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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

(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. .

    Erik,
    Why do you NEED to follow a set of ancient human culturally relative norms from one ancient human culture ?
    You should just dump the whole set of ancient texts that were non-unanimously VOTED by humans into a set of scrolls that eventually came to be called "ta biblia". ... the books. There is not one reason modern humans need to follow the ancient cultural norms of ancient ignorant humans.
    Grow up.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  2. Roger

    I was in the scouts fifty years ago for two weeks. Half the boys were gay then, whats the diff?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  3. livingston

    Good riddance to bad rubbish! The last thing this country need is another generation of closed minded bigots in the Boy Scouts. The world is moving on toward acceptance and inclusion. It's time to leave the paranoid in the dustbin of history.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  4. gary

    So sad ... ignorant fear of what they don't understand ... and blind following of ancient myths and folklore to hurt good kids. So Sad.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • TiredODaCrap

      Good call Gary. Hard to understand why you are SO afraid of religion you don't understand!

      June 2, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  5. GaRaS

    Baptist Church i will stand at your side for not supporting Boy Scouts of America. I understand your point of view and i wish the other PPL will respect your decision.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
  6. poseidon

    Reading through all the anti-Baptist hate here it should occur to us that the "hate" on the side of the Baptists is equaled by the "hate" on the side of the gay-rights crowd. Two sides of a similar coin. Baptists want to eradicate gays for their beliefs and life styles. Gays and their supporters want to eradicate Baptists for their beliefs and life styles.

    The difference is that the gays and their supporters are much more vocal and demanding, but it's the same level of bigotry and hate. If the Baptists want to leave the BSA why not just say goodbye and wish them well? Baptists should tip their cap to the legal successes of the gay-rights crowd and leave the party with dignity, not trashing those at the party as they leave. Live and let live.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • bill

      Go Chik-fil-a

      June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Boy that has a nice KKK ring to it. Onward my Christian soldiers.....

      June 2, 2013 at 8:23 am |
  7. Ronzo

    News flash. It IS a hate thing...

    June 2, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  8. The_Lightbringer

    Anytime someone says its not a hate thing, it's a hate thing

    June 2, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • KMDAB

      LOL, true. It's like ending a rant with "Just sayin'"

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • The fact of the matter

      It's not hate at all. It's morality, but you wouldn't know anything about that, would you now.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      fact??? of the matter.
      What morality are you referring to. The immorality of teaching people that their natural feelings are immoral, or teaching people that you should exclude people who are different than you.?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:49 am |
  9. General Tso

    Wrong, pole smoking is gross.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
  10. ChancesAre

    Let's also hope they stop breeding to prevent bringing more gay children into the world.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Colin

      Qu eers are not born it is a learned and practiced sin

      June 2, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • KMDAB

      Colin, prove it. Or, grow up.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      Gays come from straight couples and have been around from the dawn of man. Other species exhibit gay behavior as well. It's unlikely that more gays will not be born because gays don't breed.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • .

      "Qu eers are not born it is a learned and practiced sin"

      Erik

      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.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Warbler

      Watch period's psychobabble get destroyed in one sentence.

      Se x. is a choice.

      Woah!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Warbler

      That, or maybe period just drops his drawers and goes to work without thinking whenever he sees a pretty ...um... man.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:10 am |
  11. flickerman

    Better off with gays than Baptists

    June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • The fact of the matter

      If you like bending over the apple barrel that much, you're right.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  12. Zee1

    Baptists... the new organized hate group in the UNITED States of America

    June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • bill

      Yeah, it's always hate and racism with you people.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • BaptistsTouchThemselves

      Baptists touch themselves as often as the Vatican folks and Muzzies! So?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • M

      No, there's nothing new about this hate ... it's as old as the bible.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Pete

      Some of the biggest hate groups toward gays are founded by Christians. I should say uneducated Christian groups.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • Warbler

      And some of the biggest hate groups against Christians are formed by atheists and immoral gays. Stop the hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:14 am |
  13. Jim

    Hate, hate, hate, hate. So sick and tired of the hatred. What is the evidence tying these natural disasters to God's unforgiving vengeance? I see none. I do believe they call this prejudicial demagogueury.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  14. beachgalone

    Good riddance! Let the scouts learn tolerance, integrity and to treat everyone with kindness and respect. Exclusionary practices lead to abuse of others.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Jim

      Agreed.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Colin

      i think the Baptists are trying to avoid the abuses of ho mose xuals perpetrated on their children

      June 2, 2013 at 8:20 am |
    • .

      "i think the Baptists are trying to avoid the abuses of ho mose xuals perpetrated on their children"

      Sociologists and psychologists hold that some of the emotionality in prejudice stems from subconscious attitudes that cause a person to ward off feelings of inadequacy by projecting them onto a target group. That's right folks homophobic people like this are just insecure and immature.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • bill

      You spelled penetrated wrong Colin.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:21 am |
    • .

      qu eers hide behind phraseology like "gay" or "hate" or "ho mophobic" every time a qu eer encounters the Truth about their filth they use these tactics. guess what the only ones fooled by that is the qu eers themselves and fools.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:25 am |
    • The fact of the matter

      Your use of the word "abuse" is telling beyond words.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  15. bill

    Amen Baptists. Maybe BSA should move headquarters to SF.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Boy that has a nice KKK ring to it. Onward my Christian soldiers.....

