April 26th, 2013
I am not a fan of the new proposed policy of the Boy Scouts of America relating to sexual orientation. The change, which would allow gay youth to participate but ban any positive gay role models, seems to me to be little better than the current policy.
But there is one group who likes the new proposal: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons): (NBC)
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future,” the LDS church said Thursday in a statement posted to their website.
“The current BSA 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.”
This welcome should not surprise us as it mirrors the most recent shift in Mormon approach to sexual orientation. The Mormon Church now welcomes and even has an outreach to gay people. With a caveat. You can be gay, but you have to behave heterosexually. The church has been trotting out examples and spokespeople who declare the joys of being married to a person of the opposite sex while also recognizing that they are homosexually oriented.
And that will be what the Scouts will be expected to teach. That ‘single standard of moral purity’ will be clear: abstinence until marriage to a woman. And there won’t be any of those complicating factors brought up by actual real gay people participating.
This, of course, will solve nothing.
Sure some boys will be able to get their Eagle Scout badges without hiding their identity (provided that they haven’t turned 18). And the policy change may even allow some sponsors the excuse they need to continue or resume giving. But the core problem will remain the same: the churches and civil organizations that serve as scout sponsors are not in agreement over the issue.
The Mormons may delight in a policy that says that you can have a same-sex attraction but never act on it, but many Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians will not. In fact, those churches who have quietly set policies that banned discrimination and who have at times quietly allowed gay leaders may feel even more pressured by this change. This ‘compromise’, one that asks almost nothing of anti-gay Scout groups in the way of teaching and inclusion, may be used to force those more supportive troops to abide by this ‘single standard’.
The Scouts were considering a policy that would allow conscience and thought to guide the various troops. Much in the way that troop vary on issues such as the divinity of Christ, the nature of God, and whether or not you will be given your own planet to rule over when you die, the issue of whether God approves or disapproves of gay people would be up to the teaching of the individual sponsors.
Instead they are now opting for conformity. You may disagree over whether being “morally straight” allows alcohol, tobacco, and dancing. You can disagree over whether your troop members will wear a yarmulke. You can disagree over the Trinity, over what is acceptable language in society, even – it seems – over masturbation. But you must agree that gay men are a morally inappropriate example for gay youth.
And that is something that many scouting troops will not support.
When polled on the gay ban, half of the administrative local counsels recommended keeping the ban. But thirty-eight percent said it should change. They either believe that gay youth and men should be allowed to participate, or they are sick of the bad press.
So the leadership opted for a change that is not a change. A solution that solves nothing.
The bad press isn’t going away. Under this new policy, Tim Griffin would still be barred from working at Camp Winton. Jennifer Tyrrell would still be excluded as a den mother. And Ryan Andresen still won’t get his Eagle Badge.
And the confrontation with mainstream churches will not disappear. St. James in the City will continue to ban discrimination. And the gay and lesbian pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will continue to be offended by policies that bar them from participating in their own church’s troop. And many of the thirty-eight percent will see this move as a pittance, a pretense at inclusion.
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