The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reconsiders ban on gay youths
the American Family Association
& The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
(a.k.a. the Mormons & the LDS)
Reaction by the American Family Association (AFA):
The Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) list of active anti-gay hate organizations includes the AFA. 1,2
In an article on their web site 3 the AFA reprints two excerpts from the BSA's "Membership Standards Resolution" which will be voted upon by about 1,400 delegates who form the Boy Scouts National Council at their National Annual Meeting during late 2013-MAY:
- "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."
- "Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth...No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." 4
The AFA comments:
"This doesn't make sense. The BSA resolution creates two standards of "morally straight" which are totally contradictory to each other." 3
The contradiction does not come from the BSA. It is a result of the creative and selective editing by the AFA:
- The first excerpt is a statement of the BSA's "... current adult leadership standard of the Boy Scouts of America."
- The second excerpt is the proposed BSA "... membership standard for youth members of the Boy Scouts of America." 4
Reactions by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
On 2013-APR-25, the LDS Church placed the following statement on their web site in reaction to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) proposed policy change concerning membership by gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth:
"Over the past several weeks BSA has undertaken the difficult task of reviewing its membership standards policy. In their own words, this undertaking has been 'the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history'."
"While the Church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change, we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain 'among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today'."
"The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the ongoing dialogue, including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God."
"We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future." 5
It is an impressive accomplishment to write a statement about gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth without using any of the words gay, lesbian, bisexual or homosexual. Missing from the text is a specific assurance that the LDS Church will support the Executive Committee's proposed policy change and urge the Mormon delegates who are in the Boy Scouts National Council to vote in favor of the proposed policy. The vote will be taken at the Council's National Annual Meeting during 2013-MAY-22 to 24.
Brady McCombs, of the Huffington Post wrote:
"The Mormon church has more Scouting troops than any other religious denomination in the country so there was widespread interest in what it would say about the proposal.
The LDS church still teaches its members that marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful. In [2012-] December, however, the church launched a website encouraging members to be more compassionate in discussions about homosexuality. The website says Mormons should be loving and respectful toward gays and lesbians, while appealing to gay and lesbian Mormons to stay in the church.
It marked the most significant outreach yet to gays and lesbians by the Mormon church, which has about 14 million members worldwide." 6
Erik Eckholm, reporting for the New York Times, wrote that the endorsement:
"... by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the country’s largest sponsor of scout troops, is a strong indication that the proposed change will be adopted by delegates to the group’s annual meeting, to start in Texas on May 22.
The ban on gay youths and leaders has come under growing public scrutiny, with some cities and charities saying they cannot support an organization that discriminates. But the Boy Scouts also feared losing partnerships with conservative churches that call homosexual acts a sin.
The Mormon Church sponsors 25 percent of all local Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups, accounting for 15 percent of a total membership of 2.7 million.
In the past, the Mormon and Roman Catholic Churches and some evangelical Christian groups had threatened to sever ties with the Scouts if they permitted gay members and leaders. This month, after extensive surveys and discussions with scout leaders and parents around the country, Boy Scout executives said they found a mix of attitudes but widespread objections to gay leaders, in particular. ..."
"The proposal drew angry responses from both aides [sic]. Conservative Christians said the Boy Scouts had caved in to political pressure. Gay rights groups sharply criticized the proposal, saying that barring gay leaders would not only perpetuate discrimination, but also reinforce the discredited fear that gay men are more likely than others to be pedophiles.
In a somewhat vague statement issued Thursday, the Mormon Church praised the Boy Scouts for a 'thoughtful' approach to this 'complex' issue and said the new proposals contained 'positive things.' A spokesman for the church confirmed on Friday that the church would support the change and expected to continue its close relationship with the Boy Scouts." 7
Mark Trumbull, reporting for the MinnPost, wrote:
"For the Boy Scouts of America, a new effort to chart a middle ground on the issues of sexual orientation is proving controversial.
The proposed policy by the Boy Scouts, announced recently, is to welcome youths into the organization, regardless of sexual orientation, but to maintain a ban on gay adults serving in the organization. The proposal must be approved by the Scouts’ National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of May 20.
It’s an effort to quell rising controversy, but it comes with its own ability to stir passionate arguments.
