UCC Counsel Urges Caution Regarding Boy Scout Charters

UCC Counsel Urges Caution Regarding Boy Scout Charters

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United Church of Christ General Counsel Heather Kimmel is advising that churches speak to an attorney before taking any action regarding Boy Scouts of America charter agreements or renewals in light of the BSA’s bankruptcy filing.

Kimmel said churches that are chartering organizations are receiving documents related to the Chapter 11 plan which gives several opt-in choices and an opt-out choice.

“Each choice involves waivers of important rights,” Kimmel said. “A local church that is a chartering organization should consult with its attorney to carefully review its options in the context of its history with BSA and knowledge of potential abuse claims for the best advice on how to proceed.  I cannot advise local churches individually on this issue.”

Kimmel said she is also receiving inquiries as to whether local churches should sign charter agreements, and she responded as follows:
“The decision to be a chartering organization for the BSA is a decision that has always been up to the local church and should be made in consultation with an attorney who can review this agreement with the church and specifically attend to whether the church is prepared to undertake its obligations under the agreement,” she said. “The church’s insurer should also be consulted.  The obligations under this Charter Agreement for the church are significant, including making the scouting program a ministry of the church and putting the burden of conducting background checks and approving leaders on the church. This agreement may be different from what the church has signed in the past; some churches have indicated they have never been asked to sign such an agreement.”

Kimmel said some churches have noted that the United Methodist Church has urged its congregations not to continue their relationships with the BSA, and have asked about the UCC position.

“The UCC, given its polity, would not make such a recommendation to its churches and neither should the lack of a statement be considered approval of the relationship,” she said.  “It has always been up to the local church to determine whether to have that relationship with BSA. “

Kimmel said some churches are looking for ways to allow Boy Scout troops to continue to use their facilities.

“Finally, some churches are also asking about the possibility of a facilities use agreement in place of a charter agreement, so that the troop has access to the church building.  My advice here is to have an attorney draw up such an agreement in consultation with the church’s insurer and to ensure the appropriate certificates of insurance are in place.  I do not know if local BSA councils are accepting such agreements,” she said.

Dawn Hammond, SNEUCC Executive Minister for Policy and Finance, acknowledged that many churches do not engage an attorney, but said in cases like this, the Conference would recommend that they do. If that’s not possible, having an attorney who is a member of the congregation help leaders walk through the paperwork would be essential, she said.

She also said that churches that continue to have a relationship with a Boy Scout troop should be very sure that they are following best practices in abuse prevention.

 The UCC has a Scouting Working Group that can provide resources to churches with scout troops, especially as relates to inclusive scouting.
 
 
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