Recent discussion concerning whether or not to permit those with same-gender orientation to have an active role in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization has become a complex issue as far as being able to make a definitive decision on the matter. The organization had recently announced that it would consider changing its policies and might allow local chapters to decide whether to admit gays as Scouts and leaders.

Further Research Required Before Making Final Decision

Mormon Eagle ScoutsOn Wednesday, 6 February 2013, after much deliberation on the issue, it was decided to put off making any decisions as more time would be needed for further study. At this juncture, it appears that resolution on the current policy of excluding gay members and leaders will not be voted on by the approximate 1,400 voting members of the national council until the annual meeting which will be held during the week of 20 May 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, condemned the decision to wait.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialog within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” Deron Smith, the BSA director of public relations, said in a statement.

“To that end, the executive board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards,” he stated. [1]

Current Policy is Affecting Membership in BSA

The discussion of the BSA’s policy on gays not being allowed membership became an agenda item for the current executive board meeting held in its headquarters in Irving, Texas as a result of declining membership, questions by corporate sponsors and public pressure from activists who oppose the current national ban.

“Today the Boy Scouts of America have chosen to remain irrelevant by delaying the vote,” said James Dale, who was expelled from the Scouts in 1990 for being openly gay. “For over 23 years, since I was expelled from the Scouts, I have held out hope that the Boy Scouts would end their discriminatory policy. With each passing day the Scouts will continue to lose members, sponsors and funding. No parent or child should associate with an organization that sends a toxic message telling children they are immoral if they are gay.” [1]

“An organization that serves youth and chooses to intentionally hurt dedicated young people and hard-working parents not only flies in the face of American principles, but the principles of being a Boy Scout,” GLAAD President Herndon Graddick stated. [1]

The Religious and Political Perspective on the Issue

A majority of the Boy Scout organizations are sponsored by local churches, many of which have religious objections to homosexuals. And so, amidst the voices of those who are diametrically opposed to the ban on gays in the BSA, are also heard the voices of those who dynamically support the ban. Approximately 100 people gathered outside Boy Scouts headquarters in suburban Dallas carrying signs that said “Save our boys from homosexual acts;” “God votes no gays” and “Don’t invite sin into the camp.” Texas Values, a conservative group that organized a prayer vigil this week in support of keeping gays out of the Scouts, said the Scouts organization was right to delay a decision.

In the political arena, both President Barack Obama and Texas Governor Rick Perry have become an active part of the debate.

“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life,” said Obama, who as U.S. President is the honorary President of BSA, in a Sunday interview with CBS. [1]

 

Perry, the author of the book On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, said in a speech Saturday that “to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate.” [1]

The LDS Church Issues Statement Regarding Policy Change

In light of all of the rhetoric surrounding this important issue which demands a steadfast resolution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) has issued the following statement on Wednesday, 6 February 2013: [2]

“The Church is following this proposed policy change very closely. We believe the BSA has acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue.”

 

For 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong, rewarding relationship with Boy Scouts of America as both organizations have worked to build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of young men.

 

The recent announcement that BSA planned to make a policy change in its standards for membership and leadership has triggered intense debate from many segments of society.

 

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is carefully assessing the consequences of this policy change on the Church’s program to build and strengthen young men, but it has not commented on it and a decision will not be made until we have assessed all of the implications.

 

The Church cautions others not to speculate about the Church’s position or to assume that individual Latter-day Saints inside or outside the Scouting movement speak for the Church. Neither has the Church launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change.

The extra time will give local Scout leaders in Utah and elsewhere time to determine how their members feel about the proposal, said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council. The heavily Mormon council is one of the largest in the country, with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth members. [3]

The iconic youth organization is now deeply entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult. [3]

Update: Boy Scouts of America Issues a New Proposal On Gay Membership Policy

The BSA has recently announced its proposed decision to maintain the current membership policy for adult leaders, however, the ban on gay youth is to be lifted. The new proposal which has been accepted will go into effect 1 January 2014.

On Thursday, 25 April 2013, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirmatively responded that its leaders are satisfied with the BSA’s decision regarding the membership policy for gay Scouts and leaders, and the following statement was issued:

For 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong, rewarding relationship with Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

 

Recently, BSA has been reviewing a possible policy change in its standards for membership and leadership. Now that BSA has finished its review process and has proposed a resolution for consideration, the Church has issued the following statement:

 

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 on-going 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.

Additional Resources:

Boy Scouts of America

LDS Church Position on Same-Sex Attraction

About Keith L. Brown
Keith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having been born and raised Baptist. He was studying to be a Baptist minister at the time of his conversion to the LDS faith. He was baptized on 10 March 1998 in Reykjavik, Iceland while serving on active duty in the United States Navy in Keflavic, Iceland. He currently serves as the First Assistant to the High Priest Group for the Annapolis, Maryland Ward. He is a 30-year honorably retired United States Navy Veteran.

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