Irving, TX– Today the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding designed to provide guidance to Unitarian Universalist congregations who wish to charter scouting units.
The Boston-based UUA is the latest religious group to renew its relationship with the BSA following the Union for Reform Judaism and the United Church of Christ. This move towards re-establishing organizational ties is due to the BSA’s recent policy changes making scouting more inclusive of gay scouts and gay scout leaders.
"We have always acknowledged the many shared values between the Boy Scouts and our Unitarian Universalist tradition. I am happy to see our two organizations form new bonds of mutual understanding which will allow Unitarian Universalist boys and young men who want to participate in scouting to be able to do so within their own Unitarian Universalist community," said the Rev. Peter Morales, president of the UUA.
The Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, a UUA senior staff member, signed the document with Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive of the BSA, at BSA headquarters. Morn was accompanied by two Unitarian Universalist ministers who are also Eagle Scouts, the Rev. Aaron Stockwell of College Station, TX, and the Rev. Richard Gilbert of Rochester, NY.
Unitarian Universalists have a long history of supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) justice issues. The UUA opposed the BSA’s ban on openly gay members, which led to the dissolution of the relationship between the two organizations in the late 1990s.
Despite the conflict, many Unitarian Universalists—including Zach Wahls, author, LGBTQ rights advocate, and co-founder of Scouts for Equality—continued to work in support of LGBTQ justice issues and to persuade the BSA to adopt inclusive scouting policies.
“As a proud Eagle Scout and a proud Unitarian Universalist, I’m deeply heartened by the signing of this memorandum. Young Unitarian Universalists will benefit from the life lessons and experiences scouting has to offer, and the Boy Scouts will be made stronger by the values of the Unitarian Universalist faith. This is a good day for the future of scouting,” said Wahls.
While some conservative denominations are severing ties with the BSA following the policy changes, including the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the UUA is proud to be among religious groups who are embracing the BSA’s decision to be more inclusive.
The Memorandum of Understanding states, in part, that “...the UUA and the BSA will work cooperatively with each other within the policies and regulations of each organization to establish and nurture Scouting units as an expression of the pastoral care and outreach of the youth ministry of the UUA and its member congregations so that boys, young men, and adults may nurture their religious life in a supportive and welcoming Unitarian Universalist community.”