The Boy Scouts’ coming confrontation

Timothy Kincaid

July 17th, 2012

There are a lot of “firsts” when it comes to Boy Scout troops. There’s the “first Boy Scout troop”, the first to be chartered under the Boy Scouts of America, the oldest continually chartered, and Los Angeles’ Troop Ten which “is said to be the oldest Boy Scout troop in the United States sponsored continuously by the same organization.”

It’s sponsor is St. James in the City Episcopal Church, which has been shepherding boys to manhood on campouts and badge earning exercises since 1914. You may recall that I mentioned St. James before as an example of a church that is thriving and joyous and teaching the sort of Christian values that you would want your children to learn.

They also have this emphatically stated on their celebration of their long Boy Scout tradition:

In keeping with the policies of Saint James’ Church and School, Troop Ten and Pack Ten do not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation in the conduct of their activities or choice of leadership.

So far the BSA has not ousted Troop 10, nor has St. James kowtowed to bigotry. I get the feeling that St. James feels that it answers to a higher authority than the current leader of the Boy Scouts of America.

And this raises an interesting situation.

Many of the oldest troops in the Boy Scouts were started by churches that are part of denominations that are increasingly finding that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of God’s commandments. It’s not just the 1,200 Episcopal Church sponsored groups or the 1,800 UCC troops, who have an official policy of pressuring the BSA to drop their bigoted position. Growing segments of Lutherans (with 3,900 troops), Methodists (with 11,000 troops), and Presbyterians (with 3,600 troops) will soon find that they are being required to teach their youth values that are in contradiction with their beliefs about Justice, Mercy, and the message of Christ. And devout believers take such matters very seriously.

And then there are the secular troops. Thirty percent of the boy scouts are affiliated with civic or educational groups. Without the demands of a prophet in Utah or a Holy Father in Rome directing their position, they will increasingly find discrimination masked as moralizing to be distasteful.

Sure, the 38,000 Mormon troops (about 16% of all Boy Scouts) dominate the organization. And with their new political allies, the Catholic Church, there are another 8,500 troops that at least nominally can back the LDS. But they may want to tread softly. With their obsessive drive to be considered mainstream and to fit in as “real Christians”, the Mormon Church probably doesn’t want to be known as “The Church that Destroyed the Boy Scouts”.


July 18th, 2012

I agree this confrontation is coming, Timothy. My hope is the churches use it as a teachable moment. I am personally familiar with an Open and Affirming UCC congregation (not mine) that, 10 years ago, informed the troop it sponsored that it objected to the BSA policy. The congregation’s leaders met with the troop leaders for discussion. The troop leaders, of course, had no authority to change BSA policy, although they didn’t especially like it. The congregation gave the troop five years to see if the policy changed. But, of course, the troop eventually had to find a new sponsor.

Nonetheless, it prompted conversation that might not have been held if the church had simply ended its sponsorship.

Besides, should the affirming churches surrender the Scouts to the LDS. Maybe this is an opportunity for them to become more engaged with their troops.

Harry Underwood

July 18th, 2012


I’d like to point out that Navigators USA was set up in NYC in 2003 after the BSA was allowed by the Supreme Court to discriminate in its membership in 2000. It’s first chapter is sponsored by the Unitarian Church of All Souls in NYC, which terminated its relationship with the BSA in 2002.

They have a site with information and discussion at . From there, you can set up a chapter in your local community.

Not a member, but I think Navigators USA needs more press esp. in light of the BSA continuing this policy.


July 18th, 2012

Religious groups have two places where they can make their mark on the BSA. First as sponsors of troops they have a voice in council and national policy if they choose to wield it. The LDS and the Catholic Church do.

Second it is the religious organizations that design the religious emblems programs that the BSA encourages scouts to participate in. The churches opposed to discrimination should have their programs address the issue of discrimination against LGBT. Note the statement by the BSA says specifically that it expects spiritual sdvisors to scouts to discuss treatment of gays and lesbians instead of the BSA. Admittedly the Unitarian Universalist Association addressed the issue some 10 years ago in their program and had the BSA yank recognition of the program so that now there are two UU religious emblem programs (one recognized by the UUA but not the BSA and one recognized by the BSA but not the UUA).


July 18th, 2012

United Ways across Ameica fund the Boy Scous with tens of millions of our dollars. Talk to your United Way and tell them you don’t want them supporting an organization of bigots. I cut my gift to them totally and have been asking others to do the same as the United Way here has been non responsive.

Richard Rush

July 18th, 2012

If the BSA is thoroughly comfortable with the righteousness of their policy based on solid moral principles, they should amend the Scout Law to read:

A Scout is …
trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent, [and never gay].

And while their at it, they should add a new activity to the 129 existing ones for which a Merit Badge can be earned: After a Scout has turned in three homos to the Scouting authorities, they earn a Merit Badge for Bigotry to wear proudly along with their others, such as American Cultures, Citizenship in the Community, Family Life, Lifesaving, Nature, Orienteering, Scholarship, and Theater.

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