Scouts in the House
When three local units of the Boy Scouts of America in Fort Myers, Fla., needed to find a new home this summer, the door to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers was open.
The three units, a Boy Scout troop, Cub Scout troop, and a Venturing crew, had been sponsored by a Baptist church. When the BSA’s National Council voted May 23 to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation, that church felt it could no longer maintain a relationship with the scout units. They parted ways.
What happened next was serendipity. One of the scout leaders, who had attended the UU church on a few occasions, made an inquiry. Church and scout leaders talked. A tour was arranged, followed by a unanimous affirming vote by the governing board and another by the scout leaders.
The units held their first meetings at the church in August. Scouts and their parents participated in the church’s annual ice cream social. The scouts also had their fall recruiting meeting at the church.
A number of years ago many UU congregations sponsored scout units. Then in the mid-1990s, the BSA took a hard line against LGBT scouts and leaders, in addition to requiring that scouts profess a belief in a supreme being. Most UU congregations severed their ties with scout units.
The Rev. Allison Farnum, UUCFM minister, said she is excited about the opportunity to engage with scouting. At the same time she notes that a relationship with the BSA can bring challenges, because the BSA still prohibits gay adult leaders and requires a belief in a supreme being.
“Hosting these troops is a pretty good move for us,” Farnum said, “but we’re also holding the tension around excluding gay adults. This is going to be a great learning opportunity for the congregation. We are, of course, hoping for the day when gay leaders are welcome as well. So we’re acknowledging the pain that some feel, while at the same time we’re hoping this opportunity will enliven the mission of this church. People are excited about this. We decided this is something we should support.”