Boy Scouts of America Amends Adult Leadership Policy
July 27, 2015 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly: "...the National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. Of those present and voting, 79 percent voted in favor of the resolution. The resolution is effective immediately.""

"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."
posted by jquinby (73 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
About damn time.

However, 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 is an exception large enough to drive the angel Maroni through, as is unfortunately, intended.

But, given those guidelines, anyone open to starting a Church of Satan sponsored chapter? It'd make one hell of a Religious Medal.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, but the LDS church being able to restrict the leadership of only the troops it sponsors is better than them being able to cause trouble for the troop that meets in the basement of a UU church in Massachusetts because of the organization-wide ban.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:30 PM on July 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


Proud of the BSA for fiiiinally doing the right thing. I will be delighted for all the good men and women who can come back to serving their communities. (Or, you know, keep on serving their communities if they just ignored National, as so many principled groups did.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:31 PM on July 27, 2015


Not proud of them. They are FAR too late to this party, and they did a lot of real damage along the way.

I'm not sure what it's going to take, but it'd going to be a long time until I stop being ashamed of having once being affiliated with the scouts.

I'm usually not one to hold a grudge, but the BSA absolutely should not get off this easily. At the very least, they need to acknowledge why the old policy was wrong.
posted by schmod at 6:38 PM on July 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


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 is horseshit.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:50 PM on July 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


they need to acknowledge why the old policy was wrong.
By making a QUILTBADGE?
posted by miyabo at 6:51 PM on July 27, 2015 [40 favorites]


you owe me a new keyboard
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:52 PM on July 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's not something they have control over, feckless. They can ignore National's mandate to not discriminate for the same reason that other charter organizations used to ignore National's mandate to discriminate. Swings and roundabouts.
posted by Punkey at 6:59 PM on July 27, 2015


Yes they do. They can say "Nope, you don't get to discriminate and we will revoke your charter if we find out that you have."

Your argument is saying that any anti-discrimination rules are pointless, which is manifestly not the case.

They had an opportunity to do the right thing here and they blew it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:02 PM on July 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


All right, fair enough. *shakes fist*
posted by Punkey at 7:03 PM on July 27, 2015


I happen to be a full year behind on keeping up with my Oxford American subscription, but just this past weekend I happened to read this well-written account of Jamboree from a half-cynical/half-nostalgic adult Eagle Scout. He talked a lot about this ban, as well as the BSA's past cover-ups of abuse against Scouts, as being barriers to his admiration of the organization.
posted by mostly vowels at 7:10 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


the bsa will never tell the mormons to fuck off. but - i'm still glad for this (far too late) change in policy. the lds have been using the policy to discriminate against celibate gay members (the only way to be in good standing and be gay in the church - not a choice i agree with, but one i understand some choose), telling them they can't be assigned to work with boys because of the bsa rule, so this will at least remove that shitty cover.
posted by nadawi at 7:27 PM on July 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yay! Boy Scouts were a big part of my growing up, so glad they have made this change.
posted by macrael at 7:33 PM on July 27, 2015


I second what nadawi said above.
posted by The World Famous at 7:34 PM on July 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd love to enrol my sons in Scouts - just as soon as they do away with the oath of allegiance to a foreign sovereign, and the pledge of duty to an imaginary being. (It can be any imaginary being; they're not discriminatory, no sir. Oh, you don't believe in any imaginary beings? No Scouting for you or your demon spawn.)

Is there anything like Scouts for secular humanists? Just a group of kids with a variety of body parts and different strengths and preferences enjoying the great outdoors and learning to do stuff with knives and ropes and fire with some levelling up thrown in? Or do they have to run away and join the circus?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 7:42 PM on July 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Too little, too late. I would have respected their principled stand a hell of a lot more if they'd made it before it was abundantly obvious that the winds of public opinion had shifted.
posted by jackbishop at 7:45 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


obiwanwasabi, there are several secular non-BSA scouting groups. Here's a website that lists four of them!
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:51 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


just as soon as they do away with the oath of allegiance to a foreign sovereign

Boy was I confused until I realized you were Australian! Of course, we still make you, by the state Constitution, sign a loyalty oath to work for the State of California in any capacity, including part-time work for a state University, so we're not much better.
posted by zachlipton at 7:54 PM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Expect the LDS church to pull out as the vote was taken without them present.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:56 PM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Expect the LDS church to pull out as the vote was taken without them present.

