Religious emblems programs (Boy Scouts of America)

Religious emblems programs (Boy Scouts of America)

Infobox WorldScouting
name=Religious emblem

caption=Knot for Adult Religious Emblem
Knot for Youth Religious Emblem
Devices for Youth Religious Emblem
f-date =1926 |country=United States
members=44,430 youth
1,476 adult awarded in 2007 [cite web |url= |title=Religious Emblems Report - 2007 |year=2008 |publisher=P.R.A.Y. |accessdate=2008-07-27]
award-for=To encourage members to grow stronger in their faith
A variety of religious emblems programs are used by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to encourage youth to learn about their faith and to recognize adults who provide significant service to youth in a religious environment. These religious programs are created, administered and awarded by the various religious groups, not the BSA, but each program must be recognized by the BSA.


The award given by the religious organization consists of a unique medal for each program— usually only worn on formal occasions. The award is also recognized by the wear of an embroidered square knot emblem— silver on purple for youth and purple on silver for adults. The knot emblem is universal in that it does not represent any specific religion or religious award program. Each medal is designed and produced by the religious institution, while the knot emblems are produced by the BSA. Many Protestant churches use the God and Country program series consisting of God and Me, God and Family, God and Church and God and Life; although they use the same program, the medals are unique in design according to each denomination.

The youth religious knot may be further identified as to level by the wear of a miniature pin-on device. The first-level program is identified by the Cub Scout device and the second by the Webelos device. The third-level uses the Boy Scout device. The fourth-level program for Venturers, senior Boy Scouts and senior Varsity Scouts is recognized by the use of the Venturer device, regardless of the program division of the youth. [cite book |title=Insignia Guide 2007 |publisher=Boy Scouts of America |date=2007 |isbn=0-8395-3066-8 |id=#33066 |url= |accessdate=2008-04-25]


The Scout Law states in part: "A Scout is reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion." [cite book |editor=Boy Scouts of America |title=Handbook for Boys |edition=First |year=1911 |publisher=Doubleday, Page and Company |location=Garden City, New York ] The BSA "Declaration of Religious Principle" states that "no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation of God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life." [cite web |url= |title=Boy Scouts of America Youth Application, 28-406 |accessdate=2007-04-04 |publisher=Boy Scouts of America ]

The first religious recognition program for Scouts began in 1926 when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles began the Ad Altare Dei for altar boys who were Boy Scouts. [cite web |url= |title=A Brief History of the Catholic Religious Emblems Programs |accessdate=2007-04-04 |author=David L. Peavy |work=History of US Catholic Scouting ] The program was expanded nationally in 1939 and the BSA approved the medal for uniform wear.

The first Protestant religious emblem program was established in 1943 by the Lutheran church as Pro Deo Et Patria. [cite web |url= |title=A Scout's Duty to God and Country |accessdate=2007-04-04 |author=Michael F. Bowman and James Bryan |date=1998 |work=U.S. Scouting Service Project] The Jewish Ner Tamid program began in 1944 and the God and Country program used by several Protestant denominations followed in 1954. As of 2007 there are over 35 religious groups represented by over 75 recognized emblems. The knot for the youth emblems was introduced in 1971 and for the adult emblems in 1973. [cite web |url= |title=Illustrated History of BSA Square Knot Evolution and Private Issues |accessdate=2007-04-09 |work=Insane Scouter ]

Program approval

Prior to 1993, the BSA simply reviewed the programs developed by each faith. After requests for new awards in 1993, the BSA established a policy statement outlining requirements for recognition. [cite web |url= |title=Policy of the Boy Scouts of America Pertaining to Recognitions Granted by Churches, Synagogues, Temples, Mosques and Other Religious Organizations |accessdate=2007-04-04 |work=BSA ] To gain recognition, a proposed program must be approved by the BSA Religious Relationships Committee, the religious organization must charter at least 25 units, and the program must have a national scope. The medal or badge design must also be approved and must be different from the emblems of other programs.

