Utah Boy Scout council balks at gay inclusion talks

Leaders of the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America have posted an open letter on their web site decrying an announcement by Scouting’s national leadership asking national leadership to revisit its membership policy regarding sexual orientation, asking leaders to “allow more time to consider the consequences of such decisions.”

“These time-tested policies of the national organization of the Boy Scouts of America have kept the interest and security of the boys they serve as the focus of their programs and have been the core of the movement for decades,” the letter states.

National Scouting leaders will consider revising their policy as early as this Wednesday, allowing different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout troops to be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue &emdash; either maintaining an exclusion of gays, as is now required of all units, or opening up their membership.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints operates nearly all scout troops in the state. According to the BSA web site, the church has 142,085 Cub Scouts, 205,990 Boy Scouts and 64,645 Venturers. BSA claims 2.7 million youth members, meaning the LDS Church runs 15 percent of Scouts in the U.S.

The church runs all but 50 of the 5,000 Scout troops in the Salt Lake area, according to Great Salt Lake Council spokesperson Kay Godfrey.

“We understand that this is a sensitive issue and is causing emotional distress with many of our leaders,” the statement continued. “Since multiple news outlets have been and are currently airing the story, we wanted you to hear from your council key leaders regarding this issue on how this policy change could affect the future of Scouting as it currently stands today.

“The Great Salt Lake Council is actively pursuing an effort to allow more time to consider the consequences of such decisions. We believe that any decision that strikes at the core of our 103-year history merits full input from all stakeholders in deliberation and discussion.

“We would ask all of our Scouts, Scouters and parents to join us in prayer for our national leaders as they wrestle with this sensitive issue. Scouting is for youth first and foremost. We hope Scouting will keep its focus on providing quality program and instilling values in young people.”

The statement asks people to email their input to feedback@scouting.org and scouting.org/contactus or calling 972-580-2000.

The LDS Church has not released a statement on the policy

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