      June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Glauber

      Trite.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:22 am |
    • Warbler

      M, just so you know, RAs (not the nonexistent CCC) came into existence 2 years before BS was founded. Bs is was originally founded on religion and religious moral values. That has just been destroyed.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  16. denhunter

    Unitarian scouts? Where? I don't believe it. Do the kids all sit in a circle getting high with the pagan scoutmasters? Do you get badges for bong making?

    I think that the scouts will find that parents are not going to knowingly send their young boys into the woods with a bunch of gay men and boys to sleep in tents.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:15 am |
    • TomG

      They already do. Please tell me that you don't REALLY believe that there aren't already thousands of boys in the Boy Scouts who are gay. If they truly DID have an agenda to "recruit" what better way than already exists? Obviously this isn't happening so it's another case of the Bible-waving hypoocrits showing how much "better" they are......in their minds only, of course.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Warbler

      How ignorant you are! Christians are hypocrits for wanting the Boy Scouts to uphold the religious values on which they were founded? They're hypocrites for withdrawing support when they decide to openly accept immorality? No gay activists are the hypocrites. Isn't anyone else tired of their rants and the fact that they are unbelievably overrepresented in the media?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  17. Nancybee

    Years ago, there was a young man on my block who was an Eagle Scout. He also eventually came out as gay. I'll bet there have been thousands like him since the founding of the Boy Scouts and there will continue to be, Baptists or no Baptists.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • bill

      And now the percentage will go up, without the Baptists. Ahmen Baptists, ahmen.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Warbler

      The difference is that open sin is not acceptable to people with morals.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
  18. Joe Lawton

    The decision of the Baptist Church is their own, I believe it is a dumb decision on their part, but it is theirs to make. Just like it is the policy of the Boy Scouts to not allow any member that is an atheist or agnostic, they don't say which God you have to believe in they just say you need to believe in a God. The Boy Scouts also have chosen segregation of girls from the boy scouts as they believe the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs were designed to meet the emotional, psychological, physical, and other needs of boys between the ages of 8 and 14.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • M

      The Southern Baptists' replacement for the scouts – the Camping Crusaders for Christ (CCC). Boy that has a nice KKK ring to it. Onward my Christian soldiers.....

      June 2, 2013 at 8:15 am |
  19. Dave - Phx

    Sheep BAAAAAHHHH

    June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Warbler

      Yes you are a sheep joining your flock in accepting the moral decline of America.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Warbler...What "moral decline" are you referring to? Your perceived "moral decline" because more tolerance of the inherant differences of individuals? You would prefer a master race scenario better?

      Define the " moral decline". Let us see your ignorance spelled out.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • Warbler

      America was founded on Christian values and sentiments. When society begins not only to openly accept but to even promote anti-Christian and anti-Biblical values and morals, then it is in moral decline and falling away from the foundations on which it was established. Oh, and you begin by failing with Godwin's law. You lose when you reflexively bring up the abnormal views of an atheistic WW2 leader and ascribe them to someone with whom you disagree.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Warbler
      "America was founded on Christian values and sentiments"...incorrect...read more about history

      Hitler was one of your brothers in christ, he hated atheists and put many to death in the camps along with jews.

      Honestly, take some history classes, you clearly do not know what you are talking about.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Warbler

      Richard, I've read more history than you've had time to in your young life. Read George Washington's farewell address where he destroys your atheism. Hitler was an obvious atheist, adopting the atheistic ideals espoused in Eugenics that were grounded in your much esteemed theory of evolution.

      You try reading some history, know-nothing.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Warbler
      I am only young to the oldest senior citizens, but thanks for thinking that I am young...refreshing.

      In many of his speeches, Hitler referred to himself as christian, claimed that the almighty god sanctioned him doing what he did to the jews BECAUSE he was a christian. He could not unuderstand anyone who did not believe in a god, he put God with us ( in german of course) on every soldier in his army.

      You may have read history, but you did not comprehend.
      My grandmother got out of Germany because she saw what Hitler was doing to her country, and what he was doing to Christianity.

      Go and do some research, look at the words of Hitler himself. You just don't like the FACT that he was your brother in christ.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:16 am |
  20. sieben13

    Good , excepting gays are totally WRONG

    June 2, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • Pete

      Hey troll if you are going to use so many different handles at least learn to spell and use proper grammar.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:17 am |
    • Sean

      You have no idea how your stupidity makes this a hilarious post, do you?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:18 am |
    • Ronzo

      You know that "excepting" means to exclude, right?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • K Rayco

      Yes, because of the incorrect grammar, your opinion actually delivers the opposite of what you meant. Maybe additional education will enlighten you.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Warbler

      It's so fun to act like atheist trolls are really Christians to tear apart. Yes, all Christians are dumb and can't spell, so make sure you jump on them now... Brother...

      June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • petz

      You can think whatever you want. I disagree with you utterly, and that's *my* choice. I think you're in a rapidly fading minority.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • Warbler

      Sadly, you may be right petz, but might doesn't make right. And in this case the majority will always be wrong. The path is narrow...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:11 am |
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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.