The Boy Scouts of America has revoked the charter for one troop because its sponsoring church refused to discriminate. The troop has stood by its openly gay Scoutmaster in the face of the national organization’s attempt to remove him for being an “avowed homosexual.”
Geoff McGrath, an openly gay 49-year-old Eagle Scout, started a Boy Scout troop a few months later, in the Rainier Beach section of Seattle, Washington. The chartering organization, an LGBT-inclusive United Methodist Church, reportedly encouraged McGrath to take the volunteer position, well aware of his record pro-equality activism.
After NBC News contacted the local Boy Scout council about McGrath, it and the national organization moved to reject him. Sharon Moulds, council executive for the Chief Seattle Council, told the network, “It was then that we became aware of his intentions to make a public statement about his orientation and use our program as a means to further a personal agenda.” In a blog post defending last year’s policy change regarding gay youth, she wrote, “This has been a distraction for a long time. It is now time to get back to delivering the programs that our youth have been promised.” But instead, the council alerted the national office, which in turn announced that McGrath would be removed.
With his troop’s support, McGrath refused to step down: “I have not tendered my resignation. Until I am relieved of my duty properly, I stand in my post.” Rainier Beach United Methodist Church Reverend Monica Corsaro told a local TV station that the church is standing by its Scoutmaster. “It’s very disappointing that a policy that is so blatantly discriminatory is being acted out, and so I think it makes us stand more firm and be more clear that Geoffrey is our Scoutmaster and Geoffrey will remain our Scoutmaster… In my humble opinion, I don’t feel like I’ve been communicated to by the Boy Scouts of America, Geoffrey also received an email which I was copied on but I have received no direct communication from the Boy Scouts of America.”
On Monday, GLAAD reported that the Boy Scouts of America had revoked the charter for the Boy Scout Troop 98 and its affiliated Cub Scout Pack as a punishment for its “refusal to comply with the policies, guidelines, rules, and regulations of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Pastor Corsaro told GLAAD that her church is considering legal options: “As a Reconciling Congregation, it’s important to us that we are open to all people… It’s a part of our values that the spirit of inclusion is also reflected in the Boy Scout Troop we charter.” But the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2000, by a 5 to 4 majority, that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts of America has legal right to discriminate if it so chooses.
As a gubernatorial candidate in 2012, Chief Seattle Council President Rob McKenna (R), a former Washington state attorney general, criticized the national organization’s policy of mandatory discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But the national organization seems unenthusiastic about reopening the conversation about its discriminatory policies: Deron Smith said earlier this month, “We don’t believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in scouting and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into scouting.”