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Sunday, October 31, 2010


Boy Scouts... of America??

I read an article recently about a mother and father whose two elementary school-aged sons were members of Boy Scout “pack,” sponsored by a Presbyterian (which falls under the umbrella of Protestant) Church. The couple enthusiastically volunteered for leadership positions in the pack, and the church was pleased to have them… until it was discovered that the family was Mormon. The parents were told that the boys could stay, but they would have to step down as leaders. The issue at hand is not if the church had the right to disallow the Mormon parents to be leaders. The article mentions court cases in which judges have ruled that packs can assign leaders as they choose.

(To be clear, this post is absolutely not anti-religious. It is pro-tolerance).

In Mancur Olson’s book, The Rise and Decline of Nations, he discusses incentives that cause some groups to choose to become exclusive and to limit the diversity of members’ values. According to Olson, groups remain exclusive because:
1) As a group becomes larger, each member receives a smaller share of the collective benefit;
2) If a group allows members from outside its wider social group (or class) in, its own social group receives “less of the pie” (or less of the collective good); and
3) Collective action is easier if the group is socially interactive.
Of course, in the context of the implication (Implication 8, specifically), Olson discusses distributional coalitions, but I think the basic theory can apply to any group—in other words, any exclusive group sees their incentives as Olson describes them.

So, as Olson’s theories are difficult to disprove, I can only think that individual (or individuals) believed some combination, or all, of the following:
1) The Mormon parents provided the children in the pack with less of a benefit than they would with a Christian leader;
2) the Mormon parents somehow created less of a benefit and/or tainted the good of Boy Scouts as a whole; and
3) by having Mormon leaders, the group as a whole (most likely the other parents, including ones largely uninvolved in the organization) would be less interactive and the pack would accomplish less. For example, maybe they believed that the Christian parents would not want to interact with the Mormon parents at all, and as a result would not attend special meetings and activities intended for the entire family, or participate in fundraising activities.

It’s kind of sad that an organization that stresses character building would discriminate against a family because of their religion. What’s worse is that this occurred in an organization called “Boy Scouts of America,” when America was built upon the doctrine of “Separation of Church and State.” Yes, they did say the boys could stay in the pack (the parents elected to withdraw them anyway), but of course the other children would ask why the boys’ parents were no longer leaders, and of course they would find out why, and of course if the church leaders and other parents discriminate, the other children will too. Would you leave your child in that type of environment? And do you think the church didn’t anticipate that?

Source: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130682153

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