Programs of Religious Activities with Youth

Programs of Religious Activities with Youth, more commonly known as P.R.A.Y., is a not-for-profit organization that administers a series of religious recognitions programs that may be used by agencies such as the BSA, Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire USA, American Heritage Girls, and other youth groups. [cite web |url= |title=P.R.A.Y. Publishing |accessdate=2007-04-04 |publisher=P.R.A.Y. Publishing ]

P.R.A.Y. consists of a national board and a business office. The national board of directors is a Christian organization with representatives from churches and national youth agencies. The board develops the curriculum and establishes guidelines for the God and Country religious awards program used by many Protestant churches. [cite web |url= |title=About Us |accessdate=2007-04-11 |publisher=P.R.A.Y. Publishing ] The P.R.A.Y. business office processes orders for the medals and reference materials used in the God and Country program and the programs of other religious organizations.

Other religious organizations have requested that the P.R.A.Y. business office administer their awards since they handle religious recognitions orders on a full-time basis. The requests are taken to the board of directors for consideration on a case-by-case basis. The religious organizations which contract with the P.R.A.Y. business office retain all responsibility for curriculum development and establishing program guidelines, and the P.R.A.Y. business office processes their orders. Thus, P.R.A.Y. has become an interfaith resource.

Each agency ,including as the BSA, determines which P.R.A.Y.-administered programs meet their standards before giving their recognition. All of the BSA recognized programs are listed through P.R.A.Y., regardless of whether they are administered by P.R.A.Y.

maller programs

The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the oldest and largest cross-traditional groups among Wiccans and neopagans. In the early 1990s, they created the Over the Moon and the Hart and Crescent programs for youth and the Distinguished Youth Service Award for adults. [cite web |url= |title=Awards Programs |accessdate=2007-04-09 |publisher=Covenant of the Goddess ] The Covenant of the Goddess approached the BSA for recognition of these programs. The BSA declined and later adopted the policy requiring that a religious group must first charter at least 25 BSA units before its religious awards program may be recognized. P.R.A.Y. currently does not list any of the Covenant of the Goddess religious programs.

Approved programs and awards

The following awards are recognized by the BSA and the religious emblems knot may be worn upon completion of the program. [cite web |url= |title=Religious Emblems Programs |accessdate= 2008-06-17|publisher=Boy Scouts of America ]

*This includes: Assemblies of God, Church of the Brethren, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God, Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Mennonite, Church of the Nazarene, Pentecostal, Reformed, Seventh-day Adventist, United Church of Christ and Wesleyan churches.

While optional, the programs may be used to fulfill certain requirements of the Cub Scout Bear and Webelos ranks, the Venturing Religious Life Bronze Award and the Venturing TRUST Award. [cite web |author=|year=2003 |url= |title=Bear Badge Requirements |format=| work= |publisher= U.S. Scouting Service Project |accessdate=2007-04-05] [cite web |author=|year=2003 |url=| title=Webelos Badge Requirements |format=| work= |publisher= U.S. Scouting Service Project |accessdate=2007-04-05] [cite web |author=|year=2003 |url=| title=Religious Life Bronze Award |format=| work= |publisher= U.S. Scouting Service Project |accessdate=2007-04-05] [cite web |author=|year=2003 |url=| title=TRUST Venturing Religious and Community Life Award |format=| work= |publisher= U.S. Scouting Service Project |accessdate=2007-04-05] Instruction for these programs is provided by the religious organization; unit leaders are involved only if they are also part of the religious organization. Many of the religious programs involve the youth's parents.

Many of the religious organizations also have awards for adult BSA members; however, these awards are almost always recognition for service to the religion within Scouting. The adults are nominated for the award; they do not go through a program.

Other awards

P.R.A.Y. has developed several other awards that are not specifically recognized by the BSA. Mentors may be recognized by a pin or pendant that may be worn on non-Scouting apparel. [cite web |url= |title=Are There Awards for Parent Participation With a Scout in a Religious Emblem Program? |accessdate=2007-04-04 |work=U.S. Scouting Service Project ] There is also a four-star recognition pin for youth who have earned all four levels of their program. Other groups may have similar awards for individuals and units that are not listed through P.R.A.Y. If approved by the local council, they may be worn as temporary insignia on the right pocket of the Scout uniform.

