- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck has ordered parishes in western North Dakota to sever sponsorship ties with the Boy Scouts of America following the group’s decision to lift its ban on gay adult leaders.

“I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization, which has policies and methods, which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” Bishop David Kagan wrote Monday in a letter to parishioners.

The Boy Scouts ended its ban on gay adult leaders on July 27. The new policy allows church-sponsored Scout units to continue to select their adult leaders in concert with their religious beliefs.

“Effective immediately, the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Bismarck and each and every one of its parishes, schools and other institutions, is formally disaffiliated with and from the Boy Scouts of America,” Bishop Kagan wrote.

Sonia Mullally, a spokeswoman for Bishop Kagan, said he was not available for comment Tuesday because he was attending Mass in Minot.

The Bismarck diocese, which covers the western portion of the state, serves more than 62,000 Catholics.

Cory Wrolstad, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ Northern Lights Council in Bismarck, says the bishop’s decision will affect eight Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs in Bismarck, Mandan, Beulah and Williston.

The troop in Mandan will end a 66-year affiliation with the Catholic church with the bishop’s directive, Mr. Wrolstad said.

“They will be working to find other charter organizations within those communities, and there will be a good chance they will be faith-based organizations,” he said.

Scout groups pay a $40 annual charter fee to sponsoring organizations, which helps cover insurance liability costs, Mr. Wrolstad said.

The Northern Lights Council, which also includes parts of neighboring South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, has more than 400 packs and troops, he said.

North Dakota’s other Roman Catholic diocese, in Fargo, serves more than 80,000 Catholics in the eastern part of the state. Bishop John Folda said in a statement that he hopes “Scouting remains a viable option for Catholic youth” in that part of the state. But he said Boy Scout leaders should “select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent” with the church’s teachings.

Separately, in Salt Lake City, a group that backed the fight to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage is preparing to start a Boy Scout troop, though activists say the launch could be difficult in the conservative state where the majority of troops are affiliated with the Mormon church.

Mark Lawrence, who is with the group Restore Our Humanity, said Tuesday that he’s not sure if everyone is ready for the end of the blanket ban on gay leaders announced July 27.

But Mr. Lawrence said welcoming them could create more interest in the organization, and he has heard from several potential volunteers.

The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said it was deeply troubled by the decision and is considering breaking away to form its own worldwide scouting organization.


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