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. electric52

    FINALLY !!!! .... There can be a Boy Scout Troop without fanatical Baptists. Thank you God!

    May 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

    Word Baptism, is based on Latin word Baptismuss, meaning to color, by Hebrew teaching, to color himself in color of, or act according to truth absolute GOD, to live by truth absolute and Obey Elohim, truth absolute GOD according to HIS commandments. But luck has it with combination of Pandora, trick box of hindu Pundits, crook tricksters, word has lost it meanings, but it is being observed just as a tradition.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  3. Over 40,000 denominations of hypocrisy

    The poster below claims Baptists are not Protestant. Big deal. What's more obvious than that distinction in America today is that there are Baptists that continue to thrive on bigotry, like the SBC, and then there are much more moderate types of Baptists – for instance those that belong to AWAB. Similar divisions of course exist in just about any other major Christian denomination as well.

    Recently we learned from CNN of a child dying when their parents, members of a Christian sect in Philadelphia, as part of their faith, refused medical care. When incidents like the subject of this article come to light, many Christians are only too ready to try explain how another Christian's interpretation of ancient "scripture" is not quite right.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one (over 4,000,000 members) in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage. One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags". Many of these sects are equally divergent on the roles of women in society.

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri. Some believe the Pope is the Antichrist. Some believe Obama is the Antichrist.

    Some believe that celibacy is the only option for certain people, or for people in certain positions. Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but pretend not to understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    Conflicted right from the start, Christianity continues to splinter, creating more and more extreme divisions, with each division trying to assert itself as some true messenger of the word of the Christian God.


    Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

    (Thomas Jefferson, from Notes on the State of Virginia, 1785)

    May 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm |
  4. jvance

    It's certainly their option, but America has changed regarding this issue. Self-imposed insularity and separation bodes a difficult future for any person, organization or country.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • kenny

      or EVERYONE ... since EVERYONE purposefully commits a sin EVERY DAY if you look at the whole bible and not just cherry pick certain rules that are really really bad... they are so pathetic it blows my mind

      May 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
    • adm

      In our community the boy scouts are sponsored by the Mormons and it looks as though this is true with the Baptists sponsoring the scouts in this article. Does it suggest then, the Boy Scouts of America should simply change their names to represent their church rather than the United States?

      May 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm |
    • tom

      Mormons are smart they will land on the right side of the issue they want their 10% gay or not.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      The Boy Scouts of America was founded on Christian principals. This is why God comes before Country in the Boy Scout pledge.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:12 am |
  5. Bart

    Did they kick out the divorced people?

    May 31, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
    • FloydZepp

      Shhh..the multiple divorced baptists think spitting in Jesus face that way is OK.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Of course not, it would be unreasonable to take those passages too seriously.

      June 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      Generally divorced people are too old to be Scouts. If you are speaking of Den leaders and Scout masters, they do try to get people that are as good and high in moral character as possible...sometimes they fail, but they do try.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:13 am |
  6. emintey

    "Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts"

    How stupid, but not surprising.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  7. Brian Tatem

    This is the best thing to happen now if all religion will follow suit that would be amazing now Scouts will not have to worry about being brain washed by their dogma.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      If all churches do the same, there would be very few Scouts left.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  8. John

    We should realize that just because the Southern Baptists (which doesn't actually represent all Baptist Churches in the US) may 'disaffiliate' themselves with Scouting, that doesn't automatically mean all of those Troops will fold and all of the Scouts and leaders will leave. Troops will find other charter organizations and Scouts and Scouters will find other Troops/Packs/Crews to be a part of. This is unfortunate and perhaps bad in the short term, but if those groups feel that this is a decision they can't support, then perhaps it is best if they find other organizations where they can wall themselves off from society just a bit more. Those of us who have chosen to stay in Scouting will continue on, providing the best experience for our boys and girls that we can.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
    • emintey

      Yes, let us not forget that the Southern Baptists split off from the main body of Baptists over the issue of slavery prior to the Civil war, when the larger Baptist groups condemned it. they never got around to apologizing for their former stance on slavery until a decade or so ago. these are very backward people.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  9. FloydZepp

    The southern baptists are an anachronism now.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  10. Me

    Awesome, good for them...

    May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • KneonKnight

      I cannot determine who you think is awesome. Care to elaborate?

