*** Boys' Youth Group Uniforms: Religion

Boys' Uniformed Group: Religion

Figure 1.--Here we see a troop of Scottish Jewish Scouts in 1928. We are unsure if the boys joined the Jewish troop because it was organized by their temple or synagogue or because they did not feel welcome at other troops.

Religion has been a part of boys' youth groups from the earliest days. Many of the earlies youth groups had religious foundations, both the Boys' Brigade abd scouting, although Scouting began to shift from an early point. Nationalist youth groups commonly had very definite religious orientions. The Communist Young Pioneers had anaggressive atheist component. Religion is not precisely an "activity" in boys' youth groups, but more of a value or commitment promototed to varying degrees by various youth groups. Most youth groups are secuclar movement that promote religion to varying degrees, but some groups are organized as primarily religious groups or fellowships.


The youth group movemnt began primarily in Protestant churches and among protestant youth. Britaun played an especilly important role. Over time Catholics also became involved. And because Baden Powell decided on a more inclusive, ecmrnical movement, Scouting devloped along both religious and secular lines. The British origins helped spread the movement around the globe to many non-European and non-Christin people. This helped orient scouting nto a secular movement. But because many churches spomsored Scout units, there were both scular and religious units. Most youth groups evolved into secuclar movement that promote religion to varying degrees. Even Scout groups organized by secular groups have a religious component, albeit non-sectarian. Scouting becme lrgely secula, but units promoted by churches or other religious groups take on a more religious tone. In recent years, schools and other groups have dropped out of Scouting and religion has becme more important as so many units are now sponsored by churches. This has varied over time and from country to country. Eith the rise of Communism, the Young Pioneers promote atheism. The NAZI Hitler Youth did as well, but more discretely because most of the boys came from Christian families. There are also some youth groups that have been organized as primarily religious groups or fellowships and are essentially religious in character. This provides some organizational difficulties as most youth groups, except the Communist Young Pioneers and pre-World War II (1939-45) Socialist youth groups, have had a religious component. The larger groups are listed on the major organization page. HBU has listed smaller groups in the nationalist section because these religious groups are primarily associated with specific countries. We thought that as some of the groups are actually more religious than nationalistic in focus that they should be cross referenced on a religion page.

Religious Policies

We note youth groups with a wide range of policies toward religion. Some youth groups were orgaized by specific religions such as the Boys' Brigade or related groups. Other groups were open to various religions, such as the Scouts and Hitler Youth. The Hitler Youth of course excluded Jews. Scouting had a more varied policy. We are not sure what Baden Powell originally had in mind. He at first was working with the Boys' Brigade which meant Protestant Christianity. With the internarional outlook that Baden Powell eventually adopted a more ecunemical apprpach was adopted, first including Catholics and then other religions. The approach of individual Scout troops also varied. Some countries like Britain and America haca single national Scout association. Many European countries had multiple associations. Often Catholics wanted separate associations. The fact that many Scout troops were sponsored by churches meant that all or almost all of the children would be of tghe same religion. Other troops were sponsored by school or non-church groups meaning that the members would be of varied religious backgrounds. We note some Jewish goups. Here we are not sure if these troops were spnsored by temples or the boys had troupe joining other Scout troops. American Scout troops have excluded some boys if they are athesists, but this rarely occurs in other countries. The Young Pioneers in Communist countries promote atheism.


Religion perhaps needs to be treated as an entirely separate topic. For now we will address it here. Religion has been a part of boys' youth groups from the earliest days. The Boys' Brigade, the first uniformed boys' group, was organized at churches and propagation of the protestant Christain faith was the primary reason for the group. We are less sure about the Wandervogel in Germany. The Boy Scouts were initially organized as a program within the Boys' Brigade and also had a strong Christian component. It quickly developed a more secular program as it became an independent movement, but retained a Christain message. As Scouting expanded to other countries, the movement had to address the question of how to deal with the variety of Christain denominations and eventually entirely different religions. Some youth groups developed programs designed to weaken or destroy Christianity, such as the Hitler Youth. The Communist Young Pioneers attacked all relogion and actively promoted athiesm.


Religions have varied somewhat in their attitudes toward youth groups. Here a factor was that Protesrants had a major role in creating modern youth grops. The Boys' Brigade, Wanfervogel, and Scouting all began as Protestant or largely Protestant movements. This was perpetuated by the fact that Boys'Brogade units and early Scout groups were organized at individual churches. As the scoting movement developed this changed ad we see schools and secular organizatons sponsoring Scout groups. Wandervogel was founded by mostly Protestants, but not closely tied to churches like the Boys' Brigade and scouting. Boys' Brigade maingained a close tie to chrches and remaoned a basically Protestant movement. Baden Powell made a ecesion fairly early to a more international, ecmenical movement. Churches continued sponsoring Scout units, but boys from non-religious families or whose hurch did not sponsor a Scout unit could also participate through a secular group like a school group or group sponsored by a fraternal or civic group. Here boys from mixed religious backgrond mixed. Ameica and Britain organized Scout movements that had one national association. Other countries allowed multiple associations which tended to organize along religious and secular lines. Catholics were at first skeptical of Scouting because of its Protestant foundation. The mocement proved so popular with boys that the Church began promting Scouting units at theur churches. While Scouting was at first a Christian movement, Jewish boys also wanted to participate. Scouting became popular among Jews in Europe and america. Syngogauges began organizing units. Non religiou Jews might join Synaggue units or secular units. And as Scouting spread beyond Europe, the Christian association was watered down, although a belief in od remained a feature. Islam does not seem to have adopted an interest in couting. We see Scouting groups in Arab countriesm but mostly in European colonies. A problemwith Islam is that the Koran teaches Muslims not to associate with Infidels. Verses like "Believers, do not seek the friendship of the infidels and those who were given the Book before you, who have made of your religion a jest and a pastime" (5:57). Thus Scouting wa never very important in Ilamic countries. We are less sure about youth grouos and other religions. Outside Europe and America, Scouting and other youth groups seem mostly secular movements.


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Created: December 20, 2002
Last updated: 11:45 PM 3/24/2016