Good. As a former Eagle scout, the only way Id let any kids of mine participate starts with a complete divorce from the LDS Church. The Mormons have largely turned Boy Scouts into an extension of Mormon youth group, and a cover for their political activities including overt discrimination. Even in my midwest council in the 90s, all the regional events were sponsored by the Mormon troop, who were vastly over represented in the official structure, and you can guess how welcoming they were to any boy who didn't fit in.

This is a small first step towards a turnaround for the Boy Scouts, parting ways with the insidious Mormon church would be another.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:03 PM on July 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


obiwanwasabi, if you have any daughters, the Girl Scouts are completely separate from the Boy Scouts, and run a much more welcoming organization.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 8:07 PM on July 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, good. The BSA has discovered States' Rights. I guess it'll only take another generation or so for them to discover the 14th Amendment.
posted by Etrigan at 8:20 PM on July 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


As a friend of mine pointed out - this change in policy allows groups like the Elks, who stayed away because of the overt discrimination, now opt-in to supporting scouting. This will give some of those troops who had no choice in location for meetings (like churches) to move into other spaces. It was an angle I had not considered before and I think in the long run will be good for them.

[Speaking as a 20 year Girl Scout...]
posted by ladyriffraff at 8:27 PM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


They had an opportunity to do the right thing here and they blew it.

This was never going to be an overnight success. This has been an iterative process for years. Back in 2012 (that recently?!), the conservatives in leadership felt enough pressure growing that they tried to close the door to gay scouts and leaders in any council or unit for all time. In about a year, that decision was overturned with respect to scouts, and now three years later the ban on gay adults no longer stands.

I think I am comfortable with the compromise (he said, recognizing his priviledge only after typing it but leaving it, nontheless). Many churches, especially LDS, but also Catholic and Protestant churches use scouting as part of their youth ministry. Forcing those organizations to choose between the BSA and their religious beliefs is going to be a losing battle. The BSA should not be discriminating. This should end that. The groups that use the BSA's program...? Should the BSA be resposible for them? I'm not sure what I think. Who else should be banning these groups? Should museums refuse them admission? Restaurants? Theaters? Amusement parks? Again, I'm not sure.

Allowing secular or liberal religious groups to host inclusive units (or, as in our unit's case, allowing our inclusive policy to step out of the closet) will ensure that the "closed" troops encounter LGBT boys and leaders at camp and district/council events, and maybe realize that they canoe, shoot, orienteer, etc just as well as anyone. Maybe they'll even make some friends.

I'm hopeful that the next barrier to fall is the requirement for belief in some kind of god. I wouldn't expect the BSA to require its church-chartered units to take leaders regardless of their religious belief. But an end to the blanket ban on non-thiests along these same lines would be a step in the right direction.

I also want to say that this change did not come as a result of outside pressure. If that was enough to change national leadership's behavior, it would have done so a decade ago. The BSA is too traditional for that. The change came because people inside scouting made it happen (Gates' claim that the BSA faced a changing legal landscape was basically cover for more conservative members to vote for the change, SCOTUS decided some time ago that the BSA was allowed to discriminate if it wanted to). The young professionals, the volunteers, alumni, parents, and the scouts themselves worked to pressure the organization to change and they deserve a lot of credit.

I don't know if this will lead to an exodus or not. Conservative religious groups have essentially an infinate amount of money to throw at youth activities (look a the renumerative existance of Christian pop/rock tours for one example). They could probably cobble together a conservative replacement pretty quickly wether that's trail life or something new. BSA councils would collapse and merge. Camps would close. But not all of them.

One could say there has already been an exodus of of most liberal-minded families. Maybe some of them will come back and help move scouting in the right direction. Or maybe they've found other things to do.

My head's still churning with thoughts about today's decision. Scouting is something I enjoyed as a kid, my kids enjoy today, and I like as a leader/volunteer. I like it a bit better tonight than I did this morning.

Here's to the next step.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:32 PM on July 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


As someone who is very active in Boy Scouts on a Council level in a very conservative part of the country, I think this is a great step in the right direction. For the people saying that the the Chartered Org exception is terrible, yeah it is. But it's the only solution currently.

