by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Following last week's decision to lift a longtime national ban on admitting openly gay Scouts, a number of churches that previously sponsored Boy Scout troops have said they plan to sever ties to the organization.
'I think I can say with pretty strong accuracy that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are very disappointed in the latest change in policy - deeply disappointed,' Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee, told ABC News.
Page said that the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in the United States) would be holding its national meeting in two weeks, at which it would likely recommend that its 47,000 U.S. churches pull out of the Boy Scouts of America.
'From there, it is up to each individual church to decide what to do,' said Page.
About 70% of all local Boy Scout troops are supported by religious groups, according to the BSA, and the Southern Baptist Convention currently sponsors 'hundreds of troops, probably thousands,' Page said.
'RELIGIOUS FREEDOM' CITED
Page and many other Christian groups continue to protest, citing religious freedom and the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision that gave the Boy Scouts the constitutional right to keep out Gay members.
In an effort to stop the church groups from leaving, the BSA said in a statement that it respects the 'deeply held' religious beliefs of its members, but it also encouraged them to read the resolution about the new policy.
'We believe this policy is reflective of the beliefs of most of Scouting's major religious chartered organizations and are unaware of any that believe a youth member simply stating he or she is attracted to the same sex, but not engaging in sexual activity, should make him or her unwelcome in their congregation,' officials said. 'While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.'
CATHOLIC CULTURE CLASH
In Washington, according to KING-TV, Father Derek Lappe, a priest at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton, says the church has served as the chartering organization for BSA Troop 1501 in Kitsap County. Because the Boy Scouts of America reversed the Gay ban, it's a partnership he's now ending.
'It was a very difficult decision - it's a very sad thing, with the long legacy we have of Scouting in this parish,' he said.
Ultimately, Lappe told KING-TV, the new Scouting policy just doesn't align with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.
'My concern is this definition of a young man, a 10- to 18-year-old boy as 'openly Gay' or 'openly homosexual,' he said. 'How is that supposed to be lived out within what we believe as Catholics and what we teach about Catholics?'
The priest met with Scoutmasters and parents of the affected troop on Sunday. He says he asked for their feedback, and they were supportive and understanding of his decision.
Lappe's decision, however, does not fall in line with the official statement from the Roman Catholic Church, the nation's second-largest troop sponsor, which said it was going to use the time before the new policy takes effect on January 1 to think about how and if it would affect the church.
SOME CHURCHES SUPPORTIVE
Not everyone was against repealing the ban on Gay Scouts. In fact, the Mormon (LDS) Church, which sponsors the largest number of troops, endorsed the repeal, as did the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Metropolitan Community Church.
'There's a lot of noise around folks that are leaving, and there's probably not going to be as much attention about what new troops may actually start or get sponsored by places that didn't want to be associated with the discriminatory policy before,' said Ross Murray, director of news and faith initiatives for GLAAD.
'My prediction is that there will be a small percentage that leaves, like less than five percent, but there will be a lot of noise around them leaving and a lot of words like 'torn apart' will be used to describe this, but, in the end, the organization will probably come back in a stronger place because it's more inclusive,' he said.
It is important to note that openly Gay adults are still barred from leadership roles in the organization.
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