May 31st, 2013
04:19 PM ET

Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
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(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. Sam Bloom

    Don't let the door hit you in the posterior.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:17 am |
  2. Steve

    The US Military also recently allowed gay members. Can we expect that the Southern Baptists will withdraw all of their chaplains from military service and will close their doors to members of the US military?

    June 1, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • Ruth

      They might say that the chaplains are there to serve Baptists in the military.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:31 am |
    • Athey

      What leadership these churches give. Yeah. We should really go further. We should have separate drinking fountains, bathrooms and seating sections for the gays. Hell, while we are at it, maybe we should be able to buy and sell them for personal uses? Wait, that is slavery. Oh, different – someone does not choose to be black – so we cannot do that. But since these young kids have "chosen" to be gay, its ok. What a bunch of idiots these bible thumpers are!!

      June 1, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • claiparker

      Athly actually they are showing leadership! They are holding on to what they believe, are they saying you can't be gay? No they are saying they won't support a group that allows gays! If you don't like a company you don't shop there! You can make your own decision based on what you believe, so to judge the SBC for this decision is fair but to try to put them in the same category as slave owners is not only stupid it makes you just as bad as the people you just judged!

      June 1, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • sam stone

      "They are holding on to what they believe, are they saying you can't be gay? No they are saying they won't support a group that allows gays! If you don't like a company you don't shop there! You can make your own decision based on what you believe"

      They are holding on to what they believe, are they saying you can't be black? No they are saying they won't support a group that allows blacks! If you don't like a company you don't shop there! You can make your own decision based on what you believe

      June 1, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  3. lford78

    I don't think the Boy Scouts will be too concerned about the Baptist leaving... I am sure all the Catholics priest will welcome them with open arms.

    June 1, 2013 at 7:09 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Welcome the Baptist?

      June 1, 2013 at 7:19 am |
  4. ms oh

    How does one determine gay or not as a child ??? They use this gay thing as an out, as an attention getting device. Rather than growing a pair.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • sam stone

      wow, how insightful......

      June 1, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      From the parents of my gay friends that I have spoken to, there are some signs that show up early in life but even if those signs were not there, it still does not excuse your ignorance. Most kids are not attracted to another person in the sense of a relationship until their hormones kick in.
      When did you decide you liked girls?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • DSam

      Congratulations with your short post you have replaced my previous definition of Idiot.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  5. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Dear Southern Baptists,

    o "Abrahamics" like yourselves believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    1. The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological 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 heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    2. "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    3. See also the From the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”
    "Most scientists who study human se-xuality agree that gay people are born that way. But that consensus raises an evolutionary puzzle: How do genes associated with h-omose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?"

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions supposedly abide by the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Liberty

      Science is so political, just like using bible verses out of context, you can find a scientist to say what ever you want them to. I know a lot of people who lived the gay lifestyle, about 50% of them have left it and now live normal lives. How could that be possible if they were "born gay"?

      June 1, 2013 at 7:25 am |
    • Mirosal

      and did they do so at the behest of their pastors or reverends?

      June 1, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • DavidInNC

      your problem here is that you assume that anyone with a PHD in front of their name knows what he or she is talking about.

      June 1, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  6. Corncop

    Guess the Jesus-Freak Baptists have forgotten "Love Thy Neighbor"! And what about Dr. Martin Luther King's quote of "All men are created equal"! I suppose that only applies if those "men" think and look and believe Baptist? So the adults are going to punish the sinners by punishing all the children. America believes in freedom, so narrow-mindedness must be recognized as one of those freedoms of "choice". I say, good riddance to them. Too bad for the kids though! It is a great organization for teaching and building character among it's members. Just too bad that the twisted ideals of the adults will deny so many children an opportunity. I thought EQUAL opportunity was why the Southern Baptists had been so involved in the Civil Rights movement for so long? Guess that does not apply if you are different!

    June 1, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Superman

      ....states the hypocrite bigot that calls others, "freaks", for being different and having different beliefs!!

