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Boy Scouts Ask Open Source Community For Help 973

Lucas123 writes "The Boy Scouts of America are looking to the open-source community for help in building software to use for fundraisers, special events, and other functions, for their more than 121,000 local scout troops. Some open source advocates, who are former Boy Scouts, support the idea, despite a few reservations. According to the article, there are no plans for a scout merit badge in open source — but there has been a merit badge in computers since 1967, 'and it is possible that if the program is successful, it could eventually be used by IT-savvy scouts themselves.'"
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Boy Scouts Ask Open Source Community For Help

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  • yes, well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:20PM (#23731033) Homepage Journal

    Absolutely, love to help 'em.

    Just as soon as they lose the institutionalized homophobia and pandering to mythology.

    Other than that, I think they're entirely deserving of assistance. And yes, I was a boy scout. :)

    Of course, I recognize that as a private organization, they have the right to such stone age views; however, I also have the right to hold them accountable for them.

  • by pestie ( 141370 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:22PM (#23731081) Homepage
    The Boy Scouts still discriminate against atheists and homosexuals. They're also a huge organization with no shortage of cash, and they're infiltrated by ultra-conservative Mormons and other Jesus freaks []. They're just looking for something for free. Fuck 'em.
  • by 54mc ( 897170 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:37PM (#23731467)
    While I agree that discrimination by any group, including and perhaps especially the Boy Scouts is wrong, I can't help but think that the good far outweighs the bad. The program teaches many skills that today's youth lack. These include self-responsibility and helping others; two things which America's youth are surely lacking in.

    To BSA's critics who claim cases of "institutionalized homophobia" and other discriminations, I must ask that you show me where the "institutionalized" part of it comes in. The closest I can find to discrimination against atheists or gays is in the Scout Oath which states:
    "On my honor I will do my est to do my duty to God and my country" and "to keep myself... morally straight"
    The first of these, I agree, is pretty hard to argue around, but I'm going to try. The point of this part of the oath is not to affirm belief in god or higher power, but rather to show that you know you're not the most important person in the world. It is similar to the second and third steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which are:
    2. [We] came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. [We] made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    As I said, the point of these is not to turn the program into a religion, but rather to establish that the participant is not as important as they may think.

    Morally Straight - The oath does not state that one will be sexually straight, but rather morally straight. That is, they will do the right thing. I think the real problem here is not that the wording was designed to trick people, but rather that people have gotten so used to being politically correct that they can't see the word "straight" as meaning anything but heterosexual.
  • by Mavexe ( 1305293 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:38PM (#23731507)
    We didn't have any homo bashing people when I was in. We had kids who chose not to partake in religous activities (me being one of them). I will admit it's somewhat shiesty of them to ask for free software because they're so cheap, and that it will turn around to bite them on the ass years down the road. Is software like this necassary to sell popcorn anyways? Planning camp outs as well? Bust out the damned notebook paper.
  • thirded... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pointbeing ( 701902 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:44PM (#23731633)
    I have told scouts at fundraisers that the reason I don't support the Boy Scouts is because of their position on atheism and homosexuality.

    Interestingly, the Girl Scouts' official position is that they have no official position on homosexuality.

    Penn and Teller's show on the Boy Scouts was fascinating - turns out a huge chunk of the Boy Scouts is financed by the Mormon church.
  • Good Message (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rydia ( 556444 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:47PM (#23731709)
    Open Source Software: only for people we like.

    Or, answering bigotry with more bigotry.

    If someone wants to code their program for them, that's their business. If it helps the community, that is great. All this talk about the BSA "deserving" the help of "the community" is ridiculous. Just a load of projecting one's own feelings onto a very large and diverse group of people, who as smaller groups or individuals may or may not agree with your views.
  • Re:BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:49PM (#23731751)

    Nah, they just hate gays and atheists//agnostics.
    So, when it comes to instilling values and giving youths something to do, no gays nor atheists nor agnostics. When it comes to getting help from the open source community all of a sudden the help from those who are gay and/or atheist or agnostic is perfectly welcome for giving them some free (as in beer) stuff?

