Potential BSA Policy Change

In a Newsroom piece on issues related to homosexuality, Elder Oaks quotes President Hinckley as saying:

We love them (referring to people who have same-sex attractions) as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church.

Elder Oaks went on to say:

To me that means that a person with these inclinations, where they’re kept under control, or, if yielded to are appropriately repented of, is eligible to do anything in the Church that can be done by any member of the Church who is single. Occasionally, there’s an office, like the office of bishop, where a person must be married. But that’s rather the exception in the Church. Every teaching position, every missionary position can be held by single people. We welcome to that kind of service people who are struggling with any kind of temptation when the struggle is a good struggle and they are living so as to be appropriate teachers, or missionaries, or whatever the calling may be.

There’s one other exception to that:  any calling involving the BSA, because current BSA policy does not allow gay people to volunteer and they currently and actively enforce this policy.  What this means is that, in the eyes of the Lord and his church, a gay saint might be perfectly worthy of and capable of fulfilling a calling . . . a calling that BSA policy prevents them from filling.  So this man, for example, could theoretically be called as an LDS bishop, but not as a den leader.  This man is currently serving as his ward’s Executive Secretary, but couldn’t be a den leader.

The BSA is reviewing this policy. (While I think it is accurate to say that the BSA is “reviewing” the policy, the BSA itself doesn’t like that phrasing.)

I think it would be wonderful if BSA policy were more in line with Church policy.



51 comments for “Potential BSA Policy Change

  1. When there are errant Scoutmasters and the BSA is sued in civil court, the BSA makes a defense of having and reasonably enforcing a policy of protecting boys by its adult membership policies. If it ended its membership policies, it would lose its defense. Then, the BSA itself could become civilly liable for the criminal actions of its “members” and find itself destroyed.

  2. I don’t agree. Speaking as a parent with an oldest who usually doesn’t allow sleepovers I was surprised when my second child, a boy, turned 12 and I found out how much time the boy scouts spend on campouts (at least in our ward where there are monthly campouts and scout camp is twice as long as girls camp).
    I feel completely comfortable with gay individuals being my children’s primary teachers and home teachers (and a den leader would be no big deal either). However, monthly 24 hour and weeklong activities are a different matter. I can’t be there to check in on what is going on.
    It is naive to assume the heterosexual men are never attracted to teen girls and homosexual men are never attracted to teen boys. You keep boundaries for a reason. While I can live with a priesthood holder showing up at girls camp when he is there people are aware of the necessary boundaries. At scout camp or at the many 24 hour scout activities there would be ample opportunities for boundaries to fail especially when there isn’t the opposite gender advertising a need for the boundary.
    I do not think that gay men are child molesters! However, speaking as a parent, when my daughter was 11 she looked 14 and I fully realized that boys around her looked at her and saw a 14 year old. When she was 12 she and a 15 year old boy were the only ones in the Sunday School class who actively participated and they had a definite rapport and class was all about the two of them and their conversation. Did I think that 15 year old boy was preying on my daughter? Not at all. But did I think it was a good idea to keep an eye on the situation, of course.
    I may be biased by a situation that happened in our ward at scout camps (and a home) for multiple boys in our ward 6 years ago. I am, I guess, cognisant of the very real breakdowns that happen in the safeguards that should be in place, and what can happen in 24 hours, or an 8 day scout camp.
    I do not want fewer boundaries, I want more compliance to the boundaries that are already in place. Sure, I can keep my son out of scouts but there is a cost and risk of not participating in things too so I have chosen to send my son to scouts. If gay men were at scout camp it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me, but perhaps we should ask actual faithful gay LDS men if they think it is a good idea to be den leader for an hour a week vs. going to scout camp for a week and monthly campout for 24 hours. I could be wrong but surely some of them might feel that it wasn’t wise during certain times of their life.
    But then, I’m old school when it comes to things like this. I happily only feed the missionaries if my husband is home (or they get dinner outside on the deck). When a scout leader or a YM leader tries to drive a boy home alone, I step in and volunteer myself to take him instead because I want people to follow the rules.

