Utah Scouts council says its stand gaining support

This photo taken Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, shows a close up detail of a Boy Scout uniform worn by Brad Hankins, a campaign director for Scouts for Equality, as he responds questions during a news conference in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America's policy excluding gay members and leaders could be changing. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Boy Scout leaders in Utah urging the organization’s national board to take more time before reversing its no-gays membership policy say they have the support of more than three dozen other scouting groups across the nation.

The Great Salt Lake Council has sent a new letter to the national board of directors cautioning it against making a decision that cannot be undone. Thirty-two scouting groups representing nearly 540,000 youth scouts from across the U.S. are joining the Utah group in its opposition, said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council.

But Godfrey declined to divulge where the other councils are located, saying only that 23 are in the West and the 10 others around the country. He said he didn’t have permission to name the other councils.

The Boy Scouts of America’s national executive board is expected to discuss a policy that would let troop sponsors make their own decisions about gay troop leaders and youth members this week during meetings in the Dallas area.

The letter sent by Utah’s Boy Scouts asks the board to wait for accurate polling about how Boy Scouts across the country feel before a decision is made.

“This is a decision which cannot be undone,” the letter says. “Adages about `measuring twice and cutting once’ exist for a reason. There is no compelling reason to accelerate this decision ahead of a full analysis.”

Godfrey said the Great Salt Lake Council is one of the largest in the country. A spokesman with the Boy Scouts of America didn’t immediately return emails.

Godfrey says the future of Boy Scouts in Utah could be in jeopardy depending on what happens because so many religious organizations sponsor their troops.

“There would be councils that would be severely impacted should these religious organizations decide they no longer want to affiliate themselves with Boy Scouts,” Godfrey said. “We need to stand up and make sure that national knows that we want to be engaged.”

In Utah, nearly all scouting troops are sponsored by the Mormon church, which teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex relationships are sinful.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsors 99 percent of the 5,000 Scout troops in the Salt Lake City area, Godfrey said. Nationally, the Mormon church has more Boy Scouts than any other denomination, with 37,000 troops and 420,000 youth members, according to figures from the Boy Scouts of America.

Officials at the Mormon church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City have declined to weigh in on the proposal, opting to wait until it becomes official.

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