Rules, Rumors and Responsibilities



It was one of those seemingly innocuous posts on social media that gets more attention than it deserves. I’ll have to paraphrase since it has been deleted, but it basically said, “Did you know Scouts can’t cook hot dogs over an open fire?”

Some of the people who commented tried to make sense of this comment (example: “Scouts can only reheat hot dogs because they come precooked”). Some took the opportunity to criticize the BSA for its “ridiculous” safety rules and the lawyers who allegedly wrote them (including the long-discredited belief that the BSA bans sheath knives). A dispiriting handful proudly announced that rules are made to be broken.

Fortunately, several people actually searched the Guide to Safe Scouting and pointed out that the only reference to hot dogs in the guide appears in the list of prohibited activities (page 42 in the current print version): “Water chugging and eating or drinking competitions such as “chubby bunny” or hot dog eating contests.” (If you aren’t sure what “chubby bunny” is or why it’s dangerous, read this article.)

In other words, there’s no rule about Scouts cooking hot dogs over an open fire. That’s probably why the post eventually disappeared. (Fun fact: The cover of the Guide to Safe Scouting actually shows a picture of Scouts roasting marshmallows and eating s’mores.)

Whatever you think about the BSA’s safety rules, as a Scouter you’re obliged to follow them. They’re mentioned in the Scouter Code of Conduct, which everyone who signs an adult application pledges to abide by.

A good way to make sure you and the other leaders in your troop are following the rules is to download the PDF version of the Guide to Safe Scouting and send it to your Kindle device (or Kindle app) if you have one. (In your settings, there’s a unique send-to-Kindle email address.) That lets you access the guide from anywhere–a PLC meeting, for example–and search for specific terms when you have questions. Just remember to check for updated versions occasionally, as the information does change.

NOW AVAILABLE: The fourth edition of The Eagle Court of Honor Book is now available from and on Amazon! Updated to reflect the inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA, the book features gender-neutral ceremonies, a new Scouting segment called “Scouting for Girls,” and downloadable boys’ and girls’ versions of all ceremony materials. Print versions will be available soon from Amazon and



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