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. mique

    Do the southern Baptists realize the boy scouts was started by the Mormons?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Well, no. The organization started in England.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Sane Person

      Uh, actually it was Baden Scott Powell, a gay man, in England. He wasnt a mormon.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:53 am |
  2. .

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


    All major medical professional organizations concur that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be changed, from gay to straight or otherwise. The American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and European Psychological, Psychiatric, and Medical Associations all agree with this, as does the World Health Organization and the medical organizations of Japan, China, and most recently, Thailand. Furthermore, attempts to change one's sexual orientation can be psychologically damaging, and cause great inner turmoil and depression, especially for Christian gays and lesbians.

    The scientific evidence of the innateness of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism is overwhelming, and more peer-reviewed studies which bolster this fact are being added all the time. Science has long regarded sexual orientation – and that's all sexual orientations, including heterosexuality – as a phenotype. Simply put, a phenotype is an observable set of properties that varies among individuals and is deeply rooted in biology. For the scientific community, the role of genetics in sexuality is about as "disputable" as the role of evolution in biology.

    On the second point, that there is no conclusion that there is a "gay gene," they are right. No so-called gay gene has been found, and it's highly unlikely that one ever will. This is where conservative Christians and Muslims quickly say "See, I told you so! There's no gay gene, so being gay is a choice!"

    Many of these reparative "therapists" are basing this concept on a random Bible verse or two. When you hold those up against the mountain of scientific research that has been conducted, peer-reviewed, and then peer-reviewed again, it absolutely holds no water. A person's sexuality – whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual – is a very deep biological piece of who that person is as an individual.

    The fact that a so-called "gay gene" has not been discovered does not mean that homosexuality is not genetic in its causation. This is understandably something that can seem a bit strange to those who have not been educated in fields of science and advanced biology, and it is also why people who are not scientists ought not try to explain the processes in simple black-and-white terms. There is no gay gene, but there is also no "height gene" or "skin tone gene" or "left-handed gene." These, like sexuality, have a heritable aspect, but no one dominant gene is responsible for them.

    Many genes, working in sync, contribute to the phenotype and therefore do have a role in sexual orientation. In many animal model systems, for example, the precise genes involved in sexual partner selection have been identified, and their neuro-biochemical pathways have been worked out in great detail. A great number of these mechanisms have been preserved evolutionarily in humans, just as they are for every other behavioral trait we know (including heterosexuality).

    There are many biologic traits which are not specifically genetic but are biologic nonetheless. These traits are rooted in hormonal influences, contributed especially during the early stages of fetal development. This too is indisputable and based on extensive peer-reviewed research the world over. Such prenatal hormonal influences are not genetic per se, but are inborn, natural, and biologic nevertheless.

    Whether or not something is a choice is not a suitable criterion for whether someone should have equal rights and protections. Religion is indisputably a choice, but that fact is a not a valid argument for discriminating against a particular religion.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • mique

      Good post, but you lost them at "scientific".

      June 2, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Brenda Z

      How about the LBGT start their OWN scout organization instead of stealing the work/finances/setup of an existing organization?

      They can require all leaders to be L/B/G/T – and have the scout handbook stripped of all references to God, and other "traditional" values removed that they feel is "outdated"

      That seems like the best situation to me – better than demanding through lawsuits the ownership of an organization they did absolutely NOTHING to form, run, or finance since its inception.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • Soleil W

      The Confederacy rises.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Sane Person

      Brenda, my sweet little uneducate sheeple, Scouting was founded by a gay man.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Pete

      "How about the LBGT start their OWN scout organization instead of stealing the work/finances/setup of an existing organization?

      They can require all leaders to be L/B/G/T – and have the scout handbook stripped of all references to God, and other "traditional" values removed that they feel is "outdated""

      Brenda would you say the same thing to African Americans? Why don't you go join the K K K you seem to fit the profile.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • Jerry

      Great post. But, you shouldn't have used the word "scientific" in the second paragraph. That's where religious people stopped reading.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:03 am |
    • HeavenSent

      There is no gay gene. That's been disproved years ago. Selfishness is a good start when searching for answers. Selfishness, plus, denial goes hand in hand.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  3. liz

    Let me get this straight": you can have met your current and 3 ex-wives in the same church where you give marriage counseling, but no Boy Scouts?!?!?!?!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Harry

      Gee, no hyperbole in your post. BTW have you even heard of any person with 3 ex-wives and a current wife all five of them attending the same church/same Sunday services.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:49 am |
    • HeavenSent

      liz, Jesus already told us who won't get into Heaven. Do you see those that you complain about on the list? Does it start with the letter "L"?

