If churches across the United States have doubted whether or not they should be affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America [BSA], a resolution passed on Monday may provide some clarity on that decision. Following on the heels of a monumental change two years ago that permitted open and avowed gay youth to become members, the BSA has now officially lifted the ban on openly-gay Scout leaders. The decision also extends to staff members.
The mission of the Boy Scouts has long been “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.” The Scout Oath includes these admirable words: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to…keep myself…morally straight.”
Given yesterday’s vote, coupled with the decision in 2013, one is left to wonder what exactly the BSA considers “duty to God” and being “morally straight” when God himself has clearly spoken about what these mean. Maybe the BSA will attempt to define what they mean by those phrases at a later date. At this point in time, however, it is quite clear that the BSA’s actions do not align with their stated mission, nor do they align with God’s Word.
That fact alone should cause churches that charter individual troops to reconsider their affiliations. Although churches that charter Boy Scout troops can, in the words of the BSA president, “continue to use religious beliefs as a criterion for selecting adult leaders, including in matters of sexuality,” it is highly unlikely that this will remain the case for very long. Leaders in the LGBT movement are already demanding that this exception be discontinued, claiming that it “undermines and diminishes” the BSA’s decision. The homosexual lobby will not rest until all BSA chartered units, including those chartered by churches, are forced to accept openly-gay leaders or face discrimination lawsuits. In much the same way that no unit may discriminate against openly-gay youth as members, it will not be long before units are no longer permitted to use their religious beliefs to defend their decisions to deny leadership positions to homosexuals.
Once a church accepts the membership policy of the BSA, which they must do to charter a group, the church opens itself up to lawsuits if it attempts to restrict other associations, affiliations, or events on its property that do not align with the church’s Statement of Faith, such as a gay wedding. When courts consider whether a church has engaged in unconstitutional discrimination, it looks to see if the church has been consistent in its decisions in this area. For this reason, a church will most assuredly face a discrimination lawsuit—and will lose—if they attempt to restrict the use of their facilities to ceremonies and events celebrating God-ordained marriages while at the same time admitting gay members into their units. A Bible-believing church’s continued relationship with BSA will undermine the church’s ability to continue their mission and will risk their First Amendment freedoms of association, religious liberty, and free speech so long as they continue to straddle the fence. More than ever, churches should seriously consider their own affiliations, practices, policies, and procedures to make sure that they are not setting themselves up for litigation and the loss of tax exemption. Sadly, a church’s continued affiliation with the BSA creates a high likelihood of both.