Churches must now decide whether to open or close their doors to local Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troops in light of last week’s decision by the delegates to the BSA National Council to amend its membership policy and lift the longstanding ban on youth who engage in homosexual behavior. In February, Liberty Institute, along with other leading religious liberty law firms, submitted a letter strongly warning the BSA about “unintended consequences” of adopting a policy welcoming homosexuals into its ranks. To view the letter online, visit:http://blog.libertyinstitute.org/2013/02/the-boy-scouts-threat-to-religious.html
BSA’s policy change will have far-reaching implications on religious liberty and other constitutional rights of churches and faith-based organizations.
“The tragedy is that the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting the BSA’s original policy is now moot,” said Liberty Institute President and CEO Kelly Shackelford . “With the policy change, churches and other faith-based organizations—which make up 70 percent of BSA sponsorship—are put directly in the line of fire.”
Although the new BSA policy allowing homosexual members will not go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014, churches already have begun to break ties with their local scout troops. For example, this week Southeast Christian Church, a megachurch inLouisville, KY, announced it will bid farewell to its local scouts because the new policy distracts the church from “the mission God has called them to.” Similarly, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, said “it would likely recommend that its 47,000 U.S. churches pull away from the Boy Scouts of America.”
As churches throughout the country decide whether or not to close their doors to local troops, it could open these ministries to litigation.
“There is nothing in the law that says churches have to continue supporting the BSA,” said Roger Byron , attorney for Liberty Institute and a former Eagle Scout. “However, there are many local and state laws offering a special class of protection for same sex orientation and conduct. While these laws often include an exemption for religious organizations, any that don’t could be dangerous for churches choosing to cut ties with the Scouts.”
Should any church face the threat of litigation or simply want help to determine how best to address the issue, Liberty Institute stands ready to help to protect their religious freedom.
According to a statement, “the Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to restoring and defending religious liberty across America – in our schools, for our churches, and throughout the public arena. Liberty Institute’s vision is to reestablish liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s founders.”