FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Paul Trout of West Virginia found out the hard way, and perhaps there are a few million other people his age around the country who aren't aware of it: the Boys Scouts of America is a religious organization. According to a letter sent to the boy's parents by Ben H. Love, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America, "Youth and/or adult members . . . must meet certain membership requirements. One of these requirements is belief in a Supreme Being." Anyone who does not have such a belief "cannot be a member," the Love letter informed the parents. And since their son was honest enough to say that he respected the rights of others to believe in God but did not hold such a belief himself, his membership in Troop 105 has been revoked.

If that's the official policy of the Boy Scouts -- and not simply discrimination on the basis of creed -- so be it. If scouting is a religion, let it be treated accordingly. This should mean, of course, that the Boy Scouts of America will be dropped from the list of United Way beneficiaries, not to mention the Combined Federal Campaign that has government payroll-deduction privileges. And perhaps religious jamborees shouldn't be conducted on U.S. Army bases, either.

With this categorization of the Boy Scouts clearly understood, the belief-in-a-Supreme-Being requirement should come as no surprise. It might even be more prominently stated in all materials about membership in the Boy Scouts. But that's for the members of the religion to decide for themselves.