In the weeks leading up to the Boy Scouts of America's vote on dropping the anti-gay ban, communities of faith are speaking out. The problem for the media covering this is that faith communities are not saying the same thing. Who gets to represent the voice of faith when talking about the Boy Scouts proposed policy change?
"Keep 'em Out"
One group that would love to claim that God is on their side is the anti-gay industry. These are the organizations that want the Boy Scouts to keep their discriminatory ban. This Sunday, anti-gay groups like the Family Research Council and On My Honor are teaming up to put on an anti-gay webcast entitled "Stand with Scouts Sunday." In a promotional video, Tony Perkins claims that churches, synagogues and other faith organizations will be forced to abandon the scouts if they accept gay scouts. They also warn of "potentially devastating legal, moral, and financial implications" of dropping the anti-gay policy.
The webcast will feature some of the top anti-gay activists, including Tony Perkins, John Stemberger, and Rick Perry. To give some perspective, Tony Perkins is the same man who has called gay people "pawns of the enemy" and terrorists. John Stemberger has compared President Obama to Hitler and Stalin, would like to see gay people criminalized, and compares marriage equality to incest. Their claims about the future of scouting under an inclusive policy and the relationship with faith communities must be taken with a grain of salt.
Even as activists like Perkins and Stemberger claim that to be supported by their Christian faith, they break the golden rule, bear false witness, and operate through deceit. This deception is the exact reason why the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Family Research Council an anti-gay hate group.
"Scouting for All"
On the opposite side of the anti-gay industry are the mainstream faith communities that are working to lift not only the ban on gay scouts, but on gay and lesbian leaders as well. They recognize the inconsistency of accepting a gay scout, only to turn them away once they reach 18 years of age.
Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians have all called for an end to the anti-gay ban. A Conservative Jewish day school ended a Boy Scout charter because they found the ban "egregious." This Sunday, while the anti-gay industry is webcasting "Stand with Scouts Sunday," leaders in the United Church of Christ will be holding a conference call to share ways of advocating for a BSA membership policy that includes gay and bisexual youth and adults. The Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ have both endorsed the work of Scouts for Equality, an organization of scouts who believe that scouting should be for all.
And what motivates these groups that call for full inclusion? A variety of things.
First of all, they are tired of having their faith represented by anti-gay figures like Tony Perkins, John Stemberger, and Rick Perry. They are driven by the call for justice they read in scripture. They are taught by the example of Jesus, who reached beyond his immediate circle to draw others in. They want to support and give back to the community without leaving anyone out. They see scouting as an extension of their ministry, and do not want their ministry is marred by the anti-gay ban.
"Scouting for Some"
There is one major faith group that supports the Boy Scout's proposed policy of dropping the ban on gay scouts but keeping it in place for gay leaders. Last week, the Mormon Church came out in support of the proposed policy that keeps the ban on gay adult leaders, but allows gay scouts.
The Mormon Church has had an anti-gay history, from which it is attempting to distance itself. The church is attempting to include gay and lesbian members, but still places limits on their participation and involvement in the denomination. Recently, the Mormon Church launched mormonsandgays.org to reach out to gay and lesbian Mormons, inviting them back to the denomination. However, there are still limits on gay and lesbian members, such as marriage equality.
In fact, the proposed policy of the Boy Scouts matches the new tone coming from the Mormon Church, which isn't surprising, since Mormon churches are the largest sponsors of scout troops across the country.
People of faith want to make the Scouts more inclusive of LGBT people, even as the anti-gay industry would use faith as a reason to keep the discriminatory policy in place. GLAAD reminds the media that faith cannot be simply represented by anti-gay voices. No doubt, those who participate in "Stand with Scouts Sunday" will position themselves as faithful people against a secular LGBT movement, but it is simply not true. People of all faith wish to see this policy fall, for both scouts and leaders, and to create a scouting program that truly includes and benefits all boys.
If you are a person of faith, your voice needs to be heard on the Boy Scouts policy.
Share the "People of Faith Support Scouting for All" graphic on social media.
Join the United Church of Christ conference call this Sunday to learn how to advocate for a fully inclusive Boy Scouts.
Visit www.glaad.org/scouts for more information