    Tell them to go shove it and write their own God-fearing straight-male software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:50PM (#23731813)
    I'm a strong Libertarian, a professional Linux programmer, _and_ a Sunday School teacher. My church (Unity) is Christian, while openly accepting gays and atheists / agnostics.

    Our old pastor was an Eagle Scout, but wouldn't allow us to sponsor a Scout Troop because of the homosexuality issue. Our new pastor is fine with us sponsoring a Scout Troop.

    I am 100% in agreement with the sentiments of all the other posts in this article, namely disgust with the BSA's infiltration by Mormons, pandering to the MPAA/RIAA, and prejudice against gays and non-Christians.

    Why then, you may be asking, would I still spend time and effort sponsoring a Scout Troop? Because it's the BEST WE'VE GOT. Go ahead, show me a comparably mature organization offering the structure young men need with free access to all of the campground and other facilities.

    There are students in my Sunday School class that we've lost to juvie or worse, tragedies that could have been avoided if there was something equivalent to a Scout Troop available. Even if we ran into problems with forming an official BSA Troop, we were going to create the non-BSA equivalent (Unity Scouts or something).

    Lastly, you can be damned certain we'll be teaching the kids good principles, not the gay-bashing or whatever most /.'ers seem to think is the only thing possible.

    I say the FOSS movement should step up to bat on this one to show we're not petty, angry little children like most of the comments I've seen so far.


    (Note: I'm only posting as AC to protect the identities of Church members and children.)
  • Re:yes, well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by demi ( 17616 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:51PM (#23731853) Homepage Journal

    Referring to religion as mythology is also HATE speech.

    I doubt I've read a more desperate or idiotic ploy. Religion and mythology are the same thing. A non-believer such as yourself doesn't believe in the Greek myths and as such you term them "mythology", do you not? You might think your religion is special, and you have a right to, but until you also think Muslims and Buddhists and Zoroastrians and Neopagans are equally special, then how can you profess not to be an unbeliever--of their "mythology"--just as much as I?

    Lumping people who don't believe in your particular brand of religion in with people who advocate the lynching of blacks or the extermination of gays (which is real "hate speech") is a ridiculous hyperbole that ensures anything you say need not be taken seriously, and especially skewers the supposed umbrage you take at the "intolerance" of people who disagree with you. It turns you into comic figure rather than a participant in a discussion.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @02:55PM (#23731963)
    My friend's son has happily grown up in an environment where gay friends and neighbors would happily babysit, never an issue - but he was sexually abused in the scouts a couple of years ago

    Being gay and being a paedophile are two different things

  • Re:BSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jor-Al ( 1298017 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:02PM (#23732169)
    You can also choose not to say the pledge. That was decided by the Supreme Court decades ago.
  • by natoochtoniket ( 763630 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:08PM (#23732299)

    I would be glad to help the Boy Scouts, if they will change their discrimination policy and allow me to register again. I was a scout, and then a scouter, for more than 15 years before the BSA made the policy that gay people may not be members. I have not registered since.

    They don't actually forbid gay people from registering. The actual policy only forbids honest gay people from registering. If a gay adult is willing to lie and stay "in the closet", it's ok. Of course, the actual implementation differs from the policy significantly. Most councils have periodic "witch hunts", in which even closeted gay men are expelled.

  • Re:MOD PARENT UP! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:09PM (#23732309)
    Boy Scouts use public land (eg. public schools, parks).

    Federal law says one cannot discriminate on religion (with exemption of private groups).

    When Boy Scouts exclusively use public land (school area is occupied and only for Boy Scouts), explain why they need not adhere to the religious discrimination policy?

  • Re:BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thephotoman ( 791574 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:13PM (#23732433) Journal
    And this is why I will not support them.

    Simply put, the group got taken over by the Kentucky Fried Christians, and ever since that time, I've been rather ashamed of the organization. There's also the major problem of the fear of litigation getting in the way of the things that were fun/educational/awesome/whatever. We'll not mention the asinine paperwork that just doesn't need to exist.

