Boy Scouts Gay Ban: How Have Religious Leaders Reacted to Gays in Scouting?

From the day that the Boy Scouts announced the abolition of their ban on openly gay scouts, they knew the price they might pay — losing the support of their church sponsors. While the Bible still says homosexuality is a sin, the Boys Scouts no longer agree with this view, and religious leaders know perfectly well that there is a line that they can’t step over. 

“We are not willing to compromise God’s word,” said Pastor Easley of the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., in an interview with the Huffington Post. His church has been sponsoring Boy Scout Troop 204 for more than six decades. Easley decided to shut down the church's Boy Scout troop by the end of 2013, and he is urging other counterparts to do the same. In addition to Rosewell Street Church, Southeast Christian Church, a megachurch with over 20,000 members, also decided to cut its ties with the Boy Scouts. While these two churches have taken immediate action, other churches have chosen a wait-and-see strategy. 

According to the Huffington Post, more than 70% of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with a faith-based group. Rosewell Street and Southeast Christian’s decisions have stirred fear of losing sponsorship among other Boy Scout troops. However, Deron Smith, the spokesman for the Boy Scouts, guaranteed that the Boy Scouts will help troops that lose their church sponsors find new sponsorship. While these two churches reacted against BSA's decision, the new policy still fits into other religious groups’ beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the United Methodist Church, two of the Boy Scouts’ biggest religious sponsors, announced they will continue to stay involved with sponsoring scout troops. 

The United Church of Christ even hopes the new policy can attract more Boy Scouts to its church. The church currently sponsors more than 1,000 troops, but was formerly against the BSA due to its ban on gay scouts. The new policy has dramatically changed their relationship. 

“It sends terrible message to youth of any sexual orientation,” said Rev. Mike Schuenmeyer, the executive for health and wholeness advocacy for the United Church of Christ, of the ban. 

On the other hand, Roman Catholic leaders have mixed feelings toward BSA’s new policy. While Bishop David Choby of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville considers it not conflicting with Catholic teaching, Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va. criticized BSA for wavering in its commitment to the traditional values that Scouting movement has embraced. 

While there’s no definite answer to BSA’s new policy, some religious shrines have shown greater acceptance than others. This may signal the fact that if BSA changes due to shifting public opinions, religious groups may follow suit one day as well.

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William Yang

William Yang is a writer, activist and blogger currently residing in Philadelphia while finishing his Master of Journalism degree at Temple University. He enjoys writing about human rights, equality and social welfare issues. While he's not writing, photography becomes another way for him to tell stories.

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