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Atheist Eagle Scout Faces Expulsion

Eagle Scout Darrell Lambert has earned 37 merit badges, worked more than 1,000 hours of community service and helps lead a Boy Scout troop in his hometown.

But the 19-year-old has another distinction that may lead to his removal from the Boy Scouts: He's an atheist.

Lambert was given roughly a week by the Boy Scouts' regional executive to declare belief in a supreme being and comply with Boy Scout policy, or quit the Scouts. The official and Lambert were to talk again this week regarding Lambert's answer, although a definite date hadn't been set.

"We've asked him to search his heart, to confer with family members, to give this great thought," Brad Farmer, the Scout executive of the Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts, told The Sun of Bremerton. "If he says he's an avowed atheist, he does not meet the standards of membership."

On membership applications, Boy Scouts and adult leaders must say they recognize some higher power, not necessarily religious. "Mother Nature would be acceptable," Farmer said.

As a private organization, the Boy Scouts are permitted to exclude certain people from membership. The organization bans gays and atheists.

Lambert, who has been a Scout since he was 9, said he won't profess a belief he doesn't feel, saying it amounts to a lie. "I wouldn't be a good Scout then, would I?"

The issue arose about three weeks ago when Lambert got into an argument with a Scout leader at a Boy Scout leadership training seminar over whether atheists should be expelled from the organization. Farmer's office soon contacted him to talk about his nonbelief.

Lambert disclosed his atheism to Scout leaders overseeing his Eagle Scout application last year, but still received the award.

The issue has surfaced before. In 1998, 16-year-old twins Michael and William Randall, who refused to take an oath to God, were awarded Eagle badges after a seven-year legal fight with the Orange County, Calif., council.