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. Schmoogalicious

    It's about time the Boy Scouts got rid of the religious loonies who nearly ruined them. The Scouts are about outdoor activities and being good citizens, not silly religious fundamentalism. Keep that tripe in the Baptist churches and out of the Scouts. Good riddance!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:37 am |
    • Chris

      Obviously you were never a Boy Scout as the 12 Scout Law requires them to be Reverent.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • mb2010a

      Feeling or showing deep and solemn respect: "a reverent silence".
      respectful – deferential – reverential

      Doesn't say anything about being religious...

      June 2, 2013 at 7:01 am |
    • Chris

      The Scout Oath has always referenced duty to "God".

      June 2, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  2. Enlightenment

    Boy Scouts are far better without Ignorant Religious Fools

    June 2, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  3. Mara Tam

    How very "Christian" of you!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • Susan

      I don't know were you folks get the idea that being a Christian means you tolerate and support sinful behavior. Jesus said to the those who were doing wrong, "go and sin no more". People who choose to NOT support the Boy Scouts have every right to discontinue supporting an organization that suggests an immoral lifestyle is acceptable. I'm far from perfect myself but I sure as heck am going to try my best to avoid behavior that God has deemed wrong. Furthermore if everyone did exactly as God suggested we would have little to no problems in our live here on earth. Why do people not do as the Lord God suggested? Because they have free will and choose to reject God's laws.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:46 am |
    • Erick

      Dear Susan,

      Doing what "God" wanted only caused the crusades, destroyed whole indigenous populations, forced conversions so I'm not sure what godly behavior your referring to.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:59 am |
    • One one

      @susan, do you recommend people follow this suggestion from god ?

      Deuteronomy 13:6 – “If your brother, your mother’s son or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul entice you secretly, saying, let us go and serve other gods … you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death”

      June 2, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • Dr. Z

      To SUSAN:
      Unfortunately you show yourself as one of those people who read only what they've been told, listen only to one version of reality, and appear to have maybe read the bible selectively to rationalize what you choose to believe. Magical thinking, closeminded and absolute beliefs, and manipulation of the masses have been the means by which entire populations have been disposed of and enslaved throughout the realm of Christianity. The bible are stories, and ones that have been re-interpreted and reprinted in many forms. It's like the game 'telephone'; when you get to the end there's so much room to make up your own version of what's been said that it means nothing by the end. Your naive vision of the world informs your ignorant words about what's moral and what is not.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  4. mique


    June 2, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  5. Blake

    Discrimination can only occur against a group whose "difference" is not a difference of choice. It is time for churches to stand up for what is right according to God's word, regardless of what it is. I can only hope that all gays will repent and turn away from this sinful practice that society has decided to accept as being "ok". It is disgusting and unnatural and anyone with common sense can see how unnatural it is.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Many species evidence gay behavior. So it is found in nature. How do you know what god's wood is?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • .

      qu eer is unnatural and is not found in nature the behaviors you are referring to are being misrepresented displays of domination by animals are not completed acts as with the disgusting qu eers

      June 2, 2013 at 6:44 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      .: You bigot. We'd expect you to be wrong and uneducated. I doubt this will change your mind but these facts outweigh your idiocy and hate.

      "One fundamental premise in social debates has been that homosexuality is unnatural. This premise is wrong. Homosexuality is both common and highly essential in the lives of a number of species," explains Petter Boeckman, who is the academic advisor for the "Against Nature's Order?" exhibition.

      The most well-known homosexual animal is the dwarf chimpanzee, one of humanity's closes relatives. The entire species is bisexual. Sex plays an conspicuous role in all their activities and takes the focus away from violence, which is the most typical method of solving conflicts among primates and many other animals.

      "Sex among dwarf chimpanzees is in fact the business of the whole family, and the cute little ones often lend a helping hand when they engage in oral sex with each other."

      Lions are also homosexual. Male lions often band together with their brothers to lead the pride. To ensure loyalty, they strengthen the bonds by often having sex with each other.

