The fact that more than two-thirds of Boy Scout troops are affiliated with houses of worship is heavily influencing both sides of the debate over whether the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) should allow openly gay boys and men to be members or leaders in the organization. The BSA is expected to announce its decision on a new policy February 6. More from NBC News:
"I think it's clear that the Scouts have made a sea change in who they are and that down the road they will be a different organization than they are today," said Roger "Sing" Oldham, spokesman for the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, whose leader, Frank S. Page, urged for a prayer be held among congregations on Sunday that the board members would not allow gays.
"I think there are a lot of parents and students who will make the decision to look for other organizations that are more in line with the principles that they espouse," he said.
The Scouts' board meeting starts today, and a decision on the gay ban is expected Wednesday.
The Scouting movement has heavy involvement from religious groups, with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church together sponsoring more than 1 million Scouts, according to Boy Scouts data for 2011. Overall, faith-based groups sponsored nearly 70 percent of the more than 100,000 Scouting units that year, compared with civic organizations backing 23 percent and educational outfits 8 percent.
In the Scout Oath, youth pledge to do their "duty to God," and the organization holds special celebrations in tandem with churches, such as "Scout Sunday," just ahead of the Feb. 8 anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts in 1910. This year, "Scout Sunday" was held Feb. 3 in a number of congregations across the country, and people on social media reported troops receiving their religious medals and posted pictures of Scouts in uniform at church. The BSA offers a guide to the church observance on its website.
"Boy Scouts are like baseball and apple pie," said Rev. Chase Peeples of the gay-friendly Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ in Kansas City, Mo., which honored Scouts on Sunday and displayed on its front lawn a banner with a rainbow background reading, "We welcome ALL Boy Scouts."