The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has endorsed the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to allow gay scouts to serve, though openly gay leaders will still be banned.
The BSA will submit its proposal to its National Council in Texas on May 20 and the Mormon Church’s support could signal adoption of the new policy. The Mormon Church, the BSA’s largest sponsor of scout troops, released the following statement on Thursday:
“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.”
According to The New York Times, the Mormon Church sponsors 25% of all local Cub Scout and Boy Scout groups and accounts for 15% of the group’s 2.7 million members.
In the past, the church has threatened to sever ties with the BSA should it lift its gay ban. A recent poll found that 83% of Scout members, leaders and parents in the Mormon mecca of Salt Lake City objected to the proposed policy reversal. Therefore the church’s support may come as a surprise, but the LDS has been making attempts to become a more welcoming, gay-friendly organization.
Still, the BSA’s refusal to allow gay leaders has come under scrutiny from LGBT advocacy groups.
“The proposed end to the ban on gay Scouts is a big step forward, but the Boy Scouts of America can and should do better,” said the Family Equality Council. “Scouting has a long tradition of being a family activity and it should be open to all our families.”
GLAAD VP of Communications Rich Ferraro echoed those sentiments, stating that “the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”
But the Scouts cite membership decline as its reason for maintaining the ban on gay leaders. Scouting executives claim that after extensive surveys and discussions, the leadership question drew particular resistance – estimating that they could lose 100,000 to 350,000 members as a result.
Sounds like a great way to take out the trash, though we’re assuming the BSA didn’t take into account the number of families — LGBT and otherwise — who might join its ranks without that pesky and discriminatory ban.
Meanwhile, ousted Scouting leader and mom Jennifer Tyrell has a petition on Change.org calling for the Boy Scouts to be completely inclusionary.