On the one hand, an important ally of the Boy Scouts, the Mormon church, has given an important welcome to the move. Important because of the reiligion’s large involvement in Scouts, along with other churches.
On the other hand, many groups and individual Americans are voicing criticism of the Scouts’ proposal as not going far enough. If a young man earns his way to be an Eagle Scout, they ask, is it fair to bar him from becoming a troop leader later in life, based on sexual orientation?
The Boy Scouts of America is walking a line more difficult than many a woodland ropes course: Any position it takes will come in for significant criticism.
Among Boy Scouts members in the heavily Mormon Great Salt Lake Council, some 4 in 5 Scout leaders and parents said they're opposed to lifting the ban on gays, the Associated Press reported. Nearly half of some 4,700 respondents to the survey said they would quit the Scouts if the ban on gays is lifted." 8
Deron Smith, a national BSA spokesperson, said that the Boy Scouts of America is pleased that the LDS Church:
"... are satisfied that the BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address this issue. For nearly 100 years we have worked together with the mutual goal of building the moral character and leadership skills of youth. We believe kids are better off when they are in Scouting, and the program is successful because of its relationship with valued chartered organizations like the (LDS) Church." 9
Reaction of Utah Boy Scout leaders:
A high concentration of Mormons live in the state of Utah compared to the rest of the country. Although Mormons represent only about 1.6% of the U.S. population, Utah is about 62% Mormon. 10
Participation in the Boy Scouts by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is almost ten times the national average. According to the New York Times:
"In 2011, Mormon-sponsored packs and troops accounted for more than one-third of the country’s scout units, and the 421,000 boys they enrolled, from ages 8 to 18, made up 15 percent of the country’s 2.7 million registered scouts." 11
Whitney Evans, reporting for the Deseret News in mid 2013-MAR, wrote:
"The Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America distributed a three-question survey to Utah Scout leaders in anticipation of the upcoming National BSA Council vote to deny or allow individual troops to welcome gay Scouts and leaders into full participation into the organization.
Almost 83 percent of respondents opposed a change in policy and roughly 70 percent said they would either decrease or stop their participation in Boy Scouts if a policy change was approved. ..."
"Rick Barnes, Scout executive for the Great Salt Lake Council, said he was surprised at the number of people who said they would be less involved if a policy change happened, but was not surprised at how many opposed the change."
"We don't have a ban on homosexuals. We have a ban on open and avowed homosexuals," he said. "What we're saying is we're not the forum for this discussion." 12
Note that the survey asked Scout leaders about their reaction to a policy allowing gay youths and gay leaders to join and remain members. The proposed policy to be voted upon in MAY was changed to welcome gay youth and continue to expel gay leaders whenever they are found. It is not known how many leaders in the Great Salt Lake Council would oppose the new policy.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Hate map," Southern Poverty Law Center, 2013, at: http://www.splcenter.org
- "18 anti-gay groups and their propaganda," Intelligence Report, Winter-2010, Issue #140, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
- "Boy Scouts issue resolution draft - you need to see it," American Family Association, 2013-APR-19, at: http://www.afa.net/
- "Boy Scouts of America Membership Standards Resolution," Boy Scouts of America National Council, undated. Download a PDF file
- "Church Issues Statement on Boy Scouts of America," LDS Church, 2013-APR-25, at: http://www.lds.org/
- Brady McCombs, "Mormon Church Supports Gay Boy Scouts, Calls Proposal A 'Thoughtful, Good-Faith Effort'," Huffington Post, 2013-APR-25, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Erik Eckholm, "Mormons endorse plan to admit gay scouts," New York Times, 2013-APR-26, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
- Mark Trumbull, "Mormon Church to accept gay Boy Scouts," MinnPost, 2013-APR-29, at: http://www.minnpost.com/
- Joseph Walker, "LDS Church satisfied with Scouting membership compromise," Deseret News, 2013-APR-25, at: http://www.deseretnews.com/
- Matt Canham, "Census: Share of Utah's Mormon residents holds steady," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2012-APR-17, at: http://www.sltrib.com/
- "Scouting in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Community," Boy Scouts of America, at: http://www.scouting.org/
- Whitney Evans, "Survey: Utah Boy Scout leaders oppose BSA policy change," Deseret News, 2013-MAR-13, at: http://www.deseretnews.com/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2013-APR-21
Latest updated: 2013-APR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson