SALT LAKE CITY — The largest Boy Scout council in America is urging its national leadership to hold off on voting to allow gay members within its ranks.
The Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts said Monday it has joined with 32 other councils in asking the Boy Scouts of America to delay a vote on lifting its ban on gay members and leaders.
“We’re the largest council in the United States and we were uninformed and totally caught off guard that national was pursuing this course,” said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts.
Godfrey would not name the other 32 councils he said has joined their coalition, but said they were located across the western U.S. The national board of the Boy Scouts of America is meeting in Dallas. A decision on whether to lift the ban and leave it to local troops to decide whether to accept gay members or leaders could come Wednesday.
“The stance of the Great Salt Lake Council as of this morning is that we oppose any change to the current membership policy without completely allowing an open forum discussion with councils across the country,” Godfrey said in an interview with FOX 13.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest faith-based sponsor of scouting, with more than 39,000 troops and more than 420,000 scouts. So far, the LDS Church has declined to comment on the proposal, saying it is waiting for a decision.
Godfrey suggested some religious institutions are considering abandoning Boy Scouts should the ban be lifted.
“Religious institutions across the United States, generally speaking, are not happy with this thought of revising this policy,” he said. “Basically they’re the ones saying there’s real concern here and the possibility certainly does exist they may cease to be part of the program — and we’d have a lot to lose if religious institutions decided not to be a part of the scouting program.”
The Boy Scouts of America has been flooded with comments both for and against lifting the ban. On Monday, the Utah Pride Center urged members of the gay community to comment in favor of lifting the ban.
“Not long ago, the Mormon Church launched a website (www.mormonsandgays.org) to help clarify its position and teachings on same-sex attraction most notably that being gay, in and of itself, is not a sin,” executive director Valarie Larabee wrote. “Since most of the scout troops in Utah are sponsored by the Mormon Church, does this action spurred by the Great Salt Lake Council signal misalignment with these overarching efforts to help families welcome, better understand and support those loved-ones who are same-sex attracted?”