Boy Scouts vote to allow openly gay leaders, Mormon Church considering exit

Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay scout leaders to serve in the organization. The move had been in the works for months — Scott Walker had earlier expressed concern over the likely shift, saying that the ban “protected children” — and was ratified by a solid majority of the organization’s executive committee.

The move represents a massive affirmative shift by one of the nation’s largest youth organizations. Here is the statement from former Defense Secretary and Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates:

However, despite a compromise in the proposal that allows church-sponsored troops to select their own leaders, the Mormon Church indicated that it would consider leaving the organization entirely rather than be a part of an LGBT-affirming Boy Scouts. As the Church wrote in a statement:

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.

This hairsplitting would represent an affirmation of the Scouts’ previous policy, holding that gay troops are OK, but when they grow up they become pedophiles.

While the Mormon Church is more than welcome to exit the organization for any reason they choose — just as no one is forcing the Mormon Church to perform same sex marriages — one can’t help but feel like the move is a bit petty to say the least.

Especially since gay leaders can still be excluded on a troop by troop basis, despite not being banned on a national level. As reported by CNN:

However, former Boy Scout leadership team member Jon Langbert told CNN’s Carol Costello he believes the new policy isn’t a cure-all, since local troops will still be allowed to make the decision on whether to allow gay leaders.

“What does that do to folks like me?” asked Langbert, who is openly gay and says he gave up his leadership role when other fathers complained. “If I want to participate with my son, do I now have to start ringing up on the phone and calling around to different troops and saying, ‘Do you guys discriminate, or am I a first-class citizen in your troop and I can join?’ “

In any case, progress is progress. Especially when that progress comes not by legislative or judicial action, but rather by a voluntary recognition by a religiously affiliated organization that their previous policy was a mistake, and that affirming LGBT equality is simply the right thing to do.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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29 Responses to “Boy Scouts vote to allow openly gay leaders, Mormon Church considering exit”

  1. Rhonda Chavez says:

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  2. Russ Alcott says:

    Take away their tax exemptions. There is no discrimination in America, right? If you do, you do not get the benefits of our system, I do not care if you preach, some kind of monetary religiousity, or what. You are in it for the buck…it is so obvious. Megachurches? Take away the government subsidy of churches, which is totally against what our founding fathers believed in, it is against what 60% of Americans believe….now. Separation of church and state in ingrained in our constitution. It is above all else. Look at history, religion is a destroyer of governments….we are not immune.

  3. Bose says:

    The numbers speak to me here: The executive board’s decision was basically 80/20 for lifting the ban, yet Mormons are well-represented in the leadership and sponsor troops with about 17% of all Scouts. So, somewhere along the line, it seems that many of the Mormon-supportive members couldn’t be brought to oppose BSA President Gates’ recommendation.

    Mormon leaders aren’t concerned either, about the ongoing (and until now, accelerating) number of corporate donors abandoning the BSA because of the gay leader ban. As Gates said, the ban was not sustainable, apart from “inevitabl[e] […] legal battles in multiple legal jurisdictions and at staggering cost.”

  4. Butch1 says:

    Or win a free trip to Kolob. (one way of course.) ;-)

  5. Butch1 says:

    LOL!

  6. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Then they could use their Boy Scout hats to peer at the stones.

  7. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I suppose I can’t put a metal detector at the bedroom door. Foiled again!

  8. taxicolor says:

    I think one’s age has something to do with how they perceive it. When I was in the Scouts a long, long time ago we didn’t particularly like the uniforms but accepting them allowed us to get together as a group of young boys and have fun. None of us in my group were interested in advancing….we were just there to do boy stuff and have fun. At the time it bothered me that I had to lie about my sexuality but that was pretty normal in the late 1950s. What really bothered me was that I had to lie about being a Christian….I wasn’t….but I said I was so I could be with my friends. That “Christian” thing was really important at the time. I remember that when I entered the Navy in the early 60’s I not only had to lie about my sexuality but also my religion. In many stations I was assigned to I had a choice of going to church or given punitive work details. At the time, Scouts were one of the few ways boys could get together for fun without being considered a gang. It is better now.

  9. pliny says:

    The Mormon church has been the main holdup on pushing the decision on inclusion down to the local level for *years*. Just like with Prop H8, and Hawaii before it they demand plausible deniability for their discrimination.