When we had the first change in membership standards, we lost a lot of people and a lot of our chartered orgs. Lots of troops disbanded. Allowing gay adults was always part of the plan, but it's all been part of baby steps towards the right situation. While it's not the state we want the organization to be in, completely disregarding Chartered Org's wishes would have devastated the program on the membership level to the point where it would not recover. I predict that in 5 or so years there'll be another resolution removing the COR's ability to decide.

The BSA's numbers have been trending downwards for years. This isn't entirely because of its politics, but also because of all the other opportunities available to youth. Most boys who drop out end up doing so because of the "Three G's": Girls, Grades, and Gas. Once they hit high school there are so many other extra-curricular programs and things for them to do, that Scouting isn't the most attractive anymore. And because of this downward trend of numbers, a divisive policy change is only going to make it worse. The BSA isn't going anywhere for a while, but it still has to look at the overall health of the organization when it makes these decisions.

So yeah that exception really sucks, but it's more of a temporary bandaid to appease those against the change. Soon enough we'll rip off that bandaid and keep moving ahead.
posted by Deflagro at 8:36 PM on July 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Soon enough we'll rip off that bandaid and keep moving ahead.

And then "soon enough", I will stop calling them horseshit.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:48 PM on July 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Now let in the atheist boys!

What do the sponsors do? I lead a Girl Scout troop and we don't have official affiliations with any non-Girl Scout organizations.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:55 PM on July 27, 2015


What do the sponsors do?

The Chartered Organization owns the troop and receives a charter from the local Council to run the program. This can be any non-profit organization, but most end up being churches. They physically own everything and are responsible for running the troop. On the Troop Committee there is a Chartered Organization Representative (COR) who is the voice of the Chartered Org on different matters.
posted by Deflagro at 8:59 PM on July 27, 2015


I told my husband that BSA is getting close to eating the dust the Girl Scouts are leaving behind. They should be proud.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:49 PM on July 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


What do the sponsors do?

They run the troop or pack. In a lot of ways starting a unit is like buying a lesson plan and access to some professionals and facilities to help present that program. But the actual unit leaders, appointed and sometimes (rarely!) paid by the charter org, do 99% of the oversight for the boys in their charge. Even at summer camps, the unit leaders are there. It's not like a typical summer camp where parents drop their kids off and the camp takes over. (This helps keep costs down for the boys but costs adults vacation time). The unit truly belongs the the charter org. It is a part of the church or civic org that sponsors it. Which is why I don't really object to letting the units set their own standards. I mean, I'm not going to get my family involved with the Catholic pack down the street, but im also not sending my kids to cdc.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:41 PM on July 27, 2015


When the ex-head of the CIA joins your organization and then makes it MORE ethical, you know you had a serious fucking problem.
posted by el io at 10:49 PM on July 27, 2015 [24 favorites]


As a former Boy Scout, anything that marginalizes Mormons and their undue cultural and political influence in this and many other matters seems like good news, like squeezing out poison from a long-festering wound.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:24 PM on July 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is base camp for Mt. Rightside of History, and these guys are still just Webelos.
posted by chavenet at 1:16 AM on July 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Although I agree that the bigot exception is horseshit, I still think that any progress is good and should be welcomed. Right now they seem to be wanting to have it both ways and I doubt it will work for long, but at least it is a start and much better than the intransigence of past decades.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:56 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


When Boy Scouts approach me selling something, I take the adult leader with them aside and tell him I'll support BSA just as soon as it ends its bigotry. They've still not ended it. I will continue to give this answer.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:38 AM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


They could probably cobble together a conservative replacement pretty quickly wether that's trail life or something new. BSA councils would collapse and merge. Camps would close. But not all of them.

This already happened years ago. The BSA has a long history of taking money from conservative groups and activists (most notably, Ross Perot) in exchange for moving facilities out of blue states, and basically allowed the LDS to take over the entire organization.

As far as I know, this is the first time that the BSA has really stood up to the mormons. The outrage/backlash from the church because the scouts scheduled a meeting/vote on a month when the entire church was on holiday (or something? their excuse seems thin) is just delicious.

