In 2001, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism issued this memo to Union for Reform Judaism congregations, with the recommendation that parents withdraw their children from non-Reform affiliated Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troops, or that they work to encourage the BSA to change its policy. The full memo is reproduced below:
In 1999, the Commission on Social Action sent you a resolution on the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), recommending options for action in advance of a then-pending Supreme Court action on a New Jersey case that would have ended the Boy Scout's policy of discrimination against gay scouts and scout masters.
The Religious Action Center filed as an amicus curiae in the Supreme Court case, voicing our disagreement with the Boy Scout's discriminatory policy. However, on June 28, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, overturned the New Jerseydecision and affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Since then, the Boy Scouts of America has given no indication that it will change its position.
Following the Supreme Court decision, a number of groups across the country have expressed disagreement with the Boy Scout's policy. Nationwide, the BSA has lost financial support from corporations and organizations, including Chase Manhattan Bank, Levi Strauss, and several local United Way chapters. In addition, at least nine public school districts-including the New York City public schools and the San Diego school system-have ended school sponsorship of Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs. The Los Angeles City Council, in December 2000, voted to cut all ties to the Boy Scouts, including the practice of allowing the use of public facilities without charge.
The UAHC and the CCAR have been strong voices in the fight to end all discrimination based on sexual orientation and in advocating for full equality of gays and lesbians in all aspects of congregational life. In addition to last year's Commission on Social Action resolution, NFTY, NFTB, and the CCAR have all adopted resolutions condemning the Boy Scouts' exclusionary policy1.
In light of the Supreme Court decision, many congregations have asked us for further guidance in responding to the latest developments. While we maintain our hope that the Boy Scouts of America will abandon its discriminatory policies, its lack of response to the many expressions of disagreement and disappointment with the policies gives us little basis for optimism. Therefore, and with pain,we must recommend that congregations sponsoring/housing troops/packs withdraw sponsorship of a troop/pack and/or stop housing one.
If a congregation or congregational affiliate that sponsors or houses a Boy Scout troop/Cub Scout pack shares our conclusion that working from within the Boy Scouts of America is no longer a viable or productive option, it may wish to sever those ties as incompatible with our consistent belief that every individual-regardless of his or her sexual orientation-is created in the image of God and is deserving of equal treatment. If it does so, we encourage the congregation or congregational affiliate to make the action and the rationale known to the Boy Scouts of America and to the public as a means of education on this issue.
In addition, we recommend that parents with children in non-Reform affiliated troops withdraw their children from troops/packs. We recognize the difficulty of this parental decision, yet we also understand that many individuals find it impossible to reconcile the Boy Scout's discriminatory policy with our Reform Jewish values regarding gay and lesbian equality. Parent's decisions may be influenced by the response of the leadership of the troops/packs to which their children belong to the position of the Boy Scouts of America Association.
Even while making those difficult recommendations, we recognize that each congregation and each set of parents must, in the final analysis, make its own decisions, and that there remain many who believe that it is important to work for change from within the Boy Scouts organization. For these reasons, the Commission recommends the following range of options to those who are not yet able or willing to withdraw from the BSA:
Beyond programming for Boy Scout troops/Cub Scout packs, it is important to use the synagogue as an education forum for all. Present programs and offer classes within the synagogue's educational framework about equality, and the Reform Movement's positions regarding total inclusion of gays and lesbians.
Please note that we will be alerting the media as to this decision. If you have any questions about the recommendation or about how to handle press calls, please do not hesitate to contact any of us at theReligious Action Center 202-387-2800.
Operative excerpts from previous Reform Movement Resolutions include:
Let it be further resolved that NFTY encourages all of its members to divest from the Boy Scouts of America and all other organizations affiliated with the Boy Scouts having the same policy financially and to withdraw their membership from the Boy Scouts until basic civil rights are extended to include homosexuals.
-NFTY Executive Board 1992-1993
Therefore let is be resolved that the Central Conference of American Rabbis calls upon the Boy Scouts of America to open its membership and leadership to all men and boys without regard to their sexual orientation, and that the CCAR begin discussions with the Boy Scouts on this matter.
-CCAR April 9, 1992
NOW, THEREFORE the North American Federation of Temple Brotherhoods resolves to:
Inform its members that the exclusionary policy of the Boy Scouts of America is irreconcilable with the positions of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and its constituent organizations and commissions;
Urge its members that currently sponsor or consider sponsoring troops to convey to the Boy Scouts of America the evils of all forms of discrimination including that based on sexual orientation and to encourage the Boy Scouts of America to end its discriminatory policy.
-NFTB December 1999