Boy Scouts to make decision on gays this week — or are they?

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 10:00 p.m. MST

The National Executive Board, rarely mentioned through its years of volunteer service to Scouting, has been awash in controversy ever since it was announced early last week that board members would be voting on the proposed change.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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The Great Salt Lake Council, one of the largest Scout councils in the nation, has organized a coalition of 33 Scout councils representing more than half a million boys to ask the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America to delay the vote on a controversial proposal to eliminate its national policy prohibiting homosexuals from joining or leading Scout troops.

In a message posted on its website Monday, the council expressed its “concern about the pace at which such actions are being taken.”

“Time must be allowed for accurate polling data to be collected from stakeholders at all levels and all areas in an unbiased way,” the message read. “The voices of existing chartered partners and financial contributors must be heard alongside those of our volunteer leaders and the parents who entrust their children to us.”

Council spokesman Kay Godfrey didn't identify the other councils in the coalition because he did not have permission from them to do so. But reports circulated throughout the weekend that heavy pressure was being exerted on the national board to delay the vote, scheduled to be taken Wednesday during meetings at national Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas, this week.

For many, the very future of Scouting is at stake.

The National Executive Board, rarely mentioned through its years of volunteer service to Scouting, has been awash in controversy ever since it was announced early last week that board members would be voting on the proposed change. Some, like the editorial board of the Washington Post, are urging the national BSA board to make the change. But others are predicting a “mass exodus” of traditional support for the Boy Scouts — particularly from religious groups that have long formed the foundational underpinning for the entire Scouting structure — should the proposed policy change be adopted.

BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the organization wouldn’t take an official position on the proposal. But he did outline the process through which such changes are made in Scouting national policy.

The National Executive Board, he said, consists of the national president, regional presidents and between 60 and 70 regularly elected board members. Although Smith declined to provide the names of all of the current board members (“We do not share specific information regarding members of the National Executive Board,” he said), he did confirm that President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “is a long-standing and valued member of the National Executive Board.”

The LDS Church has sponsored Scouting as an officially endorsed activity for its young men since 1913. It was the first religious group to make Scouting part of its religious ministry, and it remains the largest single sponsor of Scouting in the United States, with more than one-third of all Scout troops in the U.S. under LDS sponsorship.

Free Republic, a conservative Internet forum, has obtained and published a list of the current BSA National Executive Board members. The list includes David L. Beck, general president of the LDS Church’s Young Men organization, as the other Utahn currently serving on the board. Also serving are such prominent business leaders as AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and ExxonMobil CEO Rex W. Tillerson. Mitt Romney and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are among notable former board members.

BSA bylaws require the board to hold an annual meeting — this year’s annual meeting is scheduled for May 22-24 in Grapevine, Texas. The board usually meets at least one other time during the year to consider important matters of business. It is one of these additional meetings that is under way in Irving, where the proposed policy change would be considered by the full board — assuming the vote is not postponed until May’s annual meeting.

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