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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. BO

    Good call church. I'm sure that the liberal NAMBLA will be happy to sponsor the Boy Scouts.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:57 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 8:58 am |
    • BO

      The real KKK are the NAACP.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  2. Tx

    But think about any given scout troop. They live in their little town where they dont know any gay people. They certainly dont have any 13-year old gay kids beating down their doors to join up. So, they move their meetings to the methodist church across the street, and life goes on. I suspect that the actual change within troops will be very minor.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  3. M. Vaughan

    Certainly none of the Southern Baptists will appreciate the irony, but that organization was started because they insisted on continuing to preach that slavery was God's will when the rest of the Baptists decided they would no longer preach that slavery was ok. Sure, the modern Southern Baptist Convention has gone to great lengths to put on a new face, specifically the face of an African-American president, but they never went to the same lengths to address the ugliness of their self-righteous pride and willingness to do something Christ never did, and that's to deem themselves superior to whichever group of people they currently hate. People who have the need to hate, for whatever reason, are drawn to these groups like moths to a flaming drag queen. It has nothing to do with religion; they certainly don't follow the teachings of Christ.

    The only reason the SBC embraced the Boy Scouts in the first place was because of their mutual determination to exclude gay people, so this break only means that the Boy Scouts have successfully escaped the influence of these bigots, so good for them.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • J. Nebbe

      Racism and exclusion appear to be the history of the Baptists. Why change now? Clearly they don't practice what they preach. It is interesting that the Baptist Church and Pro Gay Groups now have something in common. Active exclusion/boycotting of Boy Scouts. Wow!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  4. will jackson

    I believe it is time for the church to start getting taxed. The churches in America want to be involved with politics and influence our leaders with their agenda then i think it is time for these rich churches to start being taxed.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • BO

      I agree – all non profits like Rev. Jackson, Rev Wright, Rev Sharpton, NAACP KLAN, NPR, planned parenthood, Media Matters et.al.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  5. DaveGardiner

    Baptists, in this particular instance, seem to be taking on the role of the Pharisees in Christ's lifetime. They think of themselves as upholding God's law but appear to be forgetting the "love thy neighbor as thyself" lesson. Some of Christ's greatest angst was when he was dealing with Pharisees. I can't help but wonder how he would feel about today's Baptists (especially the "Southern" variety)?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:55 am |
    • STOP-THE-FILTH-stop-gays

      Screw YOU

      June 2, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • FloydZepp

      What a hate-filled bigot SCREW is...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  6. BO

    You libtards haven't a clue. I know it is a choice. After years of living a gay lifestyle, I changed, so any other gay can, too. Those who don't just like butt too much.

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

      " I know it is a choice. After years of living a gay lifestyle, I changed, so any other gay can, too."

      You're a moron, that's not being gay, that's called being a bisexual.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      We have a new contender for the post containing the most bullsh!t. Well done.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • .

      " I know it is a choice."

      Erik

      Being gay is not a choice science, in fact, is actually not in dispute on this matter.

      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.

      Reparative therapy, also called conversion therapy or reorientation therapy, "counsels" LGBT persons to pray fervently and study Bible verses, often utilizing 12-step techniques that are used to treat sexual addictions or trauma. Such Christian councilors are pathologizing homosexuality, which is not a pathology but is a sexual orientation. Psychologically, that's very dangerous territory to tread on. All of the above-mentioned medical professional organizations, in addition to the American and European Counseling Associations, stand strongly opposed to any form of reparative therapy.

      In my home country, Norway, reparative therapy is officially considered to be ethical malpractice. But there are many countries that do not regulate the practice, and many others that remain largely silent and even passively supportive of it (such as the Philippines). Groups that operate such "therapy" in the Philippines are the Evangelical Bagong Pag-asa, and the Catholic Courage Philippines.

      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!"

      Take this interesting paragraph I found on an Evangelical website: "The attempt to prove that homosexuality is determined biologically has been dealt a knockout punch. An American Psychological Association publication includes an admission that there's no homosexual "gene" – meaning it's not likely that homosexuals are 'born that way.'"

      But that's not at all what it means, and it seems Evangelicals are plucking out stand-alone phrases from scientific reports and removing them from their context. This is known in academia as the fallacy of suppressed evidence. Interestingly, this is also what they have a habit of doing with verses from the Bible.

      This idea of sexuality being a choice is such a bizarre notion to me as a man of science. 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).

