Religion Plays Large Role in Boy Scouts' Homosexuality Decision

"I think it's clear that the Scouts have made a sea change in who they are and that down the road they will be a different organization than they are today," said Roger "Sing" Oldham, spokesman for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, whose leader, Frank S. Page, urged for a prayer be held among congregations on Sunday that the board members would not allow gays.

"I think there are a lot of parents and students who will make the decision to look for other organizations that are more in line with the principles that they espouse," he said.

The Scouts' board meeting starts today, and a decision on the gay ban is expected Wednesday.

The Scouting movement has heavy involvement from religious groups, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church together sponsoring more than 1 million Scouts, according to Boy Scouts data for 2011. Overall, faith-based groups sponsored nearly 70 percent of the more than 100,000 Scouting units that year, compared with civic organizations backing 23 percent and educational outfits 8 percent.

In the Scout Oath, youth pledge to do their "duty to God," and the organization holds special celebrations in tandem with churches, such as "Scout Sunday," just ahead of the Feb. 8 anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts in 1910. This year, "Scout Sunday" was held Feb. 3 in a number of congregations across the country, and people on social media reported troops receiving their religious medals and posted pictures of Scouts in uniform at church. The BSA offers a guide to the church observance on its website.

"Boy Scouts are like baseball and apple pie," said Rev. Chase Peeples of the gay-friendly Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ in Kansas City, Mo., which honored Scouts on Sunday and displayed on its front lawn a banner with a rainbow background reading, "We welcome ALL Boy Scouts."

Image: Boy Scout troop, via Susan Montgomery / Shutterstock.com

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