P.R.A.Y. also offers its own "Duty to God" segment patch program for Scouts of all ages and adult advisers of all faiths, designed to promote their religious awards programs. To earn the patch, girls and adults must attend or make an interfaith presentation about religious awards, then fulfill a personal commitment of their choice that fulfills their "duty to God" as promised in the Boy Scout Oath, such as promoting, earning, or helping another girl earn the religious award for her faith. There are four segments for the patch. One is offered yearly, called the "anchor patch", while the other three are offered yearly on a rotational basis. After one patch is released, the previous year's patch is discontinued for the next three years, then is reinstated again for a one year period. As of August 2008, only two of these three patches have been released.

Unitarian Universalist Association

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)—a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations—has a Religion in Life program that is no longer recognized by the BSA. The Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization (UUSO) is an association of UUA Scouts who offer emblems programs that are recognized by the BSA.

The UUA published statements opposing the BSA's policies on homosexuals, atheists and agnostics in 1992; and in 1993, the UUA updated Religion in Life to include criticism of these BSA policies. [cite journal |url= |title=The Boy Scouts, a Battle and the Meaning of Faith |accessdate=2008-07-27 |first=Gustav |last=Niebuhr |date=1999-05-22 |publisher=New York Times] In 1998, the BSA withdrew recognition of Religion in Life, stating that such information was incompatible with BSA programs. The UUA removed the material from their curriculum and the BSA renewed their recognition of the program. When the BSA found that the UUA was issuing supplemental material with the Religion in Life workbooks that included statements critical of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or personal religious viewpoint, the BSA again withdrew recognition. [cite journal |last=Isaacson |first=Eric Alan |year=2007 |month= |title=Traditional Values, or a New Tradition of Prejudice? The Boy Scouts of America vs. the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations |journal=George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal |volume=17 |issue=1 |url= |accessdate=2007-06-24]

The UUSO created the Living Your Religion program in May 2005 as a parallel award for Boy Scouts of the Unitarian faith.cite web |url= |title=Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization |accessdate=2007-04-11 |date=March 5, 2006] It was announced by P.R.A.Y. in the first quarter of 2005 that the BSA had accepted the Living your Religion award, but this was later redacted. The program was promoted at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree and shown as having BSA approval in the UUSO membership brochure and the Living Your Religion Guidebook. [cite web |url= |title= Unitarian Universalist Worship Service |accessdate=2007-07-07 |date=2006 |publisher=Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization ] [cite web |url= |title=2006 UUSO Membership Brochure |accessdate=2007-07-08 |date=March 5, 2006 |publisher=Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization ] [cite web |url= |title=Living Your Religion: A Unitarian Universalist Religious Award Program for Boy Scouts and Venturers |accessdate=2007-07-08 |date=February 1, 2005 |publisher=Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization ] The UUA had stated that the UUSO is not recognized as an affiliate organization. [cite web |title=UUA and the Scouts: Statement from the Unitarian Universalist Association |url= |accessdate=2007-07-08 |date=2005-03-16 |publisher=Unitarian Universalist Association] The UUA released the Religion and Family program for Webelos Scouts in February 2008.

The BSA and the UUSO now have a memorandum of support and the UUSO Living Your Religion and Religion and Family are listed through P.R.A.Y. [cite web |url= |title=Memorandum of Mutual Support |publisher=Boy Scouts of America |accessdate=2008-07-27] Although the BSA web site has not been updated, [cite web |url= |title=Religious Emblems Programs Available to Members of the Boy Scouts of America |accessdate=2008-07-27 |publisher=Boy Scouts of America] the "Duty to God" brochure does list the emblems. [cite book |title=Duty to God |publisher=Boy Scouts of America |date=2008 |url= |accessdate=2008-07-27]

ee also

*Religion in Scouting
*Scout Sunday or Scout Sabbath
*Scout vespers


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