Tuesday, August 18, 2015

You HAVE to Ask Why

The Salt Lake Tribune is trumpeting a survey recently taken in Utah showing the majority of active members of the LDS Church polled favor the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints severing its 100-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America.

The survey has a serious flaw: It does not ask why.

Obviously, the 900-pound gorilla in the room is the BSA National Executive Council’s recent decision to allow chartered organizations to appoint gay leaders, ending the BSA’s ban on such leadership. Leaving that gorilla unaddressed in the survey offers a less nuanced look at LDS attitudes towards the BSA and the executive council’s decision, in my opinion.

But, like the poll takers, I offer no empirical proof. But I do have anecdotal evidence that offers other reasons why these active LDS members may want to sever the BSA/LDS relationship.

First, the expense. Scouting is an expensive program. In a few weeks our unit will have a court of honor, for which we’ll spend more than $400 on awards. And that doesn’t even mention the money parents have to drop on Scout shirts and other uniform parts, the budget for the troop ($1,200, provided by our chartering organization) and the $120 each boy had to cough up for scout camp this summer.

Second, the time. Members of the LDS Church already spend three hours a week at church. Add to that the time commitment required by scouting – Tuesday night activities would, of course, continue without Scouting, but you have to factor in campouts, training, and other commitments – and there’s a lot of time that goes into it.

Third, the work. As Scoutmaster, I rely a lot on parents to help with merit badge work. I have to. I have, on a good day, a dozen boys in my troop and about an hour a week to work with them. As they’re on a revolving door basis (competing with family events, sports teams, and other activities that take them away from Scouts on Tuesdays and when we camp out) I can’t guarantee all the boys will get the instruction for merit badges when I can offer it. Parents have to step up – and step up as they’re navigating homework coming in from the schools. Scouting takes second priority, if it gets a priority at all.

Obviously, the BSA’s leadership decision is weighing heavily on this survey. But to not ask why is to leave, I feel, too many questions unanswered.

Tribune reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack, however, does a good job answering one of the nuanced questions I’ve had on the matter (though I take what she writes with a grain of salt, simply because she offers no verification of its veracity:

Although the LDS Church has allowed — and does allow — openly gay Mormons to serve in church assignments, including the Boy Scouts, these members are deemed to be living the faith's standards. This means they are not acting on their same-sex attractions.

The BSA's new policy, however, makes no such distinction between "openly gay" and "sexually active gay leaders." So a gay Scout leader could have a partner or a same-sex spouse — and that troubles the Mormon brass.

While the BSA insists that religiously affiliated troops, including those sponsored by the LDS Church, could continue to ban gay leaders, many observers doubt such an exemption could be legally defended.

The part I have the most difficulty with, verification-wise, is the second paragraph cited here. I’m not aware of any official announcement form the church outlining their concerns with the BSA’s change in policy as clear cut as Stack offers here.

For what it’s worth, I hope the church continues with scouting. I’m pushing our oldest son right now to finish his Eagle Scout paperwork – he finished his project this weekend. If the church is going to bail on scouting, I’d like to see him get his Eagle before the bailing takes effect. We have talked as a couple about finding a community troop for our kids to join if the severing occurs. But whether or not that happens will depend quite a bit on what the church decides.

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