Southern Baptists Vote to Cut Ties Over Boy Scouts’ New Policy Allowing in Gay Scouts

Ever since the Boy Scouts of America voted to partially rescind its discriminatory policy and allow gay youth into the organization, things have been rocky between scouting troops and the churches that often sponsor them.

In the latest turn of events, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution Wednesday “expressing its disappointment” in the BSA’s new policy — and throwing their support behind churches that decide to drop their ties to the Boy Scouts as a result:

The resolution was voted on by members at the denomination’s annual meeting in Houston. It also calls on the Boy Scouts to remove executive and board leaders who tried to allow gays as both members and leaders without consulting the many religious groups that sponsor Scout troops.

While the resolution does not recommend that Southern Baptists drop ties with the Scouts, it expresses support for those churches and families that decide to do so. It also encourages churches and families who choose to remain with the Scouts to work toward reversing the new membership policy.

As CBS points out, because Southern Baptist churches are independent, the denomination can’t force churches to drop connections to the Scouts — but they’re certainly trying. The SBC has previously asked members to boycott The Walt Disney Company for providing benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, but that didn’t last long.

Not to worry, though, as Southern Baptists seem to be fading fast into obscurity:

Although the Nashville-based denomination claims 16 million members, it has seen membership decline for six years in a row.

At the same meeting, by the way, church leaders also passed a resolution “calling on all Southern Baptists to report allegations of child abuse to authorities,” because apparently that wasn’t already required. The church has resisted suggestions that it keep a database of ministers accused of abuse because it doesn’t have the authority to require local churches to divulge that information.

Members amended the resolution to urge denominational leaders to use caution affiliating with groups or individuals with questionable practices for protecting children.

It is unclear whether the amendment was aimed at any specific person or practice, but it comes after some Southern Baptist leaders expressed support for Sovereign Grace Ministries. That group faces accusations that church officials covered up child sexual abuse.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Southern Baptists have way bigger things to worry about than hating on Boy Scouts?

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at

  • The Other Weirdo

    Is it just me, or does it seem like Southern Baptists have way bigger things to worry about than hating on Boy Scouts?

    Wag the dog. If you throw up a smokescreen of irrelevance they hope that people will forget about bigger problems. Same with the Catholics. Get everyone excited over the election of a new Pope and forget about the rampant child abuse.

    • Houndentenor

      That their congregations are shrinking as people move to mega-churches? Yes, they are well aware of this problem and have tried many different tactics to counter it and nothing is working.

  • El Bastardo

    While the resolution does not recommend that Southern Baptists drop ties with the Scouts, it expresses support for those churches and families that decide to do so

    Yeah, nudge, nudge. The double speak out of this crowd is unreal. Then again, they have had thousands of years of practice when it comes to issuing innocuous sounding threats.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      The subtle hate is largely a result of the Civil Rights movement though. Bigots had to create a virtual language of code words, dog whistles and “spoken winks” when bigotry suddenly became socially unacceptable.

      • Houndentenor

        I think it’s more complicated than that. They need a whole new language of code words to express bigotry without having to admit that they themselves really ARE bigots.

        • Spuddie

          The worst is the “you are the real bigot for not accepting my bigotry” argument they always trot out.

    • The Other Weirdo

      May 1845. So, not 1000s of years, but really only 168. Let’s not be the liars we accuse the Christians of being.

      • Craig

        I think El Bastardo means “double speak out of” Christianity as a whole.

        • The Other Weirdo

          Perhaps, but he quoted “Southern Baptists” name and then referred to “they”. I wanted to make sure there was no misconstruement of words. And yes, I’m aware that that’s not a word. :)

          Besides, even then, barely 1700 years of Christianity hardly counts as “thousands of years”.

          • Rodney Barnes

            True, but religion itself has had thousands of years to perfect a true belief system and has failed each and every time.

            • The Other Weirdo

              Sorry, I don’t believe in giant, all-encompassing and immortal boogeymen called “Religion”. Once you start thinking it’s a conspiracy stretch back to the dawn of civilization, you’re already lost.