    That said, I do still keep my Eagle Scout card in my wallet after all these years.
  • Re:BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23732591) Homepage

    I was an atheist boy scout, and I used to get into discussions with the troop leaders about religion on a regular basis. They never made me feel uncomfortable or like I didn't belong.

    My experience matches yours. I went all the way from Cub Scouts to earning Eagle while being an atheist. I was never made to feel out of place. It all depends on the local organization. I was lucky enough to be in a troop led by some pretty open-minded people.

    My younger son is in Cub Scouts right now; in fact, I'm his den leader. His pack is a little more uptight than mine was as a kid, but that's mostly because of one leader who wants things run absolutely by the book. None of the rest of the leaders particularly care. I don't even think the uptight leader really cares, personally, except that's what the book says.

    The way I got through Scouts, and the way that I'm working with my son to get through it, is to stretch the definition of "faith in god" to something a bit more naturalistic. Appreciation of the world around us, belief in a moral center of "good" versus "bad", respect for others. I'm comfortable that we're following the spirit of the faith requirements, even if it's not exactly what the BSA had in mind.

    So yeah, I wish the Boy Scouts weren't so anti-atheist and homophobic. Despite that, I still think it's a good program for kids, provided you can find a pack or troop that doesn't obsess over such matters.

  • by Juneau ( 703789 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:19PM (#23732597)
    As an Eagle scout, a scout leader, and parent of a cub scout and a boy scout, I'd like to kick in my .02 cents.

    Our group is sponsored by a church. I don't recall us every having a prayer, or any religious leader saying anything about god. Our group is very inclusive, and I would say that most of our group has little involvement in religion. We just use the church.

    I think our scouts get a lot out of the program. They are out camping once a month. They take extended wilderness trips. They learn skills they can use in many areas of their life, including how to deal with adults, how to deal with other difficult kids, and how to lead kids. We do a lot of service projects, and our troop probably as a group does several thousand hours of service for the community - and very little of that is done for the church where we have our meetings.

    Maybe there are troops out there that push the agenda, and are right wing homophobes. But it's not our group. Even my wife, who thought boy scouts was a truly evil group, has come around to think the program is very worthwhile.

    It's the local people that make it work. Donate your time to THEM if you like, don't if you don't want to.

  • Re:BSA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by johnthediver ( 1214546 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @03:57PM (#23733719)
    "It's not "making waves" or "trying to enforce your beliefs on other people" (as if you could teach someone to be gay, jesus) -- the BSA's stance is that merely being gay or non-Christian means you are not fit to lead children." BSA is not a Christian organization they are a deist organization, they believe you have to have a religious foundation, they are not picky about that foundation. We have a local buddhist group of the BSA. As well as a number of Jewish, and an islamic boy in my son's troop. We have a lot of discussion in the troop (our family is catholic(wife)/agnostic(me)) Not about Christianity but about tolerance and the differences in how we worship. Although I still have bad feelingsa bout the gay scout leader thing, although you can also be a gay scout, nothing in the rules about that.
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:09PM (#23734059) Homepage Journal

    So even if individual troops overlook these rules, they do so in direct opposition to the rules. I don't know about you, but I see no reason to support an organization that dismisses me due to its own ignorant definition of "immoral."

    Your choice. But if you ever have a son, I highly encourage you to let him be involved in scouts. The activities of most troops have nothing to do with sexual orientation or belief in God, and it's a great opportunity for boys to learn self-reliance, leadership, and have a lot of great fun.

  • Re:BSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gibbs-Duhem ( 1058152 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:23PM (#23734467)
    Agreed. I also did the Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor thing, and although I turned them down because of my own moral objections to participating in an anti-LGBT activity, I was encouraged to help out with the local scouting organizations despite my sexuality. As in, "they have bigger things to worry about" kind of acceptance.
  • Re:BSA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Savior_on_a_Stick ( 971781 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:30PM (#23734709)
    They're outsourcing intolerance. Since the government can't officially demonize gays or atheists, they do so by proxy. It's hard to get funding pulled from a Mom and Apple Pie organization. Would I want to? I dunno. I was in Scouts when I was a preteen. Can't say I learned much from it other than that other people's houses smelled funny. OTOH, I was never touched by a Scoutmaster, nor did I have fundie nonsense shoved at me. It was, after all, Teh Seventies, where no one really took any stance seriously other than nihilism.
  • Re:BSA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ttfkam ( 37064 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:33PM (#23734803) Homepage Journal
    I think you missed the part where atheists had no problems to speak of in the Boy Scouts until about ten years ago. I'm an atheist, and I was in the Boy Scouts. So were many of my friends, also atheists and in the Scouts.

