Boy Scouts revokes church charter for refusing to oust openly gay Scoutmaster

Boy Scouts revokes church charter for refusing to oust openly gay Scoutmaster

SEATTLE — The Boy Scouts of America said it has revoked a Seattle-area church’s charter because its troop leader is openly gay.

The BSA said Sunday it was contacting leaders and parents of the children in Troop 98 and its affiliated Cub Scout pack to tell them that Rainier Beach United Methodist Church is no longer authorized to be a charter partner, reports NBC News.

Geoffrey McGrath
Geoffrey McGrath AP

“Because the church no longer agrees to the terms of the BSA chartered organization agreement, which includes following BSA policies, it is no longer authorized to offer the Scouting program,” Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts spokesman, told NBC News in an email.

Late last month, the BSA severed ties with Scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath when it learned that he was openly gay. The BSA allows gay youth to participate in scouting, but bans openly gay adults from serving in leadership positions.

Rev. Monica Corsaro, pastor of the host church for Troop 98, has stood by McGrath and has refused to replace him as their scout leader: “Geoffrey is our Scoutmaster and Geoffrey will remain our Scoutmaster,” said Corsaro. McGrath continued to lead troop meetings, and said he had no intention of stepping down until instructed to do so by the church.

And earlier this month, Seattle’s mayor and City Council sent a letter to Seattle-area Council president Rob McKenna supporting McGrath. “This act of discriminating is deeply disturbing,” they wrote, adding that the BSA’s decision on McGrath undermines its credibility in teaching admirable values.

Now, in a letter dated April 17, Steven P. McGowan of the Boy Scouts of America’s General Council tells the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church that its charter is being be revoked for refusing to oust McGrath:

“As you are aware, the policy of the Boy Scouts of America does not allow open or avowed homosexuals to serve as adult volunteer leaders […] Nevertheless, Rainier Beach United Methodist Church has stated that it will not remove [McGrath] as a leader and will continue to allow him to serve as an adult leader in violation of the charter agreement and the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

“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 authorized chartered organization and may no longer use the Scouting program or any of its registered marks or brands.”

Corsaro said the BSA’s latest move wasn’t a surprise, but was disappointing. “Breaking us up like this seems to go against everything the Boy Scouts is about,” she said.

Corsaro and McGrath have hired an attorney, and said they believe BSA is infringing on their religious freedom, since the organization expects churches to choose their scoutmasters.

Corsaro said the church is weighing legal options as a result of the BSA’s decision.

“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. The congregation stands with Geoff, because his work with this Troop reflects the spirit and the values of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church,” said Corsaro.

“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.”

“The Boy Scouts’ decisions only serve to hurt a group of boys who need the values and leadership of someone like Scoutmaster McGrath,” said Zach Wahls, Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, a national organization dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders.

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“Unfortunately, the BSA’s decision calls into question its commitment to leadership and values by perpetuating an outmoded policy rooted in fear and discrimination. History will show that today’s announcement is a self-inflicted wound,” said Wahls.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is the BSA’s second-largest chartered (sponsor) organization, accounting for more than 10,000 units and 363,000 youth members nationwide. Rainier Beach UMC is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, comprised of more than 600 United Methodist communities across the country who welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals.

There are at least 70 other Scouting units chartered to Reconciling Congregations throughout the United States.

McGrath is believed to be the first gay adult to be booted from the Boy Scouts of America since last year’s vote to allow gay youth.

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