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Mormon church to review new Boy Scouts proposal

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Mormon church leaders plan to carefully review the Boy
Scouts of America’s new proposal on the organization’s longstanding ban on gays
before it takes a position.

The Scouts on Friday announced a proposal to lift the gay ban for youth members
but continue to exclude gays as adult leaders.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Michael Purdy said
the church is looking closely at the proposal’s language and studying its
implications. He notes that the church still has time, since the Scouts plan to
submit the proposal to its National Council at a meeting in Texas the week of
May 20.

The Mormon church has more Scouting troops than any other religious
denomination so there is widespread interest about what it will say about the

Nationally, the Mormon church has 37,000 troops and 420,000 youth members, show
figures from the Boy Scouts of America. In the Boy Scouts’ Great Salt Lake
Council – one of the largest in the country with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth –
99 percent of the troops are sponsored by the Mormon church.

The LDS church still teaches its members that marriage is between a man and a
woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful. In December, however, the LDS
church launched a website encouraging members to be more compassionate in
discussions about homosexuality.

In making its announcement, Boy Scouts of America estimated that easing the ban
on gay adults could cause widespread defections that cost the organization
100,000 to 350,000 members.

Utah likely was included in that estimate.

Four out of five Scout leaders and parents in the Boy Scouts’ Great Salt Lake
Council said they are opposed to lifting the ban on gays, according to results
of a survey completed by 4,700 adults. Nearly half said they would quit the Boy
Scouts if the ban on gays is lifted.

“The folks here understand that really what is going on here is a battle for
core values,” said Rick Barnes, executive of the Boy Scouts’ Great Salt Lake
Council, in March after the survey’s release. “Are we who we say we are – an
organization that instills family values? Or, are we just an outdoor program not
based on those values?”

Barnes said Friday the council’s executive board will meet to discuss the
proposal before giving any opinion on it.

Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City,
called the proposal imperfect, but an important step in the right direction.

“I’m really happy that they are considering allowing the young people to
participate _ that sends an important message to the kids that are in Scouting
now that identify as gay,” Larabee said.

But Larabee said it’s problematic that those same gay youth would not be
allowed to continue in Scouting once they become adults. That perpetuates the
stigma attached with being gay and creates a mixed message, she said.

The Utah Pride Center, an advocacy and service group for gays and lesbians,
recently asked permission to start a troop for 10 middle-school aged children
with straight troop leaders. But, the application was rejected by the Boy Scouts
of America, which told them their mission didn’t properly align with the Boy
Scouts’ goals.


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