Last week, the Boy Scouts of America made its landmark decision allowing gay Scouts to be members (but not adult leaders), and while many liberal organizations are pleased, America’s largest Protestant church organization seems poised to cut off ties with the Boy Scouts in protest.
More than 70 percent of Boy Scout troops across the country are sponsored by religious organizations. Many sponsorships come from the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 47,000 churches. Now, Frank Page, president of the SBC's executive committee, says it’s time for its congregations to cut all ties with the Boy Scouts of America.
"I think I can say with pretty strong accuracy that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are very disappointed in the latest change in policy ... deeply disappointed," Page told ABC News.
Within the next few weeks, the Southern Baptist Convention plans to hold a national meeting, where Page and the executive board will officially recommend that all Southern Baptist churches pull their sponsorship from the Boy Scouts. The resolution will not be binding, however, and each church is free to make a decision for itself.
"We don't hate people," said Page. "We don't hate anybody, but we just felt like there's got to be some objective standard, and we felt they were maintaining that until recently."
Despite the likely Southern Baptist move, not all religious organizations are as opposed to the change. The Mormon church, which sponsors many Scout troops, has embraced the Boy Scout decision despite its own disapproval of homosexuality. The Roman Catholic Church is considering its response.
ABC News also reports that the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the gay-founded Metropolitan Community Church are all in favor of repealing the ban on openly gay Scouts.
Some churches have already withdrawn their support. Father Derek Lappe of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Bremerton, Wash., has already removed its sponsorship of a local Boy Scout troop.
Pastor Tim Hester of Southeast Christian Church Louisville, Ky., has already done the same. "Truly, for us it's a logical decision," Hester told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "We cannot be distracted from the mission God has called us to."
Under the Boy Scouts of America’s new policy, openly gay Scouts will be allowed to serve in troops nationwide. But gay scoutmasters and adult leaders are still banned.
"No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," the resolution passed Thursday states, according to CNN.
"The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting," the BSA said in a statement.
The ban on gay Scouts and leaders was instituted in 1991 when the organization determined that gay people were not living in accordance with the Boy Scouts of America oath, which demands that Scouts be "physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight." The point of contention was with the "morally straight" clause. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the BSA as a private organization had the constitutional right to set its own rules in a case brought by a gay Eagle Scout named James Dale, who was barred from serving as a leader in a New Jersey troop in 1990 because of his sexuality.