The Boy Scouts of America national executive board voted Monday to allow openly gay leaders to serve in the organization, while allowing local troops to determine their own policies on the matter.
Mormon Church leaders are angered by the decision, even though an earlier statement made it appear the church was simply asking for a religious exemption, which was part of the resolution.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet,” the new statement reads. “When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
The statement goes on to allude to the organization finding a global boys organization.
As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”
Under the new policy, discrimination based on sexual orientation will be barred in all Boy Scout offices and for all paid jobs — a step that could head off looming lawsuits in New York, Colorado and other states that prohibit such discrimination in employment. New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday that his office was ending its investigation of the Scouts for violating state anti-discrimination laws in response to the announcement.
“This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” national BSA leaders said in a statement. “This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
Seventy-nine percent of the executive board members voting by telephone approved of the change.
In a statement earlier this month, the LDS Church simply called for a religious exemption to allow them to determine their own leaders.
“As a chartering organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs. Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right.”
The church’s new position has surprised some scouting leaders.
“It’s just a surprise to me to hear that [church] statement,” Stan Lockhart, president of the BSA’s Utah National Parks Council, told the Deseret News, “because my own experience is quite different. We’ve just had a very positive, productive relationship with the LDS Church.”
More than 430,000 of the BSA’s roughly 2.6 million Boy Scouts belong to units sponsored by the LDS Church, making it by far the largest charter in the country.