Boy Scouts Attacked on Octorara Campus

The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting, and Finance and Policy Committee Meetings on April 20, 2015. Eight Board Members were in attendance, Shawna Johnson was absent.

During the meeting, the Board approved all listed recommended action items.

Budget Presentation

School BudgetOther than some minor alterations, the 2015-16 Budget has gone unchanged from our previous discussions.

The 2015-16 Budget currently includes $50.7 Million in Expenditures, a $1.5 Million increase over 2014-15, with $48.2 Million in Revenue.

The resulting $2.45 Million shortfall will be paid for by a tax increase, that will generate $693,822, and by using $1.76 Million from the Fund.

The millage in Chester County will be 37.51, an increase of 2.3% from 2014-2015, and the millage in Lancaster County will be 27.20, an increase of 2.9%.

Resolution Authorizing Proposed Budget Display and Advertising

This evening, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the Proposed Budget’s Display and Advertising. It is a requirement of the State that Districts display their Budgets for at least 30 days prior to the final vote. This resolution was passed now because waiting till May would only be 28 days.

The resolution passed unanimously, absent one. However, after the vote, Lisa Bowman stated that the unanimous vote represented agreement with the current Budget, but if that was not the case, speak now or forever hold your peace. I spoke up.

Mr Curtis repeatedly stated this resolution does not tie Board members to this Budget, nor does it obligate them to vote in any specific way in June. The only purpose for the resolution was for the purpose of “Display and Advertising.” My vote was to open the Budget to public review and discussion, not to show agreement or end discussion among Board members.

I reminded my colleagues that Dr Newcome mentioned creating a “cut list” last month and I would like to explore making cuts to the budget that will either reduce the amount needed from the Fund, or reduce the total tax increase.

Objection to Boy Scout Assemblies

North American Hindu AssociationEarlier this year, a local Boy Scout troop was allowed to give a presentation to students, at an assembly during school hours. This week, The Freethought Society visited the Octorara Are School Board, to “educate” us about the evils of the Boy Scouts of America, and their “practice of discrimination” against atheists.

When I first heard the claims, I wanted to know what the Boy Scouts policies really were, not what they are said to be. The Scouts have badges representing 39 religions that include not only a variety of Christian denominations, Judaism, and Islam, but also religions like such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. These badges, and the associated workbooks, are developed by corresponding religious organizations, not the Scouts themselves

Yes, the Scouts do want members to profess a belief in God, but it is whatever God means to them. They don’t make kids pray, and they don’t require them to go to church. It is very difficult for me to accept the label of the Scouts being discriminatory when they use the word “God” so broadly that it could mean Yahweh, Allah, Dionysos, or Cthulhu.

I read through what The Freethought Society has written about all this… what they sent to the Board, posted on their website, what they wrote in their newsletter, and what they said to local news. They mention that the Boy Scouts are a nonsecular organization, but their entire argument seemed focused on Christianity. The Boy Scouts are nonsecular, not Christian. In fact, their partnership with Buddhism (which could be described as a nontheist religion) dates back to the 1920s.

In this debate, repeatedly referenced was the Separation of Church and State, and the First Amendment. What does the First Amendment say?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Boy Scouts of America is not a religious organization; it is a nonsecular organization. The Scouts do not represent any establishment of religion, and the District allowing the Scouts into the school is not an endorsement of any religion. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the Boy Scouts should continue to be allowed into the school.

I was very happy to see members of the community show up, speak up, and support the Boy Scouts. I don’t think this issue is going away, but I am happy to see some level of unity within the community.

8 thoughts on “Boy Scouts Attacked on Octorara Campus

  1. Ridiculous that time was wasted on this. Two of our boys are in Scouts and our family tends to have agnostic philosophies – at no point in time has any religion or belief system been at the forefront of the boys activities or requirements. Nor have we or our boys been made to feel uncomfortable with our own thoughts or beliefs or lack there of. We are extremely happy with the Scout’s guidance and encouragement of young men developing good character and becoming responsible, well rounded adults who are able to contribute to society. Fully believe that a group like the Freethought Society only believes in allowing for free thoughts when they are strictly in line with their own. I would think that they could find much more important issues – or actual issues for that matter – to spend their time on.

  2. I believe the headline on your blogpost is a reach. The school board did not allow the members of the FreeThought organization to present their views at the meeting. Was their mere presence at the meeting an “attack?” As a member of this community, I believe this is a discussion we should be having, but I’m fearful of coming forward precisely because raising the issue however gently constitutes “AN ATTACK ON BOY SCOUTS!”

    Here is a question I think we should consider…”Is it acceptable for the Octorara School District to allow the BSA to conduct an assembly during school hours, when that organization according to it’s own published policy, discriminates against homosexuals?” Octorara School district does not discriminate based on an employee’s sexual orientation in employment matters. I don’t question the “goodness” of the local troop and how well intentioned the local leadership is, and the value of the life experiences that the Boy Scouts offer. I do believe that our community is stronger when our public organizations recognize our shared humanity. We all have blind spots and I appreciate the Freethought Society not being afraid to raise the issue.

