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May 31st, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, it was Scripture versus the Scouts.

“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

So when the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its ban on openly gay youths on May 24, Reed said the church had no choice but to cut its charter with Troop 542.

“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16. “It’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist church.”

Southern Baptist leaders say Reed is not alone.

Baptist churches sponsor nearly 4,000 Scout units representing more than 100,000 youths, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

That number could drop precipitously.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, will soon urge its 45,000 congregations and 16 million members to cut ties with the Scouts, according to church leaders.

The denomination will vote on nonbinding but influential resolutions during a convention June 11-12 in Houston.

“There’s a 100% chance that there will be a resolution about disaffiliation at the convention,” said Richard Land, the outgoing head of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, “and a 100% chance that 99% of people will vote for it.”

“Southern Baptists are going to be leaving the Boy Scouts en masse,” Land continued.

Roger “Sing” Oldham, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, emphasized that local congregations make their own decision on the Scouts.

But he, too, said he expects Baptist delegates, which the church calls “messengers,” to voice their disagreement with the BSA's decision to allow gay youths.

“With this policy change, the Boy Scouts’ values are contradictory to the basic values of our local churches,” Oldham said.

Several religious groups with strong Scouting ties support the new policy.

“We have heard from both those who support the amended policy and those who would have preferred it would not have changed,” said BSA spokesman Deron Smith.

Faith-based organizations charter more than 70% of Scout chapters, providing meeting space and leadership, according to the BSA.

“There have been some organizations that have decided not to renew their charters with Scouting," said Smith, "but we can’t quantify the impact of the amended policy."

The National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors more Scout units than any other faith, all endorsed the change.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting, which is run with oversight from a bishop, said Thursday that allowing gay youths in the Scouts does not conflict with church teaching. Each bishop will decide whether or not to allow churches in his diocese to charter Scout units, the committee added.

“We ask that Catholic Scouters and chartered organization heads not rush to judgment,” said Edward Martin, chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting.

But the Rev. Derek Lappe, pastor of the Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Bremerton, Washington, has already made up his mind.

“I do not feel that it is possible for us to live out, and to teach, the authentic truth about human sexuality within the confines of the Boy Scout’s new policy,” said Lappe.

The priest told CNN affiliate FOX16 that his parish will part ways with the Scouts and develop its own programs.

There may soon be an alternative to the Scouts for social conservatives like Lappe.

John Stemberger, founder of On My Honor, a group that opposed the Scouts’ change in policy, plans to convene conservatives in Louisville, Kentucky, in June to consider forming a new Scout-like group, which could be up and running by the end of 2013.

“Churches and Scoutmasters are looking for leadership and direction,” said Stemberg, an attorney in Orlando, Florida.

A number of conservative religious denominations already sponsor their own groups.

For instance, the Southern Baptists have the Royal Ambassadors, an explicitly Christian program founded in 1908 for boys in first through sixth grade. (A similar group called Challengers equips older boys in “mission education.”)

The name comes from the New Testament, in which the Apostle Paul tells Christians to be “ambassadors for Christ.”

The estimated 31,000 Royal Ambassadors pledge “ to become a well-informed, responsible follower of Christ; to have a Christlike concern for all people; to learn how to carry the message of Christ around the world; to work with others in sharing Christ; and to keep myself clean and healthy in mind and body."

While not as outdoorsy as the Boy Scouts, Ambassadors do camp and play sports, said Land, who was a member of the group during the 1950s. But instead of merit badges for archery and bird study, young Ambassadors earn patches for memorizing Bible verses and mission work.

Southern Baptists said they are preparing for a surge of interest in the Royal Ambassadors at their upcoming convention in Houston.

“We really have an opportunity here to strengthen our RA programs,” the Rev. Ernest Easley, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said in a sermon last Sunday, “and to get the boys in a program where they’re going to be protected, where there’s a high moral standard and where they will have an opportunity to learn about camping, missions, evangelism in the local church.”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Gay rights • gender issues • Politics • United States

soundoff (10,821 Responses)
  1. dnothing

    Yeah, let's hurt the kids just because we're too close minded to accept different kinds of people. Sounds like a great idea! Religion wins again!

