Religious emblems programs (Boy Scouts of America)

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Religious emblem
Religious Emblems (Boy Scouts of America).png
Knot for Adult Religious Emblem
Knot for Youth Religious Emblem
Devices for Youth Religious Emblem
OwnerBoy Scouts of America
CountryUnited States
Awarded forTo encourage members to grow stronger in their faith
Recipients44,430 youth
1,476 adult
awarded in 2007[1]
 Scouting portal

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 PRAY Program, formerly God and Country, 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.[2]


The BSA version of 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."[3] 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."[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] The Jewish Ner Tamid program began in 1944 and the God and Country program used by several Protestant denominations followed in 1945.[7] The 1948 handbook was the first to include the religious emblem programs and it described Roman Catholic, Jewish, Mormon (LDS), Buddhist, Lutheran and the general Protestant program.[8] 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.[9]

Program approval[edit]

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.[10] To gain recognition, a proposed program must be approved by the BSA Religious Relationships Committee. 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[edit]

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, American Heritage Girls, and other youth groups.[11]

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 P.R.A.Y. Program—formerly the God and Country program—used by many Protestant churches.[7][12] The P.R.A.Y. business office processes orders for the medals and reference materials used in The PRAY 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 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.

Other youth agencies[edit]

Members of the Boy Scouts of America who earned a religious emblem through another youth agency such as the Girl Scouts of the USA, Camp Fire USA or a Sunday school group may wear the emblem on their BSA uniform. They may also wear the square knot insignia without a device.[13]

Smaller programs[edit]

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.[14] 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. The policy requiring a religious group to charter at least 25 BSA units before its religious awards can be recognized is no longer in place.

Approved programs and awards[edit]

The following awards are recognized by the BSA and the religious emblems knot may be worn upon completion of the program.[15]

Proponent association
Cub Scout Webelos Scout Boy Scout Venturer Adult recognition
African Methodist Episcopal Church
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Anglican Catholic Church Ad te Domine Serbus Dei The Order of St. Michael
Anglican Church in North America
P.R.A.Y., Anglican Scouting North America[16]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life St. George Cross
Armenian Apostolic Church of America (Western Prelacy) none Saint Mesrob none
Armenian Church of America (Eastern Diocese) Saint Gregory Ararat none
Baha'i Committee on Scouting[17]
Unity of Mankind Service to Humanity
P.R.A.Y., Association of Baptists for Scouting[18]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life Good Shepherd
National Buddhist Committee on Scouting[19]
Metta Sangha Bodhi
Catholic (Eastern)
National Catholic Committee on Scouting[20]
Light of Christ
(Tigers and Wolves)
Parvuli Dei
(Bears and Webelos)
Light Is Life Pope Pius XII Saint George
Catholic (Latin)
National Catholic Committee on Scouting
Light of Christ
(Tigers and Wolves)
Parvuli Dei
(Bears and Webelos)
Ad Altare Dei Pope Pius XII Saint George
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Church of Christ, Scientist
P.R.A.Y., Christian Science[21]
God and Country God and Service
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Boy Scouts of America LDS Relationships[22]
Faith in God On My Honor (Youth) On My Honor (Adult)
Churches of Christ
Members of Churches of Christ for Scouting[23]
Loving Servant Joyful Servant Good Servant Giving Servant Faithful Servant
Community of Christ
World Community Program[24]
God and Me (grades 1-3) Light of the World Path of the Disciple Exploring Community Together International Youth Service Award
Eastern Orthodox
Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting[25]
Saint George Chi Rho Alpha Omega Prophet Elias
National Episcopal Scouters Association[26]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life Saint George Episcopal
General Church of the New Jerusalem (The New Church)
Boy Scout Relations Committee
Ten Commandments Award Open Word Award
North American Hindu Association[27]
Dharma Dharma (-grade 8)
Karma (grade 8-)
Karma Dharma Saathi
Karma Saathi
Dharma Bhakta
Karma Bhakta
National Islamic Committee on Scouting[28]
Bismillah In the Name of God Allaho Akber
Federation of Jain Associations in North America[29]
Live Help Live Stage 1 Live Help LiveStage 2 Live Help Live Stage 3 Live Help Live Stage 4 Jain Scout Gold Medal
National Jewish Committee on Scouting[30]
Maccabee (Tiger Cubs) / Aleph Aleph Ner Tamid Etz Chaim Shofar
National Lutheran Association on Scouting[31]
God and Me God and Family God and Church Lutheran God and Life Servant of Youth (age 23+)
Lamb (age 28+)
Meher Baba
Committee for Meher Baba and Scouting
Love for God Compassionate Father The Ancient One
Moravian Church none God and Country The Order of David Zeisberger
National Association of Anglican and Traditional Catholic Scouters
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Church of the Nazarene
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Polish National Catholic Church Love of God (Milosc Boga) God and Country (Bog I Ojczyzna) Bishop Thaddeus F. Zielinski
Presbyterian Church in America
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
National Association of Presbyterian Scouters[32]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Protestant and Independent Christian Churches[a]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Friends Committee on Scouting[33]
That of God Spirit of Truth Friends
The Salvation Army God and Me God and Family
Silver Crest
God and Church God and Life Scouter's Award
World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR)[34]
none Sikh Religious Award none
Unitarian Universalist Association[35]
See Unitarian Universalist
Love and Help Love and Help Religion in Life None None
United Church of Christ
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
United Methodist
National Association of United Methodist Scouters[36]
God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
United Pentecostal Church International God and Me God and Family God and Church God and Life God and Service
Unity Churches God in Me Light of God Fillmore Youth Award Distinguished Youth Service
Zoroastrian none Good Life none

