Country's Largest Boy Scout Council Urges Board to Keep Gay Ban, for Now

The statue of a scout stands in the entrance to Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, February 5, 2013. Boy Scouts of America board members are holding a three-day meeting in which they will consider ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, sparking a flurry of lobbying from groups both for and against the change. (Photo: REUTERS/Tim Sharp)

The Great Salt Lake Council, which is one of the largest Boy Scout councils in the U.S., overseeing several troops in four Utah counties, has recently stated that it feels the national organization should continue with its open ban on gay members and leaders for the time being, until more thought and discussion can be put into lifting the ban.

"We're the largest council in the United States and we were uninformed and totally caught off guard that national was pursuing this course," Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts, told FOX 13.

"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 added.

Additionally, the council said on its website that in requesting the ban remain intact, it reaffirms the mission of the BSA (Boy Scouts of America), which is 'to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.'"

The council also recently sent a letter to the youth organization's national board, claiming that it had joined a coalition of 33 councils, which are reportedly in charge of nearly 400,000 youths.

This coalition, which has remained anonymous to the public, reportedly supports an extension on the voting process, which is to take place Wednesday.

The possible vote to occur Wednesday would result in a "decision which cannot be 'undone,'" the letter says, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

"There is no compelling reason to accelerate this decision ahead of a full analysis," the letter adds.

Boy Scouts spokesman Godfrey also told The Associated Press that the Boy Scouts could be severely impacted depending on what decision they make regarding the gay ban, because many religious organizations sponsor 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 told AP, adding that 99 percent of the 5,000 troops in the Salt Lake City area are sponsored by the Mormon Church, which classifies homosexuality as a sin.

"We need to stand up and make sure that national knows that we want to be engaged," Godfrey added.

Many national leaders have spoken out in support of and in opposition to the vote which is to take place Wednesday after Boy Scout executives complete their three-day meeting at the Boy Scout headquarters in Irving, Texas, regarding the gay ban lift.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who is honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America, has repeatedly urged the organization to lift the gay ban, telling CBS on Sunday that he believes "gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life."

In contrast, the Family Research Council and 41 other allied organizations recently released an ad in USA Today urging the Boy Scouts of America to keep the gay ban, saying that the youth organization must "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality."

The BSA said that should executives choose to lift the ban, it would leave the ultimate decision up to local units.

"The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue," Deron Smith, BSA's director of Public Relations, said in a statement. "The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs."

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