Crystal Lake church drops troop over Scouts' new gay policy
Pastor of Catholic parish says Scouts 'condone' homosexuality
A Roman Catholic church in Crystal Lake will no longer sponsor a local Boy Scout troop because of the Scouts' new acceptance of gay members.
It's believed to be the first church in the Chicago area to take such a step, though some evangelical churches in the South have also severed ties with Scout troops, and church and scout leaders alike expect more houses of worship to wrestle with the issue.
The Boy Scouts of America National Council voted May 23 to end its exclusion of openly gay scouts next year, while maintaining a ban on gay adult leaders.
Church notified local Scout officials by mail last week that the Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop it chartered will have to find a new meeting place.
The Rev. Brian Grady wrote that the Boy Scouts are "condoning" homosexuality, which the church opposes.
"For a young boy to (have to) share a tent or be exposed to other boys who are openly homosexual is not only unjust, but immoral," Grady wrote. "As a former Boy Scout, I know how uncomfortable it would have been to have to be in close proximity with boys that would perhaps be looking at me as more than just a friend."
Grady said he was saddened to be "forced to make this decision." In an interview, he said: "We welcome those individuals … but we also recognize certain actions are not to be encouraged."
Troop 550 Scoutmaster Charlie Payseur said he and his assistant leaders were "livid" about the move. Grady has been very hospitable, Payseur said, but had not discussed the issue with them.
"It has never been an issue, nor would I turn a Scout away," Payseur said. "I treat everyone the same. It's bothering me that people can't just accept people for who they are."
The Boy Scout troop and Cub Scout pack, which each have about 10 members, use the church for thrice-monthly meetings and annual banquets. The Scouts did not pay rent, but donated about $200 from fundraising last year, and did gardening on the grounds, Payseur said. An Eagle Scout built a brick sidewalk and repaired a patio for the church.
Payseur said he will try to find a new home for the troop that would not be affected by religious views.
In general, the Boy Scouts have strong ties to religious groups, who charter about 70 percent of the Scouts' 100,000 units.
Representatives of Boy Scout councils that cover Kane, Lake and DuPage counties said they were not aware of similar expulsions from churches. Officials with the Chicago Area Council could not be reached Friday, but Angela Johnston, charter organization representative of Troop 923 on the city's North Side, said the Catholic church hosting her troop has been supportive.
She said the Rev. James Barrett, pastor of St. Margaret Mary in West Rogers Park, committed to keeping the scouts.
"His position is that any Scout who wants to participate is welcome," she said. "The Boy Scouts have a stringent youth protection policy that would not have any sexual activity happening in a scouting environment."
Barrett, through a secretary, declined comment.
The Diocese of Rockford, which includes Crystal Lake, and the Archdiocese of Chicago have not issued a public position on what to do with Scout troops at churches.
The National Catholic Committee on Scouting recently issued a statement asking that Catholic adultScout leaders and charter heads "not rush to judgment" since the policy does not take effect until Jan. 1.
"Scouting is still the best program around," Chairman Edward Martin wrote. "Catholic Scouters like you are still very much needed. Let's continue this important journey together!"
Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest U.S. Protestant denomination, said they expect to issue a resolution against the Scouts' policy at the group's upcoming annual meeting.
Not all religious groups oppose the new policy. The Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of scouting troops nationwide, expressed support for permitting gay scouts. The United Methodist Church, the second-largest sponsor, also plans to continue its role in scouting.
The Boy Scouts could not yet quantify the impact of the amended policy, spokesman Deron Smith said. The organization will work to find new sponsors where necessary.
Mark Noel, a former Eagle Scout and co-founder of the Inclusive Scouting Network, said that from what he is hearing, few Catholic churches plan to eject Scout troops. What's more, he said, some liberal faith groups that have declined to host Scouts because of the ban on gay members may pick up troops dropped by other churches.
While national polls show a growing acceptance of gay rights, an online survey of about 200,000 Scout members, parents and leaders showed a 2-1 support for maintaining the ban.
Tribune wire services contributed to this report.