Gays, Boy Scouts and the religion angle

I’ve been swamped with my regular job the last few days, so I have not had as much time as usual to peruse religion headlines.

However, news that the Boy Scouts of America may drop its ban on gays has been impossible to miss.

The Associated Press has a rapid-fire second-day story that includes input from a variety of  sources — pro and con — on the possible change:

NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America’s proposed move away from its no-gays membership policy has outraged some longtime admirers, gratified many critics and raised intriguing questions about the iconic organization’s future.

Will the Scouts now be split between troops with gay-friendly policies and those that keep the ban? What will a National Jamboree be like if it brings together these disparate groups with conflicting ideologies? Will the churches long devoted to scouting now be torn by internal debate over the choices that may lie ahead?

After those opening two paragraphs, AP immediately turns to a source in the religion world:

A top official of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose conservative churches sponsor hundreds of Scout units that embrace the ban, was among those alarmed that the BSA is proposing to allow sponsoring organizations to decide for themselves whether to admit gays as scouts and adult leaders.

“We understand that we are now a minority, that it is not popular to have biblical values, not popular to take stands that seem intolerant,” said Frank Page, president of the SBC’s executive committee. “This is going to lead to a disintegration of faith-based values.”

Later, the story includes comments — or lack of comments — from Mormon and Roman Catholic officials:

Two of the biggest sponsors are the Mormons’ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose units serve roughly 420,000 scouts, and the Roman Catholic Church, which serves about 280,000 Scouts. Mormon and Catholic leaders, who have signaled support for the no-gays policy in the past, declined any official response to Monday’s announcement of the possible change.

Anybody besides me want some specific attribution there? Which Mormon leader declined to comment? Which Catholic leader? Also, the phrase “the Mormons’ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” strikes me as awkward. That’s like saying the Americans’ United States, right?

Read on:

The Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations, said it was “saddened and disappointed” by the proposed change.

“Homosexual behavior contradicts biblical teachings and God’s created order for the family and human relationships,” said the Rev. George O. Wood, the denomination’s leader. “We pray BSA will give careful consideration to this matter and hold firm to the beliefs that have made it a strong and influential organization for more than 100 years.”

The United Methodist Church, the second largest sponsor of Scout units after the Mormons, expressed support for the change — saying it was in line with church policy opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Kudos on the specific attribution on the Assemblies of God leader. But again, I would welcome a specific source name and title on the United Methodist stance. (Tell me, kind GetReligion readers, if I’m being overly nitpicky.)

I did like that, amid the plethora of information from “officialdom,” AP quoted a few real people wrestling with the issue:

In Durham, N.C., the proposed change prompted some careful moral calculations by the Rev. Allen Jones, associate minister of Antioch Baptist Church and scoutmaster of the church-sponsored Troop 481.

“Personally, I believe homosexuality is a sin and you can go to hell for it,” Jones said. “But the Gospel also speaks to the inclusion and acceptance of people with a cross to bear. If someone openly gay comes in and wants to participate, then that’s between them and God. We’re not going to discriminate.”

In a story in which the Southern Baptist Convention plays a prominent role, however, it would be nice to know if that church is, you know, a Southern Baptist church.

This is one of those stories that’s sure to keep making headlines in coming days. Please let us know if you spot any particularly exceptional — or egregious — coverage, and be sure to provide links.

Image via Shutterstock

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • El Genio

    LDS Church leaders almost never speak directly to the press, so I’m surprised that you think they would directly address this development. The person all the news articles are referring to is Michael Purdy, spokesman for the LDS Church. He is directly quoted in the Deseret News article about this topic: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865571663/Boy-Scouts-of-America-to-vote-on-lifting-ban-of-gay-Scouts-and-leaders.html

    • Bobby Ross Jr.

      Thanks for the link.

      I didn’t say that I thought they’d directly address this development. I said I thought AP should have quoted the source of its information.

      • Darren Blair

        Whoever wrote the AP article also apparently failed to note that “we’ll comment when a decision is made” and “we decline to comment” are quite different things.

        • Bobby Ross Jr.

          Good point, Darren. Part of what actually attributing a quote to a named source does is make the news organization accountable. It’s easy to say unnamed people declined to say anything. But it gets a bit trickier when you give them a name.

  • http://www.post-gazette.com Ann Rodgers

    The reason for the attributed quote from the Assemblies of God is that the AG sent a press release out very, very widely and very quickly after the decision was announced. No one had to work to get that one.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It would have been a much completer story if it had included comments with some parents of a scout or two.

  • Bobby Ross Jr.

    Just a note to readers to new to GetReligion: We require comments focused on the journalism and media coverage issues, not on personal opinions or positions on the issues involved.

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