The Boy Scouts of America’s national executive board didn't vote Wednesday whether to discontinue its prohibition of gay Scouts and leaders, instead agreeing to delay a decision until the annual meeting of its National Council in May.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the single-largest sponsor of Boy Scout units in the nation, commented favorably on the decision to delay the vote but urged others not to speculate or assume anything about the church's position on the proposed policy change.
"For 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong, rewarding relationship with Boy Scouts of America as both organizations have worked to build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of young men," said a statement released by the church. "We believe BSA has acted wisely in delaying a vote on this policy issue until the implications can be more carefully evaluated."
The statement continued: "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is carefully assessing the consequences of this policy change on the Church’s program to build and strengthen young men, but it has not commented on it and a decision will not be made until we have assessed all of the implications. We caution others not to speculate about our position or to assume that individual Latter-day Saints inside or outside the scouting movement speak for the Church. Neither has the Church launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change."
In a prepared statement issued Wednesday morning, the BSA national executive board said its decision to delay came "after careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization." As a result of that consideration, "the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy."
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the national executive board will listen to the input of Scouts, Scouters, sponsors and donors from around the nation and then prepare a resolution that will be presented to some 1,400 Scout officials who are expected to attend the annual meeting of Scouting’s national council May 22-24 in Grapevine, Texas.
The BSA national council consists of hundreds of volunteer Scouters who administer Scouting programs all around the country. The national executive board is the organization’s governing board, which consists of the national president, regional presidents and as many as 70 elected board members.
Larry Coppock, a Scouting official with the Methodist Church, which sponsors the second-largest number of Scout units after the LDS Church, said the delay was "what we were hoping for, an opportunity to have further dialogue and meaningful discussions."
And Roger Oldham of the Southern Baptist Convention, another leading sponsor of Scouting, said holding off on a decision will give the Scouts time to analyze the legal and practical implications of lifting the ban.
“We are really encouraged by the national board’s decision to delay the vote,” said Kay Godfrey, spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council, one of the largest local councils in the Scouting organization. “This gives us an opportunity to engage in some kind of dialogue with our sponsors and our members so that their feelings on the matter can be accurately represented in the voting.”
The Great Salt Lake Council is part of a coalition of 33 Scout councils from around the country that organized to urge the board to delay the decision.
“Our voices have been heard,” Godfrey said Wednesday morning. “I salute the national executive board for listening, and for slowing this process down a little. Now we have to take advantage of the time we’ve been given.”
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