The Boy Scouts of America finally gets to breathe a sigh of relief. The group’s controversial proposal to accept gay children–but not gay adults–has the approval of an important ally: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a statement posted to its website Thursday, the LDS Church said: “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 resolution, if officially approved, would not deny membership to any youth in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone. However, the organization would still maintain its policy of discrimination against openly gay adults.
The Scouts drew immediate heat after releasing their proposal last week from LGBT advocates, who argued that the policy shift did not go far enough. But what was not immediately clear was how the BSA’s conservative sponsors, including religious organizations, would feel about welcoming gay children. Though presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon and a former member of the BSA’s National Executive Board, voiced his support for gay people’s participation in the organization last year, LDS spokesman Michael Purdy did not offer an immediate reaction to the proposed resolution. Mormon leaders would “take the time needed to fully review the language and study the implications of this new proposal,” was all Purdy said in a statement last week.
More than 70% of Scouting units are chartered to faith-based groups, and the Mormon Church tops the list of membership enrollment numbers. At the end of last year, 431,000 children were participating in LDS-sponsored Scouting units. If the LDS church–which does not consider same-sex attraction a sin, but does believe acting on it is–were to abandon the Boy Scouts, the organization’s membership would nosedive.
As part of their proposal, the Boy Scouts added that though they would be open to gay children, “any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youths of Scouting age” would still be prohibited.
The Boy Scouts said Thursday in a statement that they were pleased with the Mormon Church’s review, and said they looked forward to working together in the future. “For nearly 100 years we have worked together with the mutual goal of building the moral character and leadership skills of youth,” read the BSA statement. “We believe kids are better off when they are in Scouting, and the program is successful because of its relationships with valued chartered organizations like the Church.”
The BSA’s National Council will vote on the membership proposal May 23. If approved, the policy would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Read the full statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints below:
“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.”