      Furthermore, 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 8:57 am |
    • Grams

      Civil discourse and you just had to say "Libtards". So you think all Liberals are retarded? Do you know anything about mental retardation? So, per your logic, Dick Cheney is a "repubtard" because he loves his lesbian daughter. What about people who love their mentally retarded children? Sarah Palin comes to mind.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:13 am |
  7. SinnerInTheBush

    Good. The Baptists are some of the most vile people in the Christian religion. Their door-to-door salesman literally told me I would burn in hell if I didn't go to their church and accept their version of god.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • STOP-THE-FILTH-stop-gays

      This is the goals of the animals, gays, to destroy the BOY SCOUTS. KICK the filth out of our country.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Grams

      There is something so pathetic about churchies coming to my door to save me! I always ask them to add up all tha time they spend on this activity, and then ask if them to demonstrate their beliefs with equal time spent in a soup kitchen, or a battered women's shelter.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:17 am |
  8. don

    it's not a hate thing. we just don't like gays.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      And why is that? Because a 2000 year old book told you? Do you do everything this book tells you? Ra-pe? Own slaves? Murder entire nations of people? Stone your unruly children to death?

      You better be doing all of those, or you;re going to burn in your hell.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:57 am |
    • Justin Sheppard

      It's not a hate thing, I just don't like people that use religion as an excuse to be a narrow minded bigot

      June 2, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Whatever

      Riight....sounds like something we would have heard during the Civil Rights movment:

      "It's not a hate thing. I just don't want them riding our buses, sharing our water fountains, or being near my children."

      Don't kid yourself.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  9. JY

    Non acceptance of others is non christian as well as a form of hate.

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

      Do you accept the Southern Baptists – hypocritical isn't it?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  10. dean morse

    Don't you just love people who know what God Thinks? Scripture? Who wrote it? Man? It is all such crap. These people who profess to speak for God are cuckoo. What happened to " Judge not, lest ye be judged."?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • GetReal

      You say scripture is crap.....and then attempt to quote it........Perfect Logic!

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

      No, simply hypocrites they claim to be Christians, but are anything but.

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  11. tp1776

    so misguided. They're using religion in the same wrong-headed way that fanatical Muslims use the Koran. This is just another way to use a holy book to inflict pain.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  12. Bill

    GOOD. Fewer dirty bigots = better.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  13. Justo

    Seriously, CNN, when are you going back to real journalism?

    June 2, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • FloydZepp

      Translation: "CNN, why do you point out Bapitsts as the hate-filled bigots they are?"

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  14. Ovid Goode

    What did people expect? This shouldn't surprise anyone, regardless of your stand on the issue. It would be like a Black church sponsoring the KKK, and why Catholic hospitals aren't required to provide free birth control for their employees. You can't demand that ANY religious group support a program that's 180 degrees against its religious principles.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  15. NoDecaf

    Can't we all just go back the way things were?
    You know, where everyone was white, straight and ignorant? /sarcasm

    June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  16. Whatever

    Puhleeze....if it was really about scripture, they would have left when the Boy Scout uniforms started being made of polyester cotton blends:

    Leviticus 19:19

    "'Keep my decrees. "'Do not mate different kinds of animals. "'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. "'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  17. Scott

    It is a "hate thing". Just more religious intolerance and ignorance. Kind of thing that ultimately, taken to its extreme, allows otherwise rationale human beings to fly planes into buildings. Enough!

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

      You are not very intelligent. How, with any intelligence can you use the word hate. Like them, it is my preference not to be around gays. I don't hate them, I just think it's disgusting. You must be gay, you using the hate word and all. It's just like the blacks using racism all the time. You people just want to hide behind a word!!

      June 2, 2013 at 8:59 am |
  18. Mike

    One would think- if they actually believed their own propaganda- that they would be welcoming this change as a chance to "lead by example" and show these gay boys "the error of their ways"! .....instead they are terrified that their children will learn that they have been lied to all this time about gays being some kind of "scary monsters"...

    June 2, 2013 at 8:52 am |
    • PWalters303

      thats exactly what I was thinking. dont these churches send missionaries halfway round the world looking for people to save? so why are they afraid of people that need saved coming right to them?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  19. GetReal

    Why is that the Scouts can take a stand on what they believe and it's ok....But the church takes a stand on what they believe and it's all of a sudden hateful? It seems that the church had their stance long before the Scouts changed their mnds...

    June 2, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • carl wiley

      The Baptists also used the bible to justify slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. As your argument goes: What was wrong with them taking this stand?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • franky4fingers

      Because one groups "stand" is based on prejudice, exclusion, and hate premised on rules written down in a book 1000s of years ago, and the others stand is based on tolerance and acceptance.

      Can you really not see the difference?

      Slavery, polygamy, and infanticide were perfectly fine in the bible too.... if they are going to pick and choose what to enforce, why not ignore hating gay people too?

      June 2, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Whatever

      Because it's not a stance for what they believe in. It is a because it is driven by hate. If it truly were about what they believed in they would have left when the Boy Scout Uniforms started being made of polymer cotton blends.

      Leviticus 19:19

      "'Keep my decrees. "'Do not mate different kinds of animals. "'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. "'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.

      That is a sin being committed by 100% of the Boy Scouts.

      But the Baptist church is only focusing on something that would only impact less than 5%. Pure. Hate.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  20. Sotzume

    Good riddance to the Southern Baptists...aren't they the ones that state that women have to be subservient to men? What a joke they are.

    June 2, 2013 at 8:51 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.