I was on vacation/blog sabbatical when the news dropped that the LDS Church would continue as a chartering organization in the Boy Scouts of America even with the BSA’s decision to end its ban on homosexual leaders.
The news didn’t surprise me, as the church has a long history as a BSA sponsor, did not object to the BSA allowing gay scouts, and allows for celibate homosexuals to hold church callings and have temple recommends.
Also not surprising it eh parsing the message is undergoing, particularly in light of a recent poll that shows the majority of active LDS members would like to see the church out of the BSA.
The most significant parsing comes after reading this portion of the church’s announcement:
At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards.
In fact, the parsing is on the first three words: “At this time.” That gives the Scouting haters (and there are some in the church) breathing space to say the church could, in the future, dump Scouting in favor of something else. Which indeed it could.
What needs more parsing, in my view, is the final paragraph of the statement:
With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.
What does evaluate and refine mean? What program options would be evaluated and refined? The Duty to God program comes to mind. I find it hard to believe the church would create a mirror of Scouting out of whole cloth when a program like Duty to God could be adapted to meet the temporal needs of boys/youth in the church, as well as those spiritual needs. This inward-turning focus could augment the church’s stance that its me3mvbers are a “peculiar people,” a badge many in the church would wear with honor.
What’s going to be most interesting is to see how member support for Scouting changes despite the First Presidency’s decision to go ahead with Scouting. There were some who grumbled – and cut off support to Friends of Scouting, a major fund-raising program – when gay scouts were allowed, and that is likely to increase significantly with gay leaders being allowed, even if chartered organizations are allowed to choose their own leaders based on their religious values. Those who fear homosexuals might think they’re insulated – if that’s the proper word – from them within an LDS unit, but once an LDS unit goes to scout camp or another BSA-sponsored activity, that illusion of insularity is gone.
That will either prompt an exodus from scouting on individual family bases – I can think of one family offhand that will probably leave scouting because of this decision (not in our unit, you local speculators) – or open up local councils to discrimination lawsuits if they sponsor “LDS-only” weeks at camp. And the lawsuits will come, just as soon as a unit with a mind to sue comes up against schedule conflicts that plant it at camp during an LDS-only week.
And Mormon-haters will likely exacerbate the problem – not being content with the BSA’s decision to end discrimination, but upping the anti-discrimination drum beat by going after chartering organizations that discriminate based on religious beliefs, perhaps through attempting to remove tax-exempt statuses or other legal/governmental means, thus showing that they don’t mind if state mixes with church as long as it’s the state that’s the victor – forgetting that the separation of church and state is a double-walled thought.