With the Boy Scouts of America having lifted its blanket ban on openly gay adult leaders, some churches that sponsor scout troops are cutting ties with the organization — even though the BSA’s new policy does not require any church-affiliated troop to accept gay leadership.
The First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Lancaster, S.C., sent a letter to parents last week announcing it would no longer sponsor a scout troop, ending a nearly 50-year relationship, reports WBTV of Charlotte, N.C. The letter, from church member and scout leader Buddy Lever, noted that homosexuality goes against the church’s beliefs, and it called the religious exemption in the new policy a “weak provision,” the TV station reports. Lever said staying with the BSA might open the church to lawsuits and eventually force it to accept gay leaders.
The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is a conservative denomination, separate from the generally LGBT-friendly Presbyterian Church (USA), although both trace their roots to 16th-century Scottish religious reformer John Knox.
The South Carolina church will transition members of the scout troop to a Christian-oriented program called Trail Life USA, WBTV notes. Also, some neighboring Boy Scout troops have offered to accept members transferring from the church troop.
Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic bishop of Bismarck, N.D., has ordered churches in his diocese, which encompasses western North Dakota, to end any affiliation with the BSA, the Associated Press reports. “I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization which has policies and methods which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” Bishop David Kagan wrote in a letter last week.
Churches within the diocese sponsor eight Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, and they will now look for alternatives. “They will be working to find other charter organizations within those communities, and there will be a good chance they will be faith-based organizations,” Cory Wrolstad, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ Northern Lights Council in Bismarck, told the AP.
The other North Dakota Catholic diocese, based in Fargo, will continue to allow churches to sponsor BSA units, but its bishop, John Folda, told churches they should “select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent” with the church’s teachings, the AP notes.
Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church, will be reexamining the church’s relationship with the BSA in a series of meetings this month. After the BSA adopted the new policy July 27, the church officials put out a statement saying they are “deeply troubled” by the move.