  • Gus Snarp

    This was to be expected. It’s also why I think it’s worth sending some kudos and support to the BSA. Even though the new policy is half-assed, and they still won’t take me and my kids because we’re atheists, they need to know that if the right wing churches abandon them, there’s still someone left to take up the slack. If they don’t see that it will be unlikely that they’ll continue on the correct path on which they’ve taken the first tentative step. Of course, they really have just come up with a policy that everyone hates, which goes to show you how extreme the anti-gay bigotry in these churches is. They can’t even accept this watered down policy that allows troops to accept kids who happen to be gay but kicks them out when they turn 18.

    Funny, my Southern Baptist youth minister was forced out of the (local) church after allegations of abuse. I have no idea if he did it or not. But the Southern Baptist Convention gave him a nice new job at the top level after our church kicked him out. Our church was also relatively friendly to gay people. At least as much as a Southern Baptist Church could be thirty years ago. Which is to say, there were known gay members and no one much cared and the pastor generally didn’t talk about it.

    • abb3w

      While some sort of opposition was to be expected, Resolution 6 is a bit more limited than I’d expected.

      Yes, they say they’re disappointed with the change, they’re grateful to those who opposed the change (and thus getting the compromise of continuing to ban gay scoutmasters), they’re worried this is the camel’s nose, they want the leaders who tried changing things gone, they’re supportive of those who disaffiliate over this and hope they’ll expand alternatives, they’re hoping those who stay will try to keep things from shifting further.

      However… they don’t actively call for SBC churches to disaffiliate over this; it’s at most “wink wink, nudge nudge”. Possibly the SBC apology over segregation and slavery is recent enough to leave some of them cautious about ending up too far on the wrong side of history.

      • Bob Becker

        Yup. Which make’s H’s headline on this thread inaccurate. They did not vote to “cut ties over Boy Scouts.” We lambaste the fundie outletslike the Worldnut Daily for over-heated reporting all the time, and with good reason. So we need to be careful we don’t do the same, even inadvertantly. The headline implies significantly more than the facts support.

    • rwlawoffice

      I’m curious why an atheist would want to join a Christian organization like the boy scouts? And why do you think the Boy scouts need to change their position of faith to accommodate atheists? They do have freedom of association rights under the constitution.

      • TCC

        The question isn’t whether the Boy Scouts need to change (and certainly not over whether they have the legal right to discriminate, which is well-established) but whether they should. There are plenty of institutions that started out religious and then became secular, and the BSA could become one of them. The fact that you don’t want them to doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t.

        • Spuddie

          The BSA was never a religious group from the outset. It was set up specifically to be non-sectarian. What happened was the nature of its funding pushed things more towards getting in bed with churches.

          • Bob Becker

            Exactly right. The pervasive religiosity in much of Scouting today was absolutely not there when I was a Scout nearly sixty years ago. Absolutely was not. That the SBC considers sponsoring troops to be part of their missionary obligation is astonishing to me. And foreign.

      • SirReal

        Were there not a ban on atheists, I’d let my son join in a heartbeat. It’s a neat club of boys and male mentors who go camping, do good works, learn how to get along with one another, do crafts, and all those neat things. The fact that they adhere to Christianity is beside the point for me because there are no similar secular clubs in my area that come anywhere close to what the Boy Scouts offer boys.
        When it comes to my son’s activities, I’d like there to NOT be religion involved… just fun and learning how to be a good person (without the need for an ancient book).

      • Kodie

        Learn more about the kinds of things that Scouts do—and learn to do them better—with the resources in this section.

        I have extracted every activity mentioned on this intro page:

        high-adventure base challenges Scouts and Venturers with more than 200 square miles of rugged New Mexico wilderness. Backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs offer young people many ways to experience this legendary country.

        diverse high-adventure and outdoor opportunities.

        Outdoor adventure is the promise made to boys when they join Scouting. Boys yearn for outdoor programs that stir their imagination and interest.

        climbing/rappelling activities.

        high-adventure trekking

        educational and entertaining games, quizzes, and interactive resources.

        enhance their leadership skills
        expand upon the team building and ethical decision making skills

        Nationally Approved Historic Trails

        provide service, demonstrate leadership, and practice camping skills by working with a Cub Scout pack.

        exciting outdoor activity designed to meet the needs of youth who seek greater challenges to their physical and mental abilities.

