Thursday, May 23, 2013

LDS Church Accepts Compromise Decision Announced By Boy Scouts To Allow Gay Scouts While Banning Openly-Gay Leaders

On May 23rd, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America announced its decision on gays in the organization. Of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council who cast ballots, 61 percent supported the proposal to allow gay Scouts but not gay Scout leaders. The decision takes effect on January 1st, 2014. In their statement, the Boy Scouts stressed that they still would not condone sexual conduct by any Scout –- gay or straight, saying "The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive and unresolved societal issue".

Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day expressed its willingness to live with this compromise back on April 25th, their reaction is of primary interest. And the LDS Church has issued an official statement indicating that they accept the decision, while reiterating the need for all participants in their Scouting units to abide by LDS Church standards, which are spelled out in the For The Strength Of Youth book and which prescribe total sexual abstinence outside of heterosexual marriage. A letter signed by the First Presidency of the Church reaffirming of Church policies and standards will be sent to every LDS congregation in the United States. Here's the most important part of the statement:

The Church's long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: "young men … who agree to abide by Church standards" are "welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate" (Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been -— and is not now -— a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.

These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.

The Church appreciates BSA's reaffirmation of its commitment to "duty to God," which includes service to others and moral behavior—central principles of our teaching to young men. As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.

Some other socially-conservative religious denominations are unhappy with the decision. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive committee, said "We are deeply saddened. Homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout oath and Scout law". Richard Land, a senior Southern Baptist Conference official, can't imagine any Southern Baptist pastor who would continue to allow his church to sponsor a Boy Scout troop under these new rules, and advised Southern Baptist churches to withdraw their support of Scout troops and consider affiliating instead with the Royal Ambassadors, an existing SBC youth program for boys that combines religious ministry with Scouting-style activities. Baptist churches sponsor Scout units serving more than 100,000 of the BSA's 2.6 million youth members.

The Assemblies of God, another conservative denomination which oversees units serving more than 2,000 Scouts, said said it could no longer support such units and predicted the policy change will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program. They suggested its own Royal Rangers youth group as a positive alternative. Meanwhile, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting responded more cautiously, saying it would assess the possible impact of the change on Catholic-sponsored Scout units. Texas Governor Rick Perry has also expressed disappointment with the decision, saying BSA "has been built upon the values of faith and family for more than 100 years, and today's decision contradicts generations of tradition in the name of political correctness."

Rank-and-file LDS reaction is rather sparing, with discussion appearing on By Common Consent and the LDS Freedom Forum. Kathryn Skaggs expresses approval of the LDS Church's response. However, one person who identified as LDS posted the following on Stormfront:

I share Governor Perry's disappointment. It looks too much like the Scouts caved in to political correctness, which merely encourages more political correctness. If you think the gay rights lobby will stop here, you're sadly mistaken. The struggle will never be over for the American civil rights industry, because it provides too many jobs to too many activists. Like the Soviet Union during its existence, the civil rights industry maintains that what's theirs is theirs, and what's ours is always negotiable.

I'm also disappointed that the LDS leadership is breaking ranks with our Baptist and Assemblies of God brethren and sisters. However, this is where the test of faith comes into play. I intend to exercise faith that the LDS leadership is acting in accordance with the wishes of the Lord, not because they are inerrant, but because they have been ordained and set apart for their positions. Sustaining the brethren means allowing them room to exercise the Lord's will on behalf of the entire church and exercising faith that they are indeed enjoying the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Remember, Abraham had an even more severe test of faith -- he was asked to offer his son Isaac up as a sacrifice. Abraham obeyed, and the decision actually turned out well for him and Isaac. We have enough anklebiters and naysayers in the Bloggernacle -- I don't intend to become another naysayer.

Over 120 comments have been posted to the KSL story so far, which should provide a good snapshot of rank-and-file LDS opinion. A sampling of typical comments:

YetAnotherReader posted 2 hours ago:
If the BSA thought this vote would end the debate and the scrutiny by the LGBTQ community, they are sorely mistaken. The push for gay leaders will now only grow stronger. The BSA was on firm legal ground before with their previous stance. They are now in jeopardy of being court-ordered into another direction and will ultimately be the organizations demise. Who would then need the scouts with so many school-sponsored LGBT Clubs and Alliances. What a mistake. What a shame.

Sakievich posted 2 hours ago:
There is a sharp distinction between "discrimination" and Civil Discrimination Law. On June 28, 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court found BSA not offending the Civil Law and was in its right to remain within its defined purposes. Whether DNA driven, socially constructed, or through personal choices, the billions of humans (hue-man) need not accept any or all of the countless combinations of orientations, traits, preferences, tastes, tendencies, predispositions, penchants, affinities, leanings, bents, traits, habits, and propensities. To force adaption against its charter and purposes is like forcing U.S. baseball rules to accept American Soccer tactics - it just doesn't work and is foul. Choice, like a coin, cannot be a one sided tantrum.

TontoGoldstein posted 1 hour ago:
I was raised in Scouting, and took the Scout Oath. After today, Scouting has changed letting openly Gay boys join Scouting. The way I look at this organization will be changed in my mind now as having lost the honor and the Scout Oath to which I governed my life to.

For me Scouting is now gone. Anyone need merit badges, awards or emblems?

Eric M. posted 6 hours ago:
BSA has taught me alot through the years. Im a proud Eagle Scout! And always will be! And now have been a scout master. I will always stand up for what I believe is right whether it includes my religion or not. But if somebody wants to learn something good and useful as BSA has taught me throughout my life. As long as they keep their personal life to themselves as we all should, and live by the Scout Oath and Law while at scout meetings, court of honors, camps ext....I wouldnt turn them down.

Conbread posted 4 hours ago:
I agree that the AP story could have been more specific, but the LDS Church is basically supporting the lift on the ban. They are certainly not opposing it, provided adult homosexuals remain banned. This change is more aligned with official church statements that distinguish between homosexuality and sexual conduct. The church says it believes that homosexuality itself is not the problem and that gay members can be just as worthy as anyone else.

Given the church's stance, I am surprised by the extremely emotional, angry resistance by many Mormons to this change. While other churches do not differentiate homosexuality and sex, the LDS church has tried to be very clear that it does. Gay boys who follow the commandments and remain celibate should be considered just as worthy as their heterosexual peers in the eyes of members. Unfortunately, it's clear that the church leadership has more work to do in educating its members about its own beliefs on the subject.

Many Mormons have threatened to pull their support from the BSA if this ban is lifted. Do they really sustain the brethren? If the prophet of God continues to support the BSA, why can't they? Perhaps it's a matter of faith.

Mcrib posted 5 hours ago:
I am an Eagle Scout, I have one son who is also an Eagle Scout, and another who is almost there. I have been a Scouting leader for many years. To me, the policy change is not that big of a deal, and I cannot understand why anyone would leave scouting just because of a policy change that would allow openly gay boys to join. Sexuality has no place in Scouting, whether gay, straight, or whatever. Any instances of sexual or improper behavior should be reported and those involved disciplined accordingly. We can still honor the scout oath, teach our boys to be "morally straight", and it has nothing to do with sexual preference or your religious affiliations. It is about teaching our boys to be honorable, honest, decent young men and teach them skills that will last them a lifetime. Leave sex out of it, and let's get rid of all these attitudes of hatred and discrimination. I don't care if a boy is gay or straight, and they probably don't even know if they are gay or straight anyways.

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