      June 1, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      They never did believe in loving their neighbor. Jesus means little to conservative Christians.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  7. Lewis

    So, S. Baptists you want to distance yourselves from those "sinning" children because some STUPID passages in the Old Testament. Let us look at what Jesus actually had to say about gay people...oh yea, NOTHING!
    S. Baptists when will you start your crusade to discriminate against divorced ad remarried people, because Jesus did say that many divorced and remarried people are committing adultery – Matthew 19:9! But wait, they will NEVER do that because one half of their congregations will leave and take their money with them! Typical "pick and choose christians."

    June 1, 2013 at 6:42 am |
  8. floyd schrodinger

    The only morals the southern baptists are showing is that they have none. The scouts are much better off without that hate filled church.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • TrueBlue42

      The hatred from the Southern Baptists, however, IS true.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  9. jacksays

    the scouts of today are not the scouts my father and grandfather participated in as pack leaders.

    today's scouting is so tied to church and religion. that's not what scouting was/is about! that's what CHURCH is about. that's what RELIGION is about.

    let's let scouting go back to being what it used to be before the religions took it over, please.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • Veronica

      Amen to that, Jack!

      June 1, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      jacksays: Absolutely. Here in Canada they do not discriminate in any way. http://www.scouts.ca/ca/frequently-asked-questions

      June 1, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  10. jeremiah

    I dont think the scouts should oust gays. How else are we supposed to reach the people that need it most if we turn our back on "sinners"? Speaking of which we are all sinners to start with, we all need jesus' blood just as bad as the gay kid down the street. Love him, show him a strong father figure, and give him a fighting chance to come to know Christ. <3

    June 1, 2013 at 6:24 am |
    • jacksays

      why is the BSA worried about religious ways? this is scouting, not church.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      It is not a sin!! When are you bigots going to do some research outside your 2000 year old book and realize this?
      It has nothing to do with boys not having a decent father figure, it has everything to do with the child being born that way.
      I sincerely hope that one of your children admits to being gay and then they'll know the true bigotry of their parents and cult leaders.
      Go back to your cave if you don't like being near gays but the fact that they are getting equal rights finally is not going to change.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Science

      Hey jeremiah and all creationists ...........chadie too....the truth below !

      Ancient life...............3.5 billion years ago.............NO god(s) or horn-y red devil (666 the beast) never has been

      Disappearance of Stromatolites, Earliest Visible Manifestation of Life: Ancient Enigma Solved?

      May 28, 2013 — The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera.


      June 1, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      billfitt: In case you missed it, gay scout leaders are still not allowed. So while they've dropped the discrimination towards gay children they still discriminate against gay adults...pathetic and very much on the wrong side of history.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:38 am |
  11. Joseph Chandler

    If Jesus came to the places like where some of these "God fearing Christians" live, and said and did the things he supposedly did, that "damn forruner" would be run out of town in the first thing smoking.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      His followers would nail him up a second time.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  12. Sid Prejean

    I guess the old, "hate the sin, love the sinner" claptrap just went out the window. When you turn your back on a boy who wants the benefits of Scouting because of your interpretation of a scripture passage, you effectively turn your back on all boys. Here's my guess: there are as many gay boys in the Royal Ambassadors as there ever were in Scouting. Good riddance.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:16 am |
    • dc1975

      This is moronic, the scouts are going to let in any one, no one is being stopped being a scout if they are a kid. The Southern Baptist are just not going to support it. And Guess what???? They have the right not too. Why do you care what one organization thinks anyway? Plenty of other organizations will step up and support the scouts.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:20 am |
    • MawcDrums

      I don't think it's moronic. It's a whole group of people being proud of being bigoted. That should be a news story.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • dc1975

      You are very simple. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they are bigots.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Veronica

      Actually, dc1975, in this case it does mean they are bigots. Like it or not, that's just a fact.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  13. Neuroscience