  3. “I think it would be wonderful if BSA policy were more in line with Church policy.”

    I would like to second this statement – whether we’re discussing the issue of your post, or any other topic. Mostly I agree because I’m convinced the Church is not moving to dump BSA – more’s the pity – so any movement on BSA’s part to be more in line with the Church is quite welcome.

  4. Jks,
    Do you feel the same way about Gay women and young girls?
    I don’t think the BSA will change their thinking anymore than the NRA will__I have belonged to both.

  5. I hope the BSA makes the change (though the news reports I’ve read suggest that they’re unlikely to do so). I’ve never seen any evidence that suggests that gay men (or, for that matter, lesbians) are more likely to be sexual predators than straight men, notwithstanding the old received wisdom.

    Of course, I also assume that the Church is going to continue its movement away from Boy Scouts, in which case, this would be completely moot.

  6. I’ve never seen any evidence that suggests that gay men (or, for that matter, lesbians) are more likely to be sexual predators than straight men, notwithstanding the old received wisdom.

    Surely Sam, you’ve seen this!

  7. ji,

    BSA would still have 2x leadership, prohibit leaders and boys from sharing tents, require youth protection training, and all of their other rules–at least one of which would need to have been broken for abuse to occur, meaning that those rules would provide sufficient legal coverage. So I don’t think your position makes sense.


    I’d like to reiterate: What I would like to see is the BSA policy in line with the LDS policy. And the LDS policy, per Elder Oaks above, is _no_ blanket ban on homosexuals from any calling for which they are otherwise worthy/qualified, including those working with children, including those involving overnight activities. This means that there is no institutional barrier to, for example, calling a lesbian as a YW camp director.

    It is also worth noting that there are lots of calling (anything in cub scouts) that gays are currently banned from per BSA policies that involve no more/different circumstances than the Primary callings that you say you don’t have a problem with, especially since most cub leaders are women.

    While I think child sexual abuse is an enormous concern that we should do _more_ to prevent, not less, I think banning gays from BSA callings is what we might call a panacea, meaning that we think it leaves our kids safer but does just the opposite. Note that we haven’t “banned gays” in any real sense–we’ve just banned the ones that are open about their orientation. (Stay in the closet and you can go on all the camp outs you want!)

  8. Uh, that question mark in my comment was supposed to be a does not equal sign.

  9. I believe ScoutsCanada does not prohibit gays from leadership or membership. The Church continues to sponsor and support ScoutsCanada in a similar way as it does BSA. Why would that not work here?

  10. Julie, my daughter as a 14.5 year old YW has had 3-4 nights away from home per year in YWs and her regular activities last 1.5 hours. I don’t have as much of a problem with possible lesbian leaders. My son’s scout troop has 7 night scout camp every year plus a 24 hour campout every month (as he gets older there is high adventure). Huge difference in the amount of time and influence. I do not have a problem with gay men teaching children in church (primary or even cub scouts isn’t a big deal) but boy scouts is different. Gay men are NOT more likely to prey on children than heterosexual men. I would limit heterosexual men’s access to my teen daughter at such lengthy activities as well as homosexual men’s access to my teen son.
    Teenagers are in very adult looking bodies and they don’t have signs on them stating their age. In my experience, all of the adult leaders treat my teenage daughter the age that she looks and acts (she is 5″10″, very smart, very capable and has initiative), not the age that she actually is because she doesn’t have a sign on her stating her age and they can’t seem to remember her age.
    Traditionally we keep teens out of dating situations to avoid putting them into circumstances too early (like someone flirting and then making a move) until they are older and we hope able to handle the situation maturely. You are being naive if you think there is never any sexual tension between heterosexual men and teen girls, or between homosexual men and teen boys. This does not in any way make any of them sexual predators or child molesters, it just makes us human). Many teens are competely oblivious to sexual tension on their side or on another’s part, but some aren’t, and we should be aware of it and how it can affect our teens.