My opinion on this matter is fairly well-known. The organization that sheltered my bullies as a child, and continued to promote hate and discrimination against people like me well into my adulthood will recieve no tears when it finally collapses -- and that collapse is almost guaranteed at this point. I love the idea of scouting, but holy shit, the BSA is the worst possible organization to be in charge of it.
posted by schmod at 5:03 AM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the one hand this is good. On the other hand it is hard to forget that the Boy Scouts were born in the exact same mindset that sent a million young men up and over the top to die in one battle at Verdun and at Somme and at Marne and Ypres.
posted by bukvich at 6:30 AM on July 28, 2015


So basically, they're now saying "we won't discriminate, but you can if you want to (wink wink, hint hint)"? Charming.

Gotta agree with persona au gratin: I ain't buying from them until they don't discriminate, period.
posted by easily confused at 6:49 AM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


So yeah that exception really sucks, but it's more of a temporary bandaid to appease those against the change. Soon enough we'll rip off that bandaid and keep moving ahead.

"Just be patient and wait to be equal, it'll happen one day."

Nope. Equality is non negotiable. Anything less than full equality is not equal.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:57 AM on July 28, 2015


I can deal with leaving it up to the troop sponsor, but I think I said earlier that too much time has passed for me to be enthusiastic about my personal participation. In my experience most assistant scoutmasters are either adults who grew up in the organization or parents. I'm not either.

I also cannot participate in an organization that discriminates against atheists.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:59 AM on July 28, 2015


Or rather, while I grew up in the organization that was 25 years ago, and everyone I know has moved on.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:02 AM on July 28, 2015


And don't forget Girl Scouts USA and Girl Guides Canada welcome trans youth and adult leaders, too! Get to it, BSA.
posted by Dreidl at 7:20 AM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I loved scouting as a young boy. It was so instrumental to helping shape them man I would later become.

But I had to quit when I was 12 and decided I was an athiest. The Pack Leader, Mr. Samways, who I had always been very fond of and looked up to, told me in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome unless I believed in god. But what about the Jews, and the Lutherans and Episcopalians that don't even worship the same god as us Catholics I asked - and he said what god I believed in didn't matter, I just had to. And my Native American friends and classmates couldn't join either, for that same reason.

I thought it was bullshit then, and it is bullshit now. That incident, along with the failure of teachers and administrators to protect me from bullying, is key to understanding my deep resentment of any authority and my staunch Libertarian streak. Even recalling that discussion makes me so angry. I was absolutely gutted. It destroyed my world.

When my son was old enough to join the scouts, I thought long and hard about it. I desperately wanted to - I loved it so much as a kid - but that discussion with Mr. Samways still stung. And then the anti-gay sentiment from the BSA sealed the deal, which was prescient, because as it turned out my son was gay.

Fuck the BSA and the bigotted shitbrained asshats who run it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:24 AM on July 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


I don't know if this will lead to an exodus or not.

That's the big question, isn't it? Even with this small step, the BSA might end up losing a lot of troops. And that means losing a lot of kids -- specifically, losing them to a Scouting-like organization that continues to discriminate. That's not good for the BSA, and it's also not good for those kids.

What's the right size of step for the BSA to take? The largest step that keeps them from shedding half their membership to new organizations sponsored by the Religious Right. Was this the largest step they could have taken? I don't know, and I expect the BSA doesn't know for sure, either.
posted by gurple at 7:27 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the idea of scouting, but holy shit, the BSA is the worst possible organization to be in charge of it.

Worse organizations than the BSA to run scouting:

(1) NAMBLA
(2) Khmer Rouge
(3) Skynet
(4) Cobra
(5) CIA (either one)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:32 AM on July 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really? I think the Culinary Institute of America would have some pretty awesome badges.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:40 AM on July 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


> Too little, too late. I would have respected their principled stand a hell of a lot more if they'd made it before it was abundantly obvious that the winds of public opinion had shifted.

I'm okay with it being responsive. I'm not going to give them a cookie for it; I continue to be utterly uninterested in supporting such a conservative organization. But I can acknowledge that the BSA should change their policies in a way that makes sense within the governance of the BSA.

