Summarized by Kent Larsen
What Happens If Scouts Must Admit Gays?
Salt Lake Tribune 26Apr00 N1
By Mark Eddington: Salt Lake Tribune
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 accomodation. 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
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
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."