Boy Scouts toss out church over gay Scoutmaster

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has revoked the charter of a Seattle-area church because of the church's support for an openly gay Scoutmaster.

On March 31, the BSA notified Chief Seattle Council Troop 98 Scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath that his registration would be revoked because he is gay.  However, the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, which charters Troop 98, said it would stand by McGrath and allow him to continue his duties as Scoutmaster. As a result of its continued support, the BSA on Thursday stripped the church of its charter.

In a letter dated April 17, Steven P. McGowan of the Boy Scouts of America's General Council notified the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church that its charter would be revoked:

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.

"That the Boy Scouts of America would punish a church and the young people of Troop 98 because the church's core values emphasize fairness and equality for all of God's children is simply unconscionable," said GLAAD President & 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 Reverend Monica Corsaro says 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," said Rainier Beach United Methodist Church Pastor Monica Corsaro. "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. 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."

Rainier Beach United Methodist Church is represented by Friedman | Rubin Law Offices.

Thirty-nine Washington state legislators have signed a letter in support of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church's decision to stand by McGrath, writing that they're "deeply troubled" as "discrimination against gay people is unacceptable."

In May 2013, the BSA approved a landmark resolution that allowed gay youth to participate in Scouting. The Boy Scouts opted to maintain its ban on gay and lesbian parents and adults, however.

An April 2014 Rasmussen poll shows that favorable views of the Boy Scouts continue to decrease, with a 6% decline since May 2013. 

GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 350,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders.

More than 1.8 million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Since that day, advocacy efforts and successful petition campaigns have recruited two Boy Scout board members -- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley -- to denounce the national anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors such as the Intel Foundation and the UPS Foundation to pull funding until the Boy Scouts ends its policy banning gay youth and parents. In 2012, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan's application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.

For a full timeline of events leading up to today's vote, please visit http://glaad.org/timeline.

(Note: The letter below incorrectly names Geoffrey McGrath as 'Peter McGrath.' Peter is the first name of Mr. McGrath's attorney.)

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