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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. Darwin

    Rejoice that the B.S.O.A. killed two birds with one stone, opening up scouting for gay kids and getting rid of a hate group and their supports. It is a good thing that the Southern Baptist have removed their poisonous influence from scouting. Now they need to remove themselves from Christianity and do God a favor.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • george washinsen

      Seems that is what the Baptist are supporting too.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  2. John

    This is truly good news! The less these kids are exposed to hate-filled bigots the better off they will be. It's a good thing when we keep these types away from children. Bye-bye bigots.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  3. Loathstheright

    Yes, it is a hate thing....nothing like religion to bring out the worst in mankind, ignorance, bigotry, racism, misogynists.
    Who would Jesus hate? Most likely todays christians, he would be revolted by them.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  4. biggaybobbytheniterapist

    all they do in the boy scouts is gay stuff these days

    June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • .

      "all they do in the boy scouts is gay stuff these days"

      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 11:46 am |
  5. Lisa

    Jesus also preached tolerance.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  6. Jabbywaller

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIdBuK7_g3M&w=640&h=360]

    June 2, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Huebert

      Why did you change your name? You posted the same video on page 95, do you think no one is going to realize you are the same guy?

      June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Huebert

      disanitnodicos was your name.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Jabbywaller

      Sorry Comrade Huebert. I thought it didn't get posted.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Huebert

      Also you never answered my questions. How does accepting gays undermine western society?

      June 2, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Jorge Jimenez

      Principles of equality undermine western society by eliminating the hegemony of white men. The idea that different people be treated equally is horrifying!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  7. Thank goodness

    The scouts are better without this hate group.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • billfitt

      And the Baptists are better off without the hateful and sick gays. Everyone's happy (a least as happy as a gay can be) so what's the problem?

      June 2, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  8. An Eagle Scout

    As an Eagle Scout that was a member Catholic charted troop I have to wish good luck to the Baptists leaving the organization. While I'm sure that you will be reasonably happy with the programs that your denomination directly provides, it sadly won't provide the well rounded experience of scouting. Religion is not the major focus of Scouting, unlike the Ambassador program. Scouting is about guiding our youth into becoming well rounded moral citizens (who should have some sort of belief in a higher power, whatever that might be to them). Our membership goes on to achieve great things in the world, many becoming leaders in their chosen fields. The ambassador program looks to be really good at producing future pastors and missionaries. I don't wish to dismiss the important work that these positions do, but its not even remotely the same thing.

    As for Gays in scouting... It was already a thing. Most of the boys in my and other troops knew which scouts were probably or certainly gay. Whats changed is now they can be openly so, which in most cases still isn't going to happen because of the common peer pressure that exists in adolescent boys. What is really happening is instead of kicking out a boyscout who is openly gay, the organization will protect that scout's decision to be open by punishing those who act in a disrespectful and/or harmful way towards that scout. Acting in this manner towards somebody is not acceptable behavior in any scout, and certainly shouldn't be accepted by somebody who is supposed to live by the teachings of Christ. IMHO the BSA's decision is even more courageous and moral than stripping away thousands of boy's charters (and all of the equipment and money attached to those troops, and yes, those troops can have a significant amount of money and assets) like an angry child threatening to take the ball home when they don't get their way.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Roger

      Very well said. Thank you.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  9. westgalady

    This does not surprise me. I was a Baptist for 40+ years but cut ties more than 20 years ago because of the hatred taught in Baptist churches. I went looking for another denomination that was closer to my beliefs and finally threw them all out. It's all fairy tales and made up stuff from centuries ago. When will people get smart and realize that.

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

    What happened to "Thou shalt not judge". Also what about the church being safe for children form molestation form leaders. This is one reason why I do not attend church anymore, they judge the way you dress and judge is your not a member ect.......

    June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • julie

      its about time the scouts cleanse themself from the southern baptist. I cut my ties from them (SB) many years ago and still live with scares from thier beliefs.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:43 am |
  11. misewicz

    The one VERY positive thing that I see in this story is the fact that the population in general is changing and becoming tolerant of people that are "different". The Baptist "adults" chose not to change. It's reminiscent of 50 years ago when Baptists congregations were White or Black and this was because of the Baptist level of tolerance. Look how STUPID they look today. The second VERY positive thing that tis will do which not only affects Baptists but also Mormons, Catholics etc. is that they will see people LEAVING these churches in DROVES EN MASSE.Because the young aren't buying into to the "OLD DYING" leaders dead ideas. I for ONE am glad to see the intolerant "war loving" Christian churches dying off. Maybe to be followed by Christian churches and followers that followed the genuine Jesus and his philosophy to " Love Thy Neighbor as Yourself".

