An announcement by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that there may soon no longer be any national policy barring gay youth members is now drawing criticism from leading religious groups.

Southern Baptist Convention president Fred Luther told the Baptist Press late on Monday that he thinks “it’s a sad day” if that’s what the leadership is doing.

Sing Oldham, the groups’ vice president for communications, told the Associated Press that the decision to allow a local option to accept gay members and leaders won’t work in a group’s that actually national.

Yesterday, it was reported that BSA national leaders are “actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay Scouts or Scout leaders.”

Its board will vote next week on a resolution on leaving policies regarding sexual orientation to its local organisations.

Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said that the announcement was “a big accomplishment,” as it’s “the first time the Boy Scouts have said it is publicly considering changing the ban.”

However, he warned: “We’re not going to rest until every gay young adult out there is able to safely participate.”

In July 2012, after a two year review, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would retain its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff.

Thousands of scouts have spoken out against the policy, and more than 1.2 million Americans have signed petitions against it, according to Scouts for Equality.