The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reconsiders ban on gay youths
2013-MAY-23/24: Reaction to the BSA national
vote: Unitarian Universalists, United
and United Methodists.
Reactions by various faith groups, individuals, parachurch groups, secular human rights organizations, etc. in alphabetical order (Cont'd):
By the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA):
The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the UUA, said:
"Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America took a historic step towards equality by agreeing to admit openly gay scouts. But this decision falls short of affirming the worth and dignity of all who would like to participate in scouting.
While long opposing the BSA’s discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will now be available to all male youth who want to participate in scouting.
However, it remains wrong to continue to discriminate against scout leaders, Eagle Scouts, and parents. I fear the continued discrimination against gay adults sends the wrong message to gay youth. These youth will not feel fully accepted into the scouting family.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation does not belong in scouting and is inconsistent with the BSA’s own values of respect and kindness.
Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that one day soon the BSA will change its remaining policies of discrimination and prejudice to ones of inclusion and respect for all who wish to participate in scouting at every level." 1
Not mentioned in the President's statement was the other form of discrimination imposed by the BSA: refusing to allow non theists to join or stay in the BSA. These include individuals who believe that God does not exist, and those who have no belief about God. This includes Agnostics, Atheists, some Buddhists, Humanists, some Unitarian Universalists, etc.
By the United Church of Christ (UCC):
Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the UCC executive member for LGBT concerns. wrote:
"I am happy with today's vote to welcome more youth to scouting by removing the barrier of sexual orientation," said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive for LGBT concerns. "This is an important and significant step, and the United Church of Christ stands ready to be helpful in every way we can to support scouting programs that are inclusive and safe for everyone.
While it is welcomed progress, this new policy decision is only a step. The onerous policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders remains unchanged. We will continue to work with UCC members and congregations, in collaboration with groups such as Scouts for Equality, to engage with the Boy Scouts of America to change that policy, too." 2
By the United Methodist Church (UMC):
The UMC is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination. It is the third largest Christian denomination in the U.S., after the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention. They are the second largest of the chartered organizations who sponsor BSA troops, exceeded only by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (a.k.a. the LDS Church & Mormons). Its congregations are deeply split over homosexuality. Methodists lack the near universal condemnation of same-gender sexual behavior found in the Roman Catholic, fundamentalist, and other evangelical denominations. They also lack the near universal support for sexual minorities and same-sex marriage found in progressive denominations.
Over the past few decades, the UMC has actively debated its stance towards sexual minorities. On the one hand, their Book of Discipline -- the denomination's main rule book -- says that same-gender sexual behavior is "incompatible with Christian teaching." But it also affirms that every person is"of sacred worth, created in the image of God. It prohibits non-celibate gays and lesbians from ordination and service as clergy, but says nothing about whether they can serve as lay leaders. The UMC Book of Resolutions calls for a "a ministry of Christ-like hospitality and compassion to persons of all sexual orientations ... welcoming sexual minorities, their friends, and families into our churches." The Book of Discipline supports "the rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation." However, this does not appear to extend to the right and liberty for same-sex couples to marry. They forbid their clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages. Dr Ogletree, 79. retired dean of Yale Divinity School and retired UMC minister faces the possibility of a church trial because he married his son to another man in 2012-OCT. He said:
"The result is contradictory. The church’s official motto is 'open minds, open hearts, open doors," even though our rules on same-sex marriage contradict that claim." 3
In 2012, about 6,700 UMC congregations were sponsored Boy Scout troops. The church's United Methodist Men has an Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting Ministries that coordinates activity between the UMC and five national organizations focused on youth: the BSA, Girl Scouts, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Camp Fire, and 4-H. 4 The United Methodist Men’s issued a statement concerning the BSA's executive 2013 proposal to accept gay youth into the BSA. It said:
"The United Methodist Church, and specifically the General Commission on United Methodist Men, did not have a vote in this matter, nor did other faith groups that serve as chartering organizations of the Boy Scouts of America. The change in membership standards was initiated by BSA.
It is our hope and prayer that future membership-standard considerations will begin with BSA’s Religious Relationship Task Force, a committee composed of representatives from various faith groups that represent 70 percent of BSA’s units and 62 percent of its membership."
UMC individuals and congregations have taken opposing views on the proposal to admit gay youth into the BSA:
Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX, for example, posted a statement on its Facebook page earlier urging that delegates to the National Council vote in favor of the resolution on MAY-23. They also urged the BSA executive to:
"... draft a subsequent resolution eliminating heterosexuality as a requirement for an adult’s participation in Scouting. ... We believe that Christ’s teachings, as well as the Scout Oath and Law which flow from Christ’s words, call us to welcome all persons of good will in the training of children to become wholesome adults. ... As a practical matter, we witness on a daily basis the contributions that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered [sic] individuals make to our community. 5
Five United Methodist Church leaders were among the 50 leaders of U.S. Protestant religious organizations who signed a statement "imploring" the BSA to continue to expel gay youths from Scouting wherever they are found. It said:
"We strongly support the Boy Scouts of America current prohibition on open homosexuality and retaining it without revision. Nearly 70 percent of BSA troops are hosted by churches and religious institutions. Upholding traditional morality is vital for sustaining this partnership, for protecting Scout members, and for ensuring BSA has a strong future. A proposal from the BSA board to prohibit 'discrimination' based on 'sexual orientation or preference' for BSA members potentially would open the Scouts to a wide range of open sexual expressions. In our current culture, it is more important than ever for our churches to protect and provide moral nurture for young people and for the Scouts. We implore members of the upcoming BSA Council to affirm the BSA’s present policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed, and which has served BSA well." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Peter Morales, "UUA President Issues Statement on BSA’s Historic Decision," Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, 2013-MAY-24, at: http://www.uua.org/
Ross Murray, "Faith groups react to the Boy Scouts' vote to drop the ban on gay Scouts," GLAAD, 2013-MAY-23, at: http://www.glaad.org/
Sharo Otterman, "Caught in Methodism's split over same-sex marriage," New York Times, 213-MAY-05, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Scouting Ministry: Overview," United Methodist Men, 2013, at: http://www.gcumm.org/
Heather Hahn, "Boy Scouts lift ban on gay members," United Methodist Church, 2013-MAY-23, at: http://www.umc.org/
"Missouri Synod President signs joint statement on proposed changes to Boy Scout membership policy," Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, 2013-MAY-22, at: http://blogs.lcms.org/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2013-MAY-23
Latest updated: 2013-JUN-07
Author: B.A. Robinson