As anticipated, and at long last, the Boy Scouts of America have voted to allow openly gay men and lesbians to be adult employees and volunteer leaders. As the AP notes, however:
Several denominations that collectively sponsor close to half of all Scout units—including the Roman Catholic church, the Mormon church and the Southern Baptist Convention—have been apprehensive about ending the ban on gay adults.
The Boy Scouts of America’s top leaders have pledged to defend the right of any church-sponsored units to continue excluding gays as adult volunteers. But that assurance has not satisfied some conservative church leaders.
“It’s hard for me to believe, in the long term, that the Boy Scouts will allow religious groups to have the freedom to choose their own leaders,” said the Rev. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “In recent years I have seen a definite cooling on the part of Baptist churches toward the Scouts,” Moore said. “This will probably bring that cooling to a freeze.”
While conservative religious leaders aren’t happy, LGBT activists aren’t overjoyed, either:
Stuart Upton, a lawyer for the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, questioned whether the BSA’s new policy to let church-sponsored units continue to exclude gay adults would be sustainable. “There will be a period of time where they’ll have some legal protection,” Upton said. “But that doesn’t mean the lawsuits won’t keep coming. … They will become increasingly marginalized from the direction society is going.”
Moreover, in a released statement headlined “Local Exemptions Will Allow Discrimination to Continue,” Chad Griffen, president of the Human Rights Campaign, lamented that “including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today’s decision.”
The conventional wisdom goes that if activists on the right and left are both unhappy, then it’s probably an appropriate, centrist solution. And that may be true here. Church-sponsored BSA troops are somewhat unique in that the Boy Scouts are not a self-defined religious organization, but troops are highly identified with, and reflect the characteristics of, their local sponsors.
It’s unclear how future lawsuits will turn out, but the public is unlikely to support LGBT activists on this one (polls show a majority favor religious exemptions from anti-discrimination law, even among those who support marriage equality).
More. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement saying “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,” and that “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.”
Given that troops sponsored by the Mormon church will have a religious exemption allowing them to exclude gay adults, the response seems excessively churlish and suggests that the Mormons believe all scout troops must abide by Mormon values. That’s as polarizing, and totalistic, as the progressives who believe in no exemptions for religious organizations that sponsor troops.
Furthermore. This AP story reports that the Mormons may be looking for an opportunity to form their own worldwide scouting movement for boys, completely under church control. Similarly, the LDS does not sponsor Girl Scout troops and instead oversees its own Young Women’s program.
That’s a loss for Mormon youth, as one of the great benefits of scouting is the way it brings young people into contact with others from diverse backgrounds.
Also, via the Washington Post, Why Mormons are so devastated by the Boy Scout vote on gay leaders.