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Ban on Scouts Undermines Shared Principles

For over a decade the Union for Reform Judaism has advised its synagogues to break ties with Boy Scouts of America, to not sponsor troops or allow them to use their facilities. This week it looked like all of that might change, but synagogues wishing to return to the BSA will have to wait at least a few more months.

The leadership of the Boy Scouts of America, who only last summer reaffirmed the organization’s nationwide ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, met this week to discuss changing that policy. Some in the organization argued for a new policy that would allow individual troops to decide whether to allow gay members; others said this did not go far enough and called for a national non-discrimination policy. However after the three-day meeting the BSA announced that it would postpone their decision until May.

In response to BSA’s decision to continue it’s discriminatory ban at least until May, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center, sent an open letter to BSA President Wayne Perry. “There was widespread excitement in our movement across North America when we learned that you were reconsidering your policy,” Rabbi Saperstein wrote, “yet disappointment at the announcement to postpone the decision.”

Rabbi Saperstein decried the persistent prejudice against the LGBT community that this ban represents, demanding that, “The cause of equality and justice is an urgent one. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Joining Rabbi Saperstein in his disappointment were the organization Scouts for Equality who has headed the charge against the BSA’s discriminatory policy, and the Jewish Committee on Scouting who presented a statement in favor of repealing the ban at this week’s meeting.

A full text of Rabbi Saperstein’s letter can be seen here.

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About Benny Witkovsky

Benny Witkovsky is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant, he is from Madison, WI, and recently graduated from Vassar College.

4 Responses to “Ban on Scouts Undermines Shared Principles”

  1. Dear CB,

    As a Rabbi, former Scout, and parent who wrestle extensively with this decision, I hear you. I enrolled my son in a Cub Scout Pack, once I had determined that the Pack itself was (unofficially) open to all – atheists and homosexual members included. However, when the BSA restated its position against allowing such members and leaders last year, my son and I had to pull out. We felt uncomfortable wearing a uniform that was a signature of discrimination. Right now I am working hard to help the BSA change its position, so that uniform can once again stand for the message of the Scout Law and my son can be proud to wear it.

    For more information on Scouts and others supporting the change go to

    Rabbi Joel N. Abraham

  2. What good will dropping packs and troops do the synagogues or the children thy serve? Bigotry was never addressed by running away. The gay rules are there because a majority of troops are chartered to Mormon and Catholic churches and the national office is afraid of losing money. Indeed, recently major corporations have pulled support for BSA which is probably why they are rethinking their position. Reform synagogues should have kept their troops and told National that they would not support them in popcorn sales or in the Friends of Scouting campaign. Meanwhile, they could have worked from within with other like-minded troops to change BSA policy. Our reform synagogue dropped the pack and troop and unfortunately, the majority of the boys were from unaffiliated families – these boys lost out on a temple experience. Despite the fact that our rabbi is himself a former Eagle Scout, the Board felt they “had to send a message.” All that happened was that a lot of Jewish boys missed out on some wonderful experiences and the temple lost some prospective members.


  1. Over 500 Rabbis and Cantors Send Letter to the Boy Scouts of America | Fresh Updates from RAC - May 23, 2013

    […] of its policy prohibiting gay scouts and scout leaders until the meeting this week (see the letter that Rabbi Saperstein sent to the BSA in response to that decision). Today the 1,400 person National Council, including representatives […]

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