With LGBT ban lifted, Reform recommends renewing ties with Boy Scouts of America

A Boy Scout marches in an LGBT Pride parade in New York City, June 28, 2015. (A. Katz/Shutterstock) (JTA)— After 14 years of discord, Reform Jewish leaders are recommending that Jewish institutions re-establish ties with the Boy Scouts of America. The change of heart comes in response to an announcement last Monday by the Boy Scouts of America that it was canceling its policy of banning gay adults from being scout leaders and other employees. Since 2001, after a Supreme Court case the previous year that upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to a ban on adult homosexual employees, the Religious Action Center or Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Change had recommended that the nearly 300 Reform synagogues that sponsor or host Boy Scout troops sever ties with the organization. The RAC maintains that the “vast majority” of American Reform synagogues parted ways with their Boy Scout troops after its recommendation. On Wednesday, the RAC commission issued a new memo that said synagogues should feel free to re-affiliate with the Boy Scouts in light of the policy change. “After considering the BSA [Boy Scouts of America] policy change, the response from advocates within the scouting community generally and in particular, Scouts for Equality as a leading voice within the gay scouting community, the Commission on Social Action has concluded that if a URJ congregation wishes to re-establish ties with the BSA and host a fully inclusive and welcoming unit, it should do so,” the memo reads. However, the memo contained strong reservations due to the fact that the Boy Scouts policy will continue to allow individual religious institutions that sponsor troops to refuse to hire LGBT employees. According to the RAC, 71.5 percent of all troops are chartered to faith-based organizations. “[W]e note with great concern the fact that some religiously chartered BSA units will continue to discriminate against gay leaders,” the memo reads. “We will continue to advocate for a fully inclusive and welcoming BSA for leaders and scouts who are gay and/or transgender, and we encourage those synagogues who elect to rejoin the BSA to participate whole-heartedly in this effort.” The Boy Scouts of America, which was founded in 1910, did not allow openly gay youths to be Scouts until 2013. That new policy went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but the RAC continued to oppose the BSA. “We took very seriously the notion that gay youths in the scouting movement should be able to look at gay adults in the scouting movement and see themselves reflected in that person,” said Barbara Weinstein, director of the RAC’s Commission on Social Action. The Reform movement is the largest denomination of Judaism in the United States, with 35 percent of American Jews describing themselves as Reform (although far fewer belong to Reform synagogues). The movement ordains openly gay men and women as rabbis. Reform rabbis also officiate at gay weddings. “We respect the fact that other faith traditions abide by their own teachings, but we hope that the day will come that the scouting movement is completely inclusive of gay scouts and leaders,” Weinstein said. The Boy Scouts of America did not respond in time to comment for this article. Powered By WizardRSS.com | Full Text RSS Feed