The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a message for the Boy Scouts of America’s plan to allow gay Scouts: We’re fine with it.
The Mormon Church, which has historically opposed same-sex marriage, said Thursday that it supported the Scouts’ recently proposed rules change that “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” as the proposal puts it.
The proposed policy change, announced last week, came after years of wrangling, soul-searching and prodding from advocates, alumni and funders to open the Scouts’ ranks to gays.
It also came after the Scouts reaffirmed their ban on gays last July, and after the organization in January considered leaving the issue up to each Scouting sponsor. Amid resistance, the Scouts deferred that January decision and launched a discussion with the organization’s membership, holding more than 250 town-hall style meetings across the country and surveying members.
The new policy, which officials said would be voted upon at a May meeting for enactment in 2014, still bans openly gay leaders. That caveat infuriated some activists in that it implied gays were likely to be child molesters.
“What is the purpose of allowing gay children in if gay adults are excluded? We’re not pedophiles,” Howard Menzer, 76, told the Los Angeles Times last week. Menzer left Scouting in 1999 to protest the ban and now heads Scouting for All, a San Diego advocacy group.
In their statement Thursday, Mormon officials gave their OK to the compromise -- without ever mentioning sexual orientation.
“While the church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change, we have followed the discussion and 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 statement said.
The statement, noting the strong ties the church has kept with the Scouts for the past century, added, “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.”
“America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our kids,” the Scouts’ national president, Wayne Perry, said in the April 29 statement. “We believe good people can disagree and still work together to accomplish great things for youth.”