The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

January 28, 2013

Scouts considering retreat from no-gays policy

(Continued)

Prior to Monday's announcement, the BSA conferred with some leaders of these religious groups, including the Rev. Frank Page, who leads the Southern Baptist Executive Committee.

According Roger S. Oldham, a spokesman for the executive committee, Page then wrote to the Scouts "expressing his tremendous dismay at the decision."

"They had been working for months on this proposal and just days before they informed us," Oldham said in a telephone interview. "We would anticipate that there would be a very significant backlash to this as churches reevaluate whether scouting comports with."

If the Scouts proceed with the change, Oldham said, SBC leaders were likely to issue a statement "expressing disappointed and encouraging our churches to support alternative boys organizations."

Neither the Catholic Church nor the Mormons' Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued official statements as to how they would respond.

Said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "The bishops hope the Boy Scouts will continue to work under the Judeo-Christians principles upon which they were founded and under which they have served youth well."

Were the change adopted, said Deron Smith, "there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs.

"BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families," he said. "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."

The announcement came shortly after new data showed that membership in the Cub Scouts — the BSA's biggest division — dropped sharply last year, and was down nearly 30 percent over the past 14 years.

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