    I'd like to call everyone's attention to neuroscience where being gay is shown legitimately as a product of brain structure and function. I would like to rememind everyone that believe it or not there are human beings biologically born with both genders. I am not an atheist, I am not trying to rid you of religion like some other posters but I am pointing out that medically speaking being gay is neurologically based.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • MawcDrums

      I AM an atheist, and I agree with everything you just said. (Including the bit about not trying to rid people of religion)

      June 1, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • Veronica

      Why would you add the sentence, "I am not trying to rid you of religion," as if all atheists want to see religion die? I'm an atheist and your religion doesn't bother me in the slightest, as long as you are respectful of my decision to be a non-believer.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Like Veronica, it's not a matter of wanting to rid them of their religion but a matter of them respecting the rights of others, including non-believers and gays. I'd rather they be educated on the most up-to-date facts and evidence.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • Neuroscience

      It's just been my experience that a well timed fact in a non-threatening context is more persuasive than a heated debate on the existence of God.

      June 1, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  14. DNA

    OOOH I just love it when the unwanted element self-edits themselves out of the picture. Don't Let The Door Hit You Where The Good Lord Split You! BYE NOW!!! DON'T COME BACK NOW, YA HERE?!?!?!

    June 1, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  15. Skeptic

    Me to Baptists – Buh=bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

    Whew. Now that that is over, the Scouts can go back to actually doing good things instead of pushing religious propaganda.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:11 am |
    • MawcDrums


      June 1, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  16. miscreantsall

    Fantastic! Take your hate and your hateful monster children and join an Islamist club somewhere.

    You have so much in common!!!

    June 1, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • dc1975

      Yes they do, Christians boycott gay events, and Islamist hang gays. Its just the same.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • MawcDrums

      Really DC?


      All religious extremism is harmful and divisive, even if it's not "physical harm".

      June 1, 2013 at 6:19 am |
    • dc1975

      hahaha really the crusades is what you have to fall back on too?

      Even Liberal Jesus Bill Maher think you are a moron. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjwMWfWnd1k

      June 1, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  17. David

    The bible says that sodomy is wrong and so I'm sure the SBC will be investigating and expelling all men who engage in sodomy with their wives. Yup, they'll be getting right into following that verse. Real soon.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • dc1975

      Please give the book and verse where it says that Sodomy with a woman is wrong..in the Bible,

      June 1, 2013 at 6:13 am |
    • DNA

      dc1975, Divorce, then, You kooky nutjob!

      June 1, 2013 at 6:17 am |
    • Mirosal

      The Supreme Court has struck down the last of the sodomy laws that were on the books in this country. So if a church expels someone, could that person then sue the church for a civil rights violation?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  18. shawn l

    What ever happened to "hate the sin, love the sinner."

    Seems like a lot of christians forget the last part.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:08 am |
    • dc1975

      So you are saying being gay is a sin?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:09 am |
    • Research

      It is not the kid. It is a systemic decision by an organization. No contradiction to hate the sin, love the sinner. Sad people cannot see that.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:14 am |
    • danielwalldammit

      I think that was always a clever dodge, and little more.

      June 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  19. 1word

    I am a man of God and I have to admit that this Church made the wrong decision. You cannot get mad with people because they are lost, you have to show love to them and once they come in contact with God he will change them from being blind. It's unfortunate that we have churches out there that doesn't understand Jesus Gospel. I do see a lot of young preachers preaching love and Grace so there is hope that all these Churches doors that doesn't preach love will be closed so they won't infect others to their beliefs.

    June 1, 2013 at 6:04 am |
    • Mirosal

      so you're saying that all gays are ped-o-philes?

      June 1, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Veronica

      Believing in God doesn't make you a "man of God." Treating people as you want to be treated does. And the SBC sure as hell doesn't do that.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:42 am |
  20. Laura

    Good! I'm glad they are following their heart, their scriptures, and their god. The more exclusive these religious organizations are the sooner people see them who they really are and the sooner they go away. "The times, they are a-changin."

    June 1, 2013 at 5:52 am |
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About this blog

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.