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May 24, 2013

Boy Scouts: Yes to gay youths, no to adults

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

The largest sponsor of Scout troops is the Mormon Church, with about 430,000 of the 2.6 million youth in Scouting. Church officials in April said they supported the proposal, calling it a "good-faith effort" and noting that it calls all sexual conduct by Scouting-age youth "contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

The second-largest sponsor of troops is the United Methodist Church. The denomination never took an official position and several leaders were quoted on both sides. The third-largest is the Catholic Church, which this week released a letter saying it was "hopeful" to stay in Scouting if it could choose leaders who "espouse, accept and promote" Catholic teachings. The fourth-largest charter is the Southern Baptist Convention. Spokesman Roger Oldham predicted a slow attrition from the Scouts.

"They will no longer have the kind of presence and clout of influencing the leaders of the present and future generations," Oldham said.

Other Christian and Jewish groups have long called for a full repeal of the bans. Among them are the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and Reform Judaism.

Some opponents of same-sex relationships said they are hoping to stay in Scouting by keeping the topic of sexuality off-limits. But Mechling said this may be unrealistic.

"This is why 'don't ask, don't tell' didn't work. The fact is, sexuality is a topic in the Scouts, in a passive, taken-for-granted way. No one thinks twice about a father mentioning his wife. This leaves the gay guy just sitting there," he said.

- - -

Washington Post staff writer Annie Gowen contributed to this report.

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