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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
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. Nancy

    I guess that also means that gay persons are not welcome to worship at Baptist Churches. Interesting since the blah blah has always been "hate the sin, love the sinner." You Baptists are hypocritical better get to praying to Jesus for guidance.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • George

      The idea that we have to respect religious beliefs is ludicrous. I respect one thing, the RIGHT to believe what you want, but I find religious beliefs across the board to be selfish, self serving drivel. There is no, and as near as I or anyone else can tell, any evidence to suggest their are supernatural beings of ANY kind, let alone a "supreme" one. We wouldn't argue over stuff like allowing gays to be gays if simply focused on making life better for ALL, not for one sect or another who just happens to believe in the one true god. LOL, most of them call god "he" but can't tell you how big his penis is.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Alias

      God loves gay people.
      Baptists hate gay people.
      Therefore god will let the baptists into heaven first?

      I don't think so, but I won't speak for a god I don't believe in. I'll let the baptists figure it out for themselves.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  2. Dawn

    They're perfectly within their rights to act however childishly they want.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Willowing

      Indeed that's true! And many have been commenting on their right, which is our right, too!

      June 1, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  3. Robert

    There's a reason it's called the "Boy Scouts of America," and not the "Boy Scouts of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge." It may still not be entirely "of America" yet, but it's making progress

    June 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • redrocket74

      All this bs about the Scouts if you don't like it don't let your kids join send them somewhere else. The Boy Scouts are an Organization that has a religious component and to ignore that and say they should be all inclusive is and forsake their religious roots. Churches throughout America have hosted the scouts for decades and to forget that is a disappointment.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • Saraswati

      @redrocket74, Your argument would be a lot more defensible is the US government didn't provide special support to this organization through donations of goods, facilities and special legal protections that allow them rights to tax payer resources even when local ordinances ban discriminatory groups from using them. The major problem here is that this is not just your average group but an organization granted special rights and protections by the US government.

      If they let all that go they would be on firmer ground, but it still wouldn't make it unreasonable for people to speak up both from inside and outside the organization. It is that very kind of open discussion that opened up private country clubs and schools to people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and I would certainly not have said either members or non-members should just shut up and move elsewhere.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  4. Alias

    This is really more about the Baptists than it is about the Boyscouts.
    The baptists were late accepting that Slavery is wrong, and that women should have equal rights, and that civil right really are rights – and now they are late figuring out that gay people are people.

    Now, can someone please tell me wht Baptists think being gay is a bigger problem than all the sins they ignore?
    i.e. eating shellfish, mixing fabric, divorce.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Shirley

      Totally agree!!!

      June 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      Not the first time they got something wrong :-). Love the sinner, hate the sin. Words to live by. God loves everybody (even Atheists, though they don't believe it 🙂 ). Hate comes from the Other guy who apparently influences a lot of people on this website.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • LinCA

      @SouthernCelt

      You said, "Hate comes from the Other guy who apparently influences a lot of people on this website."
      The "other guy" is just as much a figment of someone's imagination as you god is.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  5. Eric

    I really don't care if there are gay Boy Scouts, but on the same hand I think it is completely within the rights of the church to not allow the Scouts to use their facilities.

    It seems to me that everyone is able to take a moral stand, as long as it goes along with their beliefs.

    Ultimately the Scouts will find another place to meet, and be better people for not sharing space with people that do not want them there.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Shirley

      I think it's horrible for people buy their heads in the sand and forgo knowledge for ignorance.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Eric

      You said, "I really don't care if there are gay Boy Scouts, but on the same hand I think it is completely within the rights of the church to not allow the Scouts to use their facilities."
      They can. But there is a large difference between what they can, and what they should do.

      They are free to hold their misguided beliefs. They have the right to not be inclusive. Everybody else has the right to point out how silly they are.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  6. redrocket74

    the scouts buckled under pressure from the media they should have held their ground and their ideals.

    June 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • LinCA

      @redrocket74

      You said, "the scouts buckled under pressure from the media they should have held their ground and their ideals."
      Or, the voting members of the BSA that made the change, reflect society as a whole more than you would like. Your views are in the minority, and the minority is getting smaller.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Shirley

      It's ignorance and they need to educate themselves.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Oh of course media pressure! Now I get it. The whole discrimination thing is a red herring.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  7. McGee5123

    All I know is, when I need clarification on something, I always go directly to the Iron Age belief system that was written by humans and then translated and retranslated thousands of times through dozens of languages. It's only common sense, people!

