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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. Bostontola

    SBC adhering to their principles is not laudatory, any more than it was when they supported slavery, or when the RCC arrested Galileo for saying the earth wasn't the center of the universe.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • mama k

      Well said, Boston.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. tony

    If every "christian" in the US is correct in his/her belief of what god thinks, there must be about 50 million different "one true god"s out there.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  3. MennoKnight

    Everything is about freedom of choice.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • .

      "Everything is about freedom of 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 10:46 am |
    • Reasonable Descent

      Amen!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  4. MagicPanties

    Tim Reed reminds me of Marcus Bachmann.
    Come out, come out, wherever you are!

    June 2, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  5. bionic

    Never was involved with BS or GS. I like Red Cross or Salvation Army better.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  6. mjbrin

    this is not surprising
    this is what they should do if they truly believe what they teach
    it will be interesting to see if the boy scouts membership numbers decrease much is all
    Their membership numbers are not that impressive now
    it always seemed odd to me though that back in 1910 when the Boy Scouts were formed they were worried that boys weren't learning patriotism and individualism. funny how back then they felt the two went together but now they don't. they want to make the boys all follow their rules......what is the definition of individualism today?

    June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Eriador

      Religions are fundamentally against individual freedom. This is why in the end no matter what religious people say, at their core religions are Anti-American. But Iran has got some good religious government going if anyone is looking for an example of that type of government.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  7. Danny

    Why would the boy scouts even want to be involved with a fanatical religious hate group?

    June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • billfitt

      Like the fanatical atheist Gay Liberation Army? You're probably right.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • ohyeahiwentthere

      The artlcle said Baptist not Islamists.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  8. Kathy

    I find it extremely sad that some people are taking their children out of Boy Scouts. That said I am so proud of the Boy Scouts embracing the Gay community. As a Christian I do not believe in discriminating against anyone, including gays. Would you pull your kids if the Boy Scouts publically embraced atheists?

    June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      I lasted three weeks in scouts because I am an atheist. The christians made it clear I was not welcome.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • rc

      Kathy, Agree 100%, as a Baptist and from the South, I do not share the same beliefs as the SBC. Why should we teach another generation of bigotry and hatred? It is sickening....

      June 2, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  9. jimkon

    While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society. Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about

    June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • snowboarder

      very true.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • Billy

      And that becomes a problem when science shows us something that conflicts with religious belief, which it has with ho-mo-se-xuality.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • K

      The "faith" that you are describing is credulity; it's childlike. That's not what many (well, Catholics anyway) mean by faith. When talking about God (or any other subject) you should engage your intellect, question things, and analyze them. After all, God gave you your intellect – so use it. But, once you've exhausted reason, you have a choice. You can ignore any evidence and any personal experience you have had with God – or you can choose to open up to Him, allowing Him to come in. There are many well reasoned argument for God ... but you must make the choice. Faith is belief on the far side of reason (having done the intellectual work first).

      June 2, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  10. raul howell

    Dear Heaven Sent,

    Get real !! Never been loved by a man or woman ? Since you interpret the Holy Bible literally, literally interpret Mark 16:17. A true test of faith !!

    June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  11. gthog61

    good for them

    June 2, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  12. tony

    If there actually was a god, this might actually matter a little bit

    June 2, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Tim

      Then I guess it matters

      June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • tony

      Guessing instead of thinking IS the problem.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  13. Denese

    Good. Who needs them. I'm sure others will gladly step in. It's the Boy Scouts of America...not the Baptist Boy Scouts of Baptist America.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Frank

      I agree, who needs the gays?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • Frank's Biological Mom

      We didn't need Frank. He was an accident.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Frank

      Hi mom, your a little WH0RE

      June 2, 2013 at 10:38 am |
  14. Tommy

    Let's see. Lots of hate from BOTH sides. Keep on Hating

    June 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
  15. Danny

    What kills me are the people that want to lash out at either the BSA or S Baptist church. In the end, it is the children that will ultimately suffer. Think of the children.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Trusslady

      They can't, or won't think of the children. They buy the whole "suffer the little children to come unto me" bs.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  16. Brad

    If they insist on this discrimination, brand them a hate group and revoke their tax exempt status !

    June 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • teri

      They already should have their tax exempt status revoked. As should ALL churches....as soon as they stuck their noses into politics they violated the terms of their tax exempt status...

      June 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • Tim

      How about we brand you as a hate group instead?

      June 2, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  17. Bostontola

    Christian values or American values. The divergence continues. Not long in the future the gap will grow to the point where the church could be a fringe organization. The US continues to grow and learn, the church is anchored. It will be interesting if the thing the church denies, evolution, rules as they go extinct. Don't get me wrong, belief in god will last much longer, but the church will wane.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Eriador

      Being a religious follower and being a person who believes in Modern American values are in stark contrast to each other. It always annoyed me that the people who believe in religion are the first ones who would remove religious freedom for others. I can think of nothing more anti-american then forcing my religion on people who do not believe as I do.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  18. MARK WHITE

    It's hard to believe that adults who are responsible for children abandon all logic, reason and common sense to follow a silly old book of myths and fairy tales.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • MagicPanties

      The adults were indoctrinated (brainwashed) when they were children, and then they continue the vicious cycle.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Daryl

      Better get your 2 million sunblock. You're gonna need it in hell

      June 2, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Terry

      Daryl, better learn to use the google and look up "Pascal's Wager" or Odin's gonna whup your sorry ass.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • JWT

      Nah if hell exists it will be populated by religious fundamentalists preaching crap. now that's torture

      June 2, 2013 at 10:36 am |
    • sqeptiq

      It's fear. They live in fear of offending their "loving" god who will punish them for eternity.Strange kind of love.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  19. Daryl

    They should have left the BSA alone and just started their own. Call the SSA (Shim Scouts of America)

    June 2, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Scott

      Daryl,

      Nope. Komrade libs are of the type that they have to FORCE everyone else to abide by their views while preaching how tolerant they are. That's why they, komrade libs, are nothing more that Libocrites, Liberal + Hypocrite.

      Scott

      June 2, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • Eriador

      Scott, you clearly live in a bubble. I guess the south could have made the, your forcing your beliefs on us argument about ending slavery. Oh wait they did. If ending slavery hurt some feelings of southerners back then because they believed it was their right to have slaves, so be it. If forcing more tolerance on modern religious groups, that preach anti-american values, is ruffling the feathers of the bigots so be it.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  20. Eriador

    Why do modern Christians seems to have more and more in common with Islam everyday. Both clearly hate freedom for anyone but themselves. Then when they get called out on it, they claim religious freedom. Your religious freedom, to believe what you want, does not ever trump someone else's freedom to not believe what you believe. Go live in the middle east if you want that type of government.

    June 2, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Chuck

      To revive the '70s: RIGHT ON!

      June 2, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • sqeptiq

      "young Ambassadors earn patches for memorizing Bible verses " Sounds exactly like the kind of education you find in madrassas all over the muslim world. Memorize verses and turn off the critical thinking. Memorizing verses of the bible or the koran does not make one godly any more than memorizing endless digits of pi makes one a mathematician.

      June 2, 2013 at 10:49 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.