  11. jks:

    I am a celibate gay man who has spent a week with boy scouts at a camp. No one knew about my sexual orientation, because I have chosen to live the law of chastity and it is not an issue. I spent the week serving the boys just like any straight man would. I helped them earn merit badges, catch fish, cook dinner, make camp, etc. I have also been a junior high and high school teacher, and I loved and served my students while maintaining strict physical and mental boundaries. Pedophilia is an uncommon crime, and I think it is insulting to even raise the issue.

  12. Jeremiah – Do you think it would be prudent for the church to abandon its 2-deep rule? What is insulting is to suggest that homosexuals should be treated any differently, and jks is saying that she doesn’t completely trust hetero men with teenage girls, etc., etc.

  13. 2-deep is a good rule not just for the protection of children, but also for the protection of men from false accusations of misconduct. It is an unfortunate fact that I have to advise my male teaching candidates to aggressively protect themselves against such accusations.

    The 2-deep men thing in primary is all about risk management by the church, and is pretty insulting to men in general, whether gay or straight.

  14. Children need to be protected from sexual predators. However, the line of argument that “men are constantly undressing you with their eyes and scheming to get into your pants” is damaging for men and damaging for women. It sets up a wicked norm for men, and makes women who are pretty or dress sexy implicit in their own assualt/rape. When combined with the homosexual thing, it further inflames feelings of self-loathing by gays and lesbians. We are all responsible for our thoughts and actions, and applying the belief that all men are depraved to limit their access to our children will leave very few of them to act as male role models.

  15. Jeremiah, thanks for contributing your experience to this discussion. I am glad to hear it.

    I know men are insulted (both heterosexual and gay) when told that they should not be around certain genders of teens in certain situations. My husband doesn’t like being told that he is unsafe to be around because he is a man. If a 21 year old man falls for a 16 year old girl, I don’t think anyone would accuse him of pedophilia, but I think most people would think it is inappropriate for him to supervise overnight activities with her on a monthly basis. As a secondary education teacher Jeremiah is professionally more aware of the emotional maturity level of teenagers and I’m sure that makes him a good counselor, my experience is that many other volunteer leaders are a little more clueless. Our society may insist that teenagers are children, but many of them are definitely in adult looking bodies.
    Church troops have men “called” so there is a layer basically having someone recommend you and think it is appropriate for you to be in the calling. However, outside the church doesn’t the BSA simply take the application, do a background check and you are in?
    Ultimately, my objections would be less if the BSA simply took charge of my son for a smaller amount of time. I didn’t even blink when my 12 year old girl went to girl’s camp for 4 nights. However, 8 nights seems like a lot for my 12 year old son, doesn’t it?

  16. The LDS Scout leader who molested the boys my age for the better part of a decade was and is heterosexual.

    Had the 2-deep leadership requirement been enforced consistently, those boys would not have been hurt.

    Had the church annotated his membership records, he would not have become a seminary teacher with access to more teens. Apparently, the men who called him to teach seminary were unable to recognize him as a danger to the kids.

    If the BSA changes its policy and/or allows local units to change their own policies on gays in leadership roles, I’d have no problem allowing my family to participate in a well-run troop/pack – one that takes background checks and 2-deep leadership and safety training seriously.

    Gay men are not automatically pedophiles any more than straight men are automatically pedophiles. In our litigious society, however, it’s probably better for EVERYONE to avoid being alone behind closed doors with children. Women, bishops, scout leaders and primary teachers alike.

  17. Not trying to threadjack, but what about boys that are gay? We allow celibate gay adults to have full fellowship in the LDS church, but gay boys cannot be boy scouts. Something about being “morally” straight. This, or being an atheist, will keep you out of the BSA.

    I think that an entire change of attitude(s) is required in the BSA.

