Boy Scouts Order of the Arrow Linked to Freemasonry

J asks: “As my boys move through Boy Scouts, they have an opportunity to join something called the Order of the Arrow. One year during Scout O’Rama, there was a small ceremony for this which my husband attended and said it was very strange. It has come up again, so I started looking up information. I did find that it was started by two members of the freemasons. There is a correspondence between the rituals of the Order of the Arrow and the rituals of the freemasons. Knowing it started from the freemasons is enough for me to know that this is not a good thing. Do you have any other information about this Order of the Arrow in which the Boy Scouts of America have an opportunity to participate?”

The Order of the Arrow (OA) is an honor society of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) comprised of members who are considered to be exceptional examples of persons who live out the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives. Members must be elected by their peers.

The OA’s link to Freemasonry began with its founder, E. Ulmer Goodman (1891-1980), a teacher and devout Christian who was a leader in the Boy Scouts of America for most of the 20th century. He served as the national program director for 20 years, from 1931 to 1951 and published the Boy Scout Handbook and other Scouting books during his tenure. According to this site, E. Ulmer Goodman’s name does appear on the list of freemasons. He is said to have joined the Robert A. Lamberton Lodge No. 487 of Free and Accepted Masons of Philadelphia on March 5, 1918.

The influence of Freemasonry can be found in the way the OA is organized and the rituals it uses. For example, there are three levels in the OA: Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil. Each level has its own secretive ceremonies, symbols, and handshakes. The secrecy of these ceremonies proved so alarming to parents, religious and scout leaders that since the 1980s, they are now permitted to review the ceremony before hand and parents can now opt out their children.

This penchant for secrecy was one of the reasons why Pope Benedict XIV condemned Masonry in 1751. Other reasons include involvement in the Mason’s formal religious system which includes belief in God as the Grand Architect of the Universe and do not require members to believe in Jesus Christ. All religious writings are considered to be on par with the Bible because Masons generally view all religions as plausible attempts to explain the truth about God.

Another controversial aspect of the OA is the way Goodman relied upon imagery and rituals borrowed from Native American cultures which has caused tribal elders to accuse the BSA of cultural appropriation. And for good reason. As this account by OA member Phillip Rice relates, the OA’s rituals are saturated in Native American lore.

“On the night of his induction about 20 years ago, he [Rice] said a white troop leader wearing a feather headdress led him and the other boys silently through the woods of what was then the Rota-Kiwan Scout Reservation in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Around a bonfire, scout leaders chanted while wearing masks and animal pelts, Rice said. Then they told the boys to safeguard the secrecy of the ceremony and sent them off to spend a night silently in the woods.”

In 1998, after nearly a century, the BSA finally made changes to the Order of the Arrow and now prohibits scouts in the program to paint their faces and perform certain dances that “have religious significance.”

Overall, the OA has lofty goals which Goodman summarized in the foreword to the Order of the Arrow handbook:

The Order of the Arrow is a ‘thing of the spirit’ rather than of mechanics. Organization, operational procedure, and paraphernalia are necessary in any large and growing movement, but they are not what count in the end. The things of the spirit count:

• Brotherhood – in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad.
• Cheerfulness – in a day when the pessimists have the floor.
• Service – in a day when millions are interested only in getting or grasping rather than giving.

These are of the spirit, blessed of God, the great Divine Spirit.”

Because of the influence of freemasonry in the OA, Catholic parents are advised to be wary of enrolling their children in this program. They should be vigilant about reviewing the text of any materials associated with membership, particularly the rituals required for membership or rank advancement, to be certain there are no acts of allegiance required to any “Power”, “Spirit” or other entity that is not specifically named as Jesus Christ.

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