Family Research Council Tries to Co-opt "Scout Sunday" but People of Faith Call for Inclusion

The anti-gay Family Research Council, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is finding a way to push their radical anti-gay agenda on "Scout Sunday", which falls this Sunday, February 3.

Scout Sunday has been around for years, and is listed on the Boy Scouts of America religious calendar. It is a Sunday designated for church-sponsored troops to serve in worship in a variety of ways. Often, the sponsor congregation will recognize its relationship with the troop. Scouting Sabbath is observed next weekend, on February 9. I recall serving as an usher in my Cub Scout uniform when I was a young boy.

Next week, the Boy Scouts are seriously considering changing their blanket ban on gay scouts and leaders. Since then, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, Peter Sprigg, and others who are featured in GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project, have taken to the airwaves, making outlandish claims about what the potential change.

Jeremy Hooper, GLAAD's Commentator Accountability Project contributor, noted on his own blog that the Family Research Council has made up special bulletin inserts for Scout Sunday, complete with its own set of misinformation and threats.  According to the bulletin:

From a practical perspective, departing from their long-held policies would be devastating to an organization that has prided itself on the development of strong moral character in boys.  It would also place these impressionable young men at risk to unwanted exposure to values contrary to those taught by their parents and pastors… or even worse.

Thankfully, the Family Research Council isn't the only group that is mobilizing on Scout Sunday. The United Church of Christ (UCC) is also asking its congregations to hang banners of welcome and speak out in support of policy change during Sunday's worship. They are also encouraging UCC members to contact the Boy Scouts to encourage them to drop the ban. The UCC has been highlighting one of its members, David Knapp, who has been working for 50 years to have the ban lifted. Knapp is now 87 years old, and continues to call for change. Knapp marched with GLAAD in the New York City Pride Parade, calling on the Boy Scouts to lift its ban.

"In this spirit, on this National Boy Scout Sunday, let us proclaim, 'We welcome ALL Boy Scouts,'" said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive on LGBT concerns. "Let us demonstrate this value with actions, communicating our support for a Boy Scouts of America that opens the door to everyone, including gay and bisexual scouts and scout leaders."

UCC President and General Minister, the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, has previously written a letter to the BSA President Wayne Perry and the organization's executive board, expressing "prayerful support and strong encouragement" for the BSA to change the policy. "If [the BSA] choose to move forward in this important direction, the United Church of Christ will be a supportive partner," Black said in the letter.

Some have worried that the Boy Scouts policy change may not change much, since it would have the decision about gay scouts being made by local troops and sponsors. Many scout troops are hosted by congregations, and the stereotype is that people of faith oppose LGBT inclusion. GLAAD reminds media that many congregations and entire denominations are affirming and accepting of LGBT, and would be supportive of changing a policy. In addition to the UCC, many scout troops are hosted by Conservative and Reformed Jewish, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Unitarian congregations. Even Mormons have been increasingly accepting of LGBT people, which means that many Mormon temples may not ban gay scouts as well.

Many, including the Family Research Council, would like to establish a false dichotomy that places people of faith and LGBT people on opposite sides of the Boy Scouts. In fact, people of faith are increasingly on the side for LGBT inclusion and opening the benefits of scouting to all. Denominations like the UCC, and the others listed above have LGBT inclusion as a part of their doctrine. The existing Boy Scout policy actually makes welcoming congregations go against their doctrine that says that God created and loves all people, including LGBT people, just as they are. By taking action today, the new Boy Scouts policy could reflect the doctrine of welcome and inclusion.