I wouldn't compare this situation to securing the right to marry or any other civil rights -- legal rights and government policies against discrimination need a push and a mandate rather than waiting for the majority of public opinion to turn, but the BSA isn't a public accommodation. It's up to them to figure out whether they want to adapt or die.

It reminds me of people who mutter darkly that because of "political correctness," they aren't ALLOWED to say [insert your favorite sexist or racist bullshit here]. Arrooo? You are permitted to say whatever you want. Other people are also free to say whatever they want; they can call you an asshole and decline to spend time in your company. You may decide to change the way you talk, and in response, people are free to decide whether or not they care.
posted by desuetude at 7:56 AM on July 28, 2015


I considered sending my kids to COBRA camp instead of Boy Scout camp, but I read some pretty harsh Yelp reviews about the marksmanship program and reconsidered.
posted by The World Famous at 8:28 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Mormons are threatening to take their ball and go home.
posted by gurple at 8:29 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Mormons are threatening to take their ball and go home.

They're upset about a rule change that specifically does not affect them. Fuck 'em. Let them go.
posted by Etrigan at 8:31 AM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm hoping that LDS Newsroom press release is exactly what it appears to be - a hasty and I'll considered release by someone without any authority written and released without the approval of the church leadership that the release claims are all out of town and not available to approve a press release. Quiet firings of Newsroom spokespeople seems to be a pretty solid tradition these days.

I wonder who wrote it and whether they realize that there are, in fact, young women in the church.
posted by The World Famous at 8:33 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Mormons are threatening to take their ball and go home.

"The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation."

Bullshit.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:34 AM on July 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


I wouldn't compare this situation to securing the right to marry or any other civil rights -- legal rights and government policies against discrimination need a push and a mandate rather than waiting for the majority of public opinion to turn, but the BSA isn't a public accommodation. It's up to them to figure out whether they want to adapt or die.

They still have their tax exempt status and receive preferential treatment from the federal government. So, yes, a private organization, but one which US tax dollars are indirectly supporting. I don't think it should be up to them to still allow discrimination at the local level while they keep receiving government support. In 2001 & 2005, Congress passed Acts supporting the BSA because the organization is supposed to teach boys honesty, integrity, and good character. But teaching boys that as long as you control the troop, you can keep whomever out that you please doesn't strike me as satisfying that mission.

I'm curious. Why didn't the LDS Church just set up their own scouting organization? How do they benefit from affiliation with the BSA?
posted by bluefly at 8:35 AM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why didn't the LDS Church just set up their own scouting organization? How do they benefit from affiliation with the BSA?

If they went out on their own and built something just like the BSA, but totally within the Mormon church, wouldn't that seem kind of culty? All those boys, all that time in the woods, all Mormon all the time? Regardless of the reality of such an organization, it wouldn't look good. The Mormons know they have an image problem; they're in fact extremely aware of that and fairly good at messaging.

On the other foot, until quite recently the BSA was a culturally conservative organization that the LDS church was totally happy to be affiliated with -- or, rather, to exert a lot of control over from the inside.
posted by gurple at 8:46 AM on July 28, 2015


Why didn't the LDS Church just set up their own scouting organization? How do they benefit from affiliation with the BSA?

They did. The Young Men predates the BSA by decades, and tacked itself on to the BSA very early, when it was good for them to A) not have to reinvent the wheel and B) gain mainstream legitimacy by aligning themselves with a nice, friendly, all-American group (the church was less than a decade past polygamy being officially sanctioned at this point).
posted by Etrigan at 8:46 AM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The BSA has a huge amount of resources at both the national and regional level, favoritism from governmental groups and organizations, and still has a lot of general goodwill and social capital as a youth organization. It's also a ground where Mormons have been able to work in interfaith coalitions with mainline Protestants and Catholics. In addition to not reinventing the wheel by building their own camps, conventions, and "high adventure" centers, working with the Boy Scouts gets your foot in the door when it comes to schools and other organizations.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:49 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was a non-Mormon kid in a Mormon scout troop in Utah. It was an extremely fraught experience. The only reason I stuck with it is that I had a non-Mormon friend in the troop. If either of us had left, it would have been misery for the other.