    June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • nadinesh

      Very well-said!! Very well indeed. Amen.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Bobby

      You know how I know that you didn't actually read the article? The Mormons and most other churches do support the BSA's decision to allow gay scouts.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  12. gary

    End Xtianity and lslam for the betterment of mankind.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  13. Nicole Chardenet

    Buh-bye. Don't let the door hitcha inna ass on the way out. The BSA has to do what's right, not what the Baptists want.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  14. Almeta Turner

    So to drop the scouts does that make serving God and Loving Ur neighbor eaiser to go to heaven when all of you os perfect adults are dead and one of the biggest do right jobs you have done was to give up on these kids that the Bible said to suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not. This generation will make their way in this world based on what they feel is the best way to go at least they are thinking of All God's Children which is more than can be said for the Southern Baptist Church.
    I have writter a book for teens and young adults please buy and read: Crossroads of Life by Almeta Turner

    June 2, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Khloe

      You could not possibly have written a book. If you did, you self-published it.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  15. Fundies Gone Wild!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0-04VDrCbM&w=640&h=360]

    June 2, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • disanitnodicos

      How did you paste the video?

      June 2, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Pete

      "How did you paste the video?"

      Do help this troll.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Fundies Gone Wild!

      You just paste it and then pray real hard.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Secular Humanist from Ohio

      LOL! Fundie

      June 2, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  16. Tracy

    The pro scouters are taking america straight to hell!

    June 2, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Kevin

      No Tracy prejudice trolls like you are the evil in our society.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • gary

      Tracy ... hell is fictional ... as are dragons, demons, heaven, gods, angels, leprechauns, ghosts, trolls, unicorns .... all mythical fictional make believe.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Hell doesn't really exist. It is only in your belief system that it does. Try being open-minded and not so foolishly gullible. No god needed or wanted, in fact your imaginary friend is the reason you hate and come across as a bigot. Without your imaginary friend, you'd have no justification to hate gays. If you don't like gays, turn off your computer-one of the inventors was gay; move away from society and live in a cave...gays are not going anywhere and they are all around you. People who think like you should not have children...we want the next generation to be intelligent and not closed minded bigots.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • nadinesh

      Nonsense! I can only shake my head at the ignorance of that remark. I hope you have a more tolerant time in your *next* lifetime!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • westgalady

      Get over it, Tracy. There is no god, and there is no hell.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • billfitt

      LOL!!!! You luzer gayatheists are just going to have to find out the hard way. It's actually kind of humorous! LOL!!!!!!!!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      billf: Sorry, once again you're wrong...we've determined that you're opinion is backwards and bigoted. You're a fool and extremely gullible. If you don't like gays move as fa away from society as possible, they are not going to hide any longer and not all Atheists are gay...I know a number of christards that are gay and better christians than you could ever hope to be. You know FAUX news might be a better spot for you to spread your hate, unless of course you enjoy being constantly corrected. No matter what way it is looked at, you're still wrong and bigoted.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:50 am |
  17. TotallyCrazy

    I don't think gays should be discriminated against in the boy scouts just as I believe these churches should be able to pull their support for the boy scouts if they want.

    Sadly the children in the boy scouts will pay the price either way with either tolerated bigotry or less funds.

    Sometimes you just can't win.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  18. achepotle

    Haha...the fundies are chewing their own leg off! Nice to see....hate organizations like the Baptists and BSA deserve each other 😛

    June 2, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • billfitt

      I think you mean that you are chewing your BF's middle leg off. Those morning bone rs can be hazardous to a gay's health! LOL!!!!!!!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  19. Rick_Nine_Plus

    Baptisit or any other group Vote with your feet. Time will tell the tale.

    June 2, 2013 at 11:31 am |
  20. Tracy

    Morals 1, no morals 0 way to go Baptists! You rock!

    June 2, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Sam

      "Morals 1, no morals 0 way to go Baptists! You rock!"

      Supporting prejudice and bigotry is moral in your book, you're one sick person.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Khloe

      How silly to think gay people don't have morals. They have as much morality as heteros. Christians are just as immoral as any other group.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • RBixby

      Better stated as hate and bigotry 1, equality 0

      June 2, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • gary

      Gay is OK. Get to know a few and you'll see. Drop the ancient myths and folklore that causes the fear of gays. The nicest people I know are gay.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • nadinesh

      My friend, "morals" is a very relative term. For people like many Baptists, "morals" is a tribal shibboleth to make them feel superior to other people they just don't understand. Actual morals - real ethics - for Christians - involves taking to heart the words of Jesus to love others, to judge not lest you be judged, and to take the rafter out of your own eye.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      You are beyond ignorant Tracy. Christardation had zero morals, at least when it comes to people like you. Try seeking some medical attention for the delusions

      June 2, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • billfitt

      You got it Tracy!

      June 2, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • billfitt

      They're the nicest people you know because you are gay. Just take that "R" out of your name and be honest about it.

      June 2, 2013 at 11:50 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.