Troop: future discussed after Boy Scouts of America threatens to sue



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Posted on April 24, 2014 at 11:19 PM

Troop 98 held a meeting Thursday night for kids and parents to ask questions about the group's future, after Boy Scouts of America revoked their gay scoutmaster's membership and the sponsoring church's charter.

Adrian Benitez, 14, attended with his brother. The two just joined Troop 98.

"I like meeting new people," Benitez said. "I feel comfortable here."

No one is sure exactly how the troop will continue.

BSA revoked Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath's membership for being openly gay. When Rainier Beach United Methodist Church continued to host meetings with McGrath as the leader, BSA revoked the church's charter.

The kids have the option of moving their troop to an alternative sponsoring organization to remain with RBUMC as a different group not affiliated with BSA.

"This is a vulnerable neighborhood. These are vulnerable kids," explained Rev. Dr. Monica Corsaro. "We don't want to upset these kids. We want to keep things consistent."

Rev. Corsaro hired McGrath as scoutmaster, because she says, BSA compels sponsor churches to choose their leaders and typically refrains from judging sectarian differences.

Now, she says, BSA has threatened to sue them if they continue to use official insignia.

 "I'd be surprised if this were the end of it," attorney Peter Mullenix said. "Geoff's history has not been secret. He's been out in the open."

According to Mullenix, BSA knew McGrath was gay when they granted the church's charter. He is representing McGrath and RBUMC as they consider litigation to reverse BSA's decision, especially since BSA allows openly gay scouts but not scoutmasters.

"When they grow up and hit 18, they will no longer be valid members of society," Mullenix said.

And that message, Corsaro argues, infringes on their religious freedom to welcome anyone they choose.

"We mean it when you are 8, when you are 18, when you are 78 or 88," she said. "It doesn't matter."

The future of Troop 98 may be a legal one for adults but for kids like Benitez, it's deeply personal. The son of two men, the 14-year old felt safe in Troop 98.

"They would look at me weird because I have gay dads," Benitez said.  "I don't want to go to a different one. I want to stay here."

Thursday night's meeting was an information session only. Troop 98 will likely make some kind of decision about its future next week.
In the meantime, McGrath and RBUMC continue to explore legal options to reverse BSA's decision, which they admit could grow quite costly and last quite a while.