UCTAA churchlight

Site Search via Google

Ask the Patriarch 192
Earning a Scout merit badge

from: C____*

A discussion on this article has been opened in Debate and Discourse. Please feel free to add your own thoughts to the exchange of views via the contact page

Long story short, a merit badge for Boy Scouts is requiring me to donate 10% of revenues to a charitable cause. I balk at this (b/c I donate 500+ hrs/yr), and kinda want to spit in their face… and what's better than to say "I'm an agnostic" with a donation? You don't want money though, so suggest another organization I can donate to.

PS I am legitimately agnostic. But I don't think it's reasonable to expect a teenager to donate to anything, so my monetary motives are sullied.

The Patriarch replies:

C____:

Your query raises a number of issues which I will address, though I will not directly give you the answer you are looking for.

I don't think it's reasonable to expect a teenager to donate to anything.

I do believe in charitable giving, and that applies regardless of age. I think that it is in our own interests to lend a helping hand to those we share the planet with. But, giving should arise out of a genuine concern for others, not because it gives some form of return such as: salvation in an afterlife; a tax deduction; or a badge to sew on a shirt. I'm not saying those benefits should not be taken, just that they should not be the underlying cause of our giving.

But, charitable giving does not have to be cash. It can be time and effort, material possessions which we decide would be better used by others, or even parts of our bodies through organ and blood donations. (Though it is better that most organ donations take place after death.)

As you say you already donate 500+ hours a year - a very creditable 10 hours a week on average - I do agree that demanding 10% of your earnings in addition may be a little much. And I question the right of BSA to demand this.

a merit badge for Boy Scouts is requiring me to donate 10% of revenues to a charitable cause.

I wondered what merit badge would demand this, so I looked up the BSA web page dealing with merit badges. Now I did not examine the qualifications for every one of the 121 badges, just those that looked applicable. I was unable to find one which specified this 10% financial requirement. The closest fit I found was the Citizenship in the Community merit badge. Under item 7 the requirement is:

Do the following:

  1. Choose a charitable organization outside of Scouting that interests you and brings people in your community together to work for the good of your community.
  2. Using a variety of resources (including newspapers, fliers and other literature, the Internet, volunteers, and employees of the organization), find out more about this organization.
  3. With your counselor's and your parent's approval, contact the organization and find out what young people can do to help. While working on this merit badge, volunteer at least eight hours of your time for the organization. After your volunteer experience is over, discuss what you have learned with your counselor.

Perhaps a different badge is involved, but I could not find it. Perhaps your merit badge counsellor has informally added to the requirements. If that's the case, you should point out to him the official requirements for the badge.

[I] kinda want to spit in their face

I have to say I disagree with this. You are in Boy Scouts, supposedly because it benefits you. You should be getting something out of the experience. I don't know how much being an agnostic means to you, but if you feel strongly about it, you are already compromising your principles given the references to God in the Scout Law and the Scout Oath.

I'm not criticizing you for that - there are times in life when we all compromise to a degree, because we get something which seems more valuable out of it. However, when we get to the point of want to spit in their face the return is no longer there. If getting the badge means spitting in the face of scouting, then it is time for you to say no to the badge, and say no to scouting. Most communities have other groups which provide similar personal development and leadership skills to young men and women. It may be time to look elsewhere.

There are things about BSA that I disagree with, and they have not moved on in the way the Boy Scout organizations of some other countries have so as to be more inclusive. But I do not support the idea of making a donation just to spite them. It would not be productive anyway. The BSA leadership would lose no sleep over it.

so suggest another organization I can donate to.

But perhaps you want to stay in Scouting and work your way towards Eagle Scout, and this badge is a mandatory for advancement. Then I suggest you act as the requirements for the badge call for..

  1. Choose a charitable organization outside of Scouting that interests you and brings people in your community together to work for the good of your community.
  2. Using a variety of resources (including newspapers, fliers and other literature, the Internet, volunteers, and employees of the organization), find out more about this organization.

And as the requirement relates to "people in your community together to work for the good of your community," you are better placed to find an appropriate organization than I am. The national and international charities I might suggest may not meet the requirement. So you will have to do it yourself, which is appropriate. The intent of most of the merit badges seems to be to get you to do some research and learn something.

Best wishes

John Tyrrell

Note:

* Name removed by request 17 Nov 2008 - see discussion