Mormons Sever Ties with Boy Scouts
The church sponsors 20 percent of the youth organization's membership.
WaPo (“Mormon Church breaks all ties with Boy Scouts, ending 100-year relationship“):
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday it will sever all ties with the Boy Scouts of America, ending a century-old tradition deeply ingrained in the religious life of Mormon boys.
The Mormon Church, as it is more commonly known, said in its announcement that it has “increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally.” The two organizations “jointly determined” that as of Dec. 31, 2019, the church will no longer be a chartered partner of the Scouts, it said in a joint statement with the Boy Scouts.
The change will affect hundreds of thousands of Mormon boys in 30,500 congregations worldwide.
For 105 years, the relationship between the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church has been important to both groups. Any boy who is part of a Mormon congregation automatically becomes part of the Boy Scouts. The Mormon Church has been the largest participant of the Boy Scouts in the United States, making up nearly 20 percent of all of the Boy Scouts’ 2.3 million youth members.
Church officials did not cite specific Scouts policy changes that spurred the split, but the two groups have increasingly clashed over values in recent years, particularly following the Boy Scouts’ move to include openly gay troop leaders. The announcement also came less than a week after the Boy Scouts announced it would be changing its flagship name to Scouts BSA, promoting its decision last year to welcome girls into the program for the first time.
While the Mormon Church did not publicly object when the Boy Scouts began admitting gay Scouts in 2013 and transgender Scouts last year, it said it was “deeply troubled” by the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift the ban on openly gay adult leaders in 2015. Mormon Church leaders considered parting ways with the organization. But the Scouts later said that while it would ban discrimination in hiring employees, it would leave it up to individual troops and councils to choose leaders who reflect their own values. Mormon Church officials decided to maintain ties to the group, though the relationship was not long-lived.
The church began scaling back its participation with the Scouts last year, when it announced it would be cutting ties with teen programs for high-school-age Scouts, while continuing to enroll 8- to 13-year-old boys in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The church said the teen programs had been “historically difficult to implement within the Church,” and instead chose to create its own youth programs for teenage boys.
The move isn’t surprising, really. The Boy Scouts have long been dependent on churches for sponsoring its programs. That wasn’t much of a problem even 20 years ago, when the values of churches and American society with essentially aligned. Discrimination on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, and even gender identity has recently become anathema in polite society—if not illegal. The Boy Scouts have been forced by public outcry and lawsuits to adapt to modernization in a way that churches simply can’t do with the same speed.