Written by Emily Mullins
United Church of Christ advocates are urging congregations to make their voices heard one last time before the Boy Scouts of America votes next week on whether to revise its discriminatory policy against LGBT members. At its annual meeting on May 23, 1,400 members of the BSA National Council will vote on the proposed resolution, which would allow all youth, regardless of sexual orientation, to take part in the organization.
"BSA's leadership needs to hear from us this week that we support the proposed resolution to end the ban on gay, bisexual and questioning youth as a first step to ending discrimination in the BSA programs," said Brian Conn, an Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster from United Church of Broomfield UCC in Broomfield, Colo. "During the past few months, there have been many strong opinions expressed in opposition to changing this policy. But I am happy to report that there have also been many voices from across America that have ardently supported ending the discrimination."
The UCC urges its members and churches to contact their local Boy Scout Councils and express support for inclusive scouting and for making scouting a safe haven for all youth. UCC members and congregations are also urged to express support for the inclusion of LGBT adult leaders in the BSA programs, and to ask that the council personnel share the call with the BSA voting council members. Visit the Call to Action website for more information.
The BSA initiated a ban on gay scouts and leaders in 1978, and has reaffirmed it multiple times, most recently last summer. In January, the organization said it was considering a proposal that would let local religious and civic groups that sponsor scout units choose whether to allow gay members and leaders, but in February postponed the vote to gather more information. After collecting feedback from 200,000 members, the BSA introduced a revised policy last month that would allow membership of LGBT youth, but continue to exclude gay leaders.
UCC LGBT advocates believe the new policy being considered by the BSA contradicts the organization's efforts to become more inclusive. While a step in the right direction, the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive for LGBT concerns, says the proposal is not a long-term solution. The UCC has long opposed the organization's discriminatory policy, officially calling for its end at the UCC's General Synod in 2003. There are currently 1,191 UCC-sponsored BSA units and 38,225 scouts participating at UCC churches.
"For many years, hundreds of UCC congregations and various other faith communities have protested the BSA's policy of exclusion, calling on the BSA to lift the ban and welcome gay youth and gay adults into the scouting programs," said Schuenemeyer. "This is an important development not only for the BSA, but also for the thousands of boys who have been excluded from scouting programs because of their sexual orientation."