Boy Scouts shut down troop for refusing to banish gay scoutmaster

Minister of sponsor church says boys will continue meeting regardless

The National Scouting Museum at Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. (Jason Sickles/Yahoo)

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the country’s largest and oldest youth organizations, has shut down a Seattle troop and pack for refusing to remove an openly homosexual scoutmaster.

In a letter sent last week from BSA attorney Steven P. McGowan to Seattle attorney Peter J. Mullenix, the Scouts fault Rainier Beach United Methodist Church for allowing Geoff McGrath to serve in violation of their policy that "does not allow open or avowed homosexuals to serve as volunteer adult leaders."

The chapter is being closed "as a result of this refusal to comply with the policies, guidelines, rules and regulations of the Boy Scouts of America," according to the letter. It goes on to say Troop 98 may "no longer use the Scouting program or any of its registered marks or brands."

However, the Rev. Monica Corsaro, minister of the Seattle troop's host church, told Yahoo News on Monday that the 15 Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts will meet this week as though nothing had changed. But will they wear their uniforms?

"Those boys paid for those uniforms," Corsaro said. "It will not be me telling them to not wear their uniforms."

McGrath, 49, made headlines last month when BSA leadership said they learned through a news story that he was gay. The National Council immediately removed McGrath from its rolls for "deliberately injecting" his sexuality into the job. McGrath maintains the organization had known all along about his open support of gay rights.

Last May, the Scouts broke 103 years of tradition when it decided to allow openly gay members in its ranks. The historic change, however, did not include accepting gay scout leaders. McGrath is believed to be the first leader to lose his position since last year’s policy change.

Corsaro defied the BSA’s request to remove McGrath.

"Based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate," said Corsaro, according to a press release from Scouts for Equality, a national advocacy organization.

The church and McGrath are represented by the same Seattle attorney. On Monday, Corsaro told Yahoo News that they are weighing their legal options on how to proceed.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, called the move to revoke the troops’ charter startling.

"The Boy Scouts' decisions only serve to hurt a group of boys who need the values and leadership of someone like Scoutmaster McGrath," Wahls wrote in a statement. "Unfortunately, the BSA's decision calls into question its commitment to leadership and values by perpetuating an outmoded policy rooted in fear and discrimination. History will show that today’s announcement is a self-inflicted wound."

The BSA said they will place members of Troop 98 in other units.

"We are saddened by this development, but remain committed to providing all youth with the best possible Scouting experience where the Scouting program is the main focus," BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. "We have already identified a new chartered organization to sponsor the units and are contacting the parents and leaders of the units to inform them of the change."

McGrath, according to Scouts for Equality, was disappointed by the Scouts’ action to shutter the troop.

"Pastor Corsaro specifically sought out someone with my Scouting background to help get these units off the ground, and her church is now being told to violate their religious convictions," McGrath said in a statement. "It's unconscionable and irreverent."

Follow Jason Sickles on Twitter (@jasonsickles).

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