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No ban on gay Scouts in Canada — even in Mormon troops

Published February 11, 2013 11:49 am

Policy • LDS Church says it is continuing to examine its ties to such programs there and in the U.S.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Scouts Canada — like its U.S. counterpart — has oaths, troops, uniforms and merit badges.

What it doesn't have is a rule excluding gay members or leaders.

"Scouts Canada does not discriminate for reasons of gender, culture, religious belief or sexual orientation," it says on its website.

Apparently, that's no problem for the many Mormon troops, which use the program for LDS boys and young men.

South of the border, however, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) finds itself embroiled in a heated battle about whether to allow gays to be members and leaders. The national group has postponed a decision on the matter until May, a choice lauded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We believe BSA has acted wisely in delaying a vote on this policy issue," church spokesman Michael Purdy said late Wednesday, "until the implications can be more carefully evaluated."

The LDS Church emphasized it has not taken a stance on the BSA proposal — which would let local sponsors decide whether to allows gays — and insisted it has launched no campaign "either to effect or prevent a policy change."

But the Utah-based faith noted Thursday that it is launching more and more youth programs in Canada outside Scouting.

"While we affiliate with Scouts Canada, we are increasingly providing separate activities for our youth in Canada," Purdy said in a statement. "Just as we have said about BSA specifically, we continue to look at whether the Scouting programs we participate in align with our standards and meet the needs of the youth of the church."

The LDS Church allows chaste gays to hold "callings," or positions, in its organizations. So some gay Mormons already are in Scouts, serving under a sort-of "don't ask-don't tell" policy. Lifting the ban would allow this practice to openly continue.

Mormon leaders hold that same-sex attraction is not a sin; acting on it is. The church recently launched a website urging members to show more compassion and understanding toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. It also has endorsed anti-discrimination ordinances in Salt Lake City that protect LGBT residents from housing and job discrimination, and is in talks for similar safeguards statewide.

By the way, Scouts Canada also has opened its ranks to girls. The LDS Church won an exemption to have boys-only troops.

pstack@sltrib.com