  18. When the scout oath was written I highly doubt the straight in morally straight meant heterosexual. I’ve always assumed it meant something similar to upright.

  19. I don’t think we should speak in terms of a “gay” Latter-day Saint.

    If someone identifies as a “gay” person, this indicates they are not addressing it and that they are expecting people to accept being “gay” as a natural way to be.

    We all have issues to work on to bring ourselves to the standard the Father requires for an honorable standing in His Kingdom. Thankfully we can all repent and have our sins washed away. Homosexual behavior is certainly not out of the reach of the atonement Jesus offers us.

    However, if we identify ourselves as being of a sinful nature and we insist to continue to identify ourselves as such, then we are not in possession of a humble and penitent heart and we are not placing those sins entirely upon the alter to be burned and purged from us.

    I believe people who suffer from same-sex attraction who uphold the standards of morality the scriptures teach and who are not looking for special treatment or recognition as a “gay” person are fully deserving of all privileges they could otherwise attain to.

  20. Jwharton – You’re on the wrong side of the Church’s official opinion. The sin is behavioral.

  21. “I think it would be wonderful if BSA policy were more in line with Church policy.”

    How about if the BSA adopted a policy that only men could hold key positions, like Scoutmaster?

    To me, I prefer for each organization to have its own policy, adopted for its own reasons.

  22. Queuno – I’d be happy to read where the church agrees that individuals should identify as being “gay”. I think when you go in the direction of making the desire to sin an expressed part of your identity you are putting yourself closer to committing the sin. I suppose if a person used the term gay to describe a negative characteristic they want to overcome that’s different.

  23. Then again #25 & #28, the term “gay” may simply reflect a different mind produced by a biological process. For centuries the majority of mankind thought the sun orbited the earth. The heterosexual stigmatization of homosexuals will likely be placed in the same category of error. We “inspired” Latter-day Saints should know better.

    ^ a b c Bogaert AF (July 2006). “Biological versus nonbiological older brothers and men’s sexual orientation”. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 103 (28): 10771–4. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0511152103. PMC 1502306. PMID 16807297.

    “A theory of male homosexuality consistent with the present findings is a maternal immune response to succeeding male pregnancies (8, 18–20). This explanation is partly based on the idea that a woman’s immune system would appear to be capable of remembering the number of male fetuses she has previously carried and of progressively altering its response to the next fetus according to the current tally of preceding males. A mother’s body may have a memory for male (but not female) fetuses because she herself is female, and thus, her immune system may interpret and remember male (but not female) fetuses as foreign (21). If this immune theory were correct, then the link between the mother’s immune reaction and the child’s future sexual orientation would probably be some effect of maternal anti-male antibodies on the sexual differentiation of the brain. Recent formulations of this theory focus on male-specific, Y-linked H–Y antigen or male-specific cell-surface proteins (e.g., protocadherins) as the relevant fetal antigen (8, 18, 22). No direct support exists for a maternal immune response that underlies the fraternal birth-order effect, but various lines of evidence exist in this theory’s favor and have been reviewed elsewhere (18, 22).”

  24. In today’s climate, the policy of not putting adults over youth to whom they are sexually attracted strikes me as a sensible one. I shouldn’t be a young woman’s leader, for example. The primary task of organizations like the BSA is not being fair to potential volunteers but keeping faith with the youth and parents who participate in their programs.

  25. Interesting proposal, Adam G., so that would mean no more priesthood holders at Girls’ Camp, no more heterosexual female den leaders (something _very_ common in my experience), but OK to have lesbian den leaders.

    It would mean bisexuals could never be called to work with any children. Methinks the rate of bisexuality among active LDS would skyrocket. ;)

  26. Great! I can serve places Adam can’t. I can serve in Primary, in the Young Women program, AND in Scouting, because I am sexually attracted to neither children nor teenagers of either sex. In fact, it looks like I can serve everywhere but in small segments of the high priests’ group.

