The Mormon church said it will keep its longtime affiliation with Boy Scouts of America, the youth character development organization, despite its decision to allow openly gay men to be troop leaders. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which teaches that homosexuality is a sin, announced its decision in a news release Wednesday.
As the nation’s largest sponsor of Boy Scout units, the church said it decided to stay with the organization after getting assurances from Scout officials that they can appoint troop leaders who align with their religious and moral values, the Associated Press reported. Mormon leaders had been opposed to the Scouts’ July 28 announcement lifting a longtime ban on gay adult leaders.
The church, which boasts 15 million members worldwide, has softened its tone on gay rights issues in recent years. Social equality activists, however, said it was unfair that gay adult men and boys had been excluded from “the values and life lessons of Scouting [that] are universal.”
“We are heartened by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' decision to continue working with the Boy Scouts of America and to continue offering the program to its young men,” said Zach Wahls, the co-founder and executive director of Scouts for Equality, a group that advocated for an end to the ban on gay Scouts leaders. “We hope to continue to work to build a stronger and more welcoming Boy Scouts of America with friends and allies across the religious and political spectrum."
The Boy Scouts of America, which considers itself the top youth character and leadership development program in the U.S., was founded in 1910, with the mission of creating responsible citizens who have given an oath to keep themselves “morally straight.” Boy Scout membership numbered 5.3 million in 1990, but began to drop after a New Jersey man lost his scoutmaster position for being gay. In 2000, there were 4.5 million Boy Scouts, according to media reports. By 2013, there were 2.6 million participants.