Church hires attorney to defend gay Scoutmaster, cites violation of religious freedom

Rainier Beach United Methodist Church has hired an attorney to defend Geoff McGrath, a Seattle-based Scoutmaster, who recently had his registration revoked by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for being openly gay.

While the BSA voted to lift its discriminatory ban on gay youth in May 2013, adults who identify as LGBT are still barred from holding leadership positions within the organization. Despite the top-down attempt to remove Geoff from the role of Scoutmaster, his troop and local community members have rallied to support him and to keep him in his position. Some are now attempting to extend such support such that it sends a loud-and-clear message to the BSA.

Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, in addition to being an LGBT-affirming Reconciling Congregation, is a chartering partner with the BSA. Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro, pastor of the UMC congregation, has stood by Geoff since the BSA's attempt to oust him, and recently announced to KING 5 News that the church hired an attorney to defend its religious freedom against infringement from the BSA.

"If I take responsibility for who is hired, then I also take responsibility for who is fired," said Rev. Corsaro, according to United Methodist News. She added, "Our church is thriving and happy, and we support Geoffrey."

The hired attorney, Peter Mullenix, said in a statement that he hopes an effective conversation can take place with the BSA without requiring legal action. He noted that, were this case to be brought to the Supreme Court, he believes the Court would find the BSA's actions discriminatory. Peter said in a statement:

We are still exploring our legal options, and we hope no litigation is necessary. We want to work with the Boy Scouts toward a resolution that works for the kids of the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church. With that said, it may be time for the courts to revisit the question of whether a congressionally chartered, non-sectarian corporation is allowed to violate the states' discrimination statutes. The Supreme Court, in a 504 decision, allowed the Scouts to do so in 2000 because the Scouts claimed that the presence of gay scouts would affect their ability to take a moral stand against homosexuality. We don't think they can still make that claim, particularly when, we believe, they know about Geoff's orientation when they approved his leadership. We also don't think the Boy Scouts, which claim to be a non-sectarian organization, should be interfering with the religious decision of the Church, which believes strongly that God would disapprove of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 Geoff told United Methodist News, "I felt like I had been wandering for many years in the wilderness. At Rainier Beach United Methodist Church I’ve found a church where I can be beloved for who I am and I can answer my call to provide service with everything that is in my heart."

BSA spokesperson Deron Smith told NBC News that Geoff was being ousted because he "deliberately injected it [his sexual orientation] into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion," when Geoff told a local reporter that he is gay.

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. To learn more about GLAAD's continuous efforts to bring full equality to scouting, visit glaad.org/scouts.

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