Jewish Leaders Protest the Exclusion of Gays from the Boy Scouts

January 10, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On January 10, 2001, The New York Times reported that "Reform Jewish leaders are recommending that parents withdraw their children from membership in the Boy Scouts of America and that synagogues end their sponsorship of Scout troops, the strongest reaction yet by a religious group to the Supreme Court decision allowing the Boy Scouts to exclude gay members...In a memorandum to congregations dated Jan. 5, the Joint Commission on Social Action of the Reform movement asked congregations to sever ties to the Boy Scouts, or at least publicly protest the Scouts' policy by withdrawing financial support or asking local Scout groups to rewrite their charters. The memorandum advises congregations to act but does not require them to do so...About 65 percent of Scout troops are sponsored by religious organizations, though very few by Jewish groups, a Scout spokesman said. There are 123,935 Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs, with 3.4 million young people involved. Jewish organizations sponsor 277 of those units, to which about 7,187 young people -- not all of them Jewish -- belong."

"'The Boy Scouts of America has a long-held value for traditional American family values,' said Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the Scouts, 'and we believe that an avowed homosexual just isn't a role model for those values. And that's the basis for our policy.' The Reform movement, which represents about 1,000 congregations and 40 percent of the nation's 6 million Jews, ordains openly gay men and women as rabbis." Rabbi Daniel F. Polish, director of the Joint Commission on Social Action, says the scouts' decision conflicts with Reform Judaism's religious belief that all people are "equally children of God" and its consistent support of gay and lesbian rights. Temple Judea in Coral Gables, Fla., which sponsors a scout troop, must now make a very difficult decision, according to Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg. "'We have a number of gay and lesbian members of the congregation coming for meetings, and when they see the Boy Scouts are here, they have a right to assume we are supporting discrimination. We don't feel the Boy Scout troop can continue to meet here and allow that assumption.' He said the temple board would consider a motion tonight to ask the troop to either repudiate the national Boy Scout position on homosexuality or leave the synagogue by this summer. 'The last thing we want to do is to throw the Scouts out," said Rabbi Goldberg, a former Eagle Scout whose father was an Eagle Scout. "It's really a no-win situation, and the people that lose out the most are the kids.'"