        Scuba BSA -special skills, equipment, and
        safety precautions associated with scuba diving.

        Leave No Trace is an awareness of our impact on the environment that teaches us to respect the rights of other users of the outdoors as well as future generations.

        Nothing Christian about any of this. Why would anyone want to join this organization indeed? Outdoor adventures, trekking, horse-riding, scuba diving, camping skills, physical challenges, I have no goddamned idea in my entire stupid Christian-blinded head why a boy would want to participate in any of this if they weren’t a Christian! It’s all about being a Christian! The camping, the knots, the fishing, the fire-starting, so Jesusy all the time! ARE YOU SERIOUS?

        • Rwlawoffice

          Of course they do all those things, not my point. My point is that if you are an atheist and want to join the Boy Scouts, you are aśking them to change to accommodate you instead of doing those things in another organization that accommodates your beliefs.

          • MD

            You don’t really need to change much. 99.5% of Scouting has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with learning skills, how to get along with other people, serve your community, etc. All it would require was to have a different promise for non-theistic Scouts. Earth-shattering, I know.

          • Feminerd

            No, you’re asking them to follow the spirit of their founder. You know, Baden-Powell, who wanted to make a place for all boys and teach them character and useful skills?

            All you’d need to change is the requirement to believe in a “higher power” and make another alternate oath (or just let atheists use the Jehovah’s Witness affirmation?). That’s not exactly a whole lot of changes; the BSA has changed much more than that before.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Again, why do you think that it was acceptable decades ago for private businesses that held
            monopolies to use their “freedom of association” to deny services to

      • TiltedHorizon

        So in your opinion then do “Boys” stop being boys because of their beliefs of gender preference? Maybe they should change their name to the “Christian Boy Scouts” as the current name appears to infer that being a “Boy” is the only criteria.

        • Rwlawoffice

          Maybe the atheist parents should form their own scouting group and exclude any people of faith. I wouldn’t have my kids join that group nor would I try and force that group to change its policies.

          • MD

            The BSA is the only Scouting organization in the USA that is a member of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, the principal body of Scouts. There are several other other Scouting organizations in the country, but they can’t go to World Jamborees, etc.

          • TiltedHorizon

            “and exclude any people of faith.”

            I lack the moral compass to discriminate against children, I’m not Christian.

            “nor would I try and force that group to change its policies.”

            (looks up to the heavens)
            You hear that Rosa Parks? You should have sat at the back of the bus or walked, out of spite. (maybe I should be looking down?)

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            So, why do you think that it was acceptable decades ago for private businesses that held
            monopolies to use their “freedom of association” to deny services to

      • Michael W Busch

        Although it is currently heavily influenced by particular forms of Christianity, the BSA is not “a Christian organization” – it allows scouts who are members of non-Christian religions. What it is an organization that discriminates against non-religious people. It is a private organization and is allowed to be bigoted, but that does not excuse its bigotry.

        Also, the BSA is not “the boy scouts”. They are one specific scouting organization, and many other scouting groups do not have the same forms of bigotry.

      • Spuddie

        The BSA was never a Christian organization. It was deliberately set up to be non-sectarian. But what happened a generation ago is the LDS church and several other large Christian denominations essentially drove out secular support and insinuated themselves into the organization. The virulent bigotry of the BSA leadership now is a lot more recent than many will own up to.

      • Gus Snarp

        You may be unaware that the BSA is not a Christian organization. I am an Eagle Scout. A former Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, a former BSA summer camp staff member and leader, former Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Scoutmaster, and Order of the Arrow Chapter chief and Lodge vice chief. Why would I want to be able to join? Because religion was never a significant part of my Boy Scout experience. Because my troop, like many, was composed of kids of many different faiths, not just Christians, and probably some with no faith at all. Because the Boy Scouts taught me to be of service in my community and to other scouts. Since I cannot serve as an adult leader, I serve by trying to make the organization that meant so much to me into the organization it ought to be.