  27. Adam’s proposal would surely mean that we’d also end the practice of a man regularly talking with young girls about their sexual activities, alone, behind closed doors…

  28. pd – that abstract is not as decisive as you suggest and its lunacy to assume we are anywhere close to understanding the genetics and environmental factors anywhere near as close to observing the movement of the stars.

  29. Very few people are attracted to pre-pubescents. So much for the den leaders.

    As for the Kristine’s suggestion, it seems reasonable to me if one can fine an alternative arrangement. In the case of scoutmasters, one can–straight men, who abound.

  30. I’m having a difficult time imagining the First Presidency approving a bishop who the BSA wouldn’t take as a den leader, but my fantasies aren’t the same as some others’.

  31. “I’m having a difficult time imagining the First Presidency approving a bishop who the BSA wouldn’t take as a den leader, but my fantasies aren’t the same as some others’.”

    So . . . are you trying to say that Pres. Hinckley and Elder Oaks were not being truthful when they said that all callings were open to gays? (And that, secretly, the First Presidency restricts these callings?) Or what? Because I really don’t understand your comment. There is a clear difference between BSA and LDS policy on this matter–that isn’t really debatable, is it?

  32. The First Presidency doesn’t make callings to teaching positions in wards. They teach that “…people who are struggling with any kind of temptation when the struggle is a good struggle and they are living so as to be appropriate teachers,…” may be called to teaching positions in wards — but this is merely giving permission (and maybe even a hint of invitation) to bishops to call those persons. It isn’t a policy that those people must be called, only an allowance that they may be called.

    The BSA policy is that chartering organizations call their own leader for their units, and then the BSA approves the persons — gays are not prohibited per seno one ever asks the question — but where someone’s gay-ness is publicly well-known and is part of that person’s manifesto of life, then that person will likely not be approved by the BSA for a position involving contact with teenage boys.

    I think the actual effect of the two policies is VERY similar — good men who are living so as to be appropriate teachers may be called as teachers in the Church, and good men who are living so as to be appropriate Scouting leaders may be called as leaders in Scouting units.

  33. Oh, I think you understand my comment quite well. LDS policy is that “All adult Scouting leaders must be properly registered and complete Youth Protection Training before beginning their service,” so there is no conflict with LDS policy that scout leaders must be accepted by the area scout council. I really don’t care what snare you think you have found in the words of Elder Oaks and President Hinckley that the LDS church must sever ties with scouting lest they be liars.

  34. k #34 the paper contains its own disclaimer: “No direct support exists for a maternal immune response that underlies the fraternal birth-order effect, but various lines of evidence exist in this theory’s favor and have been reviewed elsewhere (18, 22).”

    If you chase foonotes esp. Journal of Theoretical Biology, Hormones & Behavior, Behavior Genetics, it is clear that this line of inquiry will be productive in understanding same-sex attraction. As the church evolves from “It’s a choice” theory to “We don’t understand it” theory to “Oh, hell, we love them anyway” theory, what the science actually says is a good thing to keep in mind.

  35. PD,
    although the evidence is solid, that isn’t a comprehensive explanation from what I’ve seen.

  36. Adam #41, true – although most behavioral bologists would agree that virtually all sexual attraction is at some level hormonally driven. It is indispensable that biology be the foundation for our understanding of this orientation, especially re: where we go from here with issues of free will and REAL choice, i.e., whether we act on attraction. As a church we seem to be moving slowly in that direction. Oaks/Wickman was the first indicaton I’m aware of that the biologists had finally spoken up –

  37. A final point regarding Fraternal Birth Order Effect: Large families with lots of sons (Mormon, Catholic, etc.) are much more likely to have homosexual males.

    A variety of interesting conclusions can be drawn from this, esp. for a people who believe in pre-existent agency.