    June 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Scott

      You're so naïve.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  2. MIchael in Chicago

    Parents should turn to outstanding youth organizations for their kids to be involved - that do not hate and discriminate, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, 4H, YMCA, YWCA, Girl Scouts and many others. The Boy Scouts continue to hate, just as they have since I was an Eagle Scout in the 1970s. Shame on them.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  3. mama k

    A recent poster wrote that God hates the sin of homosexuality.

    Religions that agree with the poster's statement claim such a notion as an objective moral truth. We know such notions are founded in ancient writings from millennia past. For many things we have learned about through science, beliefs have had to adapt to keep from looking silly and being out of date with current knowledge. This is simply another time where fundamental religions are struggling to keep up with current knowledge and throwing a hissy fit about the discomforting situation they find themselves in.

    We know that homosexuality has always been a naturally occurring feature across many species including mankind, and science is now getting closer and closer to answers on how it survives across generations. Now that the scientific research shows that homosexuality is not a choice, but formed very early via epigenetic factors (resistant to change), religions that abhor homosexuality look sillier than ever on the issue. For Christians in particular, I would also say their wildly conflicting Biblical interpretations regarding a wide array of topics including this one is just another indicator that their objective truths are anything but objective.

    For issues such as this, with the knowledge we have today, Christians need to come to the table without "scripture", and be ready to discuss such issues rationally. Otherwise they will continue to face an ever increasing tide of distrust and an ultimate indictment of irrelevancy.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |

    • Psychology

      The American Psychological Association states "there are probably many reasons for a person's sexual orientation and the reasons may be different for different people", and says most people's sexual orientation is determined at an early age. Research into how sexual orientation in males may be determined by genetic or other prenatal factors plays a role in political and social debates about homosexuality, and also raises concerns about genetic profiling and prenatal testing."

      Professor Michael King states: "The conclusion reached by scientists who have investigated the origins and stability of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed early in life, and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice."

      The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

      "Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person's fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice."

      Biology

      The following is from the article:

      Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find (12/11/2012 – LiveScience)

      [ The search for a "gay gene" may be off-target, new research finds. Another process called epigenetics that switches genes on and off may explain why homosexuality runs in families.

      Epigenetics are heritable changes caused by factors other than DNA. Instead of traits getting passed down through the genes, epigenetic change happens because of the way genes are regulated, or turned on and off.

      These genetic regulators may be the reason homosexuality persists in nature despite the fact that gay people are less likely to reproduce, suggests the new study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology.

      "These things have evolved because they're good for the parents, but they sometimes, not [with] high frequency, but sometimes carry over" into offspring, study researcher William Rice, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told LiveScience. In a male fetus, Rice and his colleagues write, an epigenetic change that benefited the mother may lead to "feminization" of sexual preference — homo- or bisexuality. The same may be true for epigenetic changes passed down by dad to a female fetus. (The terms feminization and masculinization of sexual preference refer to sexual orientation only — not to physical or personality traits of the offspring.)

      The findings add to past research suggesting gay men haven't died out, because female relatives of gay men tend to have more children on average than other females. The study researchers specifically found that two genes passed on through the maternal line could produce this effect.

      Hormones, epigenetics and orientation

      Rice and his colleagues focused on epi-marks, which are molecular changes that act like temporary "switches" to turn genes on and off. If a gene is a blueprint, the epi-mark is the construction foreman who makes sure the product gets built. An epi-mark also determines when, where and how much a gene is expressed, according to the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis.

      These molecular switches are usually erased very early in the developmental process, but they can be passed down from generation to generation, too, Rice said.

