By Melany Gardner
May 30, 2016

Answering the Hard Questions On the BSA Adult Policy

Last year, the Boy Scouts of America amended their adult leadership policy, prohibiting discrimination against employees and volunteers on the basis of sexual orientation. Since that time, many questions still remain as to how this policy will and will not affect your Scouting experience.

The BSA released a FAQ to help answer some of those questions. This document, along with the Scouter Code of Conduct, serves to clarify the expectations and desired behavior for adult leaders in Scouting and answer your questions regarding the outcome of this decision.

The Boy Scouts of America is ultimately concerned for the safety and moral character of our young people, which is why they stress the importance of background checks, Youth Protection Training and the Scouter Code of Conduct, which are all in place to protect our youth.

I found both the FAQ and the Scouter Code of Conduct to be very helpful in my understanding on the issue. I invite you to read them as well and share them with any who continue to have questions. While these documents are helpful, I also felt like they didn’t answer the more specific questions that we may face in the Utah National Parks Council, so I’ve compiled a few more Q and A’s to clarify for our local council.

Questions and Answers:

Q1: Do the BSA’s adult leadership standards mean The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other religious chartered organizations are no longer allowed to adhere to their beliefs in choosing adult leadership?

A1: No. The BSA affirms the right of each religious chartered organization to choose their own unit leaders according to their own beliefs and Scouting values.

Q2: Because of the resolution, are the LDS Church and other religious chartered organizations more likely to be sued for refusing to accept gay leaders?

A2: No. Religious chartered organizations have not been sued in the past for refusing to accept gay leaders, and there is no basis for believing they will be in the future. Any such claim is likely to be dismissed, because the Supreme Court of the United States has made it clear that religious organizations may select their leaders based upon their religious principles. That legal principle is acknowledged implicitly in anti-discrimination laws that exempt religious organizations. Uninformed media and commentators have inaccurately recycled predictions from 2013 about impending lawsuits. There is no legal authority or factual basis for the claim that religious organizations are now more likely to be sued for exercising their religious beliefs.

…the BSA agrees to defend and indemnify any claim or action contending that a religious chartered organization’s good faith refusal to select a unit leader based upon the religious principles of the chartered organization is in violation of the law.

The BSA resolution reaffirms the right of each religious chartered organization to exercise its religious liberties, and the BSA agrees to defend and indemnify any claim or action contending that a religious chartered organization’s good faith refusal to select a unit leader based upon the religious principles of the chartered organization is in violation of the law.

Q3: Will the Scouting program of a religious chartered organization teach political or sexual values and beliefs inconsistent with the religious organization?

A3: No. Each chartered organization has the right to reach its own religious and moral conclusions about sexual relations between adults. Scouting is not an appropriate venue to discuss sexual conduct, ever. No Scouting unit may deny a youth membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference, but each chartered organization may adhere to its beliefs and teachings and may use Scouting as part of its youth ministry. The BSA will continue to have strict behavioral standards for its youth and adult members. Scouting is a youth program and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting.

Q4: Could my Scouts encounter gay Scout leaders at a council Scout camp?

A4: Yes, it is a possibility. Because Scout camp will never be a platform to push political or social agendas, those leaders will seem no different than others at camp. Scouting units and the religious organizations that support them interact with other organizations and individuals all the time without losing or compromising their freedom of expression. Religious organizations routinely interact with other organizations and individuals that have different beliefs without being required to adopt the beliefs or values of the other organizations or individuals.

That being said, all Scouters at camp and in all Scouting activities are to adhere to the Scouter Code of Conduct at all times, including respecting and abiding by the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, BSA policies, and BSA-provided training, including, but not limited to, those relating to:

a. Unauthorized fundraising activities.
b. Advocacy on social and political issues, including prohibited use of the BSA uniform and brand.
c. Bullying, hazing, harassment, and unlawful discrimination of any kind.

Also according to the Scouter Code of Conduct, Scouters will not discuss or engage in any form of sexual conduct while engaged in Scouting activities. Scouters should refer Scouts with questions regarding these topics to talk to their parents or spiritual adviser.