    June 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Kip Wendell

      Of course when you are talking of any other source, the logic you state (via sarcasm) seems to be understood by everyone... reveal it's the Bible, and suddenly logic and common sense go out the window.

      It's a book that should be taken as seriously as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It has the basic principle of good conquering evil... but there's a lot of fantasy fiction in there that should be taken at just that... fiction.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  8. mama k

    The poster "." replied below, calls homosexuality an abomination. It seems that "dot" has not kept up to date on current biological and psychological knowledge on the issue.

    =================================================

    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 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • M

      You forgot, the religious don't believe in science.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Shirley

      I totally agree and so does God.

      June 1, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  9. cpc65

    G'bye!!!

    June 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  10. charles bowen

    Don't see the problem ,everyone knows that Jesus Christ hung around with 12 dudes and never married ya think he might have been gay or maybe the horniest dude on the planet...Baptist, read your bible and see how far your church has fallen.. Plenty of room here in Buddhaville for those who dont agree with your misguided beliefs...Ya All Have A Nice Day! Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    June 1, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  11. slicenic

    Scouting has always been an opportunity for kids to learn how to socialize and understand what it means to be part of a team. It's sad that the Southern Bigot leaders want to disassociate from a movement that has at last decided to accept all young people into it's ranks. The good news is that most troops will find other places to hold their meetings and events. Religion, the last bastion of hatred, no wonder churches are empty.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Happy Trails

      As a parent of a scout, the BSA is deeply rooted in Christian beliefs and teachings. This goes against their own doctrine.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • Amtays

      @happy_trails Plenty of christians I know disagree with you

      June 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  12. geekgirl42

    The bottom line is that when the Baptists run out of groups to be afraid of, they will lose their power, and when they lose power, they lose church members, and when they lose members, they lose money. They don't want to get to know gay people personally because it would mean their congregations might actually become friends with some gay people. It gets harder to be afraid of a whole group of people when you get to know some of them.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • M

      It's going to be one heck of an implosion when it happens.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  13. snow white

    Just goes to show Baptists don't love all kids, just certain kinds of kids. Wonder how their church enrollment is going this year? Growing or getting fewer and fewer each year?

    June 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • james henry

      Just as you have a right to have an opinion, they do as well. Oh wait, you dont agree.....? Figures

      June 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  14. Damnable Church

    It would have to be the southern baptists. Such amount of hatred, bigotry and ignorance. Christians churches are the biggest bigots on this planet. Never mind that JESUS never said a word about gays. Try to look it up, its not there in his words.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Skeptimist

    Some things never change. I was in the scouts for a while but quit because of all the adult meddling. Note that this article quotes a lot of adults but not a single opinion from a boy. Reminds me of little league baseball – I quit that when I realized real honest sports is something kids do before adults and money get involved.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  16. Pokydoke

    The Southern Baptists need to change their name to "Church Of The Holy Bigot". Actually and hopefully this will drive more people away from religion as people realize that the only purpose of these Baptists is to spread hate and ignorance.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  17. Happy Trails

    You atheists expect everyone to honor the traditions of muslims but the Christian church cant hold onto their own beliefs? Hypocrisy at its finest. No one is asking you to be a part of it.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • M

      No, we ask you to honor human traditions of love and compassion, and set all religious hatred aside.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
    • NESTLE FOUNDATION OF OVALT INE

      What traditions? What in the world are you yaking about??

      June 1, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What? As an atheist and friend to many other atheists, I have never heard of anything like that. Christians, muslims, hindus, and any other type of believer can believe anything they want. Just don't expect the larger culture to just go along with YOUR chosen viewpoint. Nobody is telling the churches what to do or how to preach, we're just telling you what we're going to do with our own lives. You can ignore it or react angrily, or whatever, but you've got to put up with it one way or another, cause society keeps marching on.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • Damnable Church

      muslims, they murder gays in muslims invaded lands. You religious nuts just turn on the hatred and bigotry to a max.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  18. mama k

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

    Religions that agree with the poster's statement claim such a notion as an absolute 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.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tommy Tom, thanks for proving that you do post under the mama k handle.

      June 3, 2013 at 7:05 am |
  19. Happy Trails

    I will vote with my feet.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • M

      and something tells me you'll have company.

      June 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  20. Brad

    Just give it up already, unless you're willing to exclude all other sinners, too. There are plenty of other sins listed in the bible, people.

    June 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
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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.