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The Rev. Susan Russell, a gay rights activist and a priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., said the Episcopal Church has been calling on the BSA to be open to gay members and leaders since 2000.

"And now the Boy Scouts 'need more time' to send the message to young gay American kids that they are just as loved, valued and important as their straight friends and neighbors?" she asked. "The time is now to end discrimination against our kids."

The Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, the United Church of Christ's executive minister for gay and lesbian concerns, expressed a similar reaction to the BSA delay.

"Their decision today is a failure of leadership to do what is right," said Schuenemeyer, whose denomination called for a policy change in 2003. "It is time for the Boy Scouts to change their policy."

Some denominations have alternative programs for boys. The Southern Baptist Convention, which was already retooling its own Royal Ambassadors program when the Scouts' policy was first floated, wants the Scouts to stick with its current policy.

"We're pleased that apparently it's not going to be left in the hands of a few powerful corporate board members but rather they're going to allow all of the charter organizations to have a vote," said Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the SBC Executive Committee.

Alvin Townley, an independent national Scouting advocate, said there's no question that the diverse opinions of faith groups will weigh heavily on the deliberations of Scouting's leadership.

"Certainly Scouting wants to honor the opinions of our religious charter partners—who actually 'own' Scout units — and as you can imagine, those churches, synagogues, and mosques have widely differing views on where Scouting should go," said Townley, author of Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts.

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Even Boy Scouts' Postponing Decision Is Controversial