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Boy Scouts take heat for greeting Romney on Utah visit

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(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan meets with Provo Boy Scout Troop 720 after arriving at the Provo Municipal Airport on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, for a round of fundraising events.

By ROBERT GEHRKE

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Sep 20 2012 05:49PM
Updated Sep 21, 2012 11:13AM

Boy Scouts who lined up on the tarmac were eager to greet Mitt Romney when he came to town this week, but it appears the welcoming party violated national Boy Scout guidelines prohibiting political activities.

The Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts of America reminded leaders after the Romney event to avoid any displays that might imply an endorsement of a candidate.

That includes having Boy Scouts appear "in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support."

"We’re not trying to dump on anybody or discipline anyone or make anyone feel bad," said Rick Barnes, senior executive for the Great Salt Lake Council, of the policy reminder the council issued. "Not only are we reminding our Scouts as Scouters, we want to remind the political parties what our policy is."

A handful of Scouts in uniform greeted Romney as he got off his plane on Tuesday for a fundraiser in Salt Lake City. The scene was similar two weeks ago, when Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan arrived at the Provo airport.

Barnes said that it is important for Scouts to be civically active and attending political events is a good way to be involved. But he said he would advise leaders whose Scouts want to participate in political events to wear something besides their uniforms, so there is no implication of Boy Scout support.

The national policy allows Scouts to participate in flag ceremonies at political events, but says they should then leave the stage and not be in "a conspicuous location." It also prohibits photos of Scouts from being used in political ads, which he said candidates have done in the past.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis scoffed at those who were upset that the Scouts greeted Romney, calling it a thrilling opportunity for the young men.

"This is political correctness at its pettiest," he said. "This is just the kind of experience that can help young people stay engaged in the political process for a lifetime."

Dabakis said he would hope to involve Scouts next time the Democratic nominee or president comes to Utah.

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