A Seattle church is invoking its right to religious freedom for its Boy Scouts group—to keep its openly gay scout leader.
In March, the BSA revoked the membership of Geoff McGrath. The 49-year-old is the leader of Troop 98, which meets at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle. According to The Raw Story, McGrath was “thought to be the only openly-gay Scoutmaster in the country.”
Although the ban on openly gay scouts was lifted in 2013, gay adults are still forbidden from participating in the organization.
A spokesperson for the BSA, Deron Smith, told NBC News, “Our policy is that we do not ask people about their sexual orientation, and it’s not an issue until they deliberately inject it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion,” and claimed that McGrath had done so.
On April 8, Rainier Beach United Methodist Church said in a statement, “Geoffrey McGrath will continue to serve as the leader of the church’s scouting program.”
Reverend Monica Corsaro, the church’s pastor, is quoted as saying, “I am a chartering partner with [the]BSA… If I take responsibility for who is hired then I also take responsibility for who is fired. Our church is thriving and happy, and we support Geoffrey.”
McGrath himself told KING5, “I have not tended my resignation. Until I am relieved of my duty properly [by the church], I stand in my post.”
Rainier Beach Methodist dismissing him is extremely unlikely—they hired attorney Peter Mullenix to fight the BSA’s decision.
Mullenix told KING5 in a statement, “We are still exploring our legal options, and we hope no litigation is necessary. We want to work with the Boy Scouts toward a resolution that works for the kids of the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church. With that said, it may be time for the courts to revisit the question of whether a congressionally chartered, non-sectarian corporation is allowed to violate the states’ discrimination statutes.
“The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, allowed the Scouts to do so in 2000 because the Scouts claimed that the presence of gay scouts would affect their ability to take a moral stand against homosexuality. We don’t think they can still make that claim, particularly when, we believe, they knew about Geoff’s orientation when they approved his leadership. We also don’t think the Boy Scouts, which claim to be a non-sectarian organization, should be interfering with the religious decision of the Church, which believes strongly that God would disapprove of discrimination based on sexual orientation.”