        No one has ever questioned their right to freedom of association, though I question their right to special treatment by the government while they discriminate, but I am quite sick of people who pretend that protesting, complaining, boycotting, writing letters, or whatever it is we choose to do to convince an organization we once believed in to change somehow has anything at all to do with their constitutional rights. Of course they have the right, just as I have the right to speak out against the way they’ve chosen to exercise their rights. You’re either being completely dishonest when you write that shit, or you have not the faintest understanding of the most basic tenets of law and ought not to be an attorney if you don’t understand that.

        And mainly, because the BSA means at least as much to me, if not more, and I have at least as much say in its future as you or anyone else. You’ve occasionally been a reasonable respondent around here, though mostly you spout non sequitur crap like the above, so I hope you’ll realize I’m not interested in hearing your arguments about this. I have a personal investment here, and you can piss right off if you think you have any business telling me what the BSA is or isn’t or ought to be.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I’m curious as to why you think it was acceptable decades ago for private businesses that held monopolies to use their “freedom of association” to deny services to blacks.

  • Houndentenor

    When I was a kid Baptists had this lame BSA knock-off called Royal Ambassadors. I guess they could go back to that. But I assume people realized that Boy Scouts had more appeal.

    • Former_RA

      Ah, RAs. I was an RA for many years growing up.

    • TCC

      Maybe the program was more limited where I lived, but I don’t remember RA being an actual equivalent group to the Boy Scouts (RA was co-ed, for one). I don’t think that anyone who didn’t like the Boy Scouts would have thought that RA was a suitable replacement.

    • Trickster Goddess

      When I was a kid our church had its own group called Torchbearers because the pacifist Mennonites considered the Scouts to be a paramilitary organization.

      • baal

        I thought the founder of the Boy Scouts wanted the male population more ready to become soldiers so it’s not an unreasonable position from the Mennonites.

      • TCC

        That’s because it is a paramilitary organization. After I left the BSA, one of my friends was recruited into the Navy by the archery instructor at the local BSA camp. He tried to recruit me as well (on a couple of occasions), and when I told him that I wasn’t interested in the military, he said something like, “Well, you were in the Scouts, which is a paramilitary organization,” in order to make me think that being in the Navy would be like being in Scouts. (In truth, this wasn’t the best tactic, as all of the things I hated about Scouts were the things I would have had to deal with in the Navy. I’m just not cut out for the military.)

        • MD

          I think BSA is more paramilitary than Scouts in other countries. Most other organisations barely have a uniform and are very casual. The Scouts I’ve seen in northern Europe just wear the scarf and are lead by older teenagers.

          • TCC

            That’s very possible, but yes, the BSA is definitely paramilitary.

        • Cocky Bastard

          Yeahy, but you OK with other men being in the military and defending your right to live free of occupation by a foreign power.

          • TCC

            Right. Your point?

        • Timothy R Alexander

          I remember we had army recruiters at my highschool, and when they found out I was in scouts they would not leave me alone. They tried to tempt me with the fact I could start with a pay raise for earning my eagle rank. I had to explain to them it was not my choice to be in scouts, my parents would not let me leave the organization until I was 18, but there was no way in hell I was joining any form of the military.

  • C Peterson

    One of the best things that could happen to the Boy Scouts would be getting churches out of their business. When I was in the scouts, back in the 1960s, most packs and troops were sponsored by companies or schools (at least, in California). I don’t remember any issues of religion at all (of course, homosexuality was still below the radar for most people). When I was an advisor to an Explorer Post, that was sponsored by a company, as well, and nobody cared. We had a gay advisor (who had previously been a member).

    Get churches out of the mix, and all their nasty bad morality will start going away as well.

