CANDLER PARK — One Christian minister, a lesbian who leads a congregation here, said it's time for the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on gay members and leaders.
For the last 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America have banned gays from joining their ranks. On Feb. 6, the organization announced that it would delay until May its decision to either continue enforcing the ban or to admit gays, which has sparked both outrage and praise from parents and those involved with Scouts.
Apostle Mena Johnson, a gay minister whose congregation of God’s Chosen Ones Ministries meets in Candler Park, said the issue is still a moral one. She said a decision to keep the ban in place would be “very discriminatory.”
“To me, it shouldn’t be any type of segregation. This same issue they had in the military is the same in the Boy Scouts. Human beings are human beings,” she said.
“God created us in His image and His likeness. If they decide they don’t want gays in the Boy Scouts, that’s their loss,” Johnson told Patch.
However, many others who sponsor Boy Scouts and say they're Christian want the ban to remain.
While the Boy Scouts' national executive board deliberated changes to allow gays for three days at the organization's headquarters, hundreds supporters rallied outside with signs that read "Don't invite sin into the camp" and "Homosexuality is a sin! BSA please resist Satan's test. Uphold the ban."
Reports, such as this one from the Associated Press, show that about 70 percent of all Boy Scouts are sponsored by religious denominations, which could completely gut the organization if they decide not to renew their sponsorships. This post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution states that Mormons sponsor the most Boy Scouts in the nation, followed by Methodists and then Catholics– all three groups have traditionally supported the ban on gays in the organization because it lines up with their religious doctrine that homosexuality is a sin.
Non-religious-affiliated donors have vocalized to the BSA that they will pull funding of the organization if the ban continues.
The Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts released the following statement:
"While the National Board continues its discussions, I promise that the Atlanta Area Council will continue to provide the best Scouting program to as many youth in Atlanta as possible. This is an important and complex national issue, but we cannot allow a policy debate to negatively impact the quality of the program we deliver to our Scouts. They are counting on us."
East Atlanta Patch readers also spoke out in support of allowing gays into the Scouts via East Atlanta Patch's Facebook page. Here's what they said:
Michelle Smith-Patch said, "Welcome to the 21st century?"
"Good start, but they also need to lift the ban on atheists. As long as they use tax dollars, then they should not be allowed to discriminate against anyone. They currently receive about $2 million annually from the DOD, plus free use of federal lands and public buildings," said Shannon Waldrop Lee.
Others said, "Finally." and "It's about time!"
However, others in and around Atlanta, like southwest Atlanta Scoutmaster Donald Wheat said he believes homosexuality is a sin and will leave the Scouts after 46 years as a leader if the ban is lifted.
Wheat said, that, for him, the issue is a matter of morals and standing up for his beliefs. He said that the admittance of gays into Boy Scouts would mean support of homosexuality, which he said is counter to his Christian faith and to the Scout’s Oath, which requires Scouts remain “morally straight.”
What do you think? Should the Boy Scouts of America lift its ban on gay members and leaders? Tell us in the comments below.
“Either you’re going to take a stand one way or the other. As much as I would hate to give it up, I’m going to stand if I stand by myself,” Wheat said.