As it was, there was a lot of praying, and a lot of time at the Mormon church, and a lot of Eagle Scout projects that benefited the Church. I really think my troop's leaders did their best to include us, and to keep a nondenominational face on things, but in that environment I don't think they even knew what a nondenominational organization might look like.
posted by gurple at 8:54 AM on July 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can new charters still participate in the national Jamborees along side the homophobes who belong to the older charters? Let me be charitable and assume that many of those who have a moral objection to gays are simply ignorant, or have never had reason to examine their position. Dogma is a bullet that kills reason with a single shot. People are allowed to learn. You don't learn anything by retreating behind a wall of prejudice.

Also, this is a civil rights issue, not a "regional choice" issue. A gay scout in Utah can never hope to hold any leadership post. It's not a step in the right direction. In less charitable terms, the change is a sop to mollify bean counters who want to avoid lawsuits. Will it hold up to a civil suit?

Further, it divides scouting into at least two camps. To my way of thinking, in order to make the rules clear, the name ought to change accordingly, with neither faction allowed to be called BSA. After all, you can't have a peach-cheeked all American Boy accidentally having to wallow with those other guys. Precedent was established many years ago, for example, by labeling restrooms and drinking fountains with the appropriate signs. I guess a national contest could be held, with all chapters submitting suggestions as to what name ought to be appended: no overt slurs allowed.

Finally, exactly what are you teaching the scouts who belong to the established charters? Equally important, what are you teaching scouts who belong to newer chapters which embrace the LGBT community? My relationship with scouting ended with high-school. But I still remember the concepts of brotherhood and teamwork embedded in scouting activities. Promoting an "us and them" program of scouting is antithetical to the way I remember things. Now, I grant that in the 50's when I was a scout, no LGBT issues existed in the view of mainstream America. But then, in those days segregated drinking fountains were acceptable in many states, too. So, we ought to move forward rather than backward.

Finally, this new policy, while seeming to be a step in the right direction, merely emphasizes the "otherness" of gay scouts--and vice versa. Regardless of the scout's orientation, this is not a way we ought to teach young minds to operate in our society.
posted by mule98J at 9:36 AM on July 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder who wrote it and whether they realize that there are, in fact, young women in the church.

lol like the church has ever cared about the enrichment of their young women as much as they do about their young men.


"The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation."

Bullshit.


took the words right out of my mouth.


If they went out on their own and built something just like the BSA, but totally within the Mormon church, wouldn't that seem kind of culty? All those boys, all that time in the woods, all Mormon all the time?

i mean...yes. but that's what they're doing now. the mormon scouts have always been mormon first, scouts second.
posted by nadawi at 9:49 AM on July 28, 2015


posted by mule98J

*standing goddamn ovation*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:55 AM on July 28, 2015


the mormon scouts have always been mormon first, scouts second.

I would expect that to be true of any troop sponsored by a church. Wouldn't a Catholic troop expect its boys to be Catholics first, scouts second?
posted by Bruce H. at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2015


A gay scout in Utah can never hope to hold any leadership post.

i really hope some of the exmos in utah start up a couple troops. they have the training and the history with scouting and they'd be able to make some pretty inclusive troops - although a lot of the ones i know are also atheist, so the bsa would have to take care of that issue still.

not disagreeing with your comment at all - just saying on that one point, there are people who are in a great position to make a difference.
posted by nadawi at 10:15 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


As is often the case, BCC says it way better than I could, though they stop short of coming right out and saying the church's position on homosexuality is flat-out wrong (and I understand why they wouldn't want to come right out and say that, but I kind of wish they would).
posted by The World Famous at 10:17 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bruce H. - i was reacting specifically to a comment about how a mormon created scouting organization would seem pretty culty and i was just saying from a practical stand point, especially with the church's influence in the bsa, that's exactly the point they're at now. it wouldn't be any more cult-y to roll their own because of how they integrate scouting into the church.

and fwiw, that's the different with other religiously led troops - to my knowledge, the mormons are the only ones who make it a requirement for youth activities. the weekly evening church activity for boys is scouting, there's not an alternate activity. it's not "if you're a catholic and you're interested in scouting, join our catholic led scout troop." it's, "if you're between certain ages and a boy, you will be a scout [although if you're gay, many congregations will keep you from going on overnights, etc]."
posted by nadawi at 10:20 AM on July 28, 2015


the mormon scouts have always been mormon first, scouts second.

