The Boy Scouts of America shut down a Seattle church troop for standing behind an openly gay leader, even after the organization revoked his membership.
The youth organization said Monday the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church violated its charter by allowing Eagle Scout Geoffrey McGrath lead Troop 98.
The decision is likely the first since the Boy Scouts voted last year to accept gay scouts – but not adults. The landmark policy shift launched the national organization into a rift between conservative groups bent against accepting homosexuality and gay rights activists who say discriminating against scout leaders goes against the organization’s inclusive values.
The Rev. Monica Corsaro said the church would stand firm in supporting McGrath. Church officials have already defied the Boy Scouts of America’s order to dismiss the 49-year-old Eagle Scout; Corsaro called it a “unilateral decision” that did not reflect the church’s position.
“Breaking us up like this seems to go against everything the Boy Scouts is about,” Corsaro told NBC News.
The Boy Scouts last month rejected McGrath, a Seattle-based software engineer who is married to his partner of 20 years, after he openly discussed his sexual orientation in an NBC News profile. Church leaders were not only aware that McGrath was gay, but they sought him out specifically to lead the troop, which just formed last fall, NBC News reports. McGrath served as an Eagle Scout for decades before the organization ordered for his dismissal.
“I’m stunned and disappointed to hear the news,” McGrath told the activist group Scouts for Equality. “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. It’s unconscionable and irreverent.”
The roughly 15 boys in the troop may no longer wear uniforms or badges affiliated with the Boy Scouts. Church leaders say they plan to team up with another chartered organization to sponsor the scouts.
“Because the church no longer agrees to the terms of the BSA chartered organization agreement, which includes following BSA policies, it is no longer authorized to offer the Scouting program,” said Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith in a statement. “We are saddened by this development.”