IRVING, Texas — Caught in an ideological crossfire, the Boy Scouts of America is putting off a decision on whether to ease its policy of excluding gays. Whatever the organization eventually does, it's likely to anger major constituencies and worsen schisms within Scouting.
The delay, which the Scouts attributed to "the complexity of this issue," was announced Wednesday after closed-door deliberations by the BSA's national executive board. Under consideration was a proposal to ease the long-standing ban on gays by allowing sponsors of local troops to decide for themselves on gay membership.
As the board met over three days at a hotel near Dallas, it became clear that the proposal would be unacceptable to large numbers of impassioned Scouting families and advocacy groups on both the left and right.
As much as the iconic youth organization has argued for the freedom to teach its own values to American boys, it is now entangled in the broader cultural and political conflicts over such issues as same-sex marriage and religious freedom. Tilting toward either side will probably alienate the other, and a midway balancing act will be difficult.
"In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public," said BSA national spokesman Deron Smith.
The BSA "needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," he said. Smith said the board would consult with sectors of the Scouting movement and prepare a resolution to put before the 1,400 voting members of the BSA national council at a meeting the week of May 20 in Grapevine, Texas.