      Homosexuality is also quite common among dolphins and killer whales. The pairing of males and females is fleeting, while between males, a pair can stay together for years. Homosexual sex between different species is not unusual either. Meetings between different dolphin species can be quite violent, but the tension is often broken by a "sex orgy".

      If you don't want your children exposed to gays, keep them out of the public school system; turn off their computers; keep them out of the public in general...gays are not going away, they've been around as long as any hetero and they'll stay that way.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:53 am |
    • Blake

      Truth prevails- not a bigot but you have a choice and that is either follow God's word or not. If you are not for God then you are against God. Period.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  6. Vhonda

    Ahem (clears throat)
    I have an announcement for the Baptists. There are already gays in the boy scouts. You've been sponsoring them for YEARS. There are gays in every facet of our lives. We encounter them daily and do business with them, meet with them, take communion with them and live with them.
    Nuff said.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:35 am |
    • .

      clear your mouth of the filth thats in it

      June 2, 2013 at 6:41 am |
  7. Enlightenment

    Even GOD hates Christians

    June 2, 2013 at 6:33 am |
  8. Jeff

    The scouts should've kept up with their moral code. Why don't the gays make up their own lgbt troops instead of wanting to push their criteria onto the scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:33 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      And why don't African Americans stay at the back of the bus? What a reprehensible position.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • pensimmon

      They aren't pushing anything, they just want to be equal to all other Americans. Simple as that.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Jeff: Do you not think that if there are gay children in the Scouts then there are gay children in the schools? Stop your ignorant bigotry and join this century.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:45 am |
    • .

      qu eer should be criminal for they are criminally insane qu eer kids are not born they are made look for the adult s who have corrupted the children and treat them with the contempt they deserve

      June 2, 2013 at 6:49 am |
    • .

      liar prefails is a good candidate for being a child abuser

      June 2, 2013 at 6:50 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      .: No child abuser would be you. Brainwashing children is abuse. You can teach your children to hate and be bigoted but eventually they will leave your home and realize you're a lying bigot.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  9. FedUp

    I almost forgot, Westboro Church is baptist. The church that spews hatred and contempt in every word that they speak. Hmmmm.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:32 am |
    • Taylor

      They are not even close to being affliated with each other except for the "baptist" name.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:36 am |
    • FedUp

      It sure is funny, they all seem to have the same message.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:43 am |
  10. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    You reap what you sew! The Boy Scouts made a huge mistake.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:31 am |
    • reality check

      "You reap what you sow." ftfy

      June 2, 2013 at 6:34 am |
    • steven

      if am not mistaken the bibile allso says that all men are created equal..if god can take tht stand on equality...then so should the baptist church....they say we are all gods children....should we then mistreat a youngster because dyour church does not beleive in the word of god....whatever quotes you take from the bible were written by man not god...i would think that god is not very happy that you use his name to justify your bigotry....

      June 2, 2013 at 6:47 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      Did they kick you out for being gay? I'm so sorry. Apparently you enjoy sewing, and hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

      June 4, 2013 at 7:39 pm |
  11. JR

    I wonder what will replace religion? The reasons that religion took a strong hold on society is for good reasons, community, social guidelines, things which bound various groups together into a working society. Now with the every widening of societies, what common accepted controls will we follow? I think that we need to look to the future and decide how we will replace the good parts of religion with a modern set of morals and life styles. Like a lost friend, some will morn the loss till they have a new friend, set of guidelines to follow.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:30 am |
  12. liz

    So given the Bible also forbids touching pigskin football is out and let us not forget eating of shrimp is also out you following those rules Pastor?

    June 2, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Blake

      You might want to actually read th Bible before commenting. Old testament laws do not govern us today. When Jesus died on the cross the old law died with it. We are bound by the New Testament.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:40 am |
    • Jeff

      Go to Walmart and find a football made of pigskin..better get back into the kitchen Liz

      June 2, 2013 at 6:40 am |
  13. mb2010a

    I wonder when the Southern Baptist churches (and I use the term "churches" very loosely) will actually come into the 21st century with the rest of the country? There are plenty of Evangelical churches that would be happy to sponsor all the Boy Scout groups that are thrown out by the Southern Baptist whackos...

