SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The Mormon church said Thursday it will continue its long-time association with the Boy Scouts of America, even after the organization voted to lifts its ban on openly gay youth.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a <a href=”http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-responds-to-boy-scouts-of-america-policy-vote” target=”_blank”>statement on its website</a> saying sexual orientation has never been, and is not now, something that precludes young boys from being in Mormon Scout troops. As long as youth refrain from premarital sex _ a strict church rule _ they can participate in Boy Scouts, church officials said.
“Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest,” the statement said.
The LDS church teaches its members that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that same-sex relationships are sinful. But the church recently launched a campaign encouraging members to be more compassionate toward gay and lesbian members of the church.
The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to ease a divisive ban and allow openly gay boys to be accepted into the nation’s leading youth organization. Gay adults will remain barred from serving as Scout leaders.
More than 60 percent of local Scout leaders voting at the annual meeting in Texas supported the proposal.
The Salt Lake City-based Mormon church _ which has more Scouting troops than any other religious denomination in the country _ announced last month it was satisfied with the proposed rule change.
Thursday’s statement said church officials appreciate the Boy Scouts of America reaffirming its commitment to the central principles that the church also teaches young men. That includes service to others and moral behavior.
“As in the past, the church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men,” the statement said. “We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.”
Utah’s two main Boy Scout councils also support the rule change. The Great Salt Lake Council and Utah National Parks Council vote sent voting members to the national meeting in Texas. They are two of the largest councils in the country, with the majority of troops sponsored by the Mormon church.
“This is a win for youth and a win for the community,” said John Gailey, spokesman for the Utah National Parks Council, which covers central and southern Utah. “It gives all youth the opportunity to take advantage of the values instilled by Scouting.”
The Great Salt Lake Council, which covers the Salt Lake City area, said in a statement that the new policy allows all children to be part of Scouts while at the time sticking to the “long-standing virtues of Scouting.”
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting,” the statement said.
Gailey emphasized that Boy Scouts is a youth program, and that sexual activity _ heterosexual or homosexual _ goes against the values of Boy Scouts. The council is fine that the ban remains in place for gay Scout leaders, he said.
“It is a little more complex when you get into the adult arena because of various lifestyles and such,” Gailey said. “That’s something that may take some additional time to understand.”
He doesn’t know if they’ll lose any Scouts or leaders due to unhappiness with the new policy, but predicted most members of the church will follow the lead of church leaders.
“I would hope that members understand and pay attention to what their church leadership is saying and follow in that support,” Gailey said.