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SALT LAKE CITY — When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stepped off the plane in Salt Lake City Tuesday for his fundraising visit, he was greeted by a troop of Boy Scouts.
It was an exciting moment for the boys, one they'll remember for years. But turns out, such a greeting is against the Boy Scouts of America policy to participate in political events.
The troop that greeted Romney was from Cottonwood Heights. The boys talked a bit with the candidate, and then Romney was off to his fundraisers.
Two weeks ago, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan had a similar welcome in Provo. The boys were overjoyed to meet candidates of such stature.
Viewers' opinions differed on the street, and on Facebook.
"I have no problem with that. I think it's good for them to meet a potential presidential candidate," said Randy Christiansen, a former Boy Scout.
"I think it's one of those separation things. I don't see what point they would have being there," said Eagle Scout Adam Bramwell. "It seems like apples and oranges: keep them separated."
Troop leaders at both events told KSL News the Romney campaign contacted them and asked for Boy Scouts to be on hand. BSA policy, however, prohibits Scouts from participating in political activities.
"Uniformed unit members or leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead Pledge of Allegiance; however, they should retire after the ceremony and NOT remain on the speakers' platform or in a conspicuous location where television viewers could construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support. In addition, photos of candidates or Scouts in uniform or BSA marks and logos are NOT allowed in political materials of any kind.
"The Boy Scouts of America does not endorse any political candidate. Care must be taken to not make implications that we do."
Source: Boy Scouts of America
The policy says uniformed members and leaders may participate in flag ceremonies at political events and may lead the Pledge of Allegiance, but they should retire after the ceremony and not remain in a conspicuous location where viewers might construe their presence as an endorsement or symbol of support.
"If it's a political event that stands in line with core values, I think it's a great idea," said Eagle Scout Nathan Davis. "But if it's something where they're trying to make a statement, I think they should stay out of it."
Kay Godfrey, director of development with the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said this issue comes up each election cycle. Many troop leaders are not aware of the policy, he said, even though the council makes it clear in training and on its website.
Godfrey contacted the leaders of the Cottonwood troop Wednesday and told them greeting Romney at the airport was not appropriate. He said the leader responsible was new and not aware of the policy.
Incidents like this have happened with both political parties, and Godfrey expects it will happen again. The council plans to reinforce the message over the next few weeks to make sure it doesn't get out of hand as the election approaches.