    Being an Eagle Scout affords you certain advantages in getting into federal military academies, looks good on a resume, etc. People cite their scouting days in college applications to beneficial effect all the time.

    Then the Mormon Church buys them out. Suddenly the organization doesn't just have religious overtones, it kicks kids out that have done nothing wrong aside from having different beliefs. Kids that bully others are talked to, put on probation, or otherwise given a second chance. An atheist kid is told to either lie about something so fundamental to each of us (yeah, great morals there) or get kicked out.

    Let's be clear. We're not talking about someone trying to make the other kids into atheists. We're not talking about kids calling press conferences to get the BSA to change the scout oath. We're talking about an organization that changed under our feet and suddenly became a hostile entity.

    Imagine you were black, had taken part in an organization that had white supremacy overtones, but everyone laughed it off, treated it like an unfortunate legacy. Imagine all of your experiences and your friendships were a shining moment in your life. Imagine you had taken part in fundraisers and paid dues to this organization.

    Now imagine that one day the organization calls you a nigger and forces you out. Imagine the effort and time and money given to this organization, the fruits of your labor, are now forbidden to you and everyone like you.

    Now imagine that someone on a random internet message board proclaims that the organization has that right since they always proclaimed white supremacy, but since they've also always received federal funds, your tax dollars continue to help fund the organization that's turned its back on you and everyone else like you.

    But I guess that's just belly-aching, isn't it?

    You can't hide being black, but you can lie about being an atheist. For a 10 year-old, to stand up and be honest about your beliefs is true strength, no matter what that faith may be. It's far easier to just go with the flow and "blend in."

    For the organization, however, the moral issues are the same. Forbidding access to some for who they are rather than what they do is clearly morally reprehensible.
  • Re:BSA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:40PM (#23734997)
    if you want BSA to have a more lenient stance toward homosexuality and atheism, work to push the LDS church's influence in BSA back or even out.

    'cause the Mormons rule the day inside BSA.

    The LDS church has threatened to pull all of their youth out if BSA changes its stance on homosexuality and atheism. I say "let them". Call the bluff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:36PM (#23738315)
    AC for a few reasons, sorry.

    Shocked by the "I was an atheist and it was fine" comments.

    I worked all the way through to Eagle Scout. Busted my butt, volunteered a lot, etc. Still try to be an honest, trustworthy guy, and heck, maybe that keeps me from advancing in the selfish-filled Corporate World, but that's a topic for another rant.

    I got to my review committee and was *grilled* about my religious convictions, and this in a troop that wasn't particularly religious. My long-stated (and harrassment-inducing) atheism was suddenly a Very Big Problem. My closest advisor finally said something along the lines of, "ok, you don't believe a lot of specifics for any particular sect, but you believe in a higher power God, right? **_RIGHT_**?" with a "yes or you're done, even after a long, committed scouting life" look.

    I mumbled some vague affirmatives sheepishly and all seemed satisfied. The topic changed.

    I have never felt right about that. Don't think about it often, but now that I have, some ~15-20 years later, it still upsets me. I have always wanted to send in my badges and resign publicly as I wish I had done so on the spot. Maybe I'll go write a letter tonight.

    Then again, don't get me started on the ignorant homophobia. This straight, white guy took a *lot* of sh!t for fighting against that. Really always seemed like a lot of closeted/self-denying/ignorant rednecks were leading that hate brigade. But the camping, knives, guns, etc were worth it! (at the time... I guess...)
  • Re:BSA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TerranFury ( 726743 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:24PM (#23739117)

    Dude, you need to stop hating people just because they believe in God. It's fucking irrelevant 99% of the time.

