It was nearly two years ago when the Boy Scouts of America finally ended its irrational ban on gay scout leaders. With that decision, discrimination against gay members in the organization was officially over. (Well, unless your troop was affiliated with a conservative church, in which case banning gay leaders was still acceptable, but you get the idea).
At the time, the Mormon Church threatened to sever all ties with the organization, which would have been a devastating blow considering the LDS Church served “more than 427,000 boys in nearly 38,000 troops.” They had no problem with gay scout leaders, but if those leaders were in same-sex relationships or acted on their desires, the Mormons wanted nothing to do with them.
I’m sure it didn’t make things better when, earlier this year, the Boy Scouts said transgender boys would also be accepted.
And wouldn’t you know it, yesterday, the Mormon Church finally pulled the plug on some of their largest partnerships with the Scouts.
The church, which automatically enrolls every boy who attends a Mormon congregation as a Boy Scout, will stop participating in Varsity and Venturing, which are teen programs for high-school-age Scouts. For the time being, the church said Thursday, it will still enroll 8- to 13-year-old boys in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.
Effie Delimarkos, a spokeswoman for Boy Scouts of America, said that 130,000 boys ages 14 to 18 participate in Varsity and Venturing through Mormon Church troops, making up more than 5 percent of the Boy Scouts’ 2.3 million youth members. The Mormon Church is the Boy Scouts’ largest partner — about 20 percent of Boy Scouts are Mormon.
What’s really interesting is how the Mormons say this had absolutely nothing to do with the LGBT stuff.
“We’re sad to see that decision, but we understand,” Delimarkos said. She attributed the church’s move not to sexuality issues but to the church’s desire for a Mormon youth program more focused on preparing teenage boys to go on church missions.
Maybe that’s true, but I have to believe the Boy Scouts’ growing acceptance of gay and trans scout leaders gave the Mormon Church the motivation they needed to find an alternative outlet for boys. What exactly were these kids not getting from the Scouts that they have to have for their future mission trips? Not enough God? Please. (Incidentally, many Mormon commenters at Salt Lake City-based Deseret News are thrilled by the Church’s decision and they directly blame the Scouts’ growing acceptance of LGBT equality.)
I don’t feel bad for the Scouts either. They still won’t allow open atheists to join or lead troops, so part of me feels glad their reluctance to accept LGBT troops — and their too-little-too-late embrace of them — is finally coming back to bite them in the ass. If they want to increase their enrollment numbers, maybe excluding large groups of people isn’t the way to do it.
The Scouts created this mess and it’s only fair they’re being punished for it. This is what happens when you make one bad decision after another and only try to fix it after everyone else has moved on.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)