Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boy Scouts To Submit Proposal Accepting Openly-Gay Scouts But Rejecting Openly-Gay Adult Leaders; LDS Church To "Study" Proposal

When the Boy Scouts of America first announced its intent to re-visit their ban against openly-gay Scouts and adult leaders in January 2013, many suggested each Scout troop be allowed to craft its own policy. While commendable, it would result in a hodgepodge of confusion. One Scout troop which bans gays could be flanked by one that doesn't.

In order to minimize this confusion, the Boy Scouts have now crafted a proposal which will result in a uniform policy across the board but address the concerns of social conservatives who do not want openly-gay adult leaders involved in Scouting. On May 20th, the National Executive Committee will submit a proposed resolution to its approximately 1,400 voting members that would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. Here's the specific language of the resolution, which, if adopted, would take effect on January 1st, 2014:

Youth membership in the Boy Scouts of America is open to all youth who meet the specific membership requirements to join the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, and Venturing programs. Membership in any program of the Boy Scouts of America requires the youth member to (a) subscribe to and abide by the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law, (b) subscribe to and abide by the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and (c) demonstrate behavior that exemplifies the highest level of good conduct and respect for others and is consistent at all times with the values expressed in the Scout Oath and Scout Law. No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.

There are about 2.7 million youth members of the Boy Scouts and about 1 million adult leaders. About 70 percent of units are chartered by faith-based organizations. Because 34 percent of Boy Scout troops nationwide are co-sponsored by the LDS Church as of October 2012 according to prominent LDS blogger Joanna Brooks, the reaction of the Church is of interest. More recent figures from BSA indicate that 37,000 troops and 420,000 youth members are sponsored by the LDS Church. In the Boy Scouts' Great Salt Lake Council — one of the largest in the country with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth — 99 percent of the troops are sponsored by the LDS Church. LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy issued a statement saying, "Church leaders will take the time needed to fully review the language and study the implications of this new proposal. We note that BSA will make a final decision on this matter at their National Annual Meeting next month."

Update April 27th: On April 25th, the LDS Church delivered their answer. They expressed satisfaction at what they call a good-faith effort to address a complex, challenging issue, and said that the 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.

A Southern Baptist Convention spokesman, Roger Oldham, said the SBC would prefer that the Boy Scouts maintain the ban on both gay youth and adults. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also reacted unfavorably, saying "The policy is incoherent. The proposal says, in essence, that homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18 – then, when he comes of age, he's removed from the Scouts." Perkins fears that the proposed change, if adopted, would subject the BSA to crippling lawsuits because it would no longer be able to argue that excluding gays was integral to its basic principles. The Family Research Council has been circulating an online petition urging the BSA to keep the ban. And in Utah, the Boy Scouts' Great Salt Lake Council – one of the largest in the country with 73,400 youth members – said a survey showed that more than 80 percent of its leaders opposed lifting the ban.

Prognosis: There's a good chance the LDS Church could accept the new policy and keep their Scouting units in BSA for the time being. While the LDS Church continues to support its traditional definitions of sexual morality and marriage, and continues to oppose homosexual behavior along with all other forms on sexual behavior outside of marriage, the Church has supported gay nondiscrimination ordinances, particularly in Salt Lake City. Thus they could look upon it as a discrimination issue rather than a morality issue, particularly in concert with continuing the ban against openly-gay adult leaders. Some of the leading gay rights organization have already said that as far as they're concerned, it is only a first step.

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