    June 2, 2013 at 6:30 am |
    • Jeff

      21st century? The century with no moral code! What is a matter with you people who find churches prejudice if they won't to sponsor moral code and not endorse sin?

      June 2, 2013 at 6:38 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Jeff: Sin is only biblical and does not pertain to everyone. Being gay is natural-science (which trumps religion and actually matters in the real world) has shown this fact. The fact that you need to rely on an imaginary friend and thus a 2000 year old book to live is not anyone's issue. You should try to join this century or go back to your cave. Gays are all around you and your cult of bigotry will never change that. You're on the wrong side of history bigot!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:42 am |
    • Blake

      I am not Baptist but I do have common sense. It is unnatural in every way. Don't believe me, try driving up the exit ramp on interstate!

      June 2, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • arttsz

      You're sure of that, right? And you personally will happily help take up the slack? It never ceases to amaze me how many people espousing some cause or another will make a statement like this and then retire from the fray full of righteous self-satisfaction, leaving someone else to pick up the check. This is not jut a liberal disease either...how many right-to-lifers out there advocating adoption as an alternative to abortion have actually adopted a child themselves?

      The worst part is that no one seems to care about the kids themselves, and I'm not talking about the suburban Eagle factories or rural troops who have plenty of other opportunities to do outdoor things. I'm talking about the inner-city marginal troops whose kids' only exposure to camping etc. comes from scouting. What happens when the better-off troops bail and Council and National are no longer able to subsidize troops who can't begin to pay for themselves? I am eagerly waiting to see how many of the crusaders for equal rights will now step up and help solve the problems that they were instrumental in creating.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:36 am |
  14. Mark

    Its fine with me, as long as they dont allow any adulterers, eaters of shellfish, divorcees, etc, all the other things the bible prohibits in their scout groups or troup leaders. If they are not consistent completely with the bible, then its just hate. and hypocrisy. But again, we all knew that it was.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:29 am |
    • Johan S

      Would be nice if they read Roman13:1-7 that they forced us to memorize during the Bush administration.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:33 am |
  15. Rharp

    Bigots are Bigots are Bigots!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:27 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      .: Regardless of what you may think or how much hate you might spew, the LGBT are not going anywhere. If you have such an issue with them being who they were naturally as, you might wish to leave the modern world and find a 3rd world country where your bigotry is the norm. Otherwise, suck it up.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:39 am |
  16. Kip Wendell

    See ya later bigots!

    Once again, the churches of 'Merica are further distancing themselves from the mainstream ideology of our great country which was founded upon the basis that all men are created equal... unless you're not like them!

    June 2, 2013 at 6:27 am |
  17. Let's ask the boys

    I'll bet they're not so concerned about someone's fetal gender assignment reality. I was in a scout troop where the scoutmaster, and one of my best friends were gay, I found out years later. Didn't know they were gay at the time, and it really didn't matter.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  18. FedUp

    It is "a hate thing". That is why I left the baptists many years ago. What a bunch of liars.

    June 2, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Steven B

      Indeed. It's always a hate thing with them, and Jesus weeps because of it.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:26 am |
    • Porky Rottenham

      You've got a "Liberal Thing."

      June 2, 2013 at 6:28 am |
  19. timelord72

    bye... pity they didn't leave when it was revealed that the Catholics started playin'...

    June 2, 2013 at 6:23 am |
  20. jason

    There should be GAY SCOUTS so people know where to join. Equality right??

    June 2, 2013 at 6:18 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How about teaching children to be tolerant and accepting of all, instead of teaching them to divide? If there are gay children in scouts, then there are gay children in schools...the exposure to those children will not go away, no matter how much the christians may try to make it.

      June 2, 2013 at 6:23 am |
    • Arthur Bryant

      "Separate but equal" was struck down a long time ago as any kind of answer to bigotry.

      June 4, 2013 at 7:44 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.