    You hate religious people because they're intolerant? Well, here's irony: So are you!

    Don't you realize that all you're perpetrating is cultural bigotry? Whether you practice a religion (and if you do, which one you practice) is almost entirely determined by the culture you were born into -- the place on the map, the socioeconomic group, the particular family. Congratulations, you're an atheist: Don't you realize how much of that is simply because of your education level -- which in turn is strongly determined by the income level of your parents when you were growing up? I know it's nice to feel superior to everybody else, but right now you're being really goddamn caustic.

    Most religious people -- and no, I don't count myself as one of them -- are just as good as you are. I've known about as many intelligent, open-minded and generally good people who ascribe strongly to a religion as those who don't. The religious ones all have one thing in common: They see their religion as a path for themselves, and not as something they need to assault their neighbors with.

    As for the Scouts: There are two basic classes of problems that affect the organization. The first is that the people currently running the national office are a bunch of reactionaries. The second is that -- like all things -- Scouting is a product of its time, so, yes, it has some military and religious overtones. But had you actually been involved in Scouting -- at least in any reasonable troop -- you'd know that that simply wasn't the point. It was just completely fucking irrelevant. Do you think Boy Scouts is like church? If it is, it sure as hell isn't being done right.

    And what's your solution? Boycott scouts? Sounds like a plan: Rather than taking a really fucking good idea -- "Let's provide a structured way for boys to learn practical life and outdoor skills, to gain independence and learn to lead themselves instead of being led by adult authority (Yes! Don't you realize how important a part of Scouting this is?)" -- and getting involved even though there's some politics involved that you don't like; let's dismiss the whole thing entirely! That sounds great! *rolls eyes*

    And look: When GP used the phrase "so-called atheists," he wasn't mocking the idea that there is no god. No, I'm pretty sure he was just mocking people like you who think it matters that you don't believe in a god. Really, I don't care.

    Debating the existence of God is a waste of everybody's time, because it's ill-defined. It's not true; it's not false; the closest I can come to an answer is mu. It doesn't fucking mean anything. So stop thinking you're special, some kind of oppressed minority, because you could afford enough education to develop an atheistic worldview.

    And don't go fucking Godwin. Religion is by definition (nice Latin) a totalitarian regime? C'mon! There are a billion instances in history of religion being just the opposite. Do words and phrases like "mysticism" or "The Protestant Reformation" mean anything to you?

    More generally, I'm sick and fucking tired of people who pretend to be educated and liberal and progressive acting like goddamned bigots. Get the hell over yourself and your prejudices. Most religious people are decent. Most people who don't believe in any religion at all are just as good. Most Boy Scouts are just kids learning skills that you were too lazy to learn, and they don't give a damn about your philosophical angst.

    Basically, just stop thinking that narcissistic "liberal" bigotry is any different from reactionary conservative bigotry. And stop condemning anyone associated with something just because there's some politics involved that you don't like. The politics will change.

    And then, after you sober up from your masturbatory navel-gazing, start thinking about how there are actually real problems in the world. Those are the things that real progressives want to solve.

  • Re:BSA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:00AM (#23742649) Homepage Journal
    Let me guess, this was a United Church of Christ congregation? They've gone seriously anti-anti-gay. Many of them have actually stopped performing legal marriages, which I guess is a protest against the fact that same sex couples can't get married. If you want to get married in such a church, they will perform something called a Holy Union, which is available to both gay and straight couples, but which has no legal standing. If you want your marriage legalized, you have to provide your own official to sign the documents: the UCC pastor won't do it.

    I'm neither gay nor a Christian. But I find that little bit of civil disobedience rather touching.
  • Re:BSA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:15PM (#23750523) Homepage
    Rules are only as good as the folks who enforce them.

    As King John found out, any dictator of rules requires compliant enforcers. If you don't take care of your Barons, you find yourself having to sign a Magna Carta at swordpoint.

    This is true in the BSA too. Individual councils and units can certainly ignore national rules. And it is trending such that, sooner or later, those national rules WILL change. (more likely, later, I'm guessing. . . )

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.