The Mormons get upset when we point out that their faith is based, among other things, on a rabid activist hatred of gays, and disdain for Jews, women (Mormons were one of the lead forces to down the ERA), African-Americans and other minorities. But facts are fact. Talk to someone like President Obama, whose mother was forcibly, and secretly, baptized by the Mormons in order to convert her to Mormonism after her death, and without her son’s knowledge, and then decide if there’s not an element of bullying to the Mormons’ evangelism.
But the Mormons have a chance to begin to wipe the slate clean.
Clearly they’ve been burned, and surprised, by the level of vitriol and ill-will created by their own actions in single-handedly ripping the right to marry away from gay couples in California in 2008. (Funny how your victims tend to end up not liking you very much.) The only way Mormons are going to clear their name, and in the more immediate time-frame stop the hemorrhaging of bad news, is to start showing the world that they are not the modern equivalent of southern segregationists, that Salt Lake City is not Selma, and that Joseph Smith is not Bull Connor.
If the Mormons want to stop being hated, they need to prove that they’ve stopped hating. And they have the perfect opportunity today. The Mormons need to come out and support the Boy Scouts lifting the ban on gay scouts and gay scout masters.
As you may know, the Boy Scouts are in the midst of deciding whether to lift the gay-ban as early as next week. It’s not a full lifting – the Scouts would still permit local troops to practice discrimination (which is more than a bit of a cop out), but still, it would send an important message nationwide if the Boy Scouts chose to lift their nationwide ban on gay scouts.
As you also may know, the Mormons have been heavily involved in Scouting for years. Every Mormon boy is automatically enrolled in the Scouts. The NYT has more:
In 2011, Mormon-sponsored packs and troops accounted for more than one-third of the country’s scout units, and the 421,000 boys they enrolled, from ages 8 to 18, made up 15 percent of the country’s 2.7 million registered scouts. (Because every ward has its own unit, many Mormon-sponsored troops are smaller than average.) They have provided comparable shares of the $51 million in dues the Boy Scouts of America collects each year, although the Boy Scouts, with revenues of $269 million in 2010, also receive large corporate donations and make tens of millions of dollars selling scout supplies.
The Mormons have generally refused to clarify their position on gay scouts and scout masters. Typically they defer to the national Scouts’ ban. But now that the national ban is being called into question, what will the Mormons do? Will they take a position now, before the ban is lifted? And what will the Mormons do after the ban is lifted, if it is?
Many believe the Mormons have a sort of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gay scouts and gay scout masters. Which is a bit of a misnomer. What it seems to amount to is a ban on gay scouts and gay scout masters, but if you hide who you really are, then it’s okay. That’s a bit like saying you ban blacks, but if you can pass as white, you’ll be permitted entrance. That’s not DADT, that’s simply discrimination.
But what will the Mormons do if the national Scouts defer to locals to decide whether to practice bigotry or not? Will the Mormons pull the same bizarre standard they have for letting gays remain Mormons: namely, that you have to be celibate? Now, I’m not too worried about Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts being required to be celibate, so long as the rule applies to all of them, and is equally applied in practice. Let’s face it, we’re talking high school kids here, and the gay ones are just as likely as the straight ones to fool around. So long as it’s applied equally, fine. I do have a problem with requiring all gay Scout masters to be celibate, even married ones. Unless that same rule is applied to all straight Scout masters, then the Mormons will be enforcing a policy of discrimination.
But the Mormons have a choice. They can break with their decades-long effort to oppress women and minorities nearly every chance they get, and they can embrace gay scouts and gay scout masters. The Mormons need to issue a statement now saying that they not only support lifting the ban on gay scouts and scout masters at the national level, but that they agree with Mitt Romney, that gays should be permitted in the Scouts, period. No cute little celibacy rules that apply to all gays but only some straights. But a blanket policy that doesn’t give a hoot about your sexual orientation, and doesn’t play games by claiming that “married” gays don’t have to be celibate but, oh look, the Mormons don’t recognize any gays as married!
If the Mormons come out now and take a clear stand against anti-gay bigotry, they can being to cleanse the black mark of bigotry that has been on their name for too long.