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Thu, 07.18.1974

Racism in Boy Scouts of LDS in Utah

On this date in 1974, a 12-year-old African American Boy Scout was denied a senior patrol leadership in his troop because he was Black.

Don L. Cope, then the Black ombudsman for the state of Utah, brought the issue of the Mormon doctrine of discrimination against Blacks in the Boy Scouts to the NAACP. The Boy Scouts of America did not discriminate because of race, but Mormon-sponsored troops did have a policy of racial discrimination. At the time, Mormon "troop policy was that in order for a scout to become a patrol leader, he must be a deacon's quorum president in the LDS Church. Since the boy cannot hold the priesthood, he cannot become a patrol leader."

Shortly before Boy Scout officials were to appear in Federal Court on charges of discrimination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a policy change which allowed Black youths to be senior patrol leaders, a position formerly reserved for white LDS youths in troops sponsored by the Mormon Church. An LDS Church spokesman said under the "guidelines set forth in the statement, a young man other than president of the deacons quorum could (now) become the senior patrol leader if he is better qualified".

Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball "had been subpoenaed to testify" in the suit but on November 7, 1974, the Tribune reported: "A suit claiming discrimination against blacks by the Boy Scouts of America was dismissed in federal court... all parties to the suit signed an agreement stating the alleged discrimination 'has been discontinued.'"

Reference:
Salt Lake Tribune,
August 3, 1974.

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