    • JET

      I absolutely agree that what you advocate would be the ideal, but unfortunately it’s just not going to happen. While the Southern Baptists are willing to take a stand and recommend that their congregations distance themselves from the Scouts, the Mormon church will never do so. The Mormon church has a stronger influence on the Scouts than any other religious organization. Their influence may not be greater by their numbers, but it is certainly greater by their financial support and their united stance on the future of the organization.
      At the same time that the BSA decided to allow gay scouts, there was a movement in the California legislature to rescind tax-exempt status from the Scouts as being a discriminatory organization. Since they do not apply for tax-exempt status as a religious organization, but rather as a non-profit organization, the legislature rightfully contended that they must follow the law in regards to not engaging in discriminatory practices.
      I cannot find these two things happening at approximately the same time coincidental. I cannot prove, but I absolutely believe, that the Mormon church exercised its influence on the BSA to give up this little piece of ground, so as not to bring greater attention to the fact that the Scouts are very greatly influenced by the Mormon church.
      I absolutely believe based on my experience with the Mormon church, that they look at the BSA as fertile ground for their missionary work. Allowing gay scouts (but not gay adults and not atheists) is not only a very small concession, but will actually give them influence over a segment of the population they have not given up on targeting for conversion.

      • C Peterson

        I know it’s not going to happen. And I know that the BSA is effectively an arm of the Mormon church. But until the BSA also allows gay leaders, an atheist members and leaders, they should not have tax exempt status, and certainly shouldn’t receive any sort of governmental support.

        My advice to boys interested in what the BSA offers is simple: stay away from them- there are better organizations to choose from.

        • JET

          I completely agree. Although the BSA did not start out as a religious organization, they have definitely evolved into one. And the Mormon church is working furiously to evolve it further into a distinctly Mormon one. We were vehemently against our son joining the scouts just for this reason. If people want to sign their sons up for the scouts, that is their choice. I would just like everyone to know that generally speaking, there is a HUGE Mormon influence.

    • Cocky Bastard

      I have always hated the scouts. Two guys tried to abuse us, but my parents wouldn’t believe us.

      Not understanding what they were, I later found out they were Homosexuals.

      Gawd Damn I hate em.

      • C Peterson

        How do you know they were homosexuals? From your description, they were pedophiles (who are rarely homosexual). Organizations like the BSA naturally attract pedophiles. That isn’t their fault, but how they deal with the problem certainly reflects on them… and the BSA’s record in that area isn’t very good. Like the Catholics, it’s mostly a history of coverups.

        • Cocky Bastard

          This was years ago, and I didn’t know what a Homosexual was.

          They live in our city, and have since come out as Homosexuals.

          If you want to defend them, that your problem. Not mine. Don’t try and make me a victim again.

          • allein

            Why do you capitalize homosexual?

      • Michael W Busch

        Pedophilia is not the same as homosexuality. Please learn the difference.

  • trj

    I expect no less from a church which was founded on the basis of defending slavery.

    • Spuddie

      They will come back. Just give them a generation. They pulled the same stunt when the BSA desegregated.

      • Anna

        Did you have more information on the Southern Baptist reaction to integration? I did find some articles about African American participation in the Scouts, but it doesn’t look like there was a single moment when all troops officially desegregated, and I didn’t come across anything on the reaction of specific religious groups.

        Some interesting stuff, though:

        For much of the early 20th century, the Scouts’ national leadership did not endorse segregation or discrimination but still gave wide discretion to councils to set their own racial policies. Unsurprisingly, many chapters — especially in the segregated South — opted not to admit black Scouts. Some troops imposed long waiting periods before letting blacks join, while others allowed black boys to join but prohibited them from wearing uniforms. (Boy Scout officials in Richmond, Va., once even threatened to stage a public burning of Scout uniforms if black boys were permitted to wear them.) And while the first black troop was formed in 1911, just a year after the Boy Scouts’ founding, it wasn’t until decades later that many troops eased their rules on segregation, and not until 1974 when the aforementioned Old Hickory council — one of the last segregated Boy Scout councils — finally integrated.

        • Spuddie

          Very interesting stuff.

  • JA

    Sounds like their going the way of adoptions, you know, when churches said they could no longer provide adoption support simply because gays were allowed to adopt?

    • Spuddie

      Except they still do. They huff and puff but in the end, they don’t really take the ball away.

      • Anna

        Catholic Charities has, though. Being able to discriminate is more important to them than the welfare of the foster children under their supervision.

        • Spuddie

          True enough. Generally its tough to mention the words Catholic and child welfare in the same sentence these days without irony.

