Jewish Movement Urges Members to Disassociate From Boy Scouts

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - There is more fallout from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts of America to continue its ban of homosexuals. Reform Jewish leaders, who represent about 40 percent of America's entire Jewish population, are advising synagogues and other Jewish organizations to pull their financial support from Boy Scout troops.

Two hundred seventy-seven Boy Scout troops in the U.S. are reportedly dependent on support from Jewish organizations. Overall, there are nearly 124,000 Scout troops in America.

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the synagogue arm of the Reform movement, issued the advisory, and according to Rabbi Dan Polish of the Greater New York Council of Reform Synagogues, only after both sides of the issue were considered.

The Reform movement represents about 1,000 congregations and ordains openly homosexual men and women as rabbis.

"The complicated thing about making a principled decision is in defending something that is good, you often have to sacrifice something else that is good," Polish said. "To our way of thinking, the good that is represented by defending the civil rights movement of all citizens and the religious vision of all people being equally children of God does take precedence over the good that may be derived from the good achieved by participating in Boy Scouts."

Polish said the UAHC's recommendation was spurred by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last June, confirming the right of the Boy Scouts to ban homosexuals from its organization. He said people from different congregations contacted the UAHC office to complain that the Boy Scouts' stance on the homosexual issue was contradictory to the "values that we as a movement espouse."

"We regret their decision, but we will continue to keep our doors open for those families who decide to keep participating in the Boy Scouts," Greg Shields, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said Wednesday.

Shields added that the Boy Scouts will help relocate boys whose troops have been disbanded but who wish to remain with the organization.

One rabbi from a Reform congregation in Alexandria, Va., said he would leave the decision to parents and the young men who participate in the scouting program, but will make them aware of the Boy Scout organization's stance on homosexuals.

"When it comes down to my students, I will encourage them to continue to do their work with the scouts because it is a good experience," said Rabbi Jonathan Biatch. "It is important to demonstrate and educate that there are discriminatory and prejudicial messages the leadership of the Boy Scouts have taken. We present them with facts and let them make their own decisions."

Ted Hopp, a scoutmaster in Rockville, Md., said the issue has been debated in his Jewish community, but Jewish leaders have not issued a ruling on the matter. Hopp says some in the community would prefer to distance themselves from the Boy Scouts, but that those individuals do not represent the majority of opinion.

"I have two boys in the troop, and our view is that it is a valuable experience," he said. "The Boy Scouts is a tremendous service and I think most scouting parents feel that way and would be loathe to give that up."