    • This whole issue was born, based on available information, on one anonymous person being offended, and taking their complaint to an activist organization, who then began acting in an aggressive and threatening manner, rather than to the Administration or Board. There has been no examples of the local troops actively discriminating against anyone. This type of behavior is an attack, in my opinion, and forces people into their ideological corners. The behavior does not foster positive and reasoned conversation.

      For example… the issue with gay persons is something that does concern me, but it is a bit more complicated than they just don’t let gay people join. The prohibition is on gay adults, but that is going to change too. There is no doubt, and there are people within Scouts working on change. The Northeastern region tried to push a resolution that would allow individual troops to choose, but the push back was that there needed to be change at the national level. Currently, it is more a “don’t ask, don’t tell” thing, and the policy revolves around the idea that sex and sexuality are issues not for the Scouts, but for parents and clergy.

      Last month, we had parents, students, and teachers come to the School Board meeting, in unusually large numbers, when a Board Member made comments about the school’s performance of How to Get Ahead in Business Without Trying. When that Board Member tried to explain his position, he was heckled by the crowd. No one was afraid of retaliation. There is also no history of this Administration or Board retaliating against anyone.

      One cannot point a gun at someone’s head (just in case you don’t know, I’m speaking metaphorically) and then say you just wanted to talk.

      • Nobody is opposed to students choosing to join the Boy Scouts of America on their own time. The issue is that a public (as in government-funded) school is giving them time and space and faculty/teacher support to this “nonsecular” organization. It’s really that simple. The assemblies should be held in a private building, such as a church.

        Personally I have no reason to think the Administration would be uncivil or even retaliate against a faculty member or parent, and I would have liked it if the offended teacher felt comfortable speaking directly to members of the board, but that person didn’t so I spoke and the Freethought Society attempted to speak on that person’s behalf.

        I’m really not sure why Mr. Alexander would see the Freethought Society as being threatening. Perhaps when I spoke I came off as antagonistic or aggressive which was unintentional, but I am passionate about the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and what Thomas Jefferson has referred to as the Separation of Church and State. (Plus I had four hours of sleep before the meeting as I work overnight.)

        While there are other important issues the Administration has to deal with that may be more urgent, the issue of potential discrimination against atheists and gays is important as well.

        The fact that a Scout can fill in whatever concept of god they wish for the oath or religious badges is irrelevant, because a Scout may have no concept of a god at all. The Boy Scouts Charter and Bylaws explicitly spouts the nonsensical divisive statement in their , “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God.”

        I’m glad to hear of local chapters of the BSA that don’t push faith or religion onto the Scouts, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for Octorara to implicitly endorse this national organization that does clearly promote discrimination currently.

        While no offended student or parent has come forward yet to say that they are uncomfortable with the assemblies, why should the Administration wait until one does to take action? Simply discontinue the assemblies and let the BSA recruit elsewhere.

      • Mr Stoltzfus,

        I appreciate that you took the time to speak, and that you took the time to comment on my blog post. My comments that the Freethought Society was acting in an aggressive and threatening manner was not directed at you.

        I listened very carefully to your comments, and appreciate your point of view, and what may be shaping your opinion. I have had similar experiences with people, but those people are not the Boy Scouts.

        We are going to have to agree to disagree on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In my opinion, the phrase an establishment of religion clearing refers to government not becoming entangled with any specific religion. It does not mean that government cannot have a respect for religion in general. There is a Golden Mean (the desirable middle between two extremes) that the Founders were obviously attempting to reach.

        Regardless, at the end of the day, the demands made by the Freethought Society are based on what the national organization says, not what the local organizations are actually doing. I know of examples of atheists and agnostics participating in the local troops without discrimination. There is nothing negative being said about the local troops, or their leadership. If the Freethought Society wants to challenge the national organization, that is where they need to focus their energy.

    • I believe the Freethought Society’s “issue” is a reach.

      The Scouts are a great organization that does amazing things for the community as well as for the boys that are members. Also, stating that the organization’s current published policy is to discriminate against gays would be incorrect. A simple google search will get you their policy. But seeing that you must be too busy to do the actual research yourself, I’ll post it for you.

      “On May 23, 1,232 voting members of the Boy Scouts of American voted on a resolution that maintains its current membership policy for all adult leaders and states that youth may not be denied membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. The resolution passed with 757 votes, a 61% majority.”

      But don’t let truth and facts get in the way of some good ‘ole fake outrage.

      • I stand corrected. Here I thought that the policy had recently changed. Tim is correct, it’s more of a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Sorry for my smug reply.

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