(Photo: REUTERS/Tim Sharp)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the nation's largest sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America, is being criticized for endorsing a BSA proposal that would allow gay youths to join local troops while continuing to exclude gay leaders.
"While the church has not launched any campaign either to effect (sic) 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,'" said a statement by the church.
The BSA has been considering a change to its current ban on open homosexuals. It released a proposal earlier this month that states: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." While allowing gay members, the Scouts would at the same time maintain its gay ban when it comes to leadership. The BSA's National Council is scheduled to vote on changing its membership policy on May 23.
OnMyHonor.Net founder John Stemberger called the LDS church's statement "perplexing and non-committal," saying it neither endorses nor condemns the proposed resolution which requires every Scouting unit to accommodate open homosexuality among Boy Scouts who identify as openly gay.
Stemberger's group is the official coalition of concerned parents, Scout Leaders, Scouting Donors, Eagle Scouts and other members of the BSA who are united in their support of the Boy Scouts' timeless values and in their opposition to open homosexuality in the organization.
The LDS said the proposal "constructively addresses 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."
But this "cleverly-worded" resolution tries to "dodge criticism from gay activists but still creates a myriad of problems for how to manage and ensure the safety and security of the boys in the program," Stemberger said in a statement. "The current membership policy has stood the test of time and should remain as is … It is disappointing the LDS church did not give a more definitive statement and express concern for young boys in the BSA."
The LDS church tops the list of membership enrollment numbers, with 431,000 youths participating in LDS-sponsored units as of Dec. 31, 2012. More than 70 percent of Scouting units are chartered to faith-based groups.
The Boy Scouts said it was pleased with the Mormon statement. "For nearly 100 years we have worked together with the mutual goal of building the moral character and leadership skills of youth. We believe kids are better off when they are in Scouting, and the program is successful because of its relationships with valued chartered organizations like the Church."
Nationwide, the BSA's own official "Voice of the Scout" survey shows respondents support the current ban on openly homosexual members and leaders, 61 percent to 34 percent. Additionally, 72 percent of chartered organizations and 61 percent of Boy Scout parents support the current policy.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has said the proposed resolution is "incoherent," because it would convey the message that "homosexuality is morally acceptable until a boy turns 18…"
Perkins also warned that the resolution would make BSA vulnerable to lawsuits because it would no longer uphold its argument that considering homosexual conduct as immoral is a core value, which helped BSA win in the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The stated mission and message of the Boy Scouts is clear, and changing their policies to appease one group will only encourage other special interest groups to demand that the Scouts make more changes to please them," Perkins argued. "An atheist leader has already declared that if the policy on homosexuality changes, then there is no reason why atheists should not also have their way and remove God from the Scout oath and the term 'reverence' from the Scout law."
The FRC earlier argued in a statement shared with The Christian Post that BSA must "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality."
"Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, whose oath includes that members should be 'morally straight,'" the FRC said in an ad in USA Today in February. "To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach the boys cowardice, not courage."
The FRC recently decided to stop using the United Parcel Service (UPS) as its primary shipping vendor due to the company's decision to exclude the Boy Scouts of America from future funding because of the youth organization's anti-homosexuality policy.
The Christian Post previously reported that a critical factor in the Christian organization considering changing its policy on membership is due to pressure from corporate sponsors. The American Independent's review of corporate giving to BSA in 2010 revealed that Intel gave at least $10,000 to BSA, and in September 2012 the company announced it would stop donating to the Scouts unless it lifts its ban on openly homosexual members and leaders. Then a month later, pharmaceutical giant Merck made the same ultimatum.