    Abstract – In men, sexual orientation correlates with an individual’s number of older brothers, each additional older brother increasing the odds of homosexuality by approximately 33%. It has been hypothesized that this fraternal birth order effect reflects the progressive immunization of some mothers to Y-linked minor histocompatibility antigens (H-Y antigens) by each succeeding male fetus and the concomitantly increasing effects of such maternal immunization on the future sexual orientation of each succeeding male fetus. According to this hypothesis, anti-H-Y antibodies produced by the mother pass through the placental barrier to the fetus and affect aspects of sexual differentiation in the fetal brain. This explanation is consistent with a variety of evidence, including the apparent irrelevance of older sisters to the sexual orientation of later born males, the probable involvement of H-Y antigen in the development of sex-typical traits, and the detrimental effects of immunization of female mice to H-Y antigen on the reproductive performance of subsequent male offspring. The maternal immune hypothesis might also explain the recent finding that heterosexual males with older brothers weigh less at birth than heterosexual males with older sisters and homosexual males with older brothers weigh even less than heterosexual males with older brothers.” Hormones and BehaviorVolume 40, Issue 2, September 2001, Pages 105–114 Fraternal Birth Order and the Maternal Immune Hypothesis of Male Homosexuality Ray Blanchard Centre for Addiction and Mental Health—Clarke Site, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 250 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 1R8, Canada

  38. “I really don’t care what snare you think you have found in the words of Elder Oaks and President Hinckley that the LDS church must sever ties with scouting lest they be liars.”

    That comment does not represent my thinking on this issue. My thinking is that BSA should change its policy to be in line with LDS policy. (That’s pretty clear in the original post.)

  39. I don’t even know where to begin with this one, other than ones’ sexuality has nothing to do with whether or not they would tend to be a pedophile which is what the church and BSA has maintained is the danger.

    This is complete rubbish and homo phobia to the highest extent.

    Now, if you want to say lets’ do a better job in screening BSA scout leaders in general then let’s make a mandate that they have to go through regular screening process like 1) criminal background checks and verify whether or not these leaders have had any sex offenses in their past, because really that should be the only criteria that would and should prevent anyone both heterosexual/ homosexual Mormon/non from being scout leaders.

  40. The only reason the BSA keeps the “no gays” policy is because of the church. Not only the LDS church but churches in general. Churches sponsor most BSA troops/packs. The BSA has been mostly in line with the church from the get go. So that whole comment is BS. The Lds church started contemplating leaving BSA behind when the BSA started contemplating changing the “no gays” policy. The BSA ought to change it’s policy and leave the church behind. I think they would find more people interested in their organization. Just enforce the two deep leadership and reporting policies! It’s all about doing what is right and protecting our children. I am LDS and served in scouts for over 6 years. I do not like the way the church “uses” scouting but yet doesn’t follow the BSA rules.

  41. No parent would let a heterosexual man in the ward be in a tent with a teenage girl on a youth conference trip.

    So why should a gay man be allowed in a tent with a teenage boy?

    Are we advocating that gay people should now have more rights?

    We often complain that white males are the most discriminated group in this country. Soon we’ll be able to say that white STRAIGHT males are the most discriminated group. If you straight, you can’t be in a tent with a teenager you’re attracted to. But if you’re gay, then you can! It’s like letting a man go to girls camp, and sleep with the girls.

  42. How will other “hard line” gay resistant churches tackle this situation? Will Mormons, Catholics, Baptist unite and create a leadership oversite to replace the BSA?

  43. @47, on Church sponsored overnight campouts no adult sleeps in a tent with a kid, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Kids are with kids and adults are with adults. Keep beating that straw man,

  44. rbc – but a homosexual predator could benefit from contexts that are less conspicuous because of their gender. This happened to my dad on a campout when he was 13. Luckily, my dad was assertive.

  45. Cameron-any predator will have easy access to kids on a campout-gay or straight. By your logic, no adults should camp with kids. The risks from straight and gay predators are too high. Fine by me. BSA has long outlived its usefulness, imo. Time to move on to something which appeals to and interests kids today.

Comments are closed.