      Some epi-marks are particularly important during fetal development, when they promote normal physical development in the sexes despite natural variations in testosterone during pregnancy. Researchers know that fetal exposure to too much testosterone can masculinize the genitals, brain or behavior of a genetically female fetus. Likewise, too little testosterone can make a genetically male fetus more feminized.

      But here's the catch: There's lots of overlap between the levels of testosterone male and female fetuses get exposed to. That means there must be another side to the story, Rice and his colleagues wrote.

      That side appears to be epigenetics, Rice said.

      "Early in development, we think these epi-marks are laid down so that girl fetuses will be relatively insensitive to testosterone and male fetuses will be relatively sensitive to testosterone," Rice said.

      Biological behavior

      Thus, if an epi-mark that kept a mother from getting exposed to high testosterone in development gets passed on to her son — the opposite sex — it could desensitize him to testosterone, contributing to his sexual preference for men. Similarly, if a male-specific epi-mark from dad gets passed to a daughter, it could "masculinize" her sexual preference, making her more interested in women.

      These findings could explain why twin studies show that homosexuality runs in families, but no "gay gene" can be found, Rice said. In identical twins, there's about a 20 percent chance that if one twin is gay, the other will be too. If genetic change were responsible for homosexuality, you'd expect a much higher match, Rice said. Epigenetics, however, can explain the heritability without the need for a specific genetic change.

      The hypothesis could be tested by examining epigenetic marks in parents of kids with gay versus straight offspring, Rice said. There are, of course, concerns that this knowledge could be used by parents who want to avoid gay offspring, Rice said, but that concern already exists around certain hormonal conditions in utero, which are known to contribute to an increased chance of offspring being lesbians.

      "That cat's already out of the bag," Rice said. He added that an understanding of the biological underpinnings of homosexuality could help emphasize that same-sex behavior is not "unnatural."

      "In fact, it's a major part of the natural world," Rice said. Fourteen percent of Western gulls raise chicks in female-female pairs, he pointed out. And 8 percent of male sheep show zero interest in fertile ewes, but get sexually excited by other rams. ] . . . . . . .

      June 3, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  4. Michelle Diaz

    Southern Baptists could just call their groups "Hitler Youth" or "Young Pioneers" and be done with it.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  5. snickles

    Pedophiles are people too. When is BSA going to stop hating on them?

    June 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Observer

      snickles,

      Are you bright enough to see the difference?

      June 3, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • snickles

      observer,
      Yes. Are you bright enough to see the similarities?

      June 3, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Observer

      snickles,

      So your answer was "no".

      June 3, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      One is illegal, and rightly so. The other is not, and rightly so. Apparently, that contrast is above snickles' grasp.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • snickles

      You two do realize that NAMBLA is already lobbying to "fix" that? Not too long ago both were illegal. In many countries it is still that way; and rightly so....

      June 3, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  6. Darwin was right

    Oh RIGHT! These are the same Southern Baptists who, 50, 100, and 150 years ago preached that 1) God made Blacks especially suited for slavery by making them only slightly above the apes 2) the HOLY BIBLE supported and approved of slavery 3) GOD's plan intends the races to stay separate, thus justifying the brutal segregation policies of the south and the suppresion of Black voting rights 4) the BIBLE prohibits interracial marriage, etc. etc. Even into the 1970s the Southern Baptists organized boycotts of businesses that served Blacks along side white people. The Southern Baptists have been, over the last 150 years, one of the MOST EVIL ORGANISATIONS IN AMERICA!

    June 3, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • snickles

      Sooo true. Blacks are much more suited to gang banging.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • James PDX

      Looks like snickles is fondly reminiscing about his prison time again.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • snickles

      James,
      you're probably one of those that thinks a prison record is "normal" just like gang banging is a youthful discretion.

      June 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Church of Suicidal

    "a new Scout-like group, which could be up and running by the end of 2013."