I would expect that to be true of any troop sponsored by a church. Wouldn't a Catholic troop expect its boys to be Catholics first, scouts second?


There isn't the heavy emphasis on Scouting in other churches. The Catholic Church in the U.S. is ten times the size of the LDS Church, and yet has just over half as many Scouts. The only denomination that comes close in proportion is the Methodists, who don't have nearly the direct church involvement (the UMC might not like this, but they were silent about it while the Mormons were being all verklempt).
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on July 28, 2015


Practically speaking all of those decisions are made at the unit level. About 70 percent of units are associated with religious congregations. They make 90% of the decisions about adult volunteers anyway. Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Presbyterians, and several other denominations will probably welcome LGBT adult leaders. Southern Baptist, Mormon, and Roman Catholic probably will officially won't. (With exceptions on a case by case basis.) The UMC strikes me as divided over this issue. Unitarian-Universalist churches may join in to start units, although there's a long-standing conflict over UU as a non-creedal religion with the BSA.

Mandating non-discrimination for all congregation-affiliated units (including Cub Scouts and Explorers if they still exist) would result in the SBC, Mormons, and RCC shutting down their scouting programs.

But if the BSA says it's a unit-level issue, then it's a unit-level issue and not something that officially be an issue at Jamborees or summer camps.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:26 AM on July 28, 2015


i was reacting specifically to a comment about how a mormon created scouting organization would seem pretty culty and i was just saying from a practical stand point, especially with the church's influence in the bsa, that's exactly the point they're at now.

My point about cultiness, though, was about perception from the outside. A church that sends a huge percentage of its young men into the woods all the time to do church things? Culty. A church that sends a huge percentage of its young men into "Boy Scouts"? Apple pie and eagles!

If the LDS Church were to pull out of the BSA, they'd have to think long and hard about that. And there's how it would play out practically, too. In Utah, pretty much nothing would change for the Mormon kids -- they'd do the same stuff, but it wouldn't be called Boy Scouts. The non-Mormons would lose all Scouting infrastructure, but presumably the Mormons don't care so much about that.

But outside of Utah, Mormon families would have a real choice: do I put my kid in Boy Scouts, or does he spend his weekends with the Young Men? Knowing, of course, that the split with the BSA was over this specific issue. A lot of them would choose the Young Men, of course, and since the church's stance on this issue is increasingly a fringe position, that would further marginalize those families and those kids.
posted by gurple at 10:37 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


i guess i'm saying as someone raised mormon far away from utah, the perception is still super cult-y, even with the bsa cover. and the boy scouts were always a tack on to the young men's program and it was treated like that inside and outside the church, at least in my experience.
posted by nadawi at 11:24 AM on July 28, 2015


In Utah, pretty much nothing would change for the Mormon kids -- they'd do the same stuff, but it wouldn't be called Boy Scouts.

Would they do merit badges, wear uniforms, earn ranks, and go to professionally-run, well-designed, long-standing camps and facilities? They would certainly lose access to BSA's network of extremely well-run camps and facilities, as well as its infrastructure, training, background check systems, and other stuff that has been extremely costly and taken a long time for BSA to put in place. The LDS church benefits a ton from having Scouting be the official organized program for young men in the church and fully integrating BSA with church youth activity, in no small part because of the organizational, logistical, and bureaucratic infrastructure that is in place with BSA that the church then doesn't have to worry about running. The church really enjoys just letting BSA do all the really hard work involved in running a giant youth organization.

I have complicated feelings about this whole thing. I grew up Mormon and active in Scouting, became an Eagle Scout, went to scout camp every year, etc. But I was pretty grumpy about Scouting, refused to wear a uniform, felt like BSA had a lot of negative stuff built into its culture, and often felt bullied by the organization and leaders. I loved the outdoors stuff and still do, but the paramilitary aspects of BSA have always bothered me a ton. Notwithstanding my various bad experiences with BSA, I can see how it has been a net positive in my life and how participating in Scouting has made me a better person.

