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Will Christian Groups Abandon Boy Scout Troops Now That Gays May Lead Them?

Will Christian Groups Abandon Boy Scout Troops Now That Gays May Lead Them?


Support for the Scouts hinges on a key provision in the proposal, an exemption for religiously chartered packs and dens.

Although there are six types of knots every good Boy Scout knows, there is one very special knot you won't find in any Scout manual, one that ties many of the nation's packs and dens to religious institutions. A meeting this month might just untie that knot forever for some faith-based chartered groups.

Christian leaders are reportedly considering carefully what step they will take when the Boy Scouts of America's 80-member national executive board votes July 27 on whether to ratify a resolution by the group's executive committee to allow chartered organizations to choose gay adults as leaders.

The vote last Friday by the 17 members of the executive committee broke with long-standing tradition in the 105-year association. But the committee did provide an option for faith-based groups opposed to the change in policy to continue to ban participation by gay adults.

Southern Baptists are leery of that offer, based on the BSA's track record.

"I don't believe the Boy Scouts when they say that religious groups will have freedom to choose their own leaders," Southern Baptist Convention ethicist Russell Moore told Religion News Service. "The Boy Scouts have pursued an ongoing evolution, if evolutions can happen at breakneck speed, toward the moral priorities of the sexual revolution. At every point, the Scout leadership tells us that they will go this far and no farther."

In May 2013, the BSA shifted its policies after a deeply divided board approved a resolution that "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." That policy went into effect at the beginning of 2014.

There are, of course, more than just Christian faith-based sponsors of Scout troops, including Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist. And one of the nation's largest Boy Scout councils, in

Philadelphia, already allows gay leaders.

There are also Christian groups that support the changes. The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer is the United Church of Christ's liaison with the BSA He urged ratification of the resolution, telling Religion News Service, "It is long past due."

But the idea of allowing not only gay scouts but also gay troop leaders is apparent too much for some, and some Christian groups tell RNS their involvement hinges squarely on that exemption clause.

"As a chartering organization, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs," Mormon officials told the news service. "Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right."

Four members of the LDS church's leadership, including its president, Thomas S. Monson, are on the board, reported RNS. And no other faith-based group has more members than the LDS church: 437,160 boys as of 2013.

That is likely because the Mormon youth activity program mandates enrollment in scouting, LDS church spokesman Eric Hawkins told RNS.

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