  10. Butch1 says:

    Or even in France. They recognize BS when they hear it and see it.

  11. Butch1 says:

    LOL! You always keep a knife handy for those “hard to untie” knots.

  12. Butch1 says:

    It would be the best thrill they’ve gotten in ages.

  13. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps they would offer a “Kolob” Merit Badge. If you find the “golden tablets” you get it. ;-)

  14. Butch1 says:

    Let them start their own type, but they cannot call it the Boy Scouts; that name is taken.
    They have plenty of money to start their own. They can have their own prejudiced scouts and if that is what they want to teach their boys, then that would be a shame.

  15. Butch1 says:

    Buh-bye!

  16. nicho says:

    Exactly. Their “conversion” rate is absolutely dismal and in some places non-existent. I can’t imagine trying to sell Joseph Smith’s made-up mystical bull crap in Sweden or any other place where people have been taught to think for themselves.

  17. FLL says:

    The arrogance here is breathtaking. The Mormons are being offered the right to discriminate against gay scout leaders and employees in whichever troops that they sponsor, but that’s not good enough for them! The only thing that will suit the Mormons is if all troops—whether sponsored by religious groups, corporations or secular civic groups—are required to fire gay scout leaders and employees.That is arrogance. If Mormons and their religion become less popular with the general public, it’s fully deserved.

  18. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    **** rimshot ****

  19. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    My husband would never let me tie knots. He figured he had a better chance of chewing through handcuffs.

  20. 2karmanot says:

    I dropped out before I made Buzzard Scout. I was accused of feeding a bear. His name was Bruno.

  21. 2karmanot says:

    I learned to tie knots South of Market, but it wasn’t an official troop.

  22. 2karmanot says:

    No knob on Kolob

  23. Houndentenor says:

    Two years of isolation and indoctrination in a foreign country or at least far from home. Don’t kid yourself about the purpose of those mission trips. it’s not so much to get new members as it is a time to bombard young people with nonstop Mormon propaganda when they have limited access to media, email and even their own family.

  24. Houndentenor says:

    They’re allowing it, not requiring it. How many troops are actually going to have gay leaders? More than a dozen? I doubt it. This is the religious right in a nutshell, though. It’s not enough for them to be allowed to discriminate. They demand that everyone else does it too.

  25. nicho says:

    Note to Mormons: Buh-Bye now. Don’t let the door hit you in the magic underwear.

  26. The_Fixer says:

    Exactly.

    I’ve always been kind of creeped out by the Boy Scouts – the uniforms, the hierarchy, the rankings and all that. And for some reason, we’re all supposed to give instant credibility and respect to an Eagle Scout.

    I am deeply suspicious of an organization that has been so virulently homophobic (like churches). This sudden change of heart has everything to do with corporate sponsorship money and little to do with “seeing the light”.

  27. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I really have to disagree with you. Were you a Boy Scout? The National organization is definitely adult run. The local organizations are boy directed. They decide on the activities of the troop. The adults are there to help and to educate as needed. The boys even decide on their own progression through Boy Scouts. Many are there just to have fun. Some want to put Eagle Scout on their resume. Some just enjoy outdoor activities.

    The boys are also taught self reliance. Each patrol plans and arranges for their own camping trips. The adults will only step in if it looks as if things might become dangerous or extremely uncomfortable for the boys.

    I admit that I also liked the scouts, because my boyfriend was also there.

  28. Indigo says:

    The astonishing part of this decision is that the Boy Scouts organization still exists. What, exactly, is it? All l can see is another militarist feeder system to indoctrinate boys into submission to authoritarian organizations that lead to enlistment as canon fodder for yet another war, the essential fly-wheel to sustaining a capitalist economy.

  29. Sally says:

    I teach music lessons, and have had some Mormon boys come through. They are polite, intelligent, and hard-working. THEN the all go off to Brigham Young and take a year of college, and off they go on a ‘mission’ trip..the last one went to Sweden. Now tell me, what kind of evangelism can one do in Sweden? Right. Kind of like Mitt’s two years in Paris…fun and games.
    If the Mormon Church wants out of BSA, fine for them. They have their own little armies anyway, and can just start up something else. What is with the ‘gay young men are fine, but not gay adults.” What do they think happens between when a teen comes out as gay, and when he’s a 35 year old with an adopted son? He sudden;y goes straight?

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