If you recognize behaviors in other units that are contrary to the Scouter Code of Conduct, you should report the negative behavior to the camp director and to the Council Scout Executive, immediately who will take appropriate action.

Q5: Do my donations fund any BSA National political agenda?

A5: No. The BSA has always and will always be concerned about the development of youth to prepare them to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. Political and social issue advocacy have no part in the BSA organization. The BSA has always been a nondenominational program and never requires participants to espouse specific beliefs or tenets.

Q6: Should I be worried about the LDS-BSA relationship because of the recent changes?

A6: No. LDS Church leaders issued a statement reaffirming their support for Scouting, stating that the Church will “move forward as a chartering organization.” In fact, the Utah National Parks Council has never enjoyed a better relationship with the LDS Church, with well-attended monthly LDS-BSA relationship meetings run by coordinating council stake presidents and assigned Church area authorities. This close relationship also shows under the jointly-developed Six Pillars of Being Prepared. We expect an ever increasing alignment with the LDS Church in practices and procedures to serve the youth in our sphere of influence.

I hope some of these Questions and Answers have been helpful to you. If you think I missed an honest question you’d like answered, ask it in the comment section.

Scouting will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth to help them grow into good, strong citizens. Moving forward, let’s focus on the goals that unite us, so that we can accomplish amazing things for the youth and the communities we serve.

Melany Gardner2

Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout, Utah National Parks Council, BSA


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3 thoughts on “Answering the Hard Questions On the BSA Adult Policy

  1. AvatarMaloree Anderson

    I see it like this, McDonalds hires gay people. Does that mean you boycott McDonalds? If you don’t want your child around a gay man because you believe he will “do” something then you need to understand, we need to be concerned about the pedophiles NOT the gays and not all gays are pedophiles. Each leader that is called are required to take Youth Protection Courses and trainings that are concerned with the youth’s safety. They go through a background check. We also monitor the news and see if people of offense are in the Scouts and we take the necessary action. Concerning gay boys within the Scouts, what is a better place for a boy who is confused of his sexual orientation than the Boy Scouts were standards and values are high? I have heard grown men straight out say that the Scouts should kick out all gay boys and men and it makes me sad to see how naive people can be.

  2. AvatarKay mendenhall

    Great article. I believe having the BSA be a more inclusive group will benefit the community and the boys.

    Melany does the BSA discriminate against boys or leaders who are transgender? I assume not.

  3. AvatarDeb

    I have a question about expectations for the conduct of LDS scout leaders. I have been in an LDS pack for the last 5-6 months. 2 months ago, my son started Webelos, and some new leaders started instructing our very small den of 3 boys. My son has autism so I rarely leave him alone in the group: I have to stay there to watch him. His father is deceased so it has to be me, the mother. I exchanged phone #s with one of the new leaders, in order to remain in contact about meetings, etc. Within a few weeks, he began texting me a bit too familiarly, on at least a weekly basis, about issues unrelated to scouting, mostly. By Valentine’s Day, his texts were fully inappropriate, asking me out. He had been to only 2 meetings when we were there and all he does is observe while the other leader does all the work. For all I can tell, he is there to hit on me. He continued even after he found out I am 13 years older than him. We had hardly talked and I have to say he seems mentally unbalanced, as if he is imagining an interaction that did not happen. I do not think that a scout leader ought to behave this way. He should be focused on learning to be a scout leader, not on making the mothers uncomfortable. This is very bad boundaries and if he has bad boundaries with me, what kind of boundaries will he have with the boys? I don’t think he should be a scout leader and I don’t feel comfortable leaving my son when he is around. I told all of this to the bishop in charge, and he told me that if I am not comfortable, maybe I should find a different pack. This is after I have already had to leave 2 packs before this due to harassment over my son’s autism. It doesn’t seem like there is much tolerance or respect for people with disabilities or absent fathers, in all of the BSA. Is this really going to be the position of the LDS on this type of behavior? What recourse do I have? I don’t understand how LDS packs are different from the BSA. Thank you.


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