Rumblings in Salt Lake have taken the Boy Scouts of America, whose membership has been in a steady decline for the last decade, by surprise. BSA youth membership declined almost 6 percent from 2012 to 2013, and 7.4 percent in 2014.
While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint has not officially stated they will end their relationship with the scouts, even scaling back their support would cause a huge dent in funding. As, the largest sponsor of scouting, if the Mormons choose to officially cut ties with the BSA, that could mean the end of the steadily declining youth organization. The LDS Church pays the BSA $24 each year for every boy. In 2013, there were 37,933 LDS units amounting to 437,160 Latter Day Saint scouts. If the LDS were to end their involvement the BSA would lose over $19 million annually.
From Deseret News:
SALT LAKE CITY — The future relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now uncertain after the Scouting body voted Monday to rescind a nationwide ban on gay Scout leaders, prompting strong words of concern from the church and a promise to re-evaluate its century-long affiliation with the organization.
“The church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Boy Scout leaders said the decision, which passed by a 45-12 vote of its National Board and is effective immediately, will allow religious organizations to continue appointing adult leaders using their own criteria. But the LDS Church statement said church leaders are “deeply troubled” by the vote by the National Board to allow gay Scout leaders.
From the New York Times:
Top Mormons Could Meet Soon About Leaving Scouts
In August, the most senior leaders of the Mormon Church are expected to meet and discuss a decision with profound consequences: whether to end a 100-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America that has helped shape both institutions.
This is not what the Boy Scouts hoped would happen on Monday when they officially lifted their ban on gay adult leaders but said conservative religious sponsors of local packs and troops could pick leaders who shared their beliefs, even if that meant limiting these voluntary positions to heterosexual men.
In adopting the new policy, the Scouts’ national board hoped to quell the growing turmoil over its position on gay leaders. But a day later, the Scouts were still torn by the issue, largely because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which alone sponsors units involving one in five scouting participants, said it might leave the Boy Scouts altogether.
From the Christian Science Monitor:
Idea of gay Boy Scout leaders still divides after historic vote lifting ban (+video)
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs,” the Mormon church, which has the largest Boy Scout membership of all religious organizations, said in a statement. “Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right.”
It’s unclear how legally sustainable that position will be in the future, and some religious groups said they’re already prepared for that exemption to be challenged. Increasingly, religious grounds have been the basis for a number of recent gay rights controversies, as individuals and organizations use institutional teachings or personal religious beliefs to justify decisions ranging from the refusal to officiate gay wedding ceremonies to refusal to police a gay pride parade or photograph a gay wedding. And the extent to which religious beliefs can be used as the basis for such discrimination is likely to continue to play out in the courtroom as well as in American culture.