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Local Scouting leaders urged to 'vote their conscience' on policy regarding gays

Published: Wednesday, May 8 2013 1:35 p.m. MDT

Boy Scouts carry U.S. flags up Congress Avenue towards the Texas Capitol during the annual Boy Scouts Parade and Report to State, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Austin, Texas.

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Local Scouting leaders are encouraged to "vote their conscience" on a new membership policy for youths when it comes before the organization's National Council this month.

On Wednesday, the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America voted unanimously to allow autonomy for its 15 local members of the National Council in lieu of an official position of support or opposition to the membership change, according to Scout Executive Rick Barnes.

The National Council is proposing a change in its Membership Standards Resolution that states: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

The resolution reiterates that "any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

The 1,400-member National Council is expected to vote on the resolution during its May 23 meeting in Grapevine, Texas. The resolution would maintain the current policy preventing openly gay adults from serving in leadership positions.

"We trust our voters," Barnes said of the Great Salt Lake Council's position. "If the proposed resolution passes, we as a council will follow in the direction of our national organization."

Following its Wednesday meeting, the Great Salt Lake Council issued the following statement on the subject of the controversial membership policy:

"We acknowledge and commend the BSA for seeking input from membership at all levels as well as public input on Scouting and its membership policy. We are appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the process and that our voice was heard.

"Also, we believe that 'Duty to God' and moral behavior must continue to be core values of the Scout Oath and Law, as the proposed resolution indicates. This morning the Great Salt Lake Council unanimously passed a motion to allow each of our 15 voters to vote their conscience as to what is in the best interest of our youth members, the council, and the BSA.

"We will work closely with our Scouting family and remain totally committed to Scouting’s mission and delivering our quality programs to more than 100,000 members and leaders."

The statement from the Great Salt Lake Council follows one issued recently by the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the nation's largest sponsor of Scouting units. Church officials said they were "satisfied" with the Boy Scout's proposed policy, and praised the organization for its good-faith efforts to address issues that are "among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today."

The proposed resolution is seen as a positive compromise by many, but some regional Scouting groups have taken issue with the policy's continued refusal to allow openly gay adults to serve as Scout leaders. On Tuesday, the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement urging a "true and authentic inclusion policy" that would welcome gay adults into the ranks of Scouting leaders and volunteers.

The Western Los Angeles Council's opposition followed similar concerns by at least two Scouting branches based in New York state, according to Yahoo News.

In March, a survey conducted by the Great Salt Lake Council found that 83 percent of local Boy Scout leaders opposed lifting the longstanding ban on gay individuals and 70 percent of leaders would either decrease or stop their participation in scouting if the current policy was changed.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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