SALT LAKE CITY — The Mormon church – the nation’s largest sponsor of Boy Scout units — is keeping its longtime affiliation with the organization despite its decision to allow gay troop leaders.
Church leaders decided to stay with the Boy Scouts after getting assurances they can appoint troop leaders according to their own religious and moral values, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release Wednesday.
The church “will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify church doctrine, values, and standards,” Mormon leaders said in the statement.
The decision comes as something of a surprise. Mormon leaders had said they were deeply troubled after the Boy Scouts announced on July 28 that it would lift its ban on gay adult leaders, while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to continue excluding gay adults.
The church said it will continue evaluating and is open to alternatives to the Boy Scouts. With more than half of the religion‘s 15 million members living outside the United States, there has long been speculation the Salt Lake City-based religion will create its own scouting-type program.
The Boy Scouts of America said it appreciates the decision, noting that the organization is successful because of affiliations with groups like the Mormon church.
“The BSA affirms, and will defend, the right of all religious chartered organizations to select their Scout leaders in accordance with their religious beliefs,” the Boy Scouts said in a statement.
Rick Barnes, Scout executive for the Great Salt Lake Council in Utah, said he was relieved and thrilled by the news.
“We’ve been worried for about four weeks,” Barnes said. If the church were to have left, “it would have meant a lot of rebuilding.”
His council includes 5,500 Scout groups, and all but 100 of those are affiliated with the Mormon church.