Two days before the Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to vote on a plan that would allow gay members and leaders in its ranks, the group's Great Salt Lake Council announced its opposition to the move at least without more discussion.
The proposed change would not be a national mandate, but would give religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units the chance to decide for themselves whether to continue excluding gays or let them join.
A decision could come Wednesday from the Scouts' national board.
After its executive committee met Monday, the Great Salt Lake Council noted on its website that such a change would have a large impact on the membership and should not be taken without "completed and open discussion and deliberation with professionals, volunteers, parents, chartered partners, and all other stakeholders of the organization."
The Utah leaders also wrote a letter to the national board, saying that it had joined 33 councils representing 539,837 youths to express their concern about the "pace at which such actions are being taken" and noting that a recent two-year study revealed that "88 percent of the parents of its members agreed with its membership policy" of excluding gays.
Allowing openly gay Scouts and leaders is a "decision which cannot be 'undone,' " the letter says. "There is no compelling reason to accelerate this decision ahead of a full analysis."
If the proposed change moves forward, however, it could bring the Scouts into alignment with the LDS Church's policy of allowing chaste gays to serve in volunteer positions. (The Scout proposal makes no mention of whether a gay leader would have to be celibate.)
Any change would affect many Utah Scouts, given that the LDS Church sponsors 99 percent of the 5,000 Scout troops in the Salt Lake City area, Kay Godfrey, spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council, told The Associated Press.
Kendall Wilcox, an openly gay Mormon filmmaker, would like to see the change approved.
"Because of its clear influence on the members of the Great Salt Lake Council of BSA, I am hopeful that the LDS Church will seek to correct the apparent misalignment between the Great Salt Lake Council's statement and the LDS Church's own policies," Wilcox wrote in an email Monday, "by issuing a statement clarifying its position on the BSA policy that thoroughly reconciles with and upholds its own policy regarding LGBT members."
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which got its Scouting charter in 1913, has said it is waiting to comment until a decision is reached.
The 14 million-member LDS Church has 420,977 youths in 37,882 Scouting units.
LDS policy on gays
"If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances."
Source: "Handbook 2: Administering the Church," instructions for LDS leaders, which is available publicly online
Boy Scouts' top sponsors
1. LDS Church, 420,977 youths in 37,882 units.
2. United Methodist Church, 371,491 youths in 11,078 units.
3. Catholic Church, 283,642 youths in 8,570 units.
4. Parent-teacher groups, other than PTAs, 153,214 youths in 3,712 units.
5. Presbyterian Church, 127,931 youths in 3,663 units.
Source: 2011 Boy Scouts of America Local Council Index