SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said it is studying Monday's announcement by the Boy Scouts of America to allow transgender boys into the BSA's boys-only programs.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the LDS Church cited BSA's assurance that units charted by religious groups can do so according to their beliefs and standards. Also, the church acknowledged its ongoing efforts to refine its youth programs and "look for ways to better serve" youth and families across the globe.
The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday it would begin accepting transgender boys in its boys-only programs, moving away from its practice of determining eligibility by gender as stated on an applicant's birth certificate.
“Starting today, we will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application,” said Boy Scouts of America Communications Director Effie Delimarkos in an emailed statement.
In 2013, the Boy Scouts ended its ban on the participation of openly gay youth in its programs and activities. And in July 2015, it ended a ban on openly gay adult leaders. BSA leaders said at that time church-sponsored units could continue to disallow openly gay leaders for religious reasons.
The LDS Church's statement from Tuesday reads: "The Church is studying the announcement made yesterday by Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts has assured its religious chartering organizations that, as in the past, they will be able to organize their troops in a way fully consistent with their religious beliefs. In recent years the Church has made several changes to its programs for youth, and continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide."
Also Tuesday, BSA National Commissioner Charles Dahlquist spoke about the enrollment move to the Deseret News following a luncheon speech to the Salt Lake Rotary Club. He is the 10th person to hold the prominent volunteer position in BSA's history of nearly 110 years.
The Sandy resident is also a former LDS Church general Young Men president, having served from 2004-09, which coincided with his first stint on the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board.
"The Scouts have never had a transgender policy — we haven't needed one," Dahlquist said. "The only thing that has changed is that when this was coming down the pike, we were trying to do what schools were trying to do and what every other community program is doing — that is, do something in a way that preserves the program for the kids."
Boy Scouts initially determined gender as that stated on a birth certificate when accepting applications for prospective participants. However, with more states and courts moving away from using birth certificates as a determination of one's gender, BSA followed suit, with reliance on a birth certificate no longer necessary, Dahlquist said.
Rather, BSA will accept whatever gender is filled out on the application, which is signed by a youth's parent.
"So, there was no change in policy because we have no policy," Dahlquist said. "It was more a withdrawal of that birth certificate requirement and a reaffirmation that those two programs — Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting – are for boys and we'll go on whatever the affirmation is from the parents."
He added that Scout officials had "touched base" with each of the BSA's major charter organizations. The LDS Church is both BSA's first sponsoring unit historically and its current largest chartering sponsor.
While it's easy to say all youth are welcome in Scouting, Dahlquist admitted the challenge will be the logistics.
"And the logistics will have to be worked out by the local units in a way that welcomes each youth," he said.
The LDS Church currently accepts gay Scouts in its troops. Also, it allows Latter-day Saints who are gay to serve in church assignments such as Scout leadership as they live the faith’s standards, which proscribe same-sex marriage or involvement in same-sex relations. Non-LDS volunteers with the same values and standards can serve in Scout leadership positions in LDS-sponsored units.