The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has taken action against a Scout troop and a progressive church that backed an openly gay Scoutmaster.
At the end of March, the BSA told Geoffrey McGrath that he could not continue as a Scoutmaster of the Seattle Council Troop 98 because he is gay.
The Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, which has the BSA charter to run the group, refused to let McGrath stand down and allowed him to continue as Scoutmaster.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) reported that the BSA responded last week by stripped the church of its license to manage the Scout group.
“As a result of this refusal to comply with the policies, guidelines, rules, and regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, Rainer Beach United Methodist Church is hereby advised that it is no longer an authorised chartered organisation and may no longer use the Scouting program or any of its registered marks or brands,” said the BSA in a letter to the church.
In January, the BSA allowed gay youth to become Scouts for the first time in 103 years. However, it refused to end its ban on openly gay Scout leaders.
“That the Boy Scouts of America would punish a church and the young people of Troop 98 because the church’s core values emphasise fairness and equality for all of God’s children is simply unconscionable,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.
“The fact that the Boy Scouts of America chose Easter weekend to once again blatantly discriminate against gay and lesbian people, as well as the churches that support them, flies in the face of the values of Scouting and sends a hurtful message to youth.”
Rainier Beach United Methodist Church Pastor Monica Corsaro said that the church would be looking at its legal options.
“As a Reconciling Congregation, it’s important to us that we are open to all people. It’s a part of our values that the spirit of inclusion is also reflected in the Boy Scout Troop we charter,” said Pastor Corsaro.
“The congregation stands with Geoff, because his work with this Troop reflects the spirit and the values of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church. In light of the BSA’s decision to infringe on our religious liberties, sending us such troubling communication on Good Friday, we have acquired legal council to assess our options,” she said.
Thirty-nine lawmakers in the state of Washington have also signed a letter supporting the church’s decision to stand by McGrath, writing that they’re “deeply troubled” as “discrimination against gay people is unacceptable.”
Because the BSA is a private organisation, US courts have in the past upheld its right to apply membership restrictions, even if these are discriminatory.