      May 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  11. Tranlation

    Good for them. They finally realize that they are unable to control their attraction to young boys and are separating themselves from the temptation. The baptist church will always go down as being the most backward thinking group of bible thumpers in the USA. I watched as one young "pastor" drooled over the pictures of young scouts and proclaimed they were all heading to hell.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
  12. koga

    A club my kid can join that doesn't have any baptists! sounds great!

    May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • mary


      May 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  13. mistamista

    The Baptists deny the Boy Scouts, which is kind of ironic considering that the Baptists have denied blacks, logic, truth and common sense for so many years. When were the dinosaurs here again? Oh, yeah....6,500 years ago. TRUST me Boy Scouts, you're better off without bigoted race-hating mentally inept people of the SAME branch of the church that broke off in order to maintain slaves...because the Bible said so.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  14. Cody

    What boggles my mind is that in this day and age ,How can anyone of even average intelligence be concerned about what a bunch of religious zealots think.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • SCOTTA

      yeah cody why are you on here worrying what a bunch of religious zealots think? hmm?

      June 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Unfortunately said religious zealots are attempting to turn the United States into a theocracy. THAT'S why we care.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
    • geekgirl42

      You should care, because amazingly those religious zealots still hold a lot of power and influence local and national politics and in communities all across the south. That influence is waning as they run out of groups to demonize.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  15. toydrum

    When I was a kid, a lot of the scout troops were associated with local schools. Some were evicted from their local school districts because of their exclusion policies. It would be nice if the schools would now step up and review those policies and see if it is time to invite the scouts back.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • MelRog

      Great idea toydrum! I too remember when they were in schools and was sad when religious organizations took them over.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  16. sly guy

    One great step for mankind. Now if they would only leave for another country.

    May 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
    • tim k

      We are all living in another country. Isnt it wonderful! We elected a half black president to prove we are not racist.When you try to fix something with the power of the media and the wisdom of man, you will probably destroy what you are working so hard to fix. We are gonna trade the old intolerance for the new intolerance. It sures makes interesting news stories though.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:11 am |
  17. dannyC

    Sounds like the Southern Baptists are saying if you have a gay child you need to get out of their church. Of course saying that might lighten the collection plate so I doubt you'll hear them say that. I mean, high morals are great and all but the Presidents mansion at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville wasn't paid for out of God's checking account.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • sam

      I just doubt that any SB parent would ever admit their kid is gay. They would try to get it 'fixed'.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Well, maybe it WAS paid for out of god's checking account – because like George Carlin said – god always needs money! That would explain why.

      June 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm |
  18. honestmidwest

    It is sad that some people who call themselves "so religious" so often are the ones who "selectively pick and choose" what they want their agenda to be, based on "selective pieces" of their thoughts. I say "goodbye" to them – these people are apparently not the kind, loving people they portray themselves to be. I wouldn't want my kids to be associated with their prejudiced kind, in any way. So many use religion as a shield for their personal intolerance and hatred – it is just sad.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm |
    • Maddog2020

      That is why America is free we can make our own choices even if you do not like it.

      May 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • FloydZepp

      That's why it's America, so we can have choices, unless we want to ban women from choosing their reproductive choices.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  19. popseal

    A sound church is like a moral plumb line for the surrounding society. When the society moves, it is up to the church to call it back to righteousness. Unfortunately we Christians have been afflicted with our own inconsistencies and now are considered "salt to be trodden under the feet of men" as a result. It's bad for all concerned. Yet, the Lord knows them that are His and nothing takes Him by surprise.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
    • sam

      Too bad 'righteousness' is the cover word often used for 'discriminatory opinion'.

      Keep your righteousness in your own yard.

      May 31, 2013 at 5:57 pm |
    • KneonKnight

      "When the society moves, it is up to the church to call it back to righteousness."

      Like it did with slavery. And civil rights. And interracial marriage. And...

      May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • sly guy

      Too bad you won't be one of them when HE calls.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • KneonKnight

      @sly guy

      "He", meaning your deity, most likely doesn't exist, so I don't anticipate anyone being "called". Your antiquated notion that a sky god exists is troublesome to many of us because your ilk tends to try and force your lower moral standards on the rest of us. We don't like that and we definately do not like your religion slowing moral progress. So, if you ever get a call from your god, record it – it will not only make us atheists surprised, but you a rich and famous person.

      May 31, 2013 at 6:34 pm |
    • dannyC

      So that's what the Inquisition was all about. Just plumbing up the lax morals. LOL.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  20. Dennis

    With the Baptists gone maybe the BSA will finally shed all its bigotries.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
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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.