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Issue 499.5 – September 1, 2016

This issue is an extension of my earlier column this week (No. 499—8/30/16), thanks to four dedicated Scouters who have information expanding on or fine-tuning answers to three issues in that column: Bob Elliott, Bob Firriolo, Mike Walton, and Robby Wright. Thanks for your insights, Scouters!

Here are the issues, each followed by supplemental information that may help us all…

A volunteer or youth can be denied membership in the BSA at any time upon request of the council’s Scout Executive, after he or she has consulted with the council’s legal advisor, who in turn checks with the BSA national office. In some cases, all that’s required is the Scout Executive’s belief that the person being denied doesn’t exhibit qualities embodied in the ideals of Scouting per the Scout Oath and Law.

A BSA booklet titled “Maintaining Standards for Volunteer Membership” provides guidance for Scout Executives. Within this guide, which is restricted to Scout Executives, Area Directors and Associate Area Directors, and Regional Team staff, are forms and step-by-step instructions which must be followed in order for the BSA’s National Director of Membership to make a determination.

On this specific question: “Upon denial of membership, neither this person nor any of us associated with either the chartered organization or the unit itself (I’m the unit’s Committee Chair) was provided with any alert or substantiation related to the denial. Is this allowed?” the answer is no, BSA policies do not allow this. What should have occurred is the following process:

– A registered letter, written on council letterhead, is sent to or delivered personally to the person being denied membership by the Scout Executive. The recipient thereupon signs a receipt accepting the letter, which explains that the person has been removed from registration with the local council (the letter, per BSA policy, does not describe the reason(s) for this action); that his or her membership dues for the remainder of the charter year have been refunded; that there is recourse for appeal of this decision at the regional and, if unsuccessful, at the national level), and the decision of the appeal at the National level is final; and that appropriate language from the BSA’s Charter and Bylaws basically stating that membership is at the discretion of the senior professional manager (i.e., Scout Executive) of the local council. A refund check, drafted from the BSA’s national account, accompanies the letter and any other materials.

– If the person is registered with a specific unit, a SCOUTNET transaction copy is provided to the head (i.e., “executive officer”) of the chartered organization with a copy of the letter given to the volunteer (or to his or her parents, if a youth member). (Note: There is no time limitation on an appeal.)

In the instant case, instead of reaching out to the council’s president, the denied volunteer should follow the instructions contained in the registered letter received; and if so such registered letter was sent or personally delivered, then this volunteer should write directly to the Regional Director of Membership at the BSA’s National Office requesting that another copy of the letter be sent to him or her and the chartered organizational head (suggestion: provide addresses) as soon as possible, and in a manner that provides a signature of receipt. (For the purposes of this conversation, we will assume that the Regional Director will respond in a reasonable time.)

The application form for the God and Me religious emblem has a “certificate of eligibility” requirement that says, “I hereby certify that the candidate has successfully completed the requirements for the God and Me program and has presented his/her work to the clergy for final approval” (emphasis is mine). (Note that “her” appears in the requirement because this religious emblem program is not limited to youth BSA members.) There is a further note stating: “…the clergy’s signature is preferred; however other signatures will be accepted.” The form also asks for the name and address of the church that sponsored the program or whose clergy reviewed the candidate’s work. These same requirements appear on the application form for all of the other Protestant religious emblems.

So, the short answer is that two parents cannot just get together and lead God and Me classes without any involvement by the clergy. However, the pastor can appoint a lay person (one of the parents, for instance) as the counselor who leads the actual classes, and the pastor can limit his/her own role to a review of the work with the youth and signing the award application form (or delegate the signature to the counselor). However minimal the clergy chooses to make their role, the clergy cannot be dispensed with entirely. By the way, a “mentor” is a “learner” along with the youth; he or she is not the “counselor.”

A “charitable organization” isn’t identical to a “non-profit.” Being non-profit simply means that an organization is not established to make a profit, as opposed to a for-profit business; it does not mean that it’s charitable organization.

While a “charitable organization” will obviously be a “non-profit”; it’s not always true the other way around.

There are many non-profit organizations that aren’t charitable organizations. For example, most private social clubs are non-profits, yet many don’t (and aren’t required to) act as charities. Other common forms of non-charity non-profits include social welfare organizations, labor unions, chambers of commerce, and fraternal benefit societies.

So for Cit-Community req. 7, the organization chosen by the Scout must not only be a charitable one, but must specifically “bring people in your community together to work for the good of your community.” (A private golf club is most likely a non-profit, but they are neither a charitable organization nor are they likely to be working for the good of the community, even though they certainly “bring people together.”)

So how does a Scout, or his counselor, determine whether an organization is one that meets req. 7? Part of the requirement is to “find out more about this organization” using a variety of resources. That would mean finding out that the organization is in fact charitable and works for the good of the Scout’s community. If these criteria can’t be met, then the search continues until the “right” kind of organization is found.

One additional point: “Dot-com” doesn’t automatically preclude an organization from being not-for-profit; for instance, many churches and other organizations use the “.com” extension because that’s what most people think of first when they try to figure out an organization’s URL. It might be better to see if the organization is classified as a 501(c)(3) by the IRS.

So I hope this additional information is as helpful for you as it’s been for me!

Happy Scouting!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 499.5 – 9/1/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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