America can be just as inclusive. We ask the future president of the United States of America to help end this discrimination and help make this possible."