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.[38][39][40][41] 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[edit]

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.[42] 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.

National Association of Presbyterian Scouters[edit]

The Celtic Cross award is given to adults active as a youth leader associated with a Presbyterian Church program, including Boy Scouts of America youth leaders and any other group or organization that chooses to give the award.[43] To receive the award an adult must demonstrate "exceptional Christian character",[44] or has given faithful service to a youth program(s) of a congregation by serving in church leadership positions.

Unitarian Universalist[edit]

Unitarian Universalist Association[edit]

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)—the religious association of most Unitarian Universalist congregations in the United States—has two religious emblems programs that are recognized by the BSA.


In 1992 the UUA Board of Trustees approved a resolution opposing the BSA's policies on homosexuals, atheists and agnostics; and in 1993, the UUA updated Religion in Life to include criticism of these BSA policies.[45]

In 1998, the BSA withdrew recognition of Religion in Life, stating that such information was incompatible with BSA programs. They also removed recognition of Love and Help, the program for Cub Scouts though it contained no mention of the policies. The UUA removed the material from their curriculum and the BSA renewed their recognition of the programs. 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.[46]

Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization[edit]

The Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization (UUSO) is an association of UU Scouts who offer religious emblem programs that are recognized by the BSA but not by the UUA.


The UUSO created the Living Your Religion program in May 2005 as a parallel award for Boy Scouts of the Unitarian faith.[47] 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.[48][49][50] The UUA had stated that the UUSO is not recognized as an affiliate organization.[51] The UUSO released the Religion and Family program for Webelos Scouts in February 2008.

Unitarian Universalist Association[edit]

The Unitarian Universalist Association signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Boy Scouts of America in March of 2016 that reestablished the relationship, approving religious award programs for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as well as establishing a foundation for Unitarian Universalist congregations to charter Scout units.[52] The Cub Scout religious award is called "Love and Help". The Boy Scout religious award is called "Religion in Life".[53]