      Revelation 21:8

      But the fearful, and u.nbelieving, and the a.bominable, and murderers, and w.h.oremongers, and s.orcerers, and i.dolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.


      June 2, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  4. Logical positivist

    Maybe it's time to develop a secular scouts program that doesn't require following contradictory and ambiguous moral edicts of Bronze Age goat herders.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  5. nadonow

    Im so tired of hearing if I disagree with gays im a hater its getting boring

    June 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • Pete

      "Im so tired of hearing if I disagree with gays im a hater its getting boring"

      Would you say the same thing if you wrote "Im so tired of hearing if I disagree with African Americans im a hater its getting boring"

      June 2, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Bugsy

      That exactly why they are getting what they want. Psychological warfare. No one stands up to them.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:48 am |
  6. Jeff

    If the Scouts have the freedom to choose support openly gay scouts, why doesn't the church have the same freedom to choose not having anything to do with them?

    Looks like you sanctimonious gay rights supporters are nothing but double-standard bigots.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • SixDegrees

      They're perfectly free to leave. In fact, I wish they would hurry up and do so.

      And just in case they're thinking about coming back: the BSA accepts evolution as the fact that it is, too.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:45 am |
    • Ben Johnson

      6 degrees-The problem is that you have a religious-based organization being abandoned by church sponsorship. Personally, I think we're seeing the decline of the BSA because of those that have infiltrated are willing to kill it off rather than to live within the basic tenets of the organization's charter.
      What I find truly odd is that people come into the organization knowing what they are about, but still want to join anyway. Then complain about the organization because it doesn't include them. It is like a man upset because he can't play in women's pro tennis. Just odd.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  7. Wildflower528

    When this pastor with a "god" complex says it's not a hate thing – IT'S A HATE THING!!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  8. Eric

    Give the southern Baptists another century or so to get caught up with the rest of the world. Let's not forget the southern Baptists stance on supporting slavery. The Southern Baptist Convention issued an apology for its earlier stance on slavery. The issue had split the Baptist church between north and south in 1845. But a century and a half later, in 1995, Southern Baptist officials formally renounced the church's support of slavery and segregation.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  9. Michael Colley

    Oh great... now you cant drop the soap in camp

    June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  10. Jay T

    New Bapist Church motto - "Proudly Raising the Next Generation of Delusional Bigots."

    June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • usindiefilms

      Sadly, Jay, you're 100% correct.

      June 2, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  11. JB

    I know a lot of gay musicians that are employed by the Baptist...they seem to have no problem with it. Maybe after marriage equality is passed they will all plan an exodus from this country.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  12. greg

    If they wanted to hang out with girls they wouldn't have called it the boy scouts. Because boys are different from girls. Gays are somewhere in between, but the same sentiment applies. You are free to be gay and I should be free to form an organization for straight boys. Because straight boys are different from gay boys. Why not just form the gay scouts and leave the boy scouts alone?

    June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Shall we separate them in schools also just like they did with blacks?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Colin

      How many "blacks" were separated in your schools?

      June 2, 2013 at 7:42 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)


      June 2, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  13. Mike from Seattle

    "Bottom line: The majority of Boy Scouts will suffer over the few because we must reinforce the Lord's intolerance towards those different than us. Nothing personal."

    – Southern Baptist

    June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  14. UncleBenny

    “It’s not a hate thing here”

    No, it's an ignorance thing here.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • jesterof

      No, it's money

      June 2, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  15. OpenMinded

    Ben Johnson, you might feel differently if you had a child that was gay.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  16. veep

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Baptists....

    buh bye

    June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  17. M

    The BSC's replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Onward my Christian soldiers.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:39 am |
  18. John

    More room for the rest of us. Besides, Baptist scouts will simply organize their troops under a secular banner further accelerating the decline of that church. These religions will continue to survive for a while until the older folks die off.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  19. OpenMinded

    Oh Colin. Time for some therapy to let go of your deep-seated fears.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  20. Ben Johnson

    So, instead of being tolerant of those who want to follow their religious beliefs, many choose to insult and chastise. You respond to what you feel is intolerance with more intolerance!
    I've never understood how someone that disagrees with the basic tenets of an organization would want so badly to join them. Even to the point that they would rather destroy the organization simply because they don't agree with its fundamental charter to begin with.

    June 2, 2013 at 7:37 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.