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Boy Scouts of America (BSA)

2017: The LDS Church severed
its connection with the BSA's
Venturing & Varsity programs:

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Christians who trace their origins back to Joseph Smith's original founding of the Church of Christ in 1830 are commonly referred to as Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a.k.a. the LDS Church is by far the largest of the dozens of currently active Mormon denominations.

The LDS Church has been closely integrated with the Boy Scouts for many decades. However, many LDS members had experienced unease over the BSA's recent moves towards ending membership discrimination against gay, bisexual, and transgender male boys and youths.

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The BSA started admitting gay boys as members in 2013.

During 2015, in response to a lawsuit, the BSA also lifted its ban on gay scout leaders. The LDS church reacted quickly to that decison, saying that it was "deeply troubled" and that it would need to examine its "century-long association with Scouting." Within weeks, it had decided to remain within the BSA, but would:

"... continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs." 1

During 2017-FEB, a BSA troop in Secaucus, NJ expelled a boy because he was transgender. They later welcomed him back. The BSA later established a policy that allowed transgender boys to join. These are youth who were registered on their birth certificates as female but now identify as male, or -- less commonly -- as having no gender, or as having an intermediate gender, or switching between male and female.

Mormon boys and male youths had been automatically enrolled in the BSA in the past. As a result, Mormons have formed about 20% of the BSA membership -- the largest of any religious group within the BSA. However, during 2017-MAY, the church decided to terminate its association with the BSA's Varsity and Venturing programs for older Mormon youths who are typically in high school. They decided to continue to enroll younger (8-to 13-year-old) boys in Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, at least for the immediate future. 1

The LDS church issued a statement saying that their partial withdrawl from the BSA is not because the latter has included LGBT males as members. They said:

"The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive." 1

However, the Church wants to develop their own program for teens, that will concentrate on preparing them to go on church missions around the world as young adults.

BSA spokesperson, Effie Delimarkos, said:

"We’re sad to see that decision, but we understand. ... "we're just not kind of aligning with what the church needs men to focus on."1

Church spokesperson Eric Hawkins indicated that leaving the Varsity and Venturing programs will allow the LDS Church to test its own youth programs, and that they might eventually leave the BSA entirely. 1

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The most recent removal of discriminination within the BSA happened in 2017-OCT-11, when the BSA decided to admit girls into Cub Scouts. By 2018-MAY-03, more than 3,000 girls aged 7 to 10 had joined approximately 170 Cub Scout packs. Starting in 2019-FEB, older girls 11 to 17 year-old females will be admitted to Scouts. At the same tme, they will drop "Boy" from "Boy Scouts of America," and start using the name "Scouts BSA." This might be the final move that causes the LDS church to sever all connections with Scouts BSA in the future. 2

Mike Hoder, writing for WQCM-FM in Greencastle, PA said:

"Scouts BSA will largely be divided along gender lines, with single-sex units pursuing the same activities, earning the same merit badges, and having the same pathway to the coveted Eagle Scout award. So who’s not happy? The Girl Scouts. 'Girl Scouts is the premier leadership development organization for girls,' says CEO Sylvia Acevedo.

One regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s membership by more than 500 girls so far this year. She said relations with the Boy Scouts used to be collaborative and now are "very chilly."

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Mormon Church will leave Boy Scouts’ teen programs," The Washington Post, 2017-MAY-11, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
  2. Mike Holder, "Boy Scouts Now Admitting Girls, Change Their Name to Scouts BSA," 2018-MAY-03, at: http://www.wqcmfm.com/

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Copyright © 2017 and 2018by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted during: 2017-MAY
Latest update: 2018-MAY-10

Author:
B.A. Robinson
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