- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Jewish religious leader has asked the Boy Scouts of America to change its national policy to include gay adults, as well as transgender youth.

“All people, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, are created B’tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image (Genesis 1:27), and thus have a place in our communities,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner said in his recent letter to BSA National President Robert Gates.

The BSA should now accept gay adults, because when it accepts youth but not adults, it “is telling its gay scouts that they are not meant to be leaders,” said Rabbi Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

He urged the BSA to specifically welcome transgender boys “to serve as scouts and leaders” — such youth can offer support for transgender youth, who face high levels of bullying, discrimination, harassment and suicide.

Rabbi Pesner further asked the BSA to make inclusiveness the national policy, and not leave leadership standards to local councils or troops, as Mr. Gates said in May.

“It would be troubling if the national ban on gay scout leaders is lifted, yet individual troops are permitted to discriminate,” wrote Rabbi Pesner, noting that many of the 900 Union for Reform Judaism congregations would be willing to reengage in BSA activities if bans were lifted.

Separately, in contrast, the Catholic scouting association has taken a wait-and-see stance, with the expectation that faith-based chartered organizations will be able to set their own leadership standards.

“We agree with Dr. Gates that there is cause to act. We also agree with Dr. Gates that chartered organizations must be allowed ‘to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith’,” Edward P. Martin, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, said in May.

The NCCS expects to continue with BSA “until such time BSA rules conflict with Catholic teaching,” Mr. Martin added. But such a conflict “hasn’t happened yet, nor do we expect it to happen.”

The BSA said in 2010 there were more than 285,000 Catholic youth and more than 4,000 Jewish youth involved in its Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops and Venturer crews.

In the BSA’s May leadership meeting, Mr. Gates re-opened the issue of BSA membership policy, saying it was time to reconsider the organization’s longtime ban on adults who are “open or avowed” homosexuals.

Several large BSA councils have already hired openly gay adult leaders, and some state law enforcement officials have contacted the BSA about its membership policy conflicting with state nondiscrimination laws, Mr. Gates said, adding that BSA leaders would work on a strategy for change.




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