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Boy Scouts, Unitarian Universalists renew agreement

Boy Scout Casey Chambers carries a rainbow flag during the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California on June 29, 2014. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Noah Berger

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(RNS) The Boy Scouts of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association signed a new agreement Thursday (March 24) after the two organizations had previously been divided over gay rights.

“BSA Scout Law defines a Scout by qualities that Unitarian Universalists also lift up,” reads the memorandum of understanding signed by Scouting and Unitarian Universalist officials at the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas.

It also notes “both Scouts and Unitarian Universalists strive to be good stewards of Earth.”

Left to right, back row, Gene Butler, Jill Goddard, Rev. Richard Gilbert, Rev. Aaron Stockwell, Lee Shaw, seated left to right, Michael Surbaugh, and Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, during the signing of an agreement between the Boy Scouts of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association on March 24, 2016, after the two organizations had previously been divided over gay rights. Photo courtesy of Photo by Boy Scouts of America

Left to right, back row, Gene Butler, Jill Goddard, the Rev. Richard Gilbert, the Rev. Aaron Stockwell and Lee Shaw; seated left to right, Michael Surbaugh and the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, during the signing of an agreement between the Boy Scouts of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association on March 24, 2016, after the two organizations had previously been divided over gay rights. Photo courtesy of Boy Scouts of America

The UUA dissolved a previous agreement with the BSA in the 1990s because the Scouting organization had banned openly gay members. In July 2015, the BSA dropped its ban on gay adult leaders, two years after it allowed gay youths.

“I am happy to see our two organizations form new bonds of mutual understanding which will allow Unitarian Universalist boys and young men who want to participate in scouting to be able to do so within their own Unitarian Universalist community,” said the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the UUA.

Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality and a Unitarian Universalist, also welcomed the juncture, calling it “a good day for the future of scouting.”

Boy Scouts officials said they look forward to renewing their work with Unitarian Universalists.

“America’s youth are better off when they are in Scouting, and the Boy Scouts of America is successful because of its relationships with valued chartered organizations like the UUA,” the BSA said in a statement to RNS.


RELATED STORY: Mormon church sticking with Boy Scouts


Since the BSA’s 2015 decision, other religious groups — which have long been the majority of chartering organizations — have resolved or dissolved their relationships with the Scouting organization. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the BSA’s largest sponsor, announced last year that it would continue as a chartering organization.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod cut its ties to the BSA in December, saying their previous agreement was “no longer tenable.”

Other groups renewing relations include the United Church of Christ and the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.

(Adelle M. Banks is production editor and a national reporter for RNS)

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About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

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