See Approved programs and awards

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Religious Emblems Report - 2007" (PDF). P.R.A.Y. 2008. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  2. ^ Insignia Guide 2007. Boy Scouts of America. 2007. ISBN 0-8395-3066-8. #33066. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
  3. ^ Handbook for Boys (First ed.). Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page and Company. 1911.
  4. ^ Boy Scouts of America Youth Application (PDF). Boy Scouts of America. #524-406A. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-03-31.
  5. ^ Peavy, David L. "A Brief History of the Catholic Religious Emblems Programs". History of US Catholic Scouting. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  6. ^ Bowman, Michael F.; Bryan, James (1998). "A Scout's Duty to God and Country". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  7. ^ a b "About Us". P.R.A.Y. Publishing. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  8. ^ Mechling, Jay (2001). On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth. University of Chicago Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-226-51704-7. Retrieved October 10, 2010.
  9. ^ "Illustrated History of BSA Square Knot Evolution and Private Issues". Insane Scouter. Retrieved April 9, 2007.
  10. ^ "Policy of the Boy Scouts of America Pertaining to Recognitions Granted by Churches, Synagogues, Temples, Mosques and Other Religious Organizations". BSA Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  11. ^ "P.R.A.Y. Publishing". P.R.A.Y. Publishing. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  12. ^ "New Look ... Same Great Program!". P.R.A.Y. Publishing. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  13. ^ "Special Regulations". Boy Scouts of America. 2010. Retrieved November 6, 2010.
  14. ^ "Awards Programs". Covenant of the Goddess. Retrieved May 2, 2012.
  15. ^ "Religious Emblem". P.R.A.Y. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  16. ^ "Anglican Scouting North America". Anglican Scouting North America. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  17. ^ "Scouting Program Materials". U.S. National Baha'i Education. Archived from the original on October 14, 2006.
  18. ^ "Association of Baptists for Scouting". Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  19. ^ "National Buddhist Committee on Scouting". Retrieved March 15, 2010.
  20. ^ "National Catholic Committee on Scouting". Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  21. ^ Christian Science "God and Country Program". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  22. ^ "Boy Scouts of America LDS Relationships". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  23. ^ "Members of Churches of Christ for Scouting". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  24. ^ "World Community". Community of Christ. Archived from the original on July 23, 2012. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  25. ^ "Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting, Youth Emblems". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  26. ^ "National Episcopal Scouters Association". Archived from the original on April 11, 2007. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  27. ^ "North American Hindu Association". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  28. ^ "National Islamic Council on Scouting of North America". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  29. ^ "Federation of Jain Associations in North America".
  30. ^ "National Jewish Committee on Scouting". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  31. ^ "National Lutheran Association on Scouting". Retrieved October 11, 2012.
  32. ^ "National Association of Presbyterian Scouters". Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  33. ^ "Friends Committee on Scouting". Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  34. ^ "Boy Scouts of America Approves Sikh Religious Award in Consultation with WSC-AR". Pakistan Christian Post. November 5, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2013.
  35. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Association". Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  36. ^ "National Association of United Methodist Scouters". Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  37. ^ "Bear Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  38. ^ "Webelos Badge Requirements". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  39. ^ "Religious Life Bronze Award". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  40. ^ "TRUST Venturing Religious and Community Life Award". U.S. Scouting Service Project. 2003. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  41. ^ "Are There Awards for Parent Participation With a Scout in a Religious Emblem Program?". U.S. Scouting Service Project. Retrieved April 4, 2007.
  42. ^ National Association of Presbyterian Scouters
  43. ^ [1]
  44. ^ Niebuhr, Gustav (May 22, 1999). "The Boy Scouts, a Battle and the Meaning of Faith". New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
  45. ^ Isaacson, Eric Alan (2007). "Traditional Values, or a New Tradition of Prejudice? The Boy Scouts of America vs. the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations". George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal. 17 (1). Retrieved June 14, 2015.
  46. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization". March 5, 2006. Retrieved April 11, 2007.
  47. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Worship Service" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. 2006. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
  48. ^ "2006 UUSO Membership Brochure" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. March 5, 2006. Retrieved July 8, 2007.
  49. ^ "Living Your Religion: A Unitarian Universalist Religious Award Program for Boy Scouts and Venturers" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. February 1, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2007.
  50. ^ "UUA and the Scouts: Statement from the Unitarian Universalist Association". Unitarian Universalist Association. March 16, 2005. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved July 8, 2007.
  51. ^ "UUA Memorandum of Understanding". Unitarian Universalist Association. March 24, 2016.
  52. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Association Scout Awards". Unitarian Universalist Association. September 18, 2018.