On the verge of opening the doors for gay Scout leaders in the United States, the Boy Scout executive board balked.
The Boy Scouts of America board considered allowing homosexuals to take leadership roles if local groups allow it. But instead of issuing a new policy Wednesday, the board announced it would continue to think about it until May, before letting hundreds of scout leaders vote on the issue.
Currently, BSA policy bans homosexuals from leadership roles.
Groups on both sides mobilized on Jan. 28, when word leaked out that the national board would consider a change.
It has been a hot topic, said Dave Plond, the executive director of four Boy Scout councils that cover 44 central and western Nebraska counties.
Plond received hundreds of emails and phone calls in recent days.
"This is a very strong, conservative value-based area," Plond told the Bulletin. "Most, 90 percent or so, of the comments are echoing those sentiments."
If the national board changed the rules, it would have put the decision in the hands of local charter organizations. Therefore, a local church could still have prohibited gays, which means a lot, because churches and other religious organizations sponsor nearly 70 percent of all Scout units, according to a report by World magazine.
At this point, neither side is happy. The pro-homosexual group Scouts for Equality called the postponed decision an “abdication of responsibility.”
On the other hand, the Family Research Council, a religious based group, said the BSA board should re-affirm the current non-gay standards.
According to reports, the BSA has experienced financial stress for at least five years because of the recession, membership declines and the withdrawal of corporate support.
Pro-homosexual groups blame the problems on the anti-homosexual policy, but church groups say otherwise.
After the Boy Scouts of Canada allowed homosexual leaders in 1999, membership there dropped by 36 percent over the next five years, from about 200,000 to about 122,000, World reported.
The number of Boy Scouts in Canada has continued to fall to less than 100,000, World said.
Next, the BSA executive board said it will spend three months listening to members’ “perspectives and concerns” before crafting a resolution for the 1,400 voting members of the national council to consider in May.