Editorial: Gay scout leaders could mean LDS exit

Farmington Daily Times
The Daily Times

The Boy Scouts of America's recent decision to end its blanket ban on gay adult leaders was inevitable, though it certainly disappointed many longtime supporters of Scouting.

It will be a tricky transition for an organization that has so many church-based packs and troops. The new Boy Scout policy does allow church-sponsored Scout units — a major component of Scouting in the United States — to maintain exclusions of gay Scout leaders for religious reasons. Scouting from its inception has been deeply tied to religious organizations, so protection of religious liberties is an important aspect of Scouting's new policies.

However, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the leading sponsors of Scouting in the United States, says it will re-evaluate its relationship with the BSA, possibly creating its own separate program for boys.

"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," LDS leadership said 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."

A break with the LDS church could have huge implications for BSA because 20 percent of Scouts nationally are Mormon.

In San Juan County, 17 of 20 Boy Scout troops in the Anasazi Division of the Boy Scouts' Great Southwest Council are based at Mormon facilities for Cub Scouts and 15 of 20 packs meet at LDS sites.

Monday's decision was widely expected because the ban on gay Scout leaders has roiled the agency for years, costing it donations and allies.

Boy Scouts of America two years ago dropped its ban on gay Scouts but maintained a prohibition on gay leaders; that disparity is now gone after Monday's vote of Scouting's National Executive Board.

"For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us," said the BSA's president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good."

Gates is something of an expert on ending such distractions. He was secretary of Defense when the military ended its "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays serving in the military.

Nonetheless, the Boy Scouts would be profoundly changed by an LDS exit. the Mormon church and Boy Scouts have a long, important history together that goes back decades, in our region and across the nation.

We hope the two parties can find a way to continue that relationship.