Boy Scouts OK again at Reform synagogues

Reform Jewish leaders have lifted a 14-year recommendation against synagogues having Boy Scout troops.

The change of heart announced on Aug. 5 came in response to an announcement two days earlier by the Boy Scouts of America that it was canceling its policy of banning gay adults from being scout leaders and other employees.

In 2001, shortly after the Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts’ right to ban gay employees, the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism recommended that the nearly 300 Reform synagogues that sponsored or hosted Boy Scouts troops sever ties with the organization. The recommendation had remained in force until now.

According to the Religion Action Center, an advocacy group governed by the Commission on Social Action, the “vast majority” of American Reform synagogues parted ways with their Boy Scouts troops in line with its recommendation.

A Boy Scout joins the LGBT Pride parade in New York City in June. jta/shutterstock-a. katz

The commission, which is made up of Reform Jewish leaders and rabbis and based in Washington, D.C., issued a new policy saying that synagogues should feel free to re-affiliate with the Boy Scouts in light of the policy change.

“The Commission on Social Action has concluded that if a URJ [Union for Reform Judaism] congregation wishes to re-establish ties with the BSA and host a fully inclusive and welcoming unit, it should do so,” the policy memo said.

But the commission voiced reservations about the Boy Scouts policy that allows individual religious institutions that sponsor troops to refuse to hire LGBT employees.

“[W]e note with great concern the fact that some religiously chartered BSA units will continue to discriminate against gay leaders,” the memo reads. “We will continue to advocate for a fully inclusive and welcoming BSA for leaders and scouts who are gay and/or transgender, and we encourage those synagogues who elect to rejoin the BSA to participate whole-heartedly in this effort.”

The Boy Scouts of America did not allow openly gay youths to be scouts until 2013. That policy change took effect on Jan. 1, 2014, but the Commission on Social Action continued to shun the Boy Scouts.

“We took very seriously the notion that gay youths in the scouting movement should be able to look at gay adults in the scouting movement and see themselves reflected in that person,” said Barbara Weinstein, the commission’s director. — jta