Boy Scouts of America leaders recently received a boost for their proposed policy on gays from a powerful stakeholder — the Mormon church.
"We 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 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) said in a statement.
This means the church is satisfied with "both the process and the proposal," LDS spokesman Eric Hawkins said Friday, referring to the BSA's proposed policy to permit openly gay youth — but not openly gay adults — to be members.
The Mormon support bolsters the chances that the BSA's national council will adopt its proposed policy when it meets May 22-24 in Texas, since the LDS Church sponsors some 500,000 youth members and nearly 40,000 packs, troops and crews.
Under current BSA membership standards, the 103-year-old organization does not ask anyone about sexual orientation, but disallows people to be part of Scouting if they are open or avowed homosexuals.
The BSA promptly thanked the church for its statement, saying Friday it believes that "kids are better off when they are in Scouting, and the program is successful because of its relationships with valued chartered organizations like the [LDS] Church."
The national gay-rights group, Human Rights Campaign, also praised the LDS for offering their "stamp of approval" to ending the ban on openly gay youth in Scouting.
The LDS statement "marks a big moment" and "is a clear move in the right direction and we applaud" the church for taking this important step, wrote Sharon Groves, director of the religion and faith program at Human Rights Campaign.
The proposed BSA membership policy still must be voted on by 1,400 Scouting members during its May meeting, and opponents of the proposal are not giving up.
On May 5, a "Stand With Scouts Sunday" simulcast is planned to educate people on the need to "preserve Scouting as its founders envisioned it — as a resource for young men to develop in morally, mentally, and physically healthy ways, free to be boys and teens without the invasion of cultural controversies."
Opponents of the proposed policy include national traditional-values groups such as the Family Research Council and a coalition of parents, Scouts and alumni called OnMyHonor.net. They are urging the BSA to keep its current policy.
In its statement, the Mormon church said that while it "has not launched any campaign either to affect or prevent a policy change," it has followed the BSA discussions. It praised the proposed policy for "constructively address[ing] 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 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," the church added.
Scouting observers said those last words were an important signal to other Scouting stakeholders that the LDS is willing to continue with Scouting with the proposed policy.
Meanwhile, the LDS policy will get its first test May 8, when Utah's largest BSA council will meet.
The executive committee "will come out with an official statement from the council, based on the national membership standards as well as the LDS statement," said David McCammon, director of programming and marketing for the Great Salt Lake Council for the BSA.
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