Priest cuts ties to Boy Scouts over gay scout decision

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @HeatherGrafK5

KING5.com

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 10:44 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 29 at 4:12 PM

BREMERTON, Wash. -- On the heels of a historic decision by the Boy Scouts of America, a local priest is making history of his own.  He's among the first in the country to cut all ties to the scouts, now that the organization has agreed to allow openly gay members.

Father Derek Lappe is the priest at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton.

For years, the church has served as the chartering organization for BSA Troop 1501 in Kitsap County.

"We do things like scout Sunday at mass, the boys are just very much a part of our parish and the life of our parish," he said.

It's a partnership he's now ending, because of the Boy Scout's latest policy change.

"It was a very difficult decision, it's a very sad thing, with the long legacy we have of scouting in this parish," he said.

Ultimately, Lappe says the new scouting policy just doesn't align with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church.

"My concern is this definition of a young man, a 10 to 18 year old boy as "openly gay" or "openly homosexual"," he said.  "How is that supposed to be lived out within what we believe as Catholics and what we teach about Catholics."

The priest met with scoutmasters and parents of the affected troop on Sunday.  He says he asked for their feedback, and they were supportive and understanding of his decision.

Lappe also posted an explanation for his change of heart on the church's website and facebook page.

He says he understands that not everyone may agree with him.

"There's going to be a lot of good people who that that I'm wrong and that think my decision is backwards and not going to be helpful at all, and I can certainly understand that position," he said.

KING 5 spoke to at least one family with a child in Troop 1501, who was critical of the change but did not want to appear on camera.

Steve Rinehart, who is a Kitsap County resident, an eagle scout, and supporter of the group Scouts For Equality, said the priest's stance is disappointing.

"I think anyone ought to be able to be a scout," he said.  "Gay, straight, it doesn't matter, and by quitting the program, canceling the program there, they have taken away scouting for a group of boys, and I think that's very unfortunate and downright sad."

Scouts For Equality plans to work with the BSA Chief Seattle Council to make sure every scout in Troop 1501 has another troop to take part in, if they so choose.

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting issued a statement after last week's vote, saying that since the change in policy will not take effect until January of 2014, they have time to study its full effects.  The council wants to learn more about how it will impact Catholic chartered Scout units and activities.

Laffe says he never intended to be among the first priests to cut all ties with the boy scouts.

Still, he doesn't think he'll be the last.  He says he's already gotten calls from other churches, seeking advice as they prepare to take similar steps.

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