Mormons are talking about Scouting this week as the first significant aftershock of Obergefell v. Hodges rips through the LDS Church. It started with the July 27 announcement by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that its “National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees.” The BSA statement announcing the decision included this paragraph explaining that local units can still set their own guidelines for selecting adult leaders:
Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.
Ignoring that olive branch, the LDS Church immediately responded with a statement threatening to terminate its relationship with Scouting. The statement says that the Church is “deeply troubled” by the BSA decision, that the association of the Church with Scouting “will need to be examined,” and that “the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church.” But the BSA policy change expressly provides that local units can still use their own guidelines to bar openly gay adults from serving as adult leaders, so the BSA policy change does not appear to directly affect any LDS scouting unit. So what exactly is the problem? Why the threat to go nuclear?
The July 27 statement is even more puzzling in light of an earlier July 13 LDS Church statement reminding the BSA that the LDS Church “has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs” and that any action taken by BSA “must continue to affirm that right.” The BSA did affirm that right. So the LDS response amounts to: Thank you for granting our request. We’re going to get upset now.
The New York Times headline captures the general media reaction: “Boy Scouts End Ban on Gay Leaders, Over Protests by Mormon Church.” The result of the July 27 LDS statement is that the story is now more about the LDS public objection to the BSA policy change than the policy change itself. As far as I can tell, the LDS statement accomplished nothing except getting people confused, even upset, and maybe burning bridges with the BSA as well, who may very well conclude at this point that having the Mormons around is more trouble than it’s worth. I foresee a messy, noisy divorce, with Scouting units in Utah stuck in the middle.
Blogs are all over this, of course. BCC: “Memo to the Newsroom: If the real leaders are away, best to keep quiet until they come back.” The FMH response to the LDS statement: “It left me stumped at first, then just angry.” Mormon Mentality is just as confused by the LDS position. Expert Textperts expressed dismay over the predictable “our leaders are always right” comments at the LDS Facebook post of the Newsroom statement.
The LDS Church and Scouting may soon part ways. That’s not such a big deal: many have been hoping the Church would go its own way for quite awhile now. But here’s a sobering thought for us Mormons: The Church’s entrenched anti-gay position is now so marginal, so extreme, that we can’t even get along with the Boy Scouts.