What Happens If Scouts Must Admit Gays?
Salt Lake Tribune
April 26, 2000
By Mark Eddington:
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the Boy Scouts of America must admit gays as scoutmasters, what will the LDS Church do? The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in the case of James Dale, a former assistant scoutmaster who was expelled because he is gay. Dale sued for reinstatement, and the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts
must admit him because the organization is a public accommodation. A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the matter isn't expected until this summer.
But should the Court agree that the Scouts must admit gays, the LDS Church will withdraw from Scouting after participating with the organization for 87 years, according to Salt Lake attorney Von G. Keetch of Kirton &McConkie. Keetch has represented the LDS Church in a variety of legal issues. Should the LDS Church leave the
program, it would take more than 400,000 Scouts and 30,000 scout troops with it. The Church is the largest chartering organization of Boy Scout troops.
Because of the LDS Church's potential withdrawl and that of other sponsors, Keetch says the changes would be devastating to Scouting, "The Scouting movement as now constituted will cease to exist. . . . The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . . would withdraw from Scouting if it were compelled to accept openly
homosexual Scout leaders," he wrote in the Feb. 28 brief filed on behalf of the LDS Church, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, the General Commission on United Methodist Men of the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the National Council of Young Israel.
While no final decisions have been made by the LDS Church or anyone, Keetch says that other religious organizations could follow the LDS Church's lead, decimating the organization. LDS
Church leaders refused to comment on the Church's possible exit. BSA national spokesman Greg Shields also didn't want to speculate, but did say that the LDS Church's involvement is important, "We value the [Mormon] church and its contribution to Scouting and the young people who participate in Scouting." he said. "The only thing I can say is that we will abide by the law."
Other observers note that the impact of a decision against the BSA could affect
other private organizations. Ron Nyman, spokesman for the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts, says that other private organizations would also be subject to civil law, "The ramifications of losing this case should be the scariest thing that could ever happen to private society," Nyman warned. "If they can do this to Scouting, they can do it to churches and everything else."
Because of this, University of Utah law professor Michael McConnell, who is
assisting New York City attorney George Davidson with arguments for the Boy Scouts, says the New Jersey ruling is ludicrous. "The underlying question is if one group can have a message and serve a subsection of the population without the government getting involved and telling it how diverse it needs to be," McConnell said. "This is really about the survival of private groups as elements of society."
But others maintain that the LDS Church could see things
differently. The Tribune quotes former Scout leader Wes Davey of Springville as suggesting that the LDS Church could let gays join its programs. "For us who are LDS, we've been taught to love the sinner but hate the sin. If this teaching is true, then the LDS Church has a moral obligation to accept celibate gay youth into its Scouting programs and a moral obligation to petition the Boy Scouts to change its policy," he said. "Right now, the church won't even let celibate
gay youth participate. It shouldn't matter if a youth is homosexual or heterosexual, as long as they are not engaging in immoral behavior by having sex."