    Uniforms to consist of sheets and hoods.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  8. Bob

    1 in 5 hate crimes are religiously based.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  9. James PDX

    Judge not, lest ye be judged. Love everyone. Let he who is without sin... Etc, etc... Nothing like calling Christ your savior and then poo pooing all over his teachings. I'm pretty sure that's not something you want to teach your children.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • snickles

      Nothing more annoying than a Cristian hating atheist quoting the bible to make their argument.

      June 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  10. The real Tom

    Still waiting for those of you who oppose gays marrying to answer. Have there been ANY negative consequences at all since gay marriage was legalized in any state or country?

    So far, all I've seen is that some idiot who's a nosepicker uses HIV/AIDS to justify his prejudice when it has nothing to do with gay marriage at all. Another doofus says kids are "confused" by seeing gay marriages on TV, as if that means there's some harm being done by said confusion, when a parent with any parenting skills at all could help to explain gay marriage just as one explains people having different color skin.

    Is that all you guys can come up with? Lame.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Happy Atheist

      Tom, you are forgetting to use your imagination when trying to come up with negatives. That's what the Christians do since there is no hard evidence of any negative other than the negatives of being discriminated against by them.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • The real Tom

      I have a hard time imagining the kind of blatant stupidity I see on here from the muttonheads every time I read it. Invariably, their posts are nearly unreadable as they border on being illiterate.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Observer
      June 3, 2013 at 10:15 am |
  11. Praise FSM

    Good riddance to bigots.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  12. Garry

    It must be nice to pick and choose which sins the Southern Baptist follow and the same goes for many others who keep quoting scriptures about sins. If they were so "true" to what the scriptures say about sins..they would all be naked and you would never see them at Red Lobster!

    June 3, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • kentraco

      I don't want to see ANYONE naked at Red Lobster.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  13. tre

    .....Baptists........These are the guys that threw fastballs when Christ said.........."Those without sin, cast the first stone".....

    June 3, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  14. Rob-Texas

    Not thrilled about the outcome but I think it was right. Allowing gay scouts to remain but no leaders. Its not bigotry towards gay scouts and a private organization should be able to pick its leaders. I am sure the LBGT association is not happy about it one bit and plans to continue to beat up the scouts for their own benifit. If they can't take it over, tear it down. At least that seems to be their policy.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • James PDX

      I would be more accepting of this decision if the Scouts also excluded divorced people and adulterers from being Scout leaders. Read the bible(s) and you'll see how much more harshly and often these sins are denounced.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  15. James PDX

    I remember when the Southern Baptists voted to break off their affiliation with the Boy Scouts for allowing divorced parents to be Scout leaders since the bible(s) speak out much more harshly and much more often against divorce than pretty much anything else.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  16. jake1969

    Lame. Good riddance I say. I keep hearing them say "we aren't anti-gay, but we don't support gay marriage based on biblical principals"...fine, I can respect that position (though I disagree). But this is Boy Scouts, not marriage. Why discriminate here? I think the southern baptists are showing their true colors and that it is about discrimination and hate, not so-called "protection" of marriage. Too bad. As a father, I'm personally glad the Scouts changed their position and am much more comfortable now letting my kids join.

    June 3, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • James PDX

      Funny how they haven't said a word about divorced people or adulterers being Scout leaders. According to the bible(s), their sins are much greater. But I guess they don't want to have things they might want to do banned. Much easier to get extra self righteous against people committing sins they have no personal interest in committing themselves.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • 9hydra

      Last I heard, boy scouts wasn't a marriage organization. This is all about bigotry, and nothing about camping or enjoying nature.

      June 3, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  17. David Veal

    After reversing all those decades of bigotry, the scouts are actually looking like the good guys here. Cut out the cancer of hate and grow a healthier organization is what I take away from this article. It isn't a Christian thing, it's a hate thing.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  18. Bob

    The list of people that the Southern Baptists hate is quite long.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  19. JT

    Good riddance. Don't let the door hit ya.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  20. Jason

    Whatever. Perhaps more liberal, accepting groups will pick up where the Baptists fail at acting like human beings.

    June 3, 2013 at 9:55 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.