  • trivialknot

    When I asked a friend who’s worked in LGBT activism, he said that one of the biggest supporters of LGB inclusion in the BSA are… Mormons! He said much of the conflict was between Mormons and other Christians such as the Southern Baptists. Apparently the Mormons don’t support same-sex marriage, but do support non-discrimination.

    It’s rather irritating that BSA’s limited steps forward only come at the whims of whatever religious faction happens to have power.

    • JET

      If the Mormons truly believed in being non-discriminatory, they would also advocate for allowing gay adults and atheists into the organization. They are just as fundamentally discriminatory as any other religious organization, but they are also very politically astute. While other religions proudly parade their politically incorrect views, the Mormons keep them behind closed, barred and locked doors.
      The Mormons are extremely influental in the BSA, but would rather not draw a lot of attention to that fact as most other Christian religions (and I could argue that Mormons are not really Christians) see Mormons as being nothing more than a cult, just slightly more credible that the Scientologists.
      I firmly believe that the Mormon church advocated for the inclusion of gay YOUTH in the BSA because 1) it was a good political move, 2) it was a relatively small concession, and 3) they have not given up on being able to possibly convert minors.

      • Feminerd

        Is it bad that I see Mormons, Scientologists, Protestants, and Catholics all the same in terms of credibility, and it took me a second to figure out what you were saying?

        • JET

          I personally don’t see any difference in credibility either. As clarification, what I meant to say is that mainstream Christian religions have less respect for Mormons, even less for Scientologists, and absolute no respect for atheists. But of course, they were willing to vote for a Mormon for President because he was more like them than Obama (who they probably think is a closeted Muslim or atheist or possibly the anti-christ.) My statement that I could argue that Mormons were not really Christians is based on their very different beliefs in the concepts of heaven and hell, the uniqueness of Jesus as the only divine son of god, their belief in a prelife as well as an afterlife, their addition of non-biblical prophets, their potential to actually achieve a form of divinity themselves, and many other fundamental differences.

          • Feminerd

            Oh yeah, I figured it out on second read. It just took a sec, that’s all :)

      • trivialknot

        You didn’t ask for a citation, but here’s one for those too lazy to google:

        Some might say (as my friend did) that they respect Mormons for supporting LGB inclusion in scouting youth, but I don’t respect it. If you look at their stated reasons, it’s all religious bullshit. What’s more, this has real consequences: rather than being consistently anti-discriminatory, they only oppose discrimination piecemeal. I think this explains why they still discriminate against LGB leaders, and why atheist inclusion doesn’t even seem to be on the table.

  • Erp

    As others have pointed out the headline is a bit overblown. The SBC isn’t ordering (on pains of being kicked out of the SBC) that SBC churches stop chartering Boy Scout troops; it is supporting those that do cut ties and encouraging the use of the Royal Ambassadors (which apparently doesn’t go past grade 6 so is closer to a Cub Scout replacement [grades 1-5] than a Boy Scout replacement).

    The Southern Baptist Convention is also a relatively small group within the BSA. The total Baptist sponsored units (packs, troops, crews) is 3,981 and youth is 108,353. Total units is over 100,000 and 2.6 million youth. So about 4% of the units and membership. However this is for all Baptists and not just Southern Baptists (Southern Baptists make up slightly more than half of all Baptists in the US according to Pew). However we have insufficient data to assume anything other than that 3,981 is the max. Baptists as a whole are on par with Lutherans and Presbyterians (both have fewer units but more members) and well below Catholic, United Methodist, and the LDS churches. Baptists are also about on par with units chartered by groups of citizens.

    The United Methodist scouting group has said they will welcome any units kicked out by SBC churches (they also say they support the Girl Scouts even though they got the name wrong which indicates a more progressive outlook).

    The LDS said even before the vote it had no problems with the proposed change.

    The Catholics have sent a mixed message but may find their laity setting up citizen groups or working with other organizations to charter. I think on the whole they will stay with the new status quo.

  • Robster

    Jeez, 16 million members is an awful lot of sad, gullible, deluded people. do they on-sell their mailing list? It would be the best for fraudsters wanting to sell stuff like the Empire State Building, the National Monument, the Moon etc. It’s obvious customers of the SBC are a bit silly and are able to believe anything.