Boy Scout’s New Ban on “Political Advocacy” to be Tested

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Boy Scout Memorial 19261 / Ted Eytan

December 12, 2015; ABC News (Associated Press)

While many nonprofit leaders believe advocacy to be a fundamental obligation of their organizations, if not the raison d’être, some want to stay as far away from it as possible.

The Associated Press (via ABC News) reports that when the Boy Scouts of America revised its rules this week to emphasize a “duty to God” and ban political advocacy, it may have been a quite purposeful attempt to block new charters being based in LGBT organizations. New troops must also now be approved by a national body.

Restore Our Humanity, which advocated for the legalization of gay marriage in Utah, filed an application in September for an LGBT troop, but the organization’s executive director, Mark Lawrence, expects a rejection.

“I don’t think this is what they were expecting,” Lawrence said.

“We’re being very careful on how we do this,” Great Salt Lake Council Scout executive Rick Barnes said. “We want to make sure that organizations are willing to follow our policy.”

The largest sponsor of Boy Scout units in the U.S. is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, based in Utah. There are over 400,000 boys in Mormon church-sponsored troops, or about 18 percent of all Scouts.

While church leaders were upset by the decision to allow gay troop leaders and had considered leaving the organization, they decided to stay after the Scouts assured them that they would allow church-sponsored units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons.

The revised rules also mandate a pledge that religious faith will be a guiding principle for the troops. Lawrence said the faith pledge was not a problem, but that he expects a denial based on the rule banning political advocacy or troops chartered by single-issue groups. Restore Our Humanity may consider legal action if its application is denied.—Larry Kaplan

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    The First Amendment prohibits an establishment of religion, but also prohibits impeding the free exercise of religion
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