I was a Boy Scout in the 80s and wasn't aware at all of anything having to do with BSA and homosexuality, and I don't remember homosexuality ever coming up as a topic of discussion in church when I was growing up. (It didn't take long after finishing high school and going to the heart of Mormondom for college to learn that the church was doing some horrible things vis a vis homosexuality, but it wasn't a topic of discussion when I was growing up - particularly not the way it is all the time in the church where I live now.) I'm not sure I was even aware of BSA's and the church's strong position against homosexual scouts and leaders until the BSA v. Dale case.

When I was serving as a bishop, I ran up against the issue and had some experiences that strongly shaped my personal views contrary to the church's position on the subject. But even then, the church's official line to me was that the policy was BSA's and not the church's (which I knew was poppycock, but I'm fond of holding people and organizations to their poppycock if it will make them uncomfortable). My hope has been that, as BSA worked through the issue, the church would, too. I do think the church eventually will do the right thing, but it will never admit it was doing the wrong thing to begin with or acknowledge, when it does change, that it has changed.

This week, my son is at Boy Scout Camp for the first time. He's an enthusiastic, hard-working Boy Scout and loves Scouting. Our local LDS troop is fantastic, is about 30% non-Mormon, with both LDS and non-LDS leaders. Our scoutmaster, a friend of mine, is a great leader, a good example to the boys, and really throws himself into the job in the best ways.

I'm glad BSA is finally starting to do the right thing on this issue. They shouldn't get any awards or kudos for it, just like the LDS church shouldn't have got any kudos for ending its institutionalized racism in the late 70s. Better late than never, but you don't get any high fives for being late.

But when this news and the LDS Newsroom's pissy press release came out, all I could think of was my son, at Scout Camp, who doesn't deserve to be a pawn in this.

So let's say the LDS church splits from BSA. What would it then do? I don't know. But I can imagine a lot of realistic possibilities, and they're all pretty awful. With the rise of our ridiculous pioneer trek reenactments in the last decade, I can imagine a new Scouting substitute being put in place that would be just awful. And even if it wasn't something awful, my kids have such high hopes and expectations for being Boy Scouts like their dad and their uncles and grandparents, and I really would prefer not to be in a situation where, in order for them to be Scouts, they end up effectively doubling the number of youth activities they are involved in (because we're not leaving the church).
posted by The World Famous at 11:27 AM on July 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think I was the only member of my troop who was also a member of my troup's sponsoring church.

Scouting can serve as an way to counter some of the intense self-segregation along cultural and congregational lines that shapes American culture, and changing the LDS, UMC, and SBC is going to be a slow process that includes that I don't see as possible without those social networks.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:47 AM on July 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


in arkansas, i don't remember any boys in the church's troop who weren't mormons. if you wanted a mixed faith troop, you'd go down to the baptists or the methodists. bsa and priesthood activities seemed to have zero separation.
posted by nadawi at 11:51 AM on July 28, 2015


In less charitable terms, the change is a sop to mollify bean counters who want to avoid lawsuits. Will it hold up to a civil suit?

I don't think there's any suits left on this cause after the last one that made it to the supremes. It may well be that we'll see a case of the supremes taking on the issue of sexuality as a protected class when the next round of marriage-peripheral cases roll around (presumably because a Hobby Lobby-emboldened org will try to partition what benefits they offer to what married folk) but I think that's a very long away away.

It may well be that BSA thinks making this a unit-level thing will shield the national org from those lawsuits but I think it's much more a straight-up financial consideration because of consumer choice. They have had to deal with lots of places refusing to let them use their facilities or partner with them because of the organizational stance and it's hurt them in membership. So this is a cynical way to try to placate folks like me here in the People's Republic of Arlington by saying hey, your chapter can be as welcoming as you like. Associating with us doesn't mean walking past a "NO GAYS ALLOWED" sign or drinking from a "STRAIGHTS ONLY" water fountain.

I guess it'll work for some folks, and maybe make it harder for a local school board to say that troop 314159 can't use their gym because of discriminatory policies. Personally it feel like asking me to walk into a local 7-11 when this one doesn't bar black folks but knowing that they'll still sell and support franchises to ones that do. BSA continues to let folks apply their label and fly their colors over discriminatory practices. That's not good enough for me.
posted by phearlez at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, there's a custom loophole built into the civil rights law for the BSA, and the federal courts have consistently ruled that as a private and largely volunteer organization, that the BSA can take advantage of that loophole.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:33 AM on July 29, 2015


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