BISMARCK, N.D. – The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck has ordered parishes in western North Dakota to sever sponsorship ties with the Boy Scouts of America following the group's decision to lift its ban on gay adult leaders.
"I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization which has policies and methods which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church," Bishop David Kagan wrote Monday in a letter to parishioners.
The Boy Scouts last week ended its ban on gay adult leaders, while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons.
"Effective immediately, the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Bismarck and each and every one of its parishes, schools and other institutions is formally disaffiliated with and from the Boy Scouts of America," Kagan wrote.
Sonia Mullally, a spokeswoman for Kagan, said he was not available for comment Tuesday because he was attending Mass in Minot.
A woman who answered the phone at the Boy Scout headquarters in Texas said the organization had no comment on the bishop's order.
North Dakota's other Roman Catholic diocese, in Fargo, serves more than 80,000 Catholics in the eastern part of the state. Bishop John Folda said in a statement that he hopes "scouting remains a viable option for Catholic youth" in that part of the state. But he said Boy Scout leaders should "select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent" with the church's teachings.
The Bismarck diocese, which covers the western portion of the state, serves more than 62,000 Catholics.
Cory Wrolstad, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' Northern Lights Council in Bismarck, says the bishop's decision will affect eight Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs in Bismarck, Mandan, Beulah and Williston. The troop in Mandan will end a 66-year affiliation with the Catholic church, Wrolstad said.
"They will be working to find other charter organizations within those communities, and there will be a good chance they will be faith-based organizations," he said.
Scout groups pay a $40 annual charter fee to sponsoring organizations, which helps cover insurance liability costs, Wrolstad said.
The Northern Lights Council, which also includes parts of neighboring South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, has more than 400 packs and troops, he said.