Back  Back
Search Site: 
ForwardForward  

Editorial Comment on The 2/6/02 BSA Resolution

February 15, 2002

Editor, TIME Magazine

Dear Editor:

Despite Latter Day Saints President Gordon Hinkley's admonishment to Mormons to avoid clannishness and a holier than thou attitude and to dispel old prejudices (TIME, February 11), the Mormons real objectives became apparent just this week. On February 6 the Boy Scouts of Americas National Executive Board, under pressure from the LDS, but by a less than unanimous vote, rejected a plan to let local churches, other organizations, and Scout unit (parent) committees choose their own Scout units leaders and youth members without regard to sexual orientation.

Coupled with that, the BSA has told its 306 local councils not even to permit discussion of the issue, except to affirm the present policy. It has also ordered local council Scout executives (local CEOs) not to endorse anyone for national or regional BSA leadership if they cannot pass the litmus test of upholding the current policy, thereby assuring a majority vote for the LDS stand.

The rejected proposal would have let the Mormons, as well as Baptists, Catholics, and others, continue to exclude homosexuals from their Scout units, while letting those who believe otherwise, such as Reform Judaism, Episcopalians, More Light Presbyterians, Reconciling Methodists, Open and Affirming United Church of Christ and others to follow their affirmations of inclusiveness.

The LDS Church has used its muscle to force the BSA to accommodate its wishes in the past, but until the 1980s, on the issue of homosexuality, the LDS has not required the rest of Scouting to abide by the principles of its religious beliefs. The Mormons clout arise from its requirement that every ward (local congregation) have a Scout troop, giving it the largest number of Scout units of any organization in the BSA. Mormon leaders have said they would withdraw from Scouting if the BSA didn't yield to their demand. (Since LDS Scout units are half the size of others, it is fourth in the number of youth members, behind the Methodists, public schools, and the Catholic Church.)

The LDS was the first denomination in the US to adopt Scouting as its youth program in 1913. Since then the BSA has acceded to every wish of the Mormons to run Scouting its own way. When the BSA lowered the Scout age to 11 in 1947, the LDS were allowed to keep their 11-year olds in a separate patrol. When girls were allowed into Exploring in 1969, the Mormons were granted an exception for their Explorer posts. In 1988 when women were permitted to become Scoutmasters, the LDS said ³not in our troops. Now the LDS insists that everyone in Scouting follow its rules.

The BSA is now forcing other denominations to yield. In 1998 the Unitarian Universalist Association was denied the right to present its own religious award to its own Scouts because of the UUA stand on homosexuality. (Until then the BSA had insisted that religious awards were church awards and did not interfere.) In 2000 my own Petaluma United Church of Christ was told by the BSA it could not start a Scout troop because of BSA fear it would promote openness and diversity. Many churches are faced with either dropping Scout units they have had for decades, or of denying their deeply held beliefs in inclusiveness.

The Boy Scouts of America is well on its way to becoming an organization exclusively for the religious right and thereby irrelevant to a large part of America. If the BSA reaffirms the diversity that is America, Scouting can continue to be the great youth program it has been until now, serving all regardless of beliefs.

David A Rice, Consultant for Scouting for All



Back  Back
Search Site: 
ForwardForward