Monday, July 27, 2015

BSA Allows Gay Leaders: Will the LDS Church Drop the BSA?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post asking whether the Boy Scouts of America would vote to drop its ban on gay Scout leaders. The 17-member BSA Executive Board had just voted unanimously to drop the ban. The board had then scheduled a final vote on the issue by its National Executive Board (reputed by have around 70 members) for just a couple of weeks later. That didn't leave much time for opponents of the vote to prepare their opposition.

The proposal called for removing sexual orientation as a factor in adult BSA membership, allowing religious organizations that sponsor Scouting units to retain the ban for religious purposes. This is an attempt to thread the needle of what has become a very sticky situation for the BSA. While conservative churches that sponsor most BSA units have generally been opposed to dropping the ban, I explained in my post how it has become socially and legally untenable for the BSA to retain the ban.

While this storm has been brewing for a couple of decades, the BSA has arrived at a state where keeping the ban would very likely result in the organization's demise from external and liberal internal pressures. But dropping the ban could also destroy the organization by way of internal conservative pressures.

As I thought would happen, the BSA National Executive Board today voted (45-12 — apparently some members of the board did not vote) to approve the proposal, thereby, dropping the ban on homosexual adult leaders, while promising to defend the right of churches to select local BSA unit leaders that conform to each church's religious standards (see KSL article).

Due to a statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which currently sponsors more BSA units and youth than any other organization — we now know that the LDS Church was snubbed by the BSA when it requested that the vote be delayed. The full statement reads:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. 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. 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.
"As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead."
In my earlier post I opined that the LDS Church would accept the new policy. It is now quite apparent that I was overconfident in that opinion. Some will say that it's a done deal. Maybe. But let's not get the cart before the horse. Let's wait and see what the prophets, seers, and revelators that guide the Church have to say on the matter after they reconvene next month. Once we have clarity we should move confidently ahead with the direction given, regardless of which way it turns out.

If the LDS Church drops its sponsorship of the BSA, roughly a quarter of the BSA's membership will evaporate. By my estimation, additional conservative sponsors that might separate from the BSA could add up to nearly that same number. So the BSA would likely lose somewhere between a third and a half of its membership over a fairly short time frame. Presumably the national board has done the math on this and they figure that this is the least painful path forward.

Membership losses like this would result in large layoffs among BSA employees and the liquidation of many BSA assets. I cannot see how any of the three Utah based BSA councils could survive. I'm guessing that the LDS Church would eventually acquire many of the camps currently run by these councils to facilitate the church's own program for its young men.

The LDS Church has a long history of forethought and planning. So I can't imagine that the church has no plan for what would happen if it dropped its relationship with the BSA. Although it's possible, I doubt that the church would drop its BSA sponsorship overnight. It would likely be set at a future date or a phased plan to allow transition time.

The LDS Church also has reasons to stick with the BSA. Doing so presents opportunities that otherwise would not exist to interface with members of other churches and organizations. But if the church retains its sponsorship of BSA units, the relationship between the church and the BSA will likely be somewhat strained. This would result in far less enthusiasm for Scouting among U.S. church members. Increasing numbers of church members would simply be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

From a personal perspective, it would be sad for me to see the LDS Church quit sponsoring BSA units. I have spent thousands of hours over decades volunteering in Scouting on both the LDS Church and BSA sides of the program. My life has been immeasurably enhanced through my lifelong relationships with both the LDS Church and the BSA. I have five full Scout uniforms hanging in my closet. (And I use them too.)

But to be quite honest, I would never have been involved in the BSA without the church's sponsorship of the program. It would be sad to see that go away. But times change and organizations change. Not everything that was can continue to be. If the church quits sponsoring BSA units, I imagine that my Scout uniforms, paraphernalia and memorabilia will be relegated to symbols of a cherished but bygone era and of promises made that have become part of who I am.

Until such a time comes, however, I will continue to proudly and energetically fulfill my Scouting obligations. I urge others to do the same.

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