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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. Jim

    So how does the baptist church abandoning innocent children help anyone?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Austin

      protect your own children. homeschool them if you are smart enough. better than sending them to gay camp.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • saggyroy

      Their minds won't be polluted with religious non-sense? Just a start.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • JOSE--USMC-0311

      MONEY, THEY CONTRUBUTE ALOT OF MONEY TO THE BOYS SCOUTS. THAT SUPPORT IS GONE.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  2. Chase

    Why do they think anyone cares? They're Southern Baptists, famous for bigotry and hitting their wives.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  3. Peter Bishop

    CNN stoking the fires. We need our daily recommended use of the word "intolerant" and "bigot".

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  4. sybaris

    Libsrtyrants <<<<<< shops at Non-Sequiturs-R-Us

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  5. Quantum

    I reserved the right not to donate money to any organization. So, I don't get some of the posts here.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  6. AAvgGuyInKansas

    Let's hear it for all those good Christians! What a bunch of hypocrites...

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • terri

      God is not going to allow all sinners into heaven. Does that make him a hypocrite?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  7. contraryjim

    the Boy Scouts and boys who would be scouts will benefit from disassociation from the intolerant religious body.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Well said!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  8. JimNasium

    I don't get it. They can't be scouts because the boy scouts now accept gays, but they're ok with worshiping the God that created gays?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • contraryjim

      Belief systems by definition are not rational.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • John

      Cool that God allows people a free will to do whatever they want ... Which would including choosing to live an alternative lifestyle...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • terri

      God created humans. That doesn't mean that all humans will be allowed into heaven. Each human has to make the choice to follow God or his/her own personal desires. It's not God's fault that someone makes the wrong choice.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  9. disanitnodicos

    Are you gay? Do you have some mud on your pud?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Steve

      "Are you gay? Do you have some mud on your pud?"

      My wife and I love anal sex, you should try it.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • disanitnodicos

      Be right back. Mom wants me to take the trash out.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  10. victor

    'It's not a hate thing'...we just really, really, really, dislike them and think they're an abomination.

    I sincerely hope this backfires on the Baptists, and scout families start boycotting the church. We need to rid ourselves of bigots cloaking themselves in religion.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  11. Pastor Rick

    More people have been abused, tortured and murdered in the name of religion than any other reason known.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • John

      Hmm... Last I checked atheistic countries were in the lead in those categories....

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      Right, John. Those Swiss and Norwegians. Always with their torture and abuse...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      John

      Check again. Scandinavia is very peaceful.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:53 am |
  12. Kilgore Trout

    I wonder if there is a Royal Ambassadors merit badge for "Use of obscure scripture passages to rationalize your own personal bigotry"...

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  13. mike

    Christians believe there is a war on Christianity. I say we bring it to them. Exterminate all Christians en mass!!!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • contraryjim

      It is time to enforce the 1st Amendment – Freedom of and FROM religion. Belief systems don't belong in a rational government.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  14. disanitnodicos

    Are you gay? Do you have some tar on your bar?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • .

      "Are you gay? Do you have some tar on your bar?"

      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 9:47 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      other studies show that ho.mophobia is often related to the suppression of ho.mos.exual urges by the ho.mophobic person themself.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  15. John

    Girls aren't allowed in the boy scouts, what about someone who is attracted to boys? What will happen when pedophhile scout masters want to join, will they allow them in too in the name of political correctness?

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Kilgore Trout

      That has already been a problem...in the Baptist churches, ironically.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Pastor Rick

      Is that a confession? If so, say three hail mary's and go now, your sins are forgiven!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • GreenClogs

      All pedophiles are reprehensible. Most are straight, BTW.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  16. Tracy

    Gays in the military, gays in the scouts, take your guns......thanks Obama!

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • midwest rail

      Please cite a reputable source that shows legal guns are being confiscated.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • GreenClogs

      Is this a troll for attention or are you really this stupid?

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  17. John

    What's the big deal. The Boy Scouts have always accepted atheists and the Baptists Church never batted an eye. Now that they accept gays they do? How can the Baptist church expect the Boy Scouts align with every one of their values when it is accepting of all beliefs? The Boy Scouts is not a baptists organization, and it is not a religious organization; it never has been. So why all the huffing and puffing now from the Baptist Church? All the other churches get it. They realize they can have a positive impact on a collection of diverse youths.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Tracy

      who cares...it their property and they are evicting the scouts! About time too!

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • John

      Who cares? What about the thousands of kids who won't get to experience scouts as a result of this

      June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am |
    • John

      @John – There are other Christian based scout programs...

      June 2, 2013 at 9:50 am |
  18. Patotati

    You have the option of sponsoring and becoming members of the Pathfinders and Adventurers Clubs. They are two worldwide Christian clubs of the SDA Church, for kids 10-15 y.o. and 3 to 9 y.o. respectively.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • John

      I remember the Royal Rangers too when I was a kid.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • terri

      SDA's believe in the Bible also.

      June 2, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  19. GreenClogs

    Good. Let the bigots leave and form their own cabal. It'll be easier to identify them. I predict the BSA will flourish with people who have been waiting for them to lift this shroud of shame. Now if they would only do the same for the leaders.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Joe Sheka

      Yes – since we've relaxed all of our morals, we certainly have been flourishing .. Everything is so wonderful and it's obvious we're headed in the right direction... Immigration, feminism, families, economy, Etc all need us to just surrender to the burning alter of political correctness... What you will never learn is that political
      Correctness is the new religion based on nothing more than meaningless words and fear of the state... The 1950s have never looked so good compared to where we are at now

      June 2, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  20. mama k

    A recent poster, "Pete", wrote "Why have rules and standards at all if you change them every time the "social wind" blows?"
    What you fail to realize, Pete is that it's not just a social "wind".

    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.

    For issues such as this, with the knowledge we have today, Christians need to come to the table without "scripture", and ready to discuss such issues rationally. Otherwise they will continue to face an ever increasing tide of distrust and an ultimate indictment of irrelevancy.

    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.

    For issues such as this, with the knowledge we have today, Christians need to come to the table without "scripture", and ready to discuss such issues rationally. Otherwise they will continue to face an ever increasing tide of distrust and an ultimate indictment of irrelevancy.

    June 2, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • mama k

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

      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 2, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • GreenClogs

      I wish there was a LIKE button on this forum 🙂

      June 2, 2013 at 9:45 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.