Church Revokes Charter of Boy Scout Troop Due to Gay Member Policy Change

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — A local church has opted to terminate its charter of a local Boy Scout troop, effective immediately, after Boy Scouts of America decided to lift a ban on openly gay troop members last week.

The policy change goes into effect January 1, but Troop 542 is now without a place to meet for the forseeable future.

“Scouting was just a good time to enjoy and be a kid,” said Eagle Scout Sean Cass. “I didn’t have to worry about anything when I was scouting, except learning and having fun.”

Cass has been camping, hiking and canoeing as a member of troop 542 since fifth grade. But on Tuesday night, he learned other kids might not have the same opportunity.

“I got so upset I had to walk out and leave,” he said.

Cass said that on Tuesday night he was caught off guard in a meeting at the First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge. That’s when he learned the 22 troop members in the chartered Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups might be disbanding.

“It was very heartbreaking, saw a lot of little kids crying over something that they shouldn’t have to deal with,” he said.

The church has been the charter of the groups for a decade, but during that meeting, leadership announced it was revoking the charter immediately.

“It’s the boys 12 and up that are going to be hurting for this,” Cass said. “Some of them are just a badge away from completing Eagle Scout. They can’t do that without having a troop to work with, and we can’t have a troop without a charter.”

According to Senior Pastor Tim Reed, the decision was guided by God’s word, and the possibility of revoking the charter had been discussed since Boy Scouts of America leadership postponed reaffirming the ban back in February.

“Scripture makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin,” Reed said. “God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin, it’s not something you’re born with. It’s just like choosing to be a bully. I can choose to be a bully or not.”

Reed believes Boy Scouts of America broke its agreement with the congregation by condoning homosexuality. According to the charter agreement signed by church and troop representatives, Boy Scouts of America agreed to respect the aims and beliefs of the “charter organization.” In this case, it would be the First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge.

“That’s certainly not our belief [condoning homosexuality] or our aim. Our leaders had to stand up for what we believe is correct,” Reed said. “Otherwise, where do you draw the line on what is acceptable?”

Reed believes the message the congregation must send is the Lord’s, but he said no one is being punished by the church’s decision.

“It’s not a hate thing here, it’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist Church,” he said. “Anyone is welcome here. We have homosexuals who attend here who are either struggling with it or have asked to be forgiven. But anyone is welcome, and that’s what we told the troop members.”

According to Reed, the church plans to begin its own youth group geared toward boys that would go camping, hiking, and swimming.

“I hope and pray that another insititution comes about so we can have our faith honored instead of betrayed,” said Reed.

Cass wants to see the Boy Scouts troop continue as is, and he believes any child, regardless of sexual orientation, should have a chance to learn about nature and leadership as he did.

“This is for the boys. This isn’t for the adults,” he said. “We’re not a political organization. We’re a group of guys that go camping and hiking, and I believe every boy should have that opportunity if he wants it.”

But to do that, Troop 542 will have to have another organization willing to step forward and sign a charter to get the group formally back together.

According to John Carman, Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts Quapaw Area Council, Troop 542 is the first to lose its charter due to the policy change. The council is currently working to find another charter organization for the group.

If you would like to contact Troop 542 about chartering its troops, you can contact Carman at 501-664-4780 or visit the group’s Facebook page by clicking here.

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