Reuters, Nov. 5, 2002
SEATTLE – A 19-year-old Washington state Eagle Scout with a decade of exemplary service will be ejected from the Boy Scouts of America for refusing to profess a belief in God, the group’s regional governing body said on Tuesday.
Darrell Lambert, an assistant scoutmaster in Port Orchard, Washington, 20 miles west of Seattle, first told local scouting officials he was an atheist a month ago.
According to the Scouts’ Chief Seattle Council, which oversees the Seattle area district, Lambert’s atheism violates the 92-year-old Scout Oath, which reads: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country…”
The Boy Scouts, which exclude girls along with atheists and homosexuals, won U.S. Supreme Court approval to ban gay troop leaders in 2000, drawing a broad range of criticism and triggering some large donors to stop funding the group.
Calling itself “broadly ecumenical,” the group noted in a statement that it is open to all religions, “from Methodists and Catholics to Hindus.”
“We regret that Mr. Lambert feels his beliefs must be compromised,” the group said. “We certainly respect the opinions of others and their right to choose to believe as they believe. We only ask those who disagree with the Boy Scouts to show scouting the same respect.”
Calls to Lambert and his parents were not immediately returned.
The U.S. high court voted 5-4 to overturn a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that the Boy Scouts had illegally ousted an assistant troop master who was also co-president of Rutgers University’s Lesbian/Gay Alliance.
The court in that decision ruled the Scouts were entitled to bar leaders that did not agree with its core moral values, citing First Amendment rights of free expression and association of a private group.
The Scouts boast 5 million members, including 43,000 in the Seattle area. The group’s rolls include baseball’s home run king Hank